IN THE first years after the Cold War ended, many Americans had a profound sense of optimism about the future of international politics. President Bill Clinton captured that mood when he told the UN General Assembly in September 1993:
It is clear that we live at a turning point in human history. Immense and promising changes seem to wash over us every day. The Cold War is over. The world is no longer divided into two armed and angry camps. Dozens of new democracies have been born. It is a moment of miracles.
The basis of all this good feeling was laid out at the time in two famous articles by prominent neoconservatives. In 1989, Francis Fukuyama argued in “The End of History?” that Western liberal democracy had won a decisive victory over communism and fascism and should be seen as the “final form of human government.”1 One consequence of this “ideological evolution,” he argued, was that large-scale conflict between the great powers was “passing from the scene,” although “the vast bulk of the Third World remains very much mired in history, and will be a terrain of conflict for many years to come.” Nevertheless, liberal democracy and peace would eventually come to the Third World as well, because the sands of time were pushing inexorably in that direction.