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BookReview: America at the Crossroads

America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy

Book by Francis Fukayama

It’s a relief to read at least one (semi) mea culpa from a leading cheerleader for the policies that lead to War in Iraq, and the catastrophe that has been the Bush presidency.

Francis Fukayama is the famous writer of the famous article/book, End of History, in which liberal democracy and free markets triumph over evil, everyone gets rich and happy, and the days of war and disagreements fade into the distant memory of unenlightened times.

Fukayama is also a founding member of the Project for a New American Century and a signatory of their Statement of Principles, along with 24 other smart cookies, such as: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Donald Kagan, I. Scooter Libby, Jeb Bush, Norman Podhoretz, and Paul Wolfowitz. The Project argues for a “Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity,” and was a gathering place for the intellectual leaders and policy implementers of our very own actual New American Century, the one that looks a little less shiny than the one predicted by its proponents (including Fukayama) a decade ago. So Fukayama had front row seats, as a champion theoretician, to the ideological experiment whose results we’ll have to live with for the next 50 years, at least. The movement has collapsed, but we’ve not heard a peep from the rest of Fukayama’s ideological buddies – except the occasional claim that the ideas were good, the implementation was at fault.

Fukayama’s reckoning, a little late mind you, is refreshing. He’s realized that ignoring 5,000 years of human history is perhaps a bad way to run the only empire left in the world. Unless, that is, you want to run it into the ground.

Still, the book smacks of disingenuousness: it really wasn’t his fault after all, his intentions were pure. And Fukayama’s prescription for “realistic Wilsonianism” (essentially: maybe we should work within international laws and frameworks after all) is a bit of a farce. Sort of like a back seat driver who keeps yelling at you that you are going too slowly; then gets behind the wheel, speeds insanely for a few miles, loses control, smashes into an oncoming truck; and then, while recovering in the hospital tells you: I’ve decided that robust cautiousness is the way you should drive from now on.

But at least it’s 77% honest. Errors and disasters are cataloged. Reasons are given. Mistakes (sort-of) owned up to. And it offers great insights into the movement and minds that lead us where we find ourselves today. In one big mess.

Thanks to Francis Fukayama and all his ex-buddies.

My rating: 3 stars

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