February 28, 2006: In 1992 foreign policy wonk Francis Fukuyama published his
book "The End of History and the Last Man". It caused quite
a stir. Now Fukuyama is back. In a think piece titled "After
Neoconservatism" in the February 19th New York Times. Saying
"End" was misread by the many who thought it a "neoconservative
tract" positing a "universal hunger for liberty in all people"
and an "accelerating transnational movement in favor of liberal
democracy". According to Fukuyama circa 2006, "End" was actually
"a kind of Marxist argument". Though not one leading inexorably
to communism. The position he really presented was that the
tendency to desire liberal democracy and political participation
were byproducts of living in a "technologically advanced and
prosperous" society. And that the primary, or initial,
universal human desire is to live in such a society.
Will the real universal please stand up?
In "After Neoconservatism" Francis Fukuyama also says it would
be a shame if Americans were to lose faith in our mission to
"promote democracy around the world" and embrace cynical
isolationism in response to the failure of democratization by
force in Iraq. Which could be read as: though those who thought
a freedom loving civitas would bloom in Iraq apres invasion may
have advanced their ideals via erroneous policy, their intentions
were basically good. That this adventure in idealism condemned
thousands of people to death, maimed countless others, plunged
a nation into social chaos and enhanced the political clout of
the kind of Muslim fanatics who go crazy over cartoons, shouldn't
make us turn too critical an eye on the bloody high mindedness
that inspired it.
Let's see. Where have we heard this sort of argument before?
Try the political left during the entire 20th Century. After
multiple examples of mass death in myriad places became the
flower of utopianism.
Also, if the desire for liberty isn't a human universal won't
promoting democracy around the world be a pretty tough sell? But
perhaps what Fukuyama means is that idealism about promoting
world wide democracy must be rechanneled into feeding the
universal desire for living in a prosperous society. Which will
ultimately produce a world wide desire for democracy. Maybe.
Understanding what Fukuyama means now, is made more difficult
by the fact that so many misunderstood what he meant then. To
cloud interpretation still further, Fukuyama is renouncing the
neoconservative foreign policy "The End of History" wasn't meant
to inspire. But why renounce something for which you bear
All-about-oil types think idealism had nothing to do with
invading Iraq. And doubtless the starry eyed stuff did commingle
with various types of more base material. None the less, I
believe Francis Fukuyama is correct in his analysis that idealism
of the sort he describes was part of what moved President Bush
and many (though not all) of his yes men and women from both
parties. But then, I'm not a cynic. Which is why I'll never
embrace cynical isolationism.
The USA should indeed cast its eye outward. First up: China.
Maybe we could use diplomatic and economic pressure on our most
beloved creditor to make them do right by their dissidents. And
how about the trade and labor policies of China and other
countries that are reducing our manufacturing base to rubble and
leaving rust belt regions with government the primary employer
and taxpayers the main source of "investment"? Then there's
Mexico with its poverty, political corruption and social
addiction to illegal immigration. Could it be time for a staged
intervention at our borders? Paging Pakistan. Has Osama been
rousted from the mountains yet? When Dubya declared that those
responsible for 9/11 were wanted "dead or alive" who knew old
age would be the bounty hunter! I could go on. So many non
isolationist opportunities; so little time. But QT's main topic
is the home front not foreign policy. Though I do try and keep
my hand in re the universals.
When Christians ask why God allows atheism and doesn't make
everyone a believer, the answer is that faith forced is no faith
at all. President Bush, a purported Christian, seems to have
forgotten the sticky wicket of free will when he invaded Iraq.
It's as if he saw democracy as a medicine that had to be forced
on a child for its own good, as opposed to something which loses
meaning if not embraced freely. But hey-- maybe Dubya is in sync
with the "kind of Marxist" reasoning of Francis Fukuyama. And
like Fukuyama, believed human desire for freedom is not really
universal, merely the sometime by-product of material conditions.
If so, it means that Bush, who intellectuals like to paint as a
dull boy, is among the few to have grasped the true meaning of
"The End of History and the Last Man".
It also means that somewhere in the White House, possibly hidden
behind a stack of bibles, there just might be a golden calf.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
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