Fukuyama Declares the Death of Something Else

Bloggers respond to Francis Fukuyama's declaration that neoconservatism, whatever it might once have been, is dead.

Francis “End of History” Fukuyama had a piece in the New York Times Magazine yesterday entitled “After Neoconservatism,” which began with this shot across the bow:

As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly. By invading Iraq, the Bush administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at.

He goes on, in a nutshell, to argue that neoconservatism, whatever it might once have been, is dead, and besides that, he no longer supports it.

As one can imagine, bloggers immediately started burning up the keyboards. Right-wing Nuthouse, while disagreeing with some of Fukuyama’s prescriptions, says that the piece “takes Neoconservatives to the woodshed and delivers a beating from which they may not recover. The piece is a devastating critique of policies advanced by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle … and others which include pre-emptive wars of self defense, promotion of human rights and democracy, a belief in the moral purposes of American foreign policy and of a kind of “benevolent hegemony” by America that could remake the world.”

But while Fukuyama sees Iraq as a disastrous morass and the reasons behind the invasion as discredited, not all bloggers feel the same way. James Joyner, sounding quite apologetic, writes this morning that, “It must be reiterated, since people continue to forget it, that the main missions — regime change and the enabling of an unfettered search for WMD — were wildly successful. The regime was changed in a matter of three weeks. The WMD search found very little but was indeed unfettered. That phase of the war was quick and cost fewer than 200 American dead. It is the post-regime change nation building exercise cum counterinsurgency that has cost so much.”

While Joyner wants to split hairs about the cost of the war, Andrew Sullivan, goes right for the jugular, writing that “I think [Fukuyama] gets his analysis almost perfectly right. In retrospect, neoconservatives (and I fully include myself) made three huge errors in the last few years.” One was to “over-estimate the competence of government, especially in extremely delicate areas like WMD intelligence.” The second, according to Sullivan, was narcissism — “America’s power blinded many of us to the resentments that such power must necessarily provoke” — while the last was “not taking culture seriously enough. Fukuyama is absolutely right to note the discrepancy between neoconservatism’s skepticism toward government’s ability to change culture at home and its naivete when it comes to complex, tribal, sectarian and un-Western cultures, like Iraq’s, abroad.”

Sullivan has been apologizing over his support for the war (and Bush) for well over a year now, and says that the response to the present situation in Iraq should be “a real sense of shame and sorrow that so many have died because of errors made by their superiors, and by intellectuals like me.”

Now that he’s apologizing, we wonder what’s next? Perhaps Sullivan will take back some of his hysteria-induced post-9/11 rants against “coastal decadent leftism” and the “decadent left”? On second thought … nahhh, ain’t gonna happen.

Jack Balkin of Balkinazation anticipates some of this, writing “What struck me though, in reading it, was how many of his claims about what was wrong with the Bush Administration’s policies were available in 2001, and, indeed, were stated over and over again by critics of the administration in the run up to the Iraq war. People in power … ridiculed their critics as naive, cowards, sore losers, weak-willed conciliators, unconcerned with America’s national security, and sometimes even as traitors. And much of the country, which likes strong leadership, simply went along, trusting that its leaders had the knowledge, the wisdom, and the expertise to back up their bluster.”

There’s a little bit of I-told-you-so in that observation but, given the nightmare the effort in Iraq has devolved to, we can in all likelihood expect more of that in the days, weeks and months to come.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.