Saturday, October 28, 2006

Francis Fukuyama and "Conservative" foreign policy

I'm collecting examples of recognitions, even if dim, that the sort of foreign policy pursued by the Bush 43 administration is NOT "conservative". In December 2002 Francis Fukuyama, erstwhile "neo-conservative" but a more recent critic of "neo-conservatism", wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal called "Today's 'conservative' foreign policy has an idealist agenda".

Fukuyama asked: "What does it mean to have a conservative foreign policy in the post-Cold War world, and in particular in the world that has emerged since Sept. 11?... American foreign policy has always been pulled in two directions, toward a realist defense of national security defined in relatively narrow terms, and toward an expansive sense of American purposes that rests directly on the exceptionalism of American institutions and the messianic belief in their universal applicability.... How can we characterize the post-Sept. 11 foreign policy of the Bush administration?... The administration's new National Security Strategy of the United States lays out an ambitious road map for the wholesale reordering of the politics of the Middle East, beginning with the replacement of Saddam Hussein by a democratic, pro-Western government. A variety of administration spokesmen and advisers have suggested that a different government in Iraq will change the political dynamics of the entire region, making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more tractable, putting pressure on authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and broadly promoting the cause of democracy in a hostile part of the world that has proven stubbornly resistant to all democratic trends. The present administration, in other words, has articulated anything but a conservative foreign policy. It is embarking on an immensely ambitious exercise in the political re-engineering of a hostile part of the world (emphasis added)."

Yes, the Bush 43 foreign policy is "anything but a conservative". But the ultimate irony, to which Fukuyama doesn't seem to be alert is that this policy bears substantial resemblance to the Jacobin foreign policy of the French Revolution. This is supreme irony because modern conservatism as an articulated political philosophy appeared as a critique of the perceived excesses of the French Revolution!

The sequence went like this: 1) the French Revolution occurs; 2) Edmund Burke as English political observer writes his critique, Reflections on the Revolution in France, articulating and founding modern conservatism; 3) American pseudo-conservatives on the radical right misappropriate for themselves the term "conservative" in the Cold War period; 4) this misnomer is accepted in American political discourse with scarce recognition that policies being advocated as "conservative" are frequently just the opposite; and thereby 5) what is a Jacobin foreign policy is now advocated under the label that originated as a criticism of Jacobinism and the French Revolution itself.


Chris Womak said...

I did a quick "find" search of your front page and noticed that the word "Jew," doesn't come up once. To be honest with you, if you can't equate "neo-conservatism," as being a Jewish movement, in exactly the same way that Bolshevism was, you have little to offer your readers. Other than that, I thought your material was well thought out and written, but in the end, and because of this neglect, it appears to be just another example of common philo-semitic bilge.

James A Bond said...

I don't think the issue is about Jews or "Jewish" movements; as far as I'm concerned the issue is about how one appraises Israeli treatment of the Palestinians since Zionism advocated emigration to Palestine. To the degree you confuse criticism of Jews with criticism of Israeli policy you play into the hands of the Israel lobby who scream anti-semitism every time Israel is criticized. Perhaps you haven't checked out the links I show on the right of the blog to the Council on the National Interest and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. I am very critical of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and think that many of the foreign policy problems the U.S. has today, especially terrorism, are due to the U.S.'s knee-jerk support for far right Israeli policies. And yes these policies, in Israel and the U.S., are aggressively supported by "neo-conservatives" who are very frequently Jewish and slavishly pro-Israel. But, in my opinion, the 'find' you should have done was for "Israel" and not "Jew".