Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fukuyama on Neoconservatism

I watched a video tonight of Francis Fukuyama giving a talk at the Miller Center a couple weeks ago. Fukuyama, a very prominent neocon, released a book not that long ago critical of the neocons, and the first part of his talk was a critique on what the neocons got wrong on Iraq. Attacking the neocons on Iraq is, at this point, a shooting fish in a barrel type exercise. But it's interesting to hear the views of someone sympathetic to that philosophy. The second part of Fukuyama's presentation was a critique of the immense focus that the Bush administration has put on democratization, making it the centerpiece of their war on terror. Not that Fukuyama is critical of democratization as a long term objective, but that lack of democracy is not a core cause of terrorism. Then he took a half hour of questions (it's a one hour video), and they were mostly excellent questions. As one questioner notes, Fukuyama covers an immense amount of ground over the course of the hour, but, I think, covers every topic thoroughly.

I have never read any of Fukuyama's books, although I've seen them mentioned often. I have read some of his op-ed's and have generally not been a fan of them. I was, however, pretty much blown away by his performance at the Miller Center. There were only a few minor points where I disagreed with him (primarily his brief comments on domestic policy), and I found him to be very insightful and persuasive, particularly on the second part of his speech (the sources of terrorism) and his discussion of the application of American power in the post-Cold War environment. His presentation of the neocon philosophy as a counter to Kissengerian realism was also quite interesting and has some real merits. His criticism of Kissenger is, in fact, little different from my own. I highly recommend taking the time to sit down and watch this video.

Update: I just wanted to add a link to a great Slate article from last month discussing the Broken Windows theory that Fukuyama mentions. This is not a reference to the broken window fallacy, which is a perfectly good theory, but rather a cockamamie scheme by which major crimes can be reduced by harsh enforcement of minor infractions. The Metcalf article debunks the idea that Broken Windows was a key to crime reduction in New York, and argues that it is merely a nicely dressed up rejection of causal explanations for social phenomena that conveniently allowed Giuliani to bring the full force of the state to bear on socially undesired persons. I found it to be an interesting and persuasive argument and so was disappointed when Fukuyama appeared to give Broken Windows a ringing endorsement in his speech. That was really my only major quibble with what he had to say...

1 comment:

Veritas ad Infinitum said...

FWIW, the broken windows theory was featured prominently in the pop sensational book, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. I agree that there is scant evidence to demonstrate the efforts to remove graffiti and crack down on fare jumpers were the true cause of reduced crime in New York, but the concept nevertheless has some persuasive force to me.