As requested, here are my thoughts regarding Fukuyama’s essay from his upcoming book America at the Crossroads. As I already stated in class, I don’t have any major problems with his arguments throughout the body of his essay, besides the fact that I disagree with his opening statement that US efforts in Iraq will ultimately be viewed negatively by history. As to the successes or failures in Iraq following the ousting of Saddam, well, that is the topic of perhaps another blog entry. But in regards to my response to Fukuyama’s essay, my main objections stem from his conclusions/solutions. First, what strikes me is his continued adherence to the goals of neoconservatism stating something to the affect that it would be a tragedy for the US if it dropped the spread of democracy from its foreign policy agenda. Indeed, in an attempt to revise his previous positions, Fukuyama has chosen to retain neoconservative goals but taken out of the equation the very factor that would enable neoconservatism, and any viable strategies that would result from its attempted implementation, to succeed. If one believes, as I do, that neoconservatism is currently the driving force behind US Grand Strategy in fighting the war on terror, then essentially he suggests that the US make its military a supporting effort in its strategy in fighting this war. This is ridiculous in a post-9/11 world. And what’s even more ridiculous is what he recommends to assume the main effort role in the military’s place-international institutions! What??!! Doesn’t he himself admit in his essay that these institutions are woefully inadequate (in their present state) to deal with the types of threats the US currently faces? I quote from his essay: “The world today lacks effective international institutions that can confer legitimacy on collective action.” He goes on further in the essay to sum-up the traditional conservative critique of these international organizations (to which he has no rebuke) stating of these institutions: “while useful for certain peacekeeping and nation-building operations, the United Nations lacks both the democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in dealing with serious security issues.” No kidding. I won’t even try to put it better myself.
Removing the military as our main effort in fighting the war on terror is also a fundamental shift in the United State’s view of the enemy which it is fighting. To not engage the enemy with arms is to suggest that these people can in fact be “managed.” Sorry. I disagree. As I have stated before in class, there is a short term and long term strategy in the war on terror. The short term calls for decisive military action to deal with an enemy that will not come to the negotiating table; an enemy that will again launch vicious attacks against the US if allowed to. It is also not to recognize that we are fighting an enemy that espouses a competing political ideology at extreme odds with liberal democracy. This ideology takes many forms—whether it be based on the Iranian model, Taliban model, or, as al-Zawahiri has alluded to, the establishment of an international caliphate. One ideology must be combated with another. Hence, enter the long term strategy. This is where neoconservatism comes into play. Which ideology would you prefer to be promulgated throughout the world? And I know what you are saying to yourself right now: “Yes, but why should we do it with the military?” To this I will answer, we don’t have time in the post 9/11 world to do it any other way. America always seems to train for the last war it fought. It is then taken off-guard when a new type arises. This war on terror is completely new, but make no mistake about it-it is a war and we must understand it as such. The battlefield is abroad and at home and the enemy must be fought at many different levels and on many different fronts---and it must be fought NOW, not later when international institutions and the international community in general decides its finally ready to confront it. Fukuyama’s insistence that the US should redirect efforts away from military operations to the restructuring of international institutions in order to enable them to achieve what are essentially neoconservative goals is naïve and dangerous. Don’t give those in the enemy camp that much credit. They are not interested in dealing with international institutions except, perhaps, for purposes of manipulation. Restructuring of international institutions should be a long term goal. But does anyone truly believe they will ever be able to operate efficiently enough to conduct the type of war that the US and its allies are currently engaged in? Give me a break.
As I stated in class, I’m not an ideologue. I don’t subscribe blindly to neoconservatism because I voted for President Bush or fought in the Iraq war. I subscribe to it because it is an idea that drives a strategy I believe will keep Americans safe while bringing better things, in the long run, to the rest of the world. If there is a better way of doing this, I’m all ears. But the alternatives I’ve heard all pretty much sound the same. They are relatively void of any truly new objectives combined with a softer approach to achieving these goals. This doesn’t cut it in today’s security environment. We must be activist and we must remain sure about the attractiveness of our freedoms and liberties....yes, sure enough to bet that in this shaky world if a dangerous regime that threatens the US, its neighbors, and its own people is toppled militarily we have the ability and courage to see the project through to a successful completion. I for one will never lose faith in either our military's or our nation's ability to do this. Why? Because, again as I have argued against some in class, I believe that the "values" the US and the West embrace truly are universal. Fukuyama apparently lost the conviction of his prior beliefs because things, from his perspective, haven't gone as perfectly as planned. Well, hate to say it, but things rarely ever do...especially in a place as historically volatile as the Middle East. But this doesn't mean we have failed, not by a long shot. In fact, I would argue just the opposite. But as I said at the beginning, that's for another discussion. Fukuyama's position also exemplifies the lack of creativity from those who oppose neoconservatism in establishing alternate strategies. Everybody loves to criticize neoconservatism, but once again, no one has managed to come up with a viable alternative strategy that meets today’s threats at the many different levels at which they must be met.