Realism, indignation, and American foreign policy: a radical and a neoconservative change their political stripes.

Author:Young, Michael
Position::America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy - Power and the Idealists: Or, the Passion of Joschka Fischer and Its Aftermath - Book review

America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, by Francis Fukuyama, New Haven: Yale University Press, 226 pages, $2;

Power and the Idealists: Or, the Passion of Joschka Fischer and Its Aftermath, by Paul Berman, Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 311 pages, $23.95

THE 20TH CENTURY produced a glut of political converts, St. Pauls in search of ideological roads previously untaken. Even today, in an allegedly post-ideological age, converts are plentiful.

Two recent books, Francis Fukuyama's America at the Crossroads and Paul Berman's Power and the Idealists, describe parallel progressions. Fukuyama, once a prominent neoconservative, has moved from the right toward the political center, where he argues that the use of armed force must become less dominant in American foreign affairs. Berman's much more luminous essay describes how graduates of the 1968 left also moved toward the center, turning into liberal internationalists who came to accept that military power might be necessary in certain cases.

Conversion accounts are most interesting when they go through the full cycle of attraction and renunciation. That's absent in America at the Crossroads: Fukuyama explains why he broke with the neoconservatives but never compellingly shows why he joined them. Indeed, he dismantles their arguments so systematically, applies the "realist" critique of neoconservatism so pervasively, that some will wonder whether he was ever the neocon he claimed to be.

Fukuyama, who teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., is that rarity in American intellectual circles: someone who can quote Hegel yet be offered a government job. He began his policy career, sort of, when Paul Wolfowitz recruited him as an intern at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the late 1970S, before he joined, a decade later, the State Department's Policy Planning Staff during George H.W. Bush's presidency. In 1998, as a hawk on Iraq, Fukuyama signed a letter from the right-wing Project for the New American Century (PNAC), of which he is a founding member, recommending that the Clinton administration overthrow Saddam Hussein. Just after 9/11, he signed another PNAC missive, again recommending Saddam's ouster. It insisted that "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq."

Yet Fukuyama's main beef, the reason for his public divorce from the neocons, happens to be the war in Iraq, which he feels was unnecessary. Neoconservatism, he writes, was based on "a set of coherent principles that during the Cold War yielded by and large sensible policies both at home and abroad." Those principles included a belief that U.S. power could be used for moral purposes, a skepticism that international law and institutions would solve major security problems, and a mistrust of ambitious social engineering projects.

By the 1990s, however, the neocons had changed, adopting rationales that "were used to justify an American foreign policy that overemphasized the use of force and led logically to the Iraq war." Disconcertingly, Fukuyama mentions the first PNAC letter in his book, but not the second. By doing so, he would have undermined his bogus claim that "unlike many other conservatives, I was never persuaded of the rationale for the Iraq war." But what was the Bush administration's broad rationale for war other than the one...

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