The Two Fukuyamas

The Two Fukuyamas

If Fukuyama were publicly to apply the lessons outlined in Trust to the present U.S. discourse on policy towards Russia, it would greatly raise both the quality and the utility of that discourse. However, this would also require a dissent from the opinion of most of the administration, the two party establishments and the overwhelming majority of the think tanks (from Carnegie to AEI), all of which now portray the Putin Administration, and Russia in general, in terms that are as blankly hostile as they are intellectually vacuous and historically illiterate. Breaking with the neoconservatives is controversial but "safe"; challenging the basic assumptions of the U.S. foreign policy elite on Russia and other key issues is not safe at all.

Wilsonianism and Realism

IN AMERICA at the Crossroads, Fukuyama himself seeks to counter neoconservatism with a new intellectual approach and strategy that he has labeled "realistic Wilsonianism"--and has issued a challenge to critics to come up with a better phrase. I have tried to formulate a concept (rather than an alternative label) that expresses parts of the same idea in a form which is less liable to abuse by neoconservatives and liberal hawks present and future. In my essay on Pakistan published in the last issue of The National Interest, I first discussed "developmental realism", which is to be developed further in a book that I have coauthored with John Hulsman of the Heritage Foundation, to appear this fall.1

This approach, returning to the best traditions of the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, advocates generous aid for the development of key allies--and not only development but equitable development. Those administrations applied this model, for example, in the implementation or promotion of radical land reform in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan (though it was forgotten, alas, by the Eisenhower Administration when it came to Guatemala). Such development needs to be geared both to the reduction in mass misery and to the creation of modern middle classes with a capacity to build and maintain democracy.

The need for visibly equitable development--what Benjamin Friedman has called "moral growth"--is necessary not merely for the War on Terror (as it once was for the struggle with communism) but also for the gradual building of the foundations of stable democracy. A tradition stretching back to Aristotle, Burke and Jefferson holds that if a constitutional state is to flourish, its active participants must possess the essentials for a dignified life for themselves and their children, in order to guarantee their attachment to the state and political stability, and their independence from political overlords.

While "developmental realism" does cover some of the same ground as "realistic Wilsonianism", the latter remains in the end teleological, assuming one fixed path of progress towards a fixed, free-market, democratic goal. There will always therefore be a temptation to try to hurry countries along that path, rather than waiting in Fukuyama's Marxian spirit for the economic, social and cultural substructure to develop sufficiently to support democracy.

The hegemony of liberal democratic thought among modern intellectuals across the world--so brilliantly delineated by Fukuyama in The End of History--too often predisposes them to radically false and wildly optimistic assessments of the readiness of their countries for democracy, and the wishes of their populations in this regard. In turn, Western intellectuals and journalists instinctively turn to such liberal intellectuals, rather than either officials or ordinary people, for analysis of their societies. At best, this produces a copulation of illusions, with Westerners and their local interlocutors passionately misconceiving together. At worst, it lays us open to deliberate misinformation and manipulation by a range of would-be Chalabis.

American zeal for hegemony through democracy in wake of victory in the Cold War has prompted the United States to re-launch an ideological struggle between the great powers, with U.S. administrations combining a preaching of democracy to Russia, China and Iran with attempts to bludgeon them into submission to U.S. views and interests--despite the fact that Moscow and Beijing no longer try to export their own ideology to the United States or its key allies. This U.S. approach has become officially institutionalized in bodies like Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy, whose pronouncements are accorded an almost religious force by much of the media and the political classes.

As a result of all these pressures, once you have accepted the teleological assumptions implicit even in the realistic version of Wilsonianism, it is very difficult in practice to stick with Fukuyama's gradualist approach, even with regard to countries where it is universally recognized in principle that building real democracy will be a very long process. The U.S. public debate therefore mainly focuses not on deeper issues of economic, social and cultural change, but on whether the next elections will be "free 'n' fair", by which is too often meant whether the pro-American side will win. The United States is therefore constantly being dragged away from Fukuyama's Marxian concentration on the need to create the substructures of democracy, and towards exactly the obsession with the superficial expressions of democracy that Fukuyama himself increasingly criticizes.

It is to be hoped that Francis Fukuyama's break with neoconservatives will be only the beginning of his journey to new and uncharted shores, and that this journey will be of great benefit to United States thinking and strategy.

For Fukuyama is one of the most interesting public intellectuals in America today and has produced very valuable work on an extraordinary range of subjects. He has the ability to toss the cherished shibboleths of the Washington political classes up in the air and juggle playfully with them--should he be willing to break some windows in the process.

1. Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, Ethical Realism and American Foreign Policy (Random House).

Anatol Lieven is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation. His last book was America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (2004).

Essay Types: Book Review