Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Losing Sight of History?

You knew it was coming. Hitchens has set Fukuyama in his crosshairs after the latter pushed away once and for all from his neo-con brethern in last weekend's NYTs Magazine article (you can read it here.)
The charge that used to be leveled against the neoconservatives was that they had wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein (pause for significant lowering of voice) even before Sept. 11, 2001. And that "accusation," as Fukuyama well knows, was essentially true—and to their credit.

The three questions that anyone developing second thoughts about the Iraq conflict must answer are these: Was the George H.W. Bush administration right to confirm Saddam Hussein in power after his eviction from Kuwait in 1991? Is it right to say that we had acquired a responsibility for Iraq, given past mistaken interventions and given the great moral question raised by the imposition of sanctions? And is it the case that another confrontation with Saddam was inevitable; those answering "yes" thus being implicitly right in saying that we, not he, should choose the timing of it? Fukuyama does not even mention these considerations. Instead, by his slack use of terms like "magnet," he concedes to the fanatics and beheaders the claim that they are a response to American blunders and excesses.

That's why last week was a poor one for him to pick. Surely the huge spasm of Islamist hysteria over caricatures published in Copenhagen shows that there is no possible Western insurance against doing something that will inflame jihadists? The sheer audacity and evil of destroying the shrine of the 12th imam is part of an inter-Muslim civil war that had begun long before the forces of al-Qaida decided to exploit that war and also to export it to non-Muslim soil. Yes, we did indeed underestimate the ferocity and ruthlessness of the jihadists in Iraq. Where, one might inquire, have we not underestimated those forces and their virulence?
His concluding paragraph is also worthy of note and should be thought about long and hard about the liberal-left that always value accomodation over conflict -- and remember conflict doesn't have to necessarily be war (ex. the Cold War), although violence isn't that far away (ex. the Cold War's heinous proxy wars).
I have my own criticisms both of my one-time Trotskyist comrades and of my temporary neocon allies, but it can be said of the former that they saw Hitlerism and Stalinism coming—and also saw that the two foes would one day fuse together—and so did what they could to sound the alarm. And it can be said of the latter (which, alas, it can't be said of the former) that they looked at Milosevic and Saddam and the Taliban and realized that they would have to be confronted sooner rather than later. Fukuyama's essay betrays a secret academic wish to be living in "normal" times once more, times that will "restore the authority of foreign policy 'realists' in the tradition of Henry Kissinger." Fat chance, Francis! Kissinger is moribund, and the memory of his failed dictator's club is too fresh to be dignified with the term "tradition." If you can't have a sense of policy, you should at least try to have a sense of history.
I, like both Fukuyama and Hitchens, travel in Marxist dialectic reasoning. We all believe the material and the idea or the thesis and the antithesis clash in a dynamic process that propels history or human events forward. The material grounds for liberal democracies exist in much of the world, therefore the point is to propel the idea forward. If a true democratic socialism cannot be realized, the next best hope for humanity is liberal democracy. Who can deny that? What's stopping this generation or the next from formulating peaceful policies to promote this? (Which is precisely what Fukuyama starts to enunciate in his article, although a military component to this still remains.)

While I have many problems with the neoconservative movement, beginning with Podhoretz through to Wolfowitz and Fukuyama, I do respect, like Hitchens, that they saw the dungeon of Sovietism in the West before anyone else wanted to, except maybe Orwell, and now have been the main opponents of the aforementioned murderous states led by megalomaniacs. I will never be ashamed that I did not support the war in Iraq. We were led there on lies and hidden motives -- which Hitchens denies to his discredit -- mixed up with principled opposition to Saddam Hussein. But now that it's over, I'm glad Hussein's in the docket and that, at least, there's a chance for some semblance of liberal democracy to root itself into the sands and grow ever so slightly. The hope for Iraq lies in its long history of secularism and a proactive civil society led by its unions if the U.S. has the gumption to promote it and keep the peace.

If I maybe so crude: Isn't this end in our best interest - ideationally and materially?