BOOKCASE : After the Neocons

• Francis Fukuyama • Profile Books • $39.99

This is fodder for the politically aware and interested. It is damning indictment of the neoconservative movement’s influence over America’s Bush administration – made all the more compelling because it is told by former advocate of the neo-conservative political philosophy.
Francis Fukuyama, also author of The End of History – recounting of the rele-vance of the collapse of the Berlin Wall – carefully and systematically explains just how neoconservate thinking, which unpinned George W Bush’s foreign policy in particular, has delivered disaster – literally and politically.
Or was it neoconservative thinking? It was certainly right-wing policy making but as Fukuyama explained, the activists who influenced Bush’s thinking and foreign policy folly, may not be neoconservatives after all or, at least, may not have applied neoconservative philosophy properly. Either way, he explains the emergence and the essentials of the philosophy and its advocates. It worked, he argues, for America’s Reagan administration during the Cold War so why not now?
The answer lies in the neoconservatives’ over-enthusiastic response to the collapse of the Soviet Union and consequent belief that if America could effect whole regime change in Europe, surely it could do it again in penny-ante Middle East states like Iraq. This, plus an over-blown belief in the effectiveness of military action and risk-free life-saving hi-tech weaponry, wooed the advocates of “threat, risk and preventive war” into an ill-considered response to September 11, 2001.
Fukuyama also demonstrates just how the Bush administration failed to appreciate the world’s response to US escapades in Iraq and the Middle East generally. But, as he says, the neoconservatives didn’t much care about how the rest of the world thought or might respond, at least not until suddenly, like bombs on Baghdad, Bush’s poll rating began to plummet.
The book is not all brick-by-brick demolition of an ill-conceived policy. Fukuyama also argues for new American foreign policy, one based on multilateralism rather than unilateralism as advocated by Bush and his backers in the administration’s first term. He advocates range of political and economic policies rather than dependence on military might. And he suggests America start to appreciate that countries have different cultural roots and, therefore, democracy cannot simply be imposed from outside.
But like many Americans, Fukuyama has difficulty seeing future for the United Nations. He suggests the US get in behind body of global democracies, failing still to appreciate that while it has its shortcomings, the UN is representative of the realities of the world. And on that point, not everyone is amenable to American pressure and thinking. Reg Birchfield

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