Sunday, March 05, 2006

Pushing History to its End or Defending Ourselves?

William Kristol responds to Francis Fukuyama's piece "After Neoconservatism" by arguing that justice does not necessarily or easily prevail. Only a Hegelian could think so, after all. As Kristol puts it, "To govern is to choose, and to accept responsibility for one's choices. To govern is not wishfully to await the end of history. To govern is not fatalistically to watch a clash of civilizations from the sidelines."

Fukuyama, perhaps trying to become more of a "realist," has given up his Hegelianism for a more authentic materialism or Marxism. Gone is the "thymotic" aspect of his original thesis that man's desire for recognition spurs the historical process. Gone is Hegel's famous description of the battle for recognition in the Phenomenology of Spirit. It's all Marx and the technological aspects of progress now for Fukuyama. It's the desire to be comfortable, which the original thesis seemed to show was inadequate as the driver of history.

However, for all of his new-found "realism" Fukuyama doesn't seem to have an alternative to neocon foreign policy. His seizing upon Bush's rhetoric is instructive here. Fukuyama must be the only person in America (even counting Bush's most ardent supporters) who simply believes in the administration's rhetoric at face value -- that we are in Iraq simply to overthrow a tyrant and create a democracy. Sure, that's part of it, but there is a self-interested reason too, which Fukuyama completely neglects -- namely that a more democratic Middle East means greater safety for the U.S. So, for all of his "realism," Fukuyama neglects to acknowledge the realistic aspects of neocon foreign policy. In a bizarre way, Bush has scored his greatest rhetorical victory with Francis Fukuyama, leading Fukuyama to neglect the self-interested aspects of neocon foreign policy.

Fukuyama is helpful in discussing why we've bungled things in Iraq, but he doesn't seem to acknowledge the threats that we face clearly. Fukuyama accuses the neocons of being "Leninists" in trying to push history to its end before it's ready, but that has never been the neocon claim. The neocons talk about promoting democracy, but not necessarily as an end in itself.


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