Liveblogging World War II: May 2, 1945: The German Army Starts to Surrender
Weekend Reading: Kenneth Rogoff (1998): Comment on Paul Krugman: It's Baaack: Japan's Slump and the Return of the Liquidity Trap

Weekend Reading: Francis Fukuyama (2006): After Neoconservatism

Francis Fukuyama (2006): After Neoconservatism: "How did the neoconservatives end up overreaching to such an extent that they risk undermining their own goals?...

...Four common... threads ran through... [Neoconservative] thought... a concern with democracy, human rights and, more generally, the internal politics of states; a belief that American power can be used for moral purposes; a skepticism about the ability of international law and institutions to solve serious security problems; and finally, a view that ambitious social engineering often leads to unexpected consequences and thereby undermines its own ends.... The skeptical stance toward ambitious social engineering... [was] applied... to domestic policies like affirmative action, busing and welfare.... The belief in the potential moral uses of American power... [called for] American activism... [to] reshape the structure of global politics....

[Neoconservatism] did not have to develop this way.... [The] largely Jewish intellectuals who attended City College of New York... Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Irving Howe, Nathan Glazer and, a bit later, Daniel Patrick Moynihan... a documentary film by Joseph Dorman called 'Arguing the World'... an idealistic belief in social progress and the universality of rights, coupled with intense anti-Communism. It is not an accident that many in the C.C.N.Y. group started out as Trotskyites....

If there was a single overarching theme to the domestic social policy critiques issued by those who wrote for the neoconservative journal The Public Interest... it was the limits of social engineering.... How, then, did a group with such a pedigree come to decide that the 'root cause' of terrorism lay in the Middle East's lack of democracy, that the United States had both the wisdom and the ability to fix this problem and that democracy would come quickly and painlessly to Iraq?

Neoconservatives would not have taken this turn but for the peculiar way that the cold war ended.... Total victory in the cold war is exactly what happened in 1989-91.... Communism collapsed within a couple of years because of its internal moral weaknesses and contradictions, and with regime change in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact threat to the West evaporated. The way the cold war ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war, including younger neoconservatives like William Kristol and Robert Kagan.... First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside.... Kristol and Kagan put it in their 2000 book "Present Dangers":

To many the idea of America using its power to promote changes of regime in nations ruled by dictators rings of utopianism. But in fact, it is eminently realistic. There is something perverse in declaring the impossibility of promoting democratic change abroad in light of the record of the past three decades....

The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred.... This overoptimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq.... The Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion....

Leo Strauss, who... was a serious reader of philosophical texts who did not express opinions on contemporary politics or policy issues... [but] was concerned with the 'crisis of modernity' brought on by the relativism of Nietzsche and Heidegger.... Albert Wohlstetter... intensely concerned with... the way that the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty left loopholes, in its support for 'peaceful' nuclear energy, large enough for countries like Iraq and Iran to walk through....

[My] 'The End of History'... [is] a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution... that terminates in liberal democracy.... The neoconservative position... [of] people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States....

After the fall of the Soviet Union, various neoconservative authors like Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol and Robert Kagan suggested that the United States would use its margin of power to exert a kind of 'benevolent hegemony' over the rest of the world, fixing problems like rogue states with W.M.D., human rights abuses and terrorist threats as they came up. Writing before the Iraq war, Kristol and Kagan considered whether this posture would provoke resistance from the rest of the world, and concluded:

It is precisely because American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality that other nations find they have less to fear from its otherwise daunting power....

Benevolent hegemony presumed that the hegemon was not only well intentioned but competent as well. Much of the criticism of the Iraq intervention from Europeans and others was not based on a normative case... but rather on the belief that it had not made an adequate case for invading Iraq in the first place and didn't know what it was doing in trying to democratize Iraq. In this, the critics were unfortunately quite prescient. The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism.... The intelligence community never took nearly as alarmist a view of the terrorist/W.M.D. threat as the war's supporters did.... We need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments. We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But 'war' is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle.... Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a 'long, twilight struggle' whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest....

We need in the first instance to understand that promoting democracy and modernization in the Middle East is not a solution to the problem of jihadist terrorism.... Radical Islamism is a byproduct of modernization itself, arising from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society.... More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalization and — yes, unfortunately — terrorism. But greater political participation by Islamist groups is very likely to occur whatever we do, and it will be the only way that the poison of radical Islamism can ultimately work its way through the body politic of Muslim communities around the world. The age is long since gone when friendly authoritarians could rule over passive populations and produce stability indefinitely.... If we are serious about the good governance agenda, we have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like...

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