2003 May 16 Friday
Francis Fukuyama Skeptical Democracy Will Succeed In Iraq

In a conversation with Michael Gove of The Times of London Francis Fukuyama expresses his doubt that the United States has sufficient will and staying-power to reshape Iraq.

The idealist view of the Middle East is that Arab politics is stuck, and you can use Iraq to create an alternative model, an Arab state with freedom, the rule of law, greater democracy. I hope that happens. But I must say Im sceptical. They (the Iraqis) are a fractious people. Its an extremely delicate game to have a non-Baathist regime to keep the country together. And the other reason to be pessimistic is that we (the US) are not good at nation-building. Were quick on the trigger when it comes to military intervention, but much slower on making the commitment to order and reconstruction.

There is already talk in the Bush Administration about when all the troops will be pulled out of Iraq even while the level of violence is growing and militias are being formed around political parties. There certainly are abundant reasons for skepticism.

Fukuyama also defends his friend Paul Wolfowitz against the popular caricature of Wolfowitz as a neoconservative hawk operating simply to defend Israel. Fukuyama rightly cites Wolfowitz's role in pushing for the downfall of Marcos in the Philippines and in attempts to bring democratic change to Indonesia as well.

Fukuyama's response in the article to Robert Kagan's views on Europe appear to be meant to be a criticism of Kagan's views but he concedes some of Kagan's argument about why Europeans are reluctant to use force in the first place.

The key point on Europe where Fukuyama gets it right is that a split between Europe and America is not in the interest of the West as a whole. The problem, though, is that a major motivation for what is called the "European Project" is to be able to make Europe into a competing power center against the United States. The French elite clearly want that outcome. Some portion of the elite in other European nations want that as well. In my view the biggest likely catalyst for the development of a deeper split will be if European countries give up foreign and defense policy power to the EU central government. If that happens there is no way that Britain as a member of the EU can serve as a bridge between the United States and Europe any more than New York State or Massachusetts could play that role on on the western side of the Atlantic.

Update: In a recent interview Paul Wolfowitz demonstrates his appreciation of the need for an extended US presence in Iraq.

Q: What's the biggest mistake the U.S. can make in post-war?

Wolfowitz: The biggest mistake is to underestimate the resilience of the old regime and people's fear that the Ba'athists will outlast us. One of our big concerns is Iranian intervention. If people think the Americans aren't here to stay, the natural thing will be to say, "Let's get as much help from Iran or wherever we think it's coming from while we can." We want to convey that we'll be there, for emergency use, for a long time.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 16 02:07 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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