Francis Fukuyama, professor of international political economy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is living proof that being academic and being woefully ignorant are not mutually exclusive.
Canadians, especially those seen as being extremely conservative when it comes to our national security, would be well served if they got to know Fukuyama.
His neoconservative view of the world, now the centre pin of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, has been the subject of several of my columns.
And I have not been kind to the professor.
On many occasions I have taken the position that his particular worldview is dangerously narrow, fundamentally Leninist, unfairly capitalistic, hegemonic and xenophobic.
Now, at long last, I have found a strong ally for my criticism of his work. And it comes from a most unlikely source: Francis Fukuyama himself.
As the world continues to spiral into increasing chaos and sectarian violence, Fukuyama, it seems, has been forced to go back to school.
In his soon-to-be-released book, America at the Crossroads, he considers the neoconservative theory he outlined in his earlier work to be “in shambles.”
Neoconservative theory might have worked well in the classroom. It certainly sold well in the bookstore.
But Fukuyama now admits that once neoconservatism was given legs by the Bush administration “it evolved into something I can no longer support.”
As the entire Middle East disintegrates — the direct result of neoconservative stupidity — Fukuyama now believes the current situation demonstrates the “danger of good intentions carried to extremes.”
While his self-styled confession may again sell well in “think tanks” throughout the West, it does little to console the millions of Middle Eastern families torn apart by war, instability and starvation.
The nitty-gritty of Fukuyama’s first book, The End of History and the Last Man, can be spelled out quite simply.
Neoconservatism advocates the use of strong, unilateral military action to force democracy on people living under autocratic regimes, no matter the cost in human life.
Liberal democracy Western style, according to the learned professor, is the end product to which all people gravitate. Even if they don’t fully understand it, and even if it runs counter to deeply help cultural and religious traditions.
Western democracy is what people want, what they deserve and, given Western military superiority, what they will get.
What has caused Fukuyama to change their mind?
Reality, it seems, set in.
A more endearing way to say this might be to suggest that a change of mind was preceded by a change of heart.
As the world’s policymakers watched Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Palestine simply unravel as Western-style democratic potentials, Fukuyama’s neoconservative gibberish began to be seen for what it was: proactive isolationism driven by institutionalised paranoia enforced by unilateral military superiority.
Britain’s Labour Party and the ultra-conservative factions in Australia and Canada quickly bought into the mindset that all the Middle East is out to get us.
And all three were more than willing to duck behind the full-skirt of the US military.
But now that the military is systematically being picked apart in Iraq and Afghanistan, policymakers and pro-democratic intellectuals are looking for the exit doors.
In a recently published article for the New York Times, Professor Fukuyama now suggests, “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 short, neoconservative thinking was inspired by the quirky notion that democracy — fuelled by ever-increasing capitalism — is at the heart of all humanity.
The fact this thinking is blatantly arrogant is one thing, that it is militarily indefensible is quite another.
The harsh reality the neocons must now face is the fact that America is not omnipotent.
Believing that it is has led policymakers and dealmakers, like President Bush, to the incorrect conclusion that if folks in other countries could only be forced, dragged and kicked to the voting booth, they would choose democracy — American style.
For the good professor to have reached this conclusion he must have been snacking on hash brownies during his early university days.
His is a hallucination as grand as any I know.
Bush, Blair, Howard and now Harper, I am afraid, must have nibbled from the same snack tray.
All four of these leaders need to pay attention to the “new and improved” Fukuyama.
According to his latest thinking, “It seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention in Iraq itself or the ideas animating it kindly.”
And even more telling, he suggests [neoconservative] “movements’ advocates are Leninists who believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will.
“Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned to farce when practiced by the United States.”
Fukuyama’s previous wingnut-policy on the Middle East, which set out to win the war on terror, has not only failed to do that, but, according to his own revelations, is having the exact opposite effect.
“Radical Islamism is a byproduct of modernisation itself, arising from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society,” he now says.
“More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalisation and — yes, unfortunately — terrorism.”
I must say my immediate reaction to his intellectual conversion was one of, I told you so.
But this “blowing of one’s own horn” gets us nowhere.
What a mess neoconservative thinking has gotten us into.
My advice to Western intellectuals, as they begin formulating post-neoconservative policies, is to steer clear of the university.
Go, instead, to Canada’s small rural communities and watch liberal democracy in action. Watch religion, economy, politics and nature sort itself out using such novel inventions as neighbourliness, kinship and good work.
Fukuyama, I am afraid, spent too much time in the ivory towers and much too little in small communities.
I get the sense a good deal of his new work, America at the Crossroads, was written at the local coffee shop.
And that, I think, is a good thing.