Francis Fukuyama to the Box
On Wednesday, June 25th, the Financial Times published an essay by Francis Fukuyama. He is the famed US political scientist, a “neoconservative” apostate and author of The End of History and the Last Man in 1992. The title of his op-ed is “ISIS risks distracting US from more menacing foes”. I first read it in the middle of the night on my “smartphone” and found it confusing. What was the writer getting at? I did not notice the byline. Then I did, and was less confused. Fukuyama is conflicted and his ideas are sometimes contradictory. So you factor that in. No problem. He has had a checkered past, but haven’t we all?
Fukuyama started out as a “neoconservative” during the Reagan Presidency, working alongside such disturbing characters as Paul Wolfowitz and I. Scooter Libby, who were later to become famous, wild-eyed propagandists in the G.W. Bush Administration, aka the Cheney Regency. In the aftermath of 9/11, Fukuyama–like all true blue Neocons and “liberal interventionists”–promoted the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq on bogus grounds. The purported aim was to depose Saddam Hussein and install “democracy” in his place.
You may recall that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and possessed no WMD at the time of those attacks. There was no al-Qaeda, no terrorism, and no terrorists inside Iraq prior to “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Later, when the occupational phase of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” became an instant fiasco–and the whole rotten enterprise was revealed to be a scam based upon breathtaking lies emanating from the very top–Fukuyama broke with his fellow Neocons. He became a critic of the Regency and the Neocons, and has since then taken a more nuanced approach to world affairs.
Although he no longer communicates with Dr. Paul “Mass Destruction” Wolfowitz, Fukuyama was on the steering committee of the legal defense fund for I. Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff and top “national security” adviser, when Libby got mixed up in the Regent’s campaign to smear Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the husband of CIA agent Valerie Plame whose undercover assignment was WMD. Wilson had the temerity to point out in a July 2003 New York times op-ed that Iraq had not, in fact, imported “yellow cake” uranium from Niger to build an A-bomb. Ergo, there was no mushroom cloud on the horizon. Ergo, Dick Cheney’s biggest WMD whopper was clarified and exposed to the light of day. At that point Fukuyama must have figured that his friend Libby, the factotum, was falling on his sword for his all-powerful boss, and deserved a break.
Like most big-picture essays, especially those aimed at the general public, Fukuyama’s present effort in the FT is predicated upon hallowed and widely accepted assumptions about American history and America’s place in the world. Many of these assumptions are dubious, fictive and, in some cases, ridiculous. Accordingly, Fukuyama’s conclusions are necessarily suspect. Since he is a savant, he should know better. Perhaps he does know better, but has not the time nor the inclination to correct the authorized version of history and current events. It might upset certain people or further confuse them. Better to embrace the received, conventional wisdom, and use it whenever possible to advance one’s own ideas.
Fukuyama’s first mistake, in my view, is taking the foreign policy pronouncements of Barack Obama seriously, at face value, and worthy of analysis. Certainly at this stage, it does not matter what Obama says. In truth, it never has. Yes, I realize that Obama presides over the lone surviving superpower, but this outlandish circumstance by itself is a red flag and requires that all issues relating to US foreign policy be considered with a jaundiced eye. White House credibility in world affairs is shot, and has been shot for decades. Dishonesty and wholesale deception did not start with Barack Obama. He has simply continued the trend, and taken it to the next level, like G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton did before him.
What the current occupant of the White House brings to the table is salesmanship and fantasies. Obama is a master at speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Whatever sounds good, go with it. He’s a talker. I recall in particular his 2008 US presidential campaign sortie through Israel and Europe, and especially his enraptured, grandiose speech at Tiergarten Park Berlin on July 24th of that year. That speech boils down to flapdoodle, and its messianic quality is all the more remarkable, because Obama was still a private citizen. The day before, his idealism ran in a different direction. He was shamelessly pandering to Ariel Sharon’s successor, PM Ehud Olmert, in Tel Aviv, while giving the Palestinians short shrift and the shaft. John McCain had performed a similar routine four months previously.
In the article in question, Fukuyama critiques Obama’s recent commencement address at West Point on May 28th. The White House hyped it as a major foreign policy speech. It fell flat with Fukuyama. He calls Obama’s approach “wrong-headed”. Too much concern about terrorism and the Middle East and not enough focus on the authentic “menacing foes”–Russia and China. He states, “The extremism of Isis will in the end prove self-defeating. By contrast, allies the US is sworn to defend are now threatened by industrialized nations with sophisticated militaries.” Say what?!
Fukuyama appears to imply that America needs real enemies to confront, not phantoms. Yet it was a phantom threat that he and his cohorts were hot to confront when it came to Saddam Hussein. The blowback from that misadventure is incalculable. Fukuyama goes on to conclude, “The poles established by the neoconservatives on the one hand and isolationists on the other present false choices. Real strategy always has to lie somewhere in between.” In sum, Fukuyama does not want Washington to get sidetracked. Hmm. May I humbly suggest that the US has been hopelessly sidetracked for at least a century.
Fukuyama begins by paying homage to World War II, which global bloodbath remains the primary justification for all US foreign policy initiatives since 1945. It is the holy grail for the Neocons, along with their flamboyant hero, Winston Churchill. It is key to the modern-day, bipartisan attitude of American exceptionalism. Colonel Andrew Bacevich makes the central importance of the Second World War clear in a recent fascinating interview with Bill Moyers.
Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power, does not fault America’s entry and success in the Second World War, but he does deplore the use to which it has been put to empower a host of ill-advised US foreign policy adventures in the aftermath. My problem, on the other hand, is with the Second World War itself and with its progenitor, the Great War of 1914-18. If we accept them as sacrosanct, legitimate undertakings by Washington, then we lend credence to the myth of American exceptionalism, which has turned out to be a dangerous, self-destructive idea.
Consider an alternative narrative in which America’s entry into both world wars was unnecessary, ill-advised, and brought about by chicanery in service to a private agenda. The idea of American exceptionalism began with Woodrow Wilson, not with creepy neoconservative ideologues. Wilson ran for a second term in 1916 on the slogan, “He kept us out of war!” Yet, Wilson appears to have already decided to join England on the western front in France. Washington’s official neutrality was a sham from the start. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigned in protest to Wilson’s hypocrisy in June 1915.
In the background, English propaganda was beating the drums to drag America into the war. America’s official entry into the Great War in April 1917 meant that the British Empire was saved from near-certain defeat at the hands of the German army and the Central Powers. It meant the rise of fascism and the success of communism in Russia. It meant the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and the execution of the Balfour Declaration in Palestine. It meant, inevitably, a second European conflict on a grander scale, caused by the injustices of the first conflict, as embodied in the Paris peace treaty. In short, it was a ghastly blunder.
Did Wilson make the right decision? In hindsight, absolutely not. He deceived the American people in 1916, and was then taken to the cleaners by Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau at the Paris peace conference in 1919. He then suffered a nervous breakdown, then a stroke, and died a broken man. Did Franklin Roosevelt act wisely when he hectored England, France and Poland in the summer of 1939 not to negotiate with Germany over Danzig, thereby assuring the outbreak of a European war? Probably not. He acted recklessly. Did Roosevelt do the right thing by provoking the Empire of Japan to attack US armed forces in the Pacific in 1941 so that he could jump into the war in Europe, a war he felt responsible for instigating behind the scenes? Again, no. His conduct can easily be regarded as treason. It was certainly deceitful.
We can’t unwind history, of course, but we can see its consequences, set the record straight, and not live in a dream world. Contrary to what you may have learned in school, these were not unselfish wars to make the world safe for democracy. That was a cover story. These were wars for economic advantage on the part of Washington and London, and were fought to maintain the prestige of the near-bankrupt British Empire–and then replace it with the American empire. They were at variance with the dictum delivered by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1821 that America, “…goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
Fukuyama assumes, instead, that both global wars of the twentieth century were non-fraudulent and for a good cause, on which foundation Washington has built a better world. This is the conventional view. He believes the struggle to improve humanity should continue in the aftermath of the Cold War. He takes it for granted that the US is entitled–as the indispensable and exceptional nation–to intervene everywhere on earth at its discretion, and has a responsibility plus the resources to do so. To imagine otherwise is isolationism. This vagary constitutes in large measure the mindset of Washington’s foreign policy establishment. It is delusionary and grounded in hubris.
Overlaying this Wilsonian mistake is the self-evident, post Cold War fact that Washington–the White House, the Senate, the Congress and both political parties–has, for all intents and purposes, been hijacked by agents of the Israel Lobby, to wit, the Neocons and their “liberal interventionist” fellow travelers. It is a perfect storm. We are witnessing the bloody results today in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and the Ukraine. The fake nuclear crisis with Iran is another dangerous byproduct. Humanity has not profited thereby. Now Fukuyama proposes what amounts to a new crusade against Russia and China, leaving the “war on terror” behind. Alas, he appears not to be joking.
PATRICK FOY is an essayist and short story writer. He graduated from Columbia University, where he studied English literature, European history and American diplomatic history. His work can be found at www.PatrickFoyDossier.com.
Copyright 2014 Patrick Foy.