Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fukuyama: A Realistic Wilsonianism, Please

Francis Fukuyama's long feature in Sunday's New York Times diagnoses the troubled state of Neoconservatism: coming from the conservative author of End of History and State-Building, this dissection of the challenges for the US foreign policy in general and the Bush administration in particular ought necessarily to be interesting:
But it is the idealistic effort to use American power to promote democracy and human rights abroad that may suffer the greatest setback. Perceived failure in Iraq has restored the authority of foreign policy "realists" in the tradition of Henry Kissinger. Already there is a host of books and articles decrying America's naïve Wilsonianism and attacking the notion of trying to democratize the world. (...) The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a "realistic Wilsonianism" that better matches means to ends. (...)

The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration's first term is now in shambles. The doctrine (elaborated, among other places, in the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States) argued that, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, America would have to launch periodic preventive wars to defend itself against rogue states and terrorists with weapons of mass destruction; that it would do this alone, if necessary; and that it would work to democratize the greater Middle East as a long-term solution to the terrorist problem. But successful pre-emption depends on the ability to predict the future accurately and on good intelligence, which was not forthcoming, while America's perceived unilateralism has isolated it as never before. It is not surprising that in its second term, the administration has been distancing itself from these policies and is in the process of rewriting the National Security Strategy document.

Fukuyama defines his "realistic Wilsonanism" as "demilitarization" of the means; strengthening several international institutions as leverage of legitimacy; pursuing good governance policies through the political institutions meant to produce them in the first place. This is pretty close to what the liberal hardliners would want as expressed e.g. in the Ronald D. Asmus driven Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy (2003).

This emphasis on partnerships and political more than just military means are surely essential elements in the Long War, even if it will probably more about the military stuff still than most civilians acknowledge. Tom Barnett thinks the exercise is futile -- but then again he does already have the framework that Fukuyama is looking for. In the end, the most interesting element in this piece of marketing for his upcoming book might -- aside from the possibility of a centrist liberal-conservative alignment around a Jacksonian Wilsonianism (instead of the opposite) -- be the news that a new National Security Strategy is in the works. Already, the QDR holds a ton of references to indirect approaches as well as many nods to interagency cooperation.

(Danish readers looking for a thorough introduction to the shortly mentioned history of the Neocons: look up Bushs Amerika, especially the chapters by David Gress).

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