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Neocons Critiqued by their Mentor

"The Bush administration's lack of planning underscores the lack of seriousness with which the war was undertaken."

Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama is an icon of the recently christened Neoconservatives in the Bush administration. In an interview with New Perspectives Quarterly he offers a critique of his followers.

here are a few excerpts from his March interview by NPQ "The Bush administration's lack of planning underscores the lack of seriousness with which the war was undertaken."
"Europeans pride themselves on their "soft power" approach to international problems. Nation-building fits in that category. The US has gone the other route with its "hard power" approach. Consequently, there has been a de facto division of labor where the US goes in and does all the fighting and the Europeans come in after to clean up and rebuild.

This only gets you so far because both components of power are ultimately necessary. You cannot do without either of them. For that reason, the US needs to repair all its alliance relationships damaged in its one-sided use of hard power. As the hegemonic power, though, the US can't just offload all the soft duties to the Europeans or the Japanese. We need to complement US might with a more serious commitment to state-building.
by "hard power", Fukayama means domination by force, and he refers to social and economic engagement as "soft" power. Joe Nye of Harvard expounds on this in another interview in the same issue of NPQ
NPQ | The United States is trying state-building in Iraq. Where does that stand?

FUKUYAMA | The reason there is so much trouble in Iraq is that the US did not anticipate how the state would just collapse when Saddam fell. There was a vacuum of sheer administrative capacity. The people who could connect the phones, get the water running, the oil flowing and, most of all, provide physical security just weren't there.

Though the disappearance of police is a universal condition of most post-conflict situations, the Bush administration completely failed to anticipate that, and it should have.

NPQ | How much can a distant foreign power do in terms of state-building? If the US can't even get little Haiti on the right track, how can it bring good governance and democracy to Iraq and the entire Middle East?

FUKUYAMA | I don't think it can. That is why I was not very enthusiastic about undertaking the Iraq war in the first place. The historical record shows that where state-building has been successful?Germany, Japan, South Korea?American forces have stayed for at least two generations, that is 40 or 50 years. Those countries where the US has stayed five years or less?Haiti is a good example?have not had any lasting change or are worse because of US intervention.

If we had gone into Iraq with the understanding it would take that level of commitment, we might accomplish something. That is not the case. The Bush administration's lack of planning underscores the lack of seriousness with which the war was undertaken.

Nonetheless, we have to realize there are periodically times when it is in the US, and indeed global, interest to undertake the right kind of state-building commitment.

NPQ | By justifying the war on the basis of eliminating mass destruction weapons that weren't there instead of on rebuilding the Middle East, doesn't the US now lack the legitimacy to fulfill the political objective for which its military might paved the way?

FUKUYAMA | That is absolutely right. Without a buy-in by the American public, the whole state-building project is unsustainable. Typically what happens is that we get enthusiastic about the military intervention, and then interest wanes after a couple of years. The real problems begin to set in around year four or five after the intervention, usually in another presidential cycle with a president from another party who wasn't an architect of the policy.

This is what happened in Nicaragua. The US first went in there in 1927, but then was out by 1934 after the 1932 election. Roosevelt felt it wasn't his war. More recently, Bush felt that intervention and nation-building in Haiti were Clinton's policies, not his.
excerpted from the Summer 2004 issue of New Perspectives Quarterly

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