Monday, August 18, 2008

"Could you men not watch with me for one hour?"

The Political Scientist, Francis Fukuyama wrote The End of History and the Last Man in 1992. In it Fukuyama argued that Hegel was right after all. Marx had taught that Hegel was right about history having an end but wrong in thinking that end was Capitalism. The end would be Communism. When the U.S.S.R. fell in 1989, Fukuyama believed it was time to end Marx’s charade. Political and economic forces are not subject to the idealistic fantasies of Marx. They operate in accordance with more realistic and natural forces, and with the fall of Soviet Union, we see which forces won out: the forces described by Hegel.

Fukuyama didn’t rely strictly upon Hegel in his analysis. He used the analysis of the Alexandre Kojeve when he declared that history was at an end. By that he meant that Capitalism, that is, Capitalism’s final form; which he called “Liberal Democracy.” It represented the form of government, economy and society that all nations would ultimately achieve.

Fukuyama’s thesis was widely read and discussed. Thus, in September 2001 when America was attacked in a way it couldn’t ignore, Fukuyama’s thesis was at hand to use in dealing with problem. The attack by Islamists came from a dysfunctional part of the world, the Middle East. Sure, we could chase after the immediate perpetrators of 9/11 in Afghanistan, which we did, but we needed a longer term solution. We needed to “drain the swamp.” And what better way to do it than to hasten the process that Fukuyama described. Those advocating this hastening were called “Neocons.”

The “terrorists” were paramilitary groups that flitted about from country to country. Sure, we could go after them, but we needed to do something more substantial. The biggest trouble-maker after the Taliban was the recalcitrant Saddam Hussein. We were still technically at war with him. The so-called “First Gulf War” hadn’t truly ended. A truce was in effect and Saddam violated it regularly in many ways, including firing on American and British planes flying above Iraq to make sure he didn’t try to destroy the Southern Shiites or the Northern Kurds.

Many reasons were given for resuming the Iraq war, but for our purposes here, I’ll mention just one: It would be of great benefit to the region and the world, it was believed, if this Iraqi Tyranny could be replaced by a Liberal Democracy. Well, of course, no one thought the new government would be a Western-style Liberal Democracy right away, but it could be something in that direction. This would be a good thing to do, the Neocons thought. Since we are going to remove Saddam’s government, why not replace it with a Democracy?

This was too much for Fukuyama who in terms of his “End of History” thesis was a definite “Menshevik.” Like those Russian Marxists of old who thought, sure, Communism is inevitable, but let’s just let it happen, he thought we should “let Liberal Democracy happen.” Fukuyama in 2006 wrote America at the Crossroads and in effect resigned from the “Neocon movement.” He created a new term for himself, “Realistic Wilsonianism.” He didn’t mind furthering Liberal Democracy, but he didn’t want to do it by “preemptive war,” which Bush had announced as part of his grand strategy.

The Neocons were more like the Bolsheviks who thought Communism needed to be kick-started. The Neocons were all for kick-starting Liberal Democracy.

The Historian John Lewis Gaddis was favorably impressed with the Bush “grand strategy.” In his book Surprise, Security, and the American Experience he wrote that the Bush Doctrine was indeed a “Grand Strategy” intended to deal with a sort of threat that America had never before faced, Islamic terrorism. “We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country,” Bush declared.

But then in the current issue of The American Interest, September/October 2008, Gaddis wrote “Ending Tyranny”: I was disappointed in this article. It is as though he took to heart all the criticisms aimed at Bush and lost belief in the value of Bush’s “Grand Strategy.” Gaddis knows that in future years historians will judge Bush differently than political pundits are doing at the present time, and yet he seems to have been influenced by them.

Bush hasn’t renounced his belief in the spread of democracy and an end to tyranny. Why can’t you let him be a Menshevik in this? There were many reasons for getting rid of Saddam’s regime. It wasn’t just to spread Liberal Democracy; so why lose heart now? American efforts are going well in Iraq now. Yeah, Iraq isn’t going to have a Liberal Democracy like the one we have here, but the Saddam tyranny has been defeated. That’s a good thing.

I appreciate both Fukuyama and Gaddis, but I part company with them as they back away from Bush in these final hours. Pull back and look at Iraq again. We could have had Saddam Hussein in power if Bush hadn’t acted. So what if we couldn’t find his WMDs or whether he even had them. Is there anyone who believes that he wouldn’t be seeking them now that Iran is seeking them? Some pundits criticize Bush for removing Saddam as the counterbalance to Iran. Would we really rather have a remilitarized Saddam counterbalancing Ahmadinejad’s Iran? Would we really rather be worrying about a Saddam/Ahmadinejad nuclear arms race than whether Iraq’s government is going to be quite as stable and quite as liberal as we had hoped?

“There’s got to be a better way” is the mantra of the European pacifists. Don’t invade Iraq because “there’s got to be a better way” they said, dragging their feet as much as possible as our troops entered Iraq. Hey, I’m all for your “better way.” Take care of Iran for us with your “better way” while we’re finishing up in Iraq and Afghanistan. But you’d better hurry, grand strategies are followed by subsequent administrations.

Lawrence Helm

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