Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Neocons' Mess

Francis Fukuyama, a professor at SAIS in Washington, D.C., has an article in today's New York Times Magazine on the neoconservatives and what should be done to clean up the mess they've created in American foreign policy. He argues for a "realistic Wilsonianism" that recognizes the important role the United States has played and should continue to play in support of human rights and democracy around the world while also recognizing that there are serious limits to the promotion of such values by military means.

As I have argued since November 2001, Fukuyama suggests that "war" is the wrong label for the struggle against terrorism. As he puts it,

we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments. We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world.

The entire article, entitled "After Neoconservatism," is well worth reading not only for its policy prescriptions but for its brief description of what it is that animates the neoconservatives.

[UPDATE: Over at Balkinization, Jack Balkin has a few interesting comments about Fukuyama's article, including this one: "What struck me . . . was how many of his claims about what was wrong with the Bush Administration's policies were available in 2001, and, indeed, were stated over and over again by critics of the Administration in the run up to the Iraq war."]