Sunday, March 26, 2006

When Is America Not at the Crossroads?

On the one hand, I don't feel that I need to read Francis Fukuyama's new book, America at the Crossroads. Gary Rosen, the editor of Commentary, has this to say about it in the Washington Post today:

...Neocons consider the internal character of a regime the key to its external behavior, see American power as a tool for moral ends, distrust international law and institutions, and doubt the efficacy of ambitious social engineering.

Fukuyama's complaint isn't that these principles are necessarily wrong but that, in practice, they have collided disastrously since 9/11. As he charges (and as others have amply documented), the architects of the war in Iraq were too keen on the prospect of toppling a nasty regime to pay much attention to the formidable task of "social engineering" that lay ahead.

Is this stating anything but the obvious at this point? Even George W., way back in the 2000 campaign debates, understood this to be true; however, he let the neocons around him talk him into adopting their nation-building ideology.

On the other hand, Rosen's review does lead me to suspect that Fukuyama's book may be worth a read for his discussion of "what foreign policy types call 'soft power' -- the less coercive means at America's disposal, from foreign aid and election monitoring to the sort of civil affairs know-how that was so conspicuously lacking when U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad." Maybe it's an opening for the neocons to start rethinking how they are going to free the world in the long run. If this book hints at the myriad peaceful paths to achieving that (and peaceful means are the only means that will give enduring results), then I guess it will have to go on my reading list.



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