This is only tangential to the “patriotism v. nationalism” series I seem to have embarked on, but I’d like to toss it in to the mix now before it gets stale.
Some years ago I read the original â€œThe End of History?â€ article that Francis Fukuyama wrote in 1989, and out of which grew a book by the same name. This essay persuaded me that, just as youth is wasted on the young, graduate school is wasted on the stupid. I expressed more dismay at Fukuyama and explained why I think he’s an idiot here.
Anyway, Fukuyama wrote a long essay for yesterday’s New York Times Sunday magazine called “After Neoconservatism.” I haven’t read it all the way through yet and will refrain from criticising it directly until I do. But links to the essay took me to this post by Andrew Seal of The Little Green Blog (“All things petty and profound at Dartmouth College â€“ and beyond…”) that’s a gem. Note this paragraph in particular
I would add that neoconservatism is also a reaction to modernization, that the idea, pseudo-Nietzschean as it is, that we can shape history by our will to power (veiled as a will to democracy) is a reaction to a globalized world where awareness of things beyond our power has grown to frightening proportions. It is not that we have less power over our situation than ever before, but that we are more aware of how little power we have always had. I guess Nietzsche himself identified this phenomenon–or symptom, if you prefer–as ressentiment.
This nicely supports what I said of neoconism in the last post, “Patriotism v. Paranoia,” which was a follow up to “Patriotism v. Nationalism“: “I see neoconservatism as proactive isolationism. Foreigners scare us, so weâ€™ll make them be more like us so theyâ€™re not so scary.”
Mr. Seal of Dartmouth says it a bit better, though.
Here Mr. Seal quotes Fukuyama and makes a comment —
The [Iraq] war’s supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform.
In other words, we’ve all clearly been taking things like Locke’s “state of nature” and Rawls’s “original position” a little too literally. Democracy is not, in fact, at the heart of humanity.
This represents some progress on Fukuyama’s part, because in “The End of History?” he assumes that something called “liberal democracy” (which I infer from the essay is neither liberal nor democratic as most of us understand those words) is humanity’s natural state and the final destination of mankind’s political evolution. Once mankind has universally achieved this state, history (meaning wars and other political upheavals) will end, Fukuyama concluded.
I think righties generally have this same view of “democracy”; that whatever it is, it’s immutable, and once you have it you don’t have to be concerned about damaging it or losing it. Subvert it, break it, bend it out of shape, and it’ll just snap back, good as new. Further, once a people have elections, they have democracy, because people will always choose to freedom over totalitarianism. Numerous real-world examples to the contrary will not dissuade righties from this notion.
Also, Mr. Seals says,
Fukuyama is asserting the existence of what Richard Hofstadter called “the illusion of American omnipotence”â€”that anything seriously bad happening in the world had to be the result of American mismanagement of global affairs. He used the example of the Chinese fall to Communismâ€”many believed that democratic China’s collapse was due to insufficient American involvement and support or even “betrayal.” However, the illusion of American omnipotence has another side as wellâ€”we tend to believe that anything good happening in the world is a fruit of beneficial American policies–the embrace of democracy by many of the former Warsaw Pact countries was “due” to our shining example, for instance. (City on the Hill, etc.) Neocons are simply the most ardent believers in the illusion of American omnipotence.
Exactly so. And now I want to treat you to my favorite rightie, Orrin Judd. He remains my favorite even over Michelle Malkin and Captain Ed (and even Confederate Yankee, who loves me but won’t admit it), because he’s such a pure example of the walking delusional state that is rightiness. Others may occasionally be contaminated by momentary bursts of clarity or reason, but not our Orrin. In reaction to Fukuyama’s essay, he writes,
The problem for Mr. Fukuyama and others counseling a return to Realism is that the neocons aren’t the driving force behind the policy of humanitarian interventionism. It is instead a function of the Judeo-Christian remoralization of Anglo-American foreign policy that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan began and that continued unabated under Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, reaching its current heights under our most openly evangelical president, George W, Bush. With Australia, India, Japan, and perhaps now Canada joining the Axis of Good, which requires that regimes be democratic in order to be considered legitimate, there’s not much chance danger of the kind of retreat he’s fretting about. And with John McCain the odds on favorite to be our next president we’re more likely to be increasingly interventionist rather than less.
What can one say to that, but … holy shit.
And be sure to read the comments. As Mary Matalin might say, they are delicious. I think my favorites are “We stepped in and imposed peace. It’s who we are”; and “It’s our fault we’ve let them all depend on us. Democratization is like global welfare reform–get on with your own lives.” The “illusion of American omnipotence” indeed.