The Sanity Of Francis Fukuyama

He’s long been a hero of mine – intellectually and politically. He broke with the neocons over the Iraq catastrophe and was subjected to the familiar payback of ostracism, but went on to produce scholarly work as impressive as his The End of History and The Last Man, specifically the magisterial and widely acclaimed books, The Origins of Political Order and his latest, Political Order and Political Decay. His sanity continues with his opposition to the current intervention in Syria and Iraq to do again what we tried to do last time, i.e. to defeat a Sunni insurgency on behalf of a hapless and largely useless Shiite government in Baghdad. It’s such a mug’s game you have to have the judgment of the man who picked Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential nominee to endorse it.

Unlike so many in our political elites, Fukuyama has also had the wisdom to reassess the question of Jihadist terrorism after 9/11 and come to a different conclusion than the hysterics in the media and the political opportunists in Washington. To wit, from a great new profile in the New Statesman:

“There was a really serious question: is this the wave of something generally new and important in world history, or was this just a really lucky blow they got in?” Fortunately for his academic consistency, he concluded it was the latter. “These are really marginal people who survive in countries where you don’t have strong states . . . Their ability to take over and run a serious country that can master technology and stay at the forefront of great-power politics is almost zero,” he says now.

As ISIS threatens Baghdad and the war-machine and neocons go into high gear demanding a full scale re-invasion, that’s worth keeping in mind. And his view of our current predicament in Mesopotamia is pretty close to my own:

When I suggest that half-hearted interference is likely to prolong conflict in the region, he comes close to agreeing with me. The wars engulfing the Middle East are essentially a Sunni-Shia war, he says, that “could go on as long as the Thirty Years War in Europe”, which raged between 1618 and 1648. “Under those circumstances, I think it’s a little hard to figure out how American power is going to settle that conflict. I don’t think we’ve got the wisdom to actually see our way towards a political settlement.”

Does he believe that the rise of Isis might have been avoided if the US had intervened militarily earlier on in the Syrian conflict? It is possible, but unlikely, he concludes. “The one thing that both the Iraq and Afghan wars should have taught us is that, even with a very heavy input in boots on the ground, and nation-building, and the trillions of resources poured into these countries, our ability to bring about a specific political result like democracy, or even basic stability, is very limited.”

Let me remind my readers: this is fundamentally a reality-based conservative position. Do not let the fanatics on the right persuade you otherwise. The neo in neoconservatism stands for war – always war. It is close to an end in itself.