America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy

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Yale University Press, 2007 - Political Science - 226 pages
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Francis Fukuyama’s criticism of the Iraq war put him at odds with neoconservative friends both within and outside the Bush administration. Here he explains how, in its decision to invade Iraq, the Bush administration failed in its stewardship of American foreign policy. First, the administration wrongly made preventive war the central tenet of its foreign policy. In addition, it badly misjudged the global reaction to its exercise of “benevolent hegemony.” And finally, it failed to appreciate the difficulties involved in large-scale social engineering, grossly underestimating the difficulties involved in establishing a successful democratic government in Iraq.
Fukuyama explores the contention by the Bush administration’s critics that it had a neoconservative agenda that dictated its foreign policy during the president’s first term.á Providing a fascinating history of the varied strands of neoconservative thought since the 1930s, Fukuyama argues that the movement’s legacy is a complex one that can beá interpreted quite differently than it was after the end of the Cold War. Analyzing the Bush administration’s miscalculations in responding to the post–September 11 challenge, Fukuyama proposes a new approach to American foreign policy through which such mistakes might be turned around—one in which the positive aspects of the neoconservative legacy are joined with a more realistic view of the way American power can be used around the world.ááá

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America at the crossroads: democracy, power, and the neoconservative legacy

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Fukuyama├ƒ┬»├‚┬┐├‚┬Żs (international politics, Johns Hopkins)The End of History and the Last Man, written immediately after the abrupt collapse of Soviet communism, rocked theorists and international ... Read full review

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this is a very well-written history of the neo conservative movement by one of its proponents - or as fukuyama might consider it - early proponents. fukuyama traces the evolution of neoconservative thought from the halls of CCNY through to reagan and eventually to william kristol and robert kagan from which it seems fukuyama wishes to distinguish himself.
the book clearly articulates the fundamental principles of the neoconservatism that fukuyama sees: its belief in the USA as a moral force with a unique destiny, eschewing international institutions for the preservation of security and justice, a dislike of social engineering projects, and the concept of the "regime" - the manifestation of a state's populace in its character and foreign policy.
fukuyama goes on to cite concerns with the bush's concept of neoconservatism as expressed in iraq, and does an excellent job of raising interesting points that makes the reader aware of the intricacies of the theory.
i took it that it was up to the reader to challenge the principles if one did not agree with them and here goes.
(1) the "unique impulse" of the usa puts it into situations where it ends up being a moral arbiter to some of the world's grey areas. the realists stay clear of these. often times it is clear that the usa is not blessed with the wisdom of solomon and i feel the neocons get out of a cost/benefit analysis of a situation with an overriding principle such as this.
(2) i completely disagree with the concept of "regime" as it is articulated - the internal and external workings of a state are under different institutional pressures (internally democratic, externally (more or less) unaccountable) and realists would argue that these institutions are a better predictor of actual behaviour. there is ample evidence of the schizophrenic nature of the usa along with other "democratic" nations in the world which refutes the principle. again, accepting this principle results in "less work" in explaining the actions but opens one to real moral hazards.
fukuyama spends a fair amount of time examining problems in international development (he divides these into economic and political along the lines of huntington) and laying out the case for "multi-multilateralism" (another term for "coalitions of the willing") as a means by which to salvage the current path along which the usa finds themselves. in doing so, it seems fukuyama is willing to weaken the neoconservatism principle eschewing international institutions by using these coalitions (institution-lite) through which the usa can start to wield their significant soft power. what seems more likely than not is that the future of the neoconservative movement will draw more heavily from liberal principles than the strains of realism.

Selected pages


2 The Neoconservative Legacy
3 Threat Risk and Preventive War
4 American Exceptionalism and International Legitimacy
5 Social Engineering and the Problem of Development
6 Rethinking Institutions for World Order
7 A Different Kind of American Foreign Policy

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About the author (2007)

Francis Fukuyama is Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and director of the International Development Program at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. He has written widely on political and economic development, and his previous books include The End of History and the Last Man, a best seller and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Critic Award.

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