Francis Fukuyama concludes that America has created and now will preside over a self-defeating hegemony, in a pre-written obituary appearing at Real Clear Politics.
I fully admit that I have not read Fukuyama in the original texts. If that renders my criticism of his opinions moot for some readers, thanks for stopping by, you can move on.
Many of us know of Fukuyama only through the academic catch phrase he embraced in his thought and writings, “the end of history,” and synopses of his works. If we end our military involvement in the Middle East or aggressive responses to radical Islamic terrorism, I suppose we can conclude that the end of history would now resume.
Fukuyama asserts (today, and previously) that since 9/11 “American behavior and misjudgments” have somehow transformed an ubiquitous global anti-Americanism into “one of the chief fault lines of global politics.” In making his assertion, Fukuyama mischaracterizes much of the history he uses as the basis for his argument. Fukuyama remains too busy celebrating history’s demise, to retain much interest in understanding it.
His first error lies in stating that the “doctrine of US ‘preemption’” was “inappropriately broadened to include Iraq and other so-called ‘rogue states’ that threatened to develop weapons of mass destruction. He then goes on to issue the caveat, that:
To be sure, preemption is fully justified vis-a-vis stateless terrorists wielding such weapons.
What Fukuyama omits from his prior formulation is the vital, missing piece of the actual US position vis-à-vis these aptly named rogue states. Namely, that by simultaneously acquiring, developing or actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, and using the full and diverse powers of the state to support terrorists, these dangerous rogues posed a unique and grave danger to the US, and the world.
The US did not adopt a policy of preemption towards particular states, merely because those states sought WMD capability, but because those intents were held by despots with demonstrated willingness (even eagerness) to sponsor and support global terrorism. If all the US wanted was non-proliferation, we would have made more of an effort to stop the many other newly self-inaugurating nuclear club members. Some might argue that we should be concerned about those others too, but we are primarily focused on those who seem likely to want WMD in the hands of their sponsored terrorists.
Fukuyama attributes the real reluctance of the US of seeking military confrontations with North Korea and Iran, due to the prohibitively high costs of “preemption” in Iraq. This again betrays Fukuyama’s flawed assumption that the primary (or only) reason we invaded Iraq was to preempt WMD capabilities.
Fukuyama sustains the framework of his straw man argument, only by studiously ignoring the linkages between state sponsorship of terror, proven Iraqi regional war-making and aggression, appalling human rights crimes, and near total Iraqi rejection of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) mandates as precondition for cessation of the (12 year and counting Gulf war).
Fukuyama asserts a second miscalculation in what he perceives as America misjudgment about how unlikely any action taken by the US “without approval by the UNSC or NATO” would be “legitimized.” Fukuyama uses his prior assertion as sufficient proof to characterize Iraq as an “exercise of its hegemonic power.”
Contrary to Fukuyama’s assertion, the US acted entirely within the mandate of UNSC approval for military action in response to continued Iraqi intransigence and refusal to abide by UNSC resolutions. While several NATO countries were against the invasion, more supported it. While NATO could not adopt a consensus position, unfortunately, NATO did decide to support member states whose militaries were part of the Coalition.
If this be hegemony, what weak thing this hegemony be.
Fukuyama buttresses his argument that US operates unilaterally by pointing to what he views as an inevitable byproduct of US unilateralism, the demonstrated “lack of reciprocity” shown “even to America’s closest allies.”
That’s an interesting assertion. I have no doubt that elites in the countries who are among our closest allies think we demonstrate appalling lack of reciprocity. No doubt our refusal to yield sovereignty through ill-considered international treaties and agreements, or International kangaroo courts, give them that idea.
In terms of actual international diplomacy among allies, however, there are few allies as accommodating as the US: evidenced by the 9 months of additional coddling on the UNSC prior to the 2003 invasion, or other efforts to appease Britain and other erstwhile allies to render support for the heavy lifting we continue to do for Europe. Who supports NATO and holds the collateral on her many security guarantees?
There’s a lack of reciprocity, to be sure, but it fails any comparison to Fukuyama’s notion of the same.
Even if one grants Fukuyama the dubious claim that while “structural anti-Americanism” derives from Clinton era globalization after-effects, such animus was exacerbated by Bush Administration “‘in-your-face’ disregard” of international institutions. Whatever statistical method could be used to measure such animus, I sincerely doubt that an objective student of geopolitics could maintain, without agenda or with a straight face, that anti-Americanism is demonstrably any stronger now than it’s been anytime in the last 50 years.
I suppose all those international elites – Fukuyama evidently among them – grew so giddy at the prospects of the emerging internationalist New World Order, that the reversal embodied in an assertive US, nationalist approach to national security, and national sovereignty, was indeed greatly dismaying.
Here’s Fukuyama’s third assertion:
America's third mistake was to overestimate how effective conventional military power would be in dealing with the weak states and networked transnational organisations that characterise international politics, at least in the broader Middle East. It is worth pondering why a country with more military power than any other in human history, and that spends as much on its military as virtually the rest of the world combined, cannot bring security to a small country of 24 million people after more than three years of occupation. At least part of the problem is that it is dealing with complex social forces that are not organised into centralised hierarchies that can enforce rules, and thus be deterred, coerced, or otherwise manipulated through conventional power.
Israel made a similar mistake in thinking that it could use its enormous margin of conventional military power to destroy Hizbullah in last summer's Lebanon war. Both Israel and the US are nostalgic for a 20th century world of nation-states, which is understandable, since that is the world to which the kind of conventional power they possess is best suited.
But nostalgia has led both states to misinterpret the challenges they now face, whether by linking al-Qaida to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or Hizbullah to Iran and Syria. This linkage does exist in the case of Hizbullah, but the networked actors have their own social roots and are not simply pawns used by regional powers. This is why the exercise of conventional power has become frustrating.
Is Fukuyama seriously arguing that conventional military power can find no place in discrete geopolitical conflicts, or modern counter-terrorism more specifically? War fighting capabilities have proven very adept at routing the Taliban from Afghanistan, completely destroying Saddam Hussein’s military capability, and even decimating a “networked transnational organization” like Al Qaeda. But, as even the authors of the US military’s new Counterinsurgency Manual admonish, military force cannot be the sole solution to such conflicts. But you can’t generally accomplish anything without force of arms, particularly against committed enemies.
As Fukuyama surely knows, we spend more on defense than most of the world combined because our security guarantees and military forces have taken on defense of most of what used to be called the free world. This is surely true of Europe and Asia, where US forces and nuclear guarantees allow countries on these continents to shirk the responsibility and expense of their own security.
As to Fukuyama’s professed belief that a country as powerful as ours should somehow be able to guarantee absolute security in Iraq, that’s juvenile. Nothing prevents people from launching suicide bombs or IEDS anywhere in the world, provided they don’t care if they survive, and don’t care what innocents are killed. If Fukuyama thinks there’s some magic trick to get terrorists to stop committing acts of terror, he should speak up. I seriously doubt an emasculation of US foreign policy is going to do much in that regard. (But perhaps we’ll all get a chance to find out.
Fukuyama’s argument is further weakened by facts on the ground in Iraq that would seem to refute his contention about the futility of military achievement of improved security.
Fukuyama’s last assertion is that America’s “use of power” has lacked strategy, doctrine, or even competence. Iraq will no doubt be used as all manner of example in assessments of doctrine and planning, but any cursory survey of before and after treatises along these lines show the unmistakable imprimatur of 20/20 hindsight. That, and the cottage industry of “I told you so” after action reports run the entire gamut of what was the right answer when, compared to whatever was actually done then.
We should have worked with Baathists and kept the Iraqi Army intact. We should have invaded and imposed absolute control with a minimum 500,000 troops. We should have imposed a friendly dictator. We should have been more ruthless. We should have treated Iraqis with more respect. We should have allowed UN control. We shouldn’t have waited for greater UN involvement. We should have allowed regional players to carve up their own pieces of Iraq. We should have completely blockaded Iraq or assassinated Hussein. We should have lifted sanctions. We should have partitioned. We should have bombed. We should have treated Iraqi and Syrian provocations as acts of war, immediately. We should have pursued evidence of WMD in Syria. We should have called the Russian and French on their perfidy leading up to the war.
And what does Fukuyama propose for all he sees wrong with unbridled and unchecked US hegemony?
Why, a yielding of US sovereignty within some International check on US power, like some grand extra-constitutional system of International Checks and Balances:
Such a system does not exist on a global scale today, which may explain how America got into such trouble. A smoother international distribution of power, even in a global system that is less than fully democratic, would pose fewer temptations to abandon the prudent exercise of power.
The only problem with Fukuyama’s solution, is how he convinces every other country to sign on as well. Oh, I don’t mean sign on to having America constrained by such a surrender of liberty. Or Israel. No problem with that. But having those same countries, so besotted with anti-Americanism, to sell their own birthrights on the cheap, just to see America fettered.
Just a guess, he’d find no takers. Even among those who agree with him that History has come to an end.