Interview with Ex-Neocon Francis Fukuyama: “A Model Democracy Is not Emerging in Iraq” (Der Spiegel, 3/22/06)
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your new book, “America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy,” is a rejection of the political views you have held throughout your academic career. What happened?
Fukuyama: Iraq happened. The process of distancing myself from neo-conservatism happened four years ago really. I had decided the war wasn’t a good idea some time in 2002 as we were approaching the invasion of Iraq.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why? After all, one of the neo-conservative pillars is a profound belief in democracy and the spread of democracy.
Fukuyama: I was partly unsure whether the United States could handle the transition to a democratic government in Iraq. But the biggest problem I had was that the people pushing for the intervention lacked self-knowledge about the US. When I look back over the 20th century history of American interventions, particularly those in the Caribbean and Latin America, the consistent problem we’ve had is being unable to stick it out. Before the Iraq war, it was clear that if we were going to do Iraq properly, we would need a minimum commitment of five to 10 years. It was evident from the beginning that the Bush administration wasn’t preparing the American people for that kind of a mission. In fact, it was obvious the Bush people were trying to do Iraq on the cheap. They thought they could get in and out in less than a year.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where did this belief come from? Was it naivete, hubris or just plain ignorance?
Fukuyama: A lot of the neo-conservatives drew the wrong lessons from the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. They generalized from that event that all totalitarian regimes are basically hollow at the core and if you give them a little push from the outside, they’re going to collapse. Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, most people thought that communism would be around for a long time. In fact, it disappeared within seven or eight months in 1989. That skewed the thinking about the nature of dictatorships and neo-conservatives made a wrong analogy between Eastern Europe and what would happen in the Middle East.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So it was an invasion based on misinformation and misinterpretation?
The more legitimate criticism is that they failed to follow through on leaving that quickly. But he’s certainly right that we almost never follow through and stay for decades once we get the democratization process going–just look at all the Eastern European states that only had their color-coded revolutions over the past couple years or Belarus and Kazakhstan which haven’t quite reached the End of History even now. Iraq doesn’t have to be all that democratic 14 years from now for it to precisely resemble the real Eastern Europe, as opposed to the one of Mr. Fukuyama’s imagination. Just because things are headed our way doesn’t mean they get there overnight.