Francis Fukuyama, a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, has apparently rejected the neoconservative ideology he helped shape.
Last Wednesday, Guardian Unlimited ran "Neoconservatism has evolved into something I can no longer support," a commentary in which Fukuyama says "The US needs to reframe its foreign policy not as a military campaign but as a political contest for hearts and minds."
As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems unlikely that history will judge the intervention or the ideas animating it kindly. More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratising Iraq and the Middle East. They are widely credited (or blamed) for being the decisive voices promoting regime change in Iraq, and yet it is their idealistic agenda that, in the coming months and years, will be the most directly threatened.
Fukuyama says that the problem with neoconservative agenda was not its ends, but with its "overmilitarised" means of achieving them. But it's difficult to separate neoconservativism from militarism when the PNAC's top policy priority, clearly stated in its 1997 Statement of Principles, was to "…increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future[.]"
Without militarism, PNAC's policy goals sound little different from those of, say, Dennis Kucinich.
And while Fukuyama conspicuously refers to the neoconservatives in third person as he criticizes "their" decision to make war in Iraq, it's important to note that Fukuyama himself was a signatory of the 1998 PNAC letter to President Clinton urging use of military force to oust Saddam Hussein from power.
Fukuyama provides a laundry list of mistakes made by the Bush administration, and ends with this:
[T]he legacy of the [Bush] first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarising that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance US ideals and interests. What we need are new ideas for how America is to relate to the world - ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of US power and hegemony to bring these ends about.
Fukuyama is trying to sell the notion of a kinder, gentler neoconservatism (neo-neoconservatism?), but I'm not buying it. "The universality of human rights" is not a proprietary "neoconservative belief." PNAC's Statement of Principles contains no mention of human rights, nor does Rebuilding America's Defenses, the PNAC manifesto published in September 2000.
Increasingly, prominent neoconservatives like Fukuyama, Bill Kristol, and Richard Perle have been trying to distance themselves from the Bush administration, saying in essence, "We had the right idea, they just executed it wrong."
Don't believe this bunk for a second. The Bush administration has executed the policy exactly according to the plan, right down to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's invasion of Iraq with a "faster, lighter force." America doesn't need "new ideas" that retain "neoconservative beliefs." It needs to flush neoconservativism into the Potomac.
That will not only require removing PNACers like John Bolton from government office. It will take severing the policy influences of conservative "think tanks" like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution.
These outfits will likely try to make themselves over with painted-on smiley faces and a sheep's wardrobe, but don't be taken in by them. They're still wolves, and they're still hungry.