Neo-cons declare war on each other

Francis Fukuyama’s defection has provoked the ire of influential ex-friends, writes Deborah Hope

FROM Julius Caesar to Leon Trotsky, history is strewn with the bodies of men and women who have fallen out with former political allies.

There have been no killings in the war within the US neo-conservative movement, the dominant political force driving US President George W. Bush’s foreign policy. The weapons of choice are words and the blood on the ground is a poisonous mix of tattered ideology and reputations.
At the heart of the battle is a high-profile defection from the neo-conservatives that has delivered a moral victory to the anti-war movement. The main characters in the drama include the defector, Francis Fukuyama, formerly an intellectual force behind the movement; Charles Krauthammer, prominent neo-conservative and Washington Post columnist who, in a new twist to the story this week, publicly branded his one-time friend a liar; celebrity pro-Iraq war advocate Christopher Hitchens; and The Wall Street Journal.

The significance of this stellar stoush is that in attacking his former political colleagues, Fukuyama is also rocking the philosophical foundations of the White House when it is struggling to maintain domestic support to stay the course in Iraq.

Neo-conservatives, according to Fukuyama, believe in a role for the US he describes as benign hegemony, under which the superpower shows moral leadership to the world, spreading democracy and freedom, by force if necessary. Fukuyama lays down his critique in America at the Crossroads. The book’s publication last month marked his formal resignation as a neo-con. The fallout continues.

A professor and political theorist at Johns Hopkins University’s school of advanced international studies in Washington, Fukuyama first stormed to prominence in 1989 with The End of History?, an essay postulating that the end of the Cold War established that liberal democracy, not communism, was the triumphal end point of social evolution. He expanded on his contentious theory in his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, described by Krauthammer on its back cover as “scandalously brilliant”. This week Krauthammer’s tone was less generous.

Fukuyama says the event that cemented his decision to defect was a February 2004 speech by Krauthammer. Relating the incident in his book, he writes that in the speech Krauthammer called US efforts in Iraq “a virtually unqualified success”.

Krauthammer’s column in the Post this week is headlined “Fukuyama’s Fantasy”. In it, he accuses his former ally of lying: “It was, as the hero tells it, his road to Damascus moment. I can testify Fukuyama’s claim that I attributed ’virtually unqualified success’ to the war is a fabrication.”

According to Krauthammer, in his “entire 6000-word lecture I said not a single word about the course or conduct of the Iraq war. My only reference to the outcome of the war came towards the end of the lecture. Far from calling it an unqualified success, virtual or otherwise, I said quite bluntly that ’it may be a bridge too far’.”

In America at the Crossroads, Fukuyama labels Bush’s post-9/11 doctrine a shambles and says the invasion of Iraq galvanised world opinion against the US. Iraq, he argues, has replaced “Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at”. Conceding some benefits from the war, he says these don’t “justify the blood and treasure that the US has spent on the project”.

As evidence that Washington’s strategy of tackling terrorism with a policy of pushing democracy across the Middle East is fatally flawed, he cites the Muslim Brotherhood’s strong showing in Egypt’s parliamentary elections last year, the success of a Shia bloc with close ties to Iran in Iraq’s December elections and “the clincher”: the decisive Hamas victory in Palestinian elections in January.

“Anyone out there have a better idea?” demanded The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Fukuyama wrote a response in collaboration with Adam Garfinkle, editor The American Interest, which was published in the Journal this week. As a start, they write, the White House must separate the struggle against radical Islamism from promoting democracy in the Middle East.

In an essay published in The New York Times Magazine, Fukuyama also calls on Washington to demilitarise the war on terror, recognise Europe is a central battleground in tackling the jihadist challenge, emphasise multilateralism and reinvigorate institutions such as the Department of State, the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID.

“Fat chance, Francis,” shouts Hitchens in a scathing article in Slate, in which he accuses Fukuyama of secretly yearning to live in normal times once more and of describing incorrectly the case for war against Iraq. “It wasn’t that the Middle East ’lacked democracy’ so much as that one of its keystone states was dominated by an unstable and destabilising dictatorship led by a psychopath.”

The Wall Street Journal has put Fukuyama’s credibility under the microscope in a damaging review by Brett Stephens. “Several thousand US troops have now been killed or injured in a war he gave every appearance of supporting well after the Rubicon was crossed. If MrFukuyama now judges the effort a terrible folly, the least he can do is offer an honest account of the part he played cheering it on,” he writes. Stephens notes that in 1998, under the banner of the Project for the New American Century, 17 signatories including Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and Fukuyama published an open letter to then US president Bill Clinton pointing out the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to stability across the Middle East and the possible future need for military action and regime change.

Rather than provoking Fukuyama’s “catastrophic backlash”, Stephens points out that, since the war, four of the most prominent members of Bush’s coalition — Britain’s Tony Blair, Australia’s John Howard, Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Japan’s Junichiro Koizumi — have been returned to office by large majorities.

As well, “Canada’s Paul Martin and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder have been cashiered in favour of Stephen Harper and Angela Merkel, both of whom campaigned on the explicit promise of better ties with the US”. France’s Jacques Chirac seems to be politically finished, while Nicolas Sarkozy, his likeliest successor is avowedly pro-American.

Replying to Stephens’s claims that he has been less than candid about his views on the war, Fukuyama points out that he explains in his preface that he was initially “hawkish on Iraq”, but adds that his misgivings began during the year before the invasion. As evidence he cites a commentary published in the Journal in December 2002, “in which every argument I make in my current book was laid out more than three months prior to the war, including the view that ’the idealist project may therefore come to look more like empire, pure and simple”’.