Monday, February 27, 2006

Beware of Recovering Neocons (Like Francis Fukuyama)

Another icon of the political right has jumped ship. Sort of.

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.


  1. "Neo-neo cons" sounds suspiciously like the Telly Tubbies version of war. The neo-scramble away from their creation sounds very much like the birds of "Be careful what you wish for, you may get it" have come home to roost. Or is that roast?

  2. Sounds to me like even if someone is saying something you like, if they're Republicans then they're bad/dishonest/dissembling/[insert negative adjective of choice].

  3. Meribeth6:07 AM

    I get so damn tired of the "this didn't work right, the system is broken, we must change this, we must move forward." All this horse exhaust is the simple remedy for culpability. Neo-cons? The con in this situation stands for confidence scheme. They still are going to sell out this country for money and power. Their money and power.

    Just one more back stroke.

  4. William Bollinger7:51 AM


    Like the old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

    I don’t think it’s Republicans Jeff has problems with, but there seem to be few of them left in the republican party.

  5. Conservative used to mean one who sits and thinks, but mostly sits. Conservative used to mean someone who pays his bills on time. It still means that to quite a few people I know; unfortunately they're out-numbered.

    Today "conservative" is mostly a PR code-word for vote for me, I'm God-fearin', troop-lovin', tax-cuttin' GOOD PEOPLE, winning the War on Terra! (not one of those smelly tree-hugger hippie n!@@er-queer-lovers).

    If Fukuyama is pointing fingers at BushCo., sure there's plenty of fault to find. But save some for yourself, too, sir. Kudos for the words about "hearts and minds"; now let's see some deeds that go with it.

    Fukuyama is doing the fade, the distancing dance, the crawl back into the woodwork. I expect we'll see more folks doing it in the next couple years; it's the same technique that allowed Iran-Contra players to hang around.

  6. Jeff, William, and Meribeth

    Yeah, they're looking to do the same woodwork crawl they did after Iran-Contra. That's why I'm bringing this up now. They'll be back, and we need to be ready for them.


    Fukuyama's being totally disingenuous. The essence of neoconservativism, at least PNAC's version of it, revolves around military power, and he was a key player in formulating the policies.

    As to whether or not he's a Republican or neoconservativism is a Republican movement... Well, he is and it is. Republicans let that crowd take over the party and supported (supports) its agenda. So we're supposed to suggest this isn't about the Republicans?

    The neocons control the White House, the White House controls the GOP, the GOP controls Congress. Things are a mess. Who's responsible? The Chinese? The Clintons? The media?