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America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy Hardcover – February, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
In this history of and forecast for neoconservative thought, Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man), a neoconservative with close ties to the Bush administration, complicates the notion that many of the Bush administration's policies are based on neoconservative thought by tracing the roots of neoconservativism from the 1940s onward. Fukuyama finds fault with many aspects of Bush's foreign policies, notably the inadequate planning for post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq, the conflation of the threat of radical Islamism with Iraq and the administration's non-cooperation with international organizations like the United Nations during a deluge of anti-Americanism. Unlike many indictments of the Bush administration, Fukuyama's book considers conflicting neoconservative principles and offers a reconciliation of neoconservative thought with a wider worldview, making this a timely book that'll spur more than its share of discussion.
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Francis Fukuyama has often been more poised and clinical than his neoconservative contemporaries (including William Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz). Perhaps this makes his backflip away from mainline neocon thought understandable, but it doesn't make it any more forgivable. Many reviewers censure the Johns Hopkins University professor for not providing a personal defense of his defection. All the political lather threatens to obscure the actual book, which contains a concise history of neoconservative thought and a thoughtful, if not totally new, proposal for more peaceful (or "soft power") means of nation building. That might give heart to liberals, but his colleagues feel he has abandoned the convictions of his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man, and committed the ultimate political sin: swapping horses at midterm. <BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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We can learn a lot from the political losers. Fukuyama is brilliant and his 2006 book continues to be relevant. In it he doesn't rehash the Neocon Schism. Instead, with great knowledge and clarity, he chronicles the history of Neoconservative thought, as well as and explaining its underlying philosophies. In these days of ideological fanatacism it might seem pointless to see what those "crazy conservatives" were thinking (then or now). But Fukuyama explains a lot of political history, including the concepts of American Exceptionalism, global presence, and global force projection that continue to underly our foreign polices. That alone is worth the price.
The neo-conservative philosophy, as it pertains of foreign policy, has always had some gaping holes. It's a policy borne of arrogance and driven by testosterone whereby the United States uses its position as the world's sole superpower to stand outside of international law. Mr. Fukuyama writes, "The fact that the United States granted itself a right that it would deny other countries is based [...] on an implicit judgment that the United States is different from other countries" and "Being willing to work within a multilateral framework does not mean accepting support only on your terms; that is just another form of unilateralism" The Iraqi invasion was just one in a series of occasions where the Bush administration showed its distain for world opinion. Others include the Kyoto treaty, the ABM missile treaty and the appointment of John Bolton to U.N. ambassador. Mr. Fukuyama makes the point that, "It is not sufficient that Americans believe in their own good intentions; non-Americans must be convinced of them as well" This is such an important statement that the neo-cons should have it etched on their foreheads.
There are three main points that stood out to me. The first is that the war in Iraq betrays one of the core ideas on which neo-conservativism and paleo-conservativism are founded; that being that social engineering is a mistake and causes more problems that it solves. The fact that the engineering is being imposed from outside rather than from home grown Iraqi elites is immaterial. The second point is that Democracy doesn't happen overnight and it isn't granted at the end of a rifle. Mr. Fukuyama argues that, like Capitalism, Democracy is maintainable only after the underlying institutions of support are created and this takes time. Finally, the author points out that the preventative war policy puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the United States. First, the United States would have to be capable of accurately predicting the future (Iraq already showed how this can break down). Being the lone arbiter of the future of our planet brings even more responsibility as the author writes; "The hegemon has to be not just well-intentioned but also prudent and smart in its exercise of power" Even staunch fans of Bush might blanch at the prospect of the opposition party having the power to reshape nations at their whim.
Crossroads is an amazingly insightful, intelligent and readable book. Many of Mr. Fukuyama's thoughts are insanely obvious but they're so obvious that they need to be spoken because so many American's seem to be unable to see the forest for the trees. One thing that surprised me was a week effort to defend neo-conservativism even as he washed his hands of it. He wrote, "The administration principals most in favor of the war - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney - were not known as neoconservatives before their tenures, and we do not know the origins of their views." Since Cheney and Rummy are both listed as founders of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) which included among its ranks Donald Kagan, Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer and explicitly spelled out the neo-conservatives beliefs on foreign policy and the future of our military I would have to say that Mr. Fukuyama is lying. Still, despite some questionable statements it's a great book and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Less noticed in the uproar over his opposition to the war, is his rather effective argument that the UN confirms the neo-conservative distrust of international institutions and law. He believes, and offers some sound arguments to support this belief, that the UN is largely ineffectual and marginalized by 21st Century Globalization. This book may not make anyone want to become a neo-conservative, but I think it will cause many to recognize that the principles guiding neo-conservatives are not quite as lunatic as the current administration makes them appear. This is a good book full of interesting ideas that are well presented.