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Fukayama on Neoconservatism:

There's lots of buzz about this N.Y. Times piece by Frank Fukayama, attacking neoconservative foreign policy. It is indeed a well-written, provocative, and persuasive analysis of the foibles of neoconservatism.

However, I disagree with Fukayama's contention that only since the fall of Communism has neoconservatism abandoned its initial distrust of government in favor of an aggressive (and extremely naive) Wilsonianism calling for the use of American power, military and otherwise, to spread democracy throughout the world. I was attracted to neoconservatism as a college student, but abandoned it rather quickly when I realized that neoconservatives' faith in the government's ability to competently spread democracy to foreign cultures did not exactly jibe with their (and my) skepticism of government's ability to, say, run a competent welfare program. In other words, the follies of neoconservative foreign policy that Fukayama identifies were apparent to anyone who was paying attention in the mid-1980s. Fukayama's claim that they only recently became apparent, and that excuses his own long dalliance with neoconservatism, just doesn't hold up.

Taimyoboi:
I got the impression that Fukuyama took liberty with crafting his own definition of contemporary neoconservatism so that he could both rule it out as viable and exculpate himself for promoting not so long ago.
2.22.2006 10:47am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
In Fukuyama's defense, he doesn't say that there had never been strands of neoconservatism that advocated military means of spreading democracy; rather, he argues that the collapse of the Soviet bloc led neoconservatives to take an "overmilitarized" approach to democracy promotion.

Fukuyama seems to be describing triumphalism supplanting wariness of government among neoconservatives. I think it fits well with what knowledgeable observers of the Iraq war have said. James Fallows wrote of American bureaucrats flying to Baghdad to run the postwar reconstruction reading about Japan and Germany, instead of learning about the Middle East or about more recent nationbuilding experiences.
2.22.2006 11:01am
Mr Diablo:
Since these follies of neoconservatism were apparent to anyone who was paying attention in the 1980s, and since the people in charge today are mostly relics of the administration of that time period, you would have thought that the colossal mistakes of foreign policy that modern neoconservatism has given us would have been avoided.

Unless, of course, they were not really paying attention then... or now.
2.22.2006 11:05am
Medis:
I congratulate David on his clear thinking during the '80s, but the bottomline is that the "follies of neoconservative foreign policy" were not apparent to its proponents because of a combination of egotism, ignorance, and impatience. As such, they naturally did seize on the fall of the Soviet empire as "proof" of their theories (effectively ignoring the long decades of activity that had set up the Soviet Union for that fall). And it did indeed take something like their failed experiment in Iraq to provide the necessary proof to the contrary.
2.22.2006 11:08am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Mr Diablo-- can you give us some specifics? I didn't think the US claimed to be too concerned with spreading democracy in the 1980s. I thought we were still concerned with propping up "our sons-of-bitches" in resistance to global Communism. But I was too young at the time, and maybe I've been miseducated by campus radicals as to our motives for supporting bad guys in Latin America.
2.22.2006 11:12am
strategichamlet (mail):
I myself dabbled in neoconservatism in college, although any true practitioner would not have called it that. I was more into a Truman Doctrine style containment of China and had a healthy skepticism for unenforcible arms treaties. Ultimately though Neoconservativism is just a certain predisposition and a healthy does of naivite. They should read more Clausewitz:

"Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war."
2.22.2006 11:18am
strategichamlet (mail):
err heavy dose, decidely un-healthy
2.22.2006 11:19am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Medis: "And it did indeed take something like their failed experiment in Iraq to provide the necessary proof to the contrary."

All that the Iraq war proves, to me, is that a war widely perceived to be illegal or illegitimate, conducted with limited postwar planning and limited input from the military, in an ethnically and religiously mixed country that had been tyrannized for decades, won't be a success within 3 years.

I don't think that the idea that the use of force can help in democratization has been discredited.
2.22.2006 11:19am
Taimyoboi:

"The Bush administration has been walking--indeed, sprinting--away from the legacy of its first term, as evidenced by the cautious multilateral approach it has taken toward the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea."


He makes the claim that contemporary neoconservatism lacks a healthy dose of realism on just how mcuh the U.S. can accomplish abroad. He then supports that by citing examples like the above of the administration shifting away from its prior posturing.

The administration had always taken a multilateral plus unilateral attitude towards North Korea since they didn't want to play in China's backyard without asking first. I think the better read there than what Fukuyama offers is that the administration did recognize some limits to its abilities abroad.

If I can steal a concept from economics, I think the administration was making use of its comparative advantage in military intervention, and allowing countries like France to utilize their comparative advantage in talking smoothly to handle Iran and North Korea.
2.22.2006 11:20am
Justin (mail):
I agree with Bernstien and and Fukuyama that Neoconservatism needs to die, but I hope that conservatives, as well as my fellow liberals, do not jump to the conclusion that the only alternative to neoconservatism is isolationism. Furthermore, I think we need to be clear that while "promoting democracy" is by itself not a goal (and that military strategy is tough, complex, and needs to be well thought out, including how to "win the peace"), that using military power for humanitarian purposes is different from neoconservatism (as much as the admin. has tried to blur the line) and still must be considered - that we should still view our responses to Rwanda and the Sudan as inadequate, for instance.
2.22.2006 11:24am
Taimyoboi:

"And it did indeed take something like their failed experiment in Iraq to provide the necessary proof to the contrary."

Medis,

Last I checked we were still heavily engaged in Iraq. Why the past tense of "failed" then?
2.22.2006 11:29am
Justin (mail):
Also, while I haven't read enough neoconservative academics to form an opinion on that particular subgroup, the neoconservatives in the administration (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Maggs, etc.) do not believe in "universal human rights." If that's a central component of neoconservatism, then why is there zero neoconservative (as opposed to liberal, liberterian, or traditional conservative criticism) criticism over torture, lack of due process, and consistent disregard for interntional law institutions and standards?
2.22.2006 11:34am
JosephSlater (mail):
I agree with Bob Bobstein, but would add that it's not all that surprising that people who have a basic contempt for government in general wind up being fairly incomptent trying to lead the government. The group of folks within government that the Bushies didn't listen too and should have is legion. But no, the State Department was full of appeasers; the most important thing to do at DHS was to take away bargaining rights from its workers and appoint cronies to run it; Rumsfeld and the other chickenhawks knew more about how to fight a war than the generals, etc. Basically, the folks in government that had useful knowledge were ignored or painted as the enemy (or outed ...). Ideological loyalty was made a greater value than competence (and this position was made explicit by the Heritage Foundation in their papers on the federal workforce).

It would be a shame if conservatives or liberals interpreted this administration's ideologically-driven incompetence to be proof of what government can and can't do.
2.22.2006 11:36am
Justin (mail):
Taimyobo,

If this is success, then neoconservatives have failed for a greater reason - their goals are too small, and they are willing to pay too high a price for them.

Unless you believe in a religious miracle (but isn't that TRADITIONAL conservativism?) that will change the course of Iraq at a stronger than 90 degree turn (so far, not a single neocon I've spoken too could even DESCRIBE success, much less explain how to get there), I think we're ready to make at least an initial judgment about the experiment in Iraq.
2.22.2006 11:37am
Justin (mail):
"It would be a shame if conservatives or liberals interpreted this administration's ideologically-driven incompetence to be proof of what government can and can't do."

I think there ARE lessons as to what the government can and can't do from Iraq. Or at least, what we can and cannot do from a military standpoint. It's tough for me to criticize the MILITARY handling of Iraq. The political handling is what went wrong, and I haven't heard any theory, plausible or not, of what the Bush administration could have done politically that would have fundmanetally (rather than "at the margins") altered the current reality in the context of the neoconservative utopia.
2.22.2006 11:40am
Mr Diablo:
Bob,

I don't think that neoconservatism as it exists today really existed in the 1980s, at least not in the way it did for a couple years in the early part of this century. I can appreciate that some people like Prof. Berstein might have been early devotees, but it's hard to find a consistent neoconservative policy in an administration that propped up one side in the Iraq-Iran war and cared not at all for the spread of freedom and democracy in two nations controlled by tyrants.

Taimy,

You're probably right, since we will be in Iraq for the next 20 years watching a slow civil war (with troop withdraws in early fall of election years), we will never be able to call Iraq a failure. Sort of like the war on terror -- it will never end, so we can never criticize.
2.22.2006 11:40am
Taimyoboi:
I was also disappointed to see such short shrift given to Afghanistan. My guess is that a majority of people, Fukuyama included, who, in his case now, disagree with the war in Iraq nevertheless supported military intervention in Afghanistan.

I don't think the case of Afghanistan quite as neatly fits into the categorizations that he makes in the essay.

Additionally, I don't think he is wholly correct in his discussion of when and where democracy can arise. At least in the cases of Japan and South Korea, it was as much a product of a massive US military presence following the total defeat of the other side, as it was a open-arms acceptance of democracy by the populace.
2.22.2006 11:41am
DK:
As I recall, the issue for neoconservatives like Wolfowitz in the 80's was not whether we should use force to promote democracy, but whether we should STOP using force to STOP democracy. Wolfowitz was clearly right in the 80's that it was time for us to stop propping up Ferdinand Marcos against his democratic opponents. He deserves some credit for his role in that. And it is pretty clear in hindsight that the US support for dictators such as Marcos, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran and others, did long term damage to US national interests.

The problem with the neocons IMHO is that they went from saying that we should stop actively opposing democracy to saying we should actively spread democracy, and then to saying that we should use military force to do so.
2.22.2006 11:45am
Bruce Wilder (www):
I agree that the neoconservatives' naive idealism and triumphalism did not bear much critical examination at any time. I am not so sure that the liberatarian dodge on the capabilities of "government" -- the conviction that all government is fundamentally incompetent by necessity -- is of much use.

Organization has its requirements -- leadership, rational planning and resource committment, etc. If the technical means exist, organization, supported by sufficient resources, can accomplish the goal. In some circumstances, organization can be efficiently market-driven, but that fact is largely irrelevant to something like the neo-conservatives' Iraq project.

Even a cursory review of the course of the U.S. Iraqi reconstruction project makes clear that it failed at all levels: the leadership was poor, ignorance of the technical means of "nation-building" was prized, incompetence and corruption ran rampant, planning was close to non-existent.

Maybe it should never have been attempted, but having been attempted, it should have been done well. Doing it badly ensured abject failure, compounding an already dangerous situation.

To the extent that the incompetence on display derived from the neoconservative faith, then the neoconservative faith should be thrown into the dustbin of history, forthwith.
2.22.2006 11:47am
Justin (mail):
Taim, can you please describe how South Korea was a "massive defeat of the other side."

I would argue in contrast that the Marshall Plan, which gave not only sustained military support but also deep financial investment, was the main reasons for the succcess of Japan and South Korea. The reason we cannot do so in Iraq is because the neoconservatives are too aligned with the "taxcut" conservatives to afford a real Marshall Plan, the voting public lacks the commitment to Iraq (in part because of the way it was pushed into supporting the inital investment), because Iraq's infrastructure, education levels, equality, are far more devastated than Korea or Japan, and most importantly, because Korea and Japan were united nationalities, whereas Iraq is disjointed and lacks a national identity. Without either a sense of unity OR a sense of respect for liberal democratic institutions, the liklihood of a critical mass is too far remote, no matter how much is invested.
2.22.2006 11:47am
srg (mail):
This debate suffers from a lack of definitions. "Neoconservatism" means different things to different people, as well as being used sometimes as a swear word, like "fascist" or "socialist."

Almost every observer agrees that we made big mistakes in the occupation of Iraq, starting with not having enough troops, but it is not clear what this has to do with neoconservatism. One of the best critics of the occupation, Eliot Cohen (a supporter of the war), is usually called a neoconservative.
2.22.2006 11:49am
Erick R (mail):
"... faith in the government's ability to competently spread democracy to foreign cultures did not exactly jibe with their (and my) skepticism of government's ability to, say, run a competent welfare program."

Did I miss something? Are Japan and Germany still militaristic dictatorships? Or are they liberal democracies with constitutions written while under U.S. and allied occupation?

I'm all for skepticism but perhaps there is some undue pessimism about "foreign cultures."

It's not as if welfare programs haven't changed since the 1980s.
2.22.2006 11:53am
JosephSlater (mail):
Justin:

Just to be clear, I was no way implying that a less-ideologically driven and more competent government could have gotten rosy results in Iraq. I was mostly replying to the concept that DB expressed in the original post here:

"I realized that neoconservatives' faith in the government's ability to competently spread democracy to foreign cultures did not exactly jibe with their (and my) skepticism of government's ability to, say, run a competent welfare program."

I think the government can do lots of things competently, including running a welfare program. I was merely suggesting that folks that don't believe government can do much of anything competently aren't be the best folks to try to lead the country when we need the government to do things competently. The DHS, including but not limited to FEMA, is a great example of this.
2.22.2006 11:56am
Justin (mail):
Joseph, I think we pretty much agree. Clearly, Sweden, Denmark, et. al have shown that a social welfare plan can be ran competently, and I think at this point its up to the other side to make an argument why the United States is an exception.

Erick, my response to Taim applies to your point as well.
2.22.2006 12:19pm
Unnamed Co-Conspirator:
Fukayama's fact-challenged piece fails to acknowledge that far from being a "failure," the "experiment" in Iraq is a stunning success, even if the only lasting benefit is Kurdish liberation and democracy. But of course, that won't be the only lasting benefit. There's also the high likelihood of a fairly liberal (for the region, anyway) Iraqi democracy, and the eventual fall of Syrian and Iranian governments, which would not otherwise have occurred. Check back in 5 years or so for a more authoritative refutation of Fukayama's half-baked nonsense.
2.22.2006 12:22pm
Taimyoboi:
"...which gave not only sustained military support but also deep financial investment, was the main reasons for the succcess of Japan and South Korea."

Are you suggesting that had we just sent money to Japan and South Korea during World War II and the Korean war, respectively, that Japan would have demilitarized and South Korea would have been able to fend off North Korea on its own?

I think you're refusing to recognize a situation in which we know whether the chicken or egg comes first. South Korean, Japan, Germany, Afghanistan and (what might have been Vietnam) were all situations in which following Fukuyama's new-found guiding foreign policy, "spreading democracy by other means", would not have worked.

In all those situations, military intervention was the first necessity.

As for providing adequate funding for wars, last I checked, the most vocal groups criticizing the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq are those of a liberal bent.
2.22.2006 12:27pm
Justin (mail):
Unnamed,

Care to support your argument with ANY factual evidence whatsoever, particularly in light of stories such as:


Sunnis killing shiites


Shiites killing sunnis

Assassinations abound


Iraqi Government "Death squads"
2.22.2006 12:28pm
Justin (mail):
Doh. On the last link, delete the part of the link in brackets and it will come up.
2.22.2006 12:29pm
Justin (mail):
"Are you suggesting that had we just sent money to Japan and South Korea during World War II and the Korean war, respectively, that Japan would have demilitarized and South Korea would have been able to fend off North Korea on its own?"

Obviously not. You're confusing neccesary with sufficiency. Surely, being at peace with the United States, and having a political situation that is somewhat more tranquil than "war" are preconditions. Your post seems to consider them not just preconditions but determining factors - and yet the Iraq "experiment" shows they are probably not sufficient.
2.22.2006 12:31pm
Justin (mail):
Taim,

"As for providing adequate funding for wars, last I checked, the most vocal groups criticizing the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq are those of a liberal bent."

Cute. Those who oppose the war to begin with are obviously of not a desire to fund the reconstruction to the brim. If these people had sway within the Bush administration, then there would be no war. The relevant question is not what those who opposed the war are willing to do, but what the country as a whole, and this administration in particular, are willing to do.

Regardless, since in my view "the most important factor" is not satisfied here, it seems unlikely that such an investment is worth the price regardless.
2.22.2006 12:33pm
Justin (mail):
Taim,

Finally, now that I have graciously responded to your questions, would you please return the favor and respond to mine?
2.22.2006 12:34pm
volokh watcher (mail):
I think Justin's point about today's neocons being "in bed" with the tax-cut crew on the right has demonstrably precluded a true Marshall-like plan in Iraq. (Or in the US.)

The link is to the top US marginal income tax rates from 1913-2003. During the post-WWII boom [1946 - 1973], the top tax rate ranged from 86.45% on earned income over $200,000 to 50% on EI over $200,000.

http://www.truthandpolitics.org/top-rates.php#fn-2

Now, the top marginal rate is 35% (or so) on earned income over $311,500 (or so).

To make up the difference in spending and revenue, the US is in hock to China, S. Korea, Japan, and -- oh, yes -- the UAE.
2.22.2006 12:37pm
volokh watcher (mail):
Should read:

"I think Justin's point about today's neocons being "in bed" with the tax-cut crew on the right has demonstrably precluded a true Marshall-like plan in Iraq (Or in the US) is right-on."
2.22.2006 12:38pm
volokh watcher (mail):
Justin, don't waste your time with Unnamed Co-Conspirator.

He's parrotting the administration's fact-challenged talking points. Those folks create their own "facts."

I'd really like to read UCC's take on turning over US port management to the UAE.

I suspect Fukuyama would not support that either -- though I confess, I have no facts to support it. On the other hand, I -- like the Bush administration -- believe in creating my own facts and letting historians deal with them.
2.22.2006 12:42pm
Huggy (mail):
"particularly in light of stories such as..."
That's just it. They're stories. Scan the European press and see how bad it is in someplace called the US. Wait...that's where I live and it isn't like what they say at all.
Life is better in Iraq now than it's been in decades. Life is better in China. Life is better in Lebanon. Life not so good in North Korea. Life not so good in Syria.
2.22.2006 12:46pm
srg (mail):
Volokh Watcher,

The highest marginal tax rate during the Clinton administration was only slightly higher than now, 38%, I think, so it's hard to make a case that we lack sufficient revenue because we need to raise marginal tax rates. Maybe back to 38% but certainly not back to 50% or higher. Making changes in entitlements and raising the gasoline tax would be far more sensible. And by the way, revenues now are about where they were projected to be a few years ago; the deficit is mostly caused by the huge increase in spending under Bush, our supposedly conservative President.

What do you mean by "in hock"? Do you have any evidence that the trade deficit is harming us? Do you have a problem with foreigners buying our stocks and bonds?
2.22.2006 12:49pm
Taimyoboi:
"You're confusing neccesary with sufficiency."

Nowhere did I state that military intervention was a sufficient condition, and I also addressed your questions. Re-read my posts if you're having trouble elucidating either.
2.22.2006 12:55pm
Medis:
Bob,

You say: "I don't think that the idea that the use of force can help in democratization has been discredited."

I agree, when described in such broad terms. The more specific theory behind Iraq, however, was that democratization could be achieved if the United States led a military effort to take out Saddam's repressive and anti-democratic regime, at which point the Iraqi people would quickly take over the project of democratization. That is the much more specific "neoconservative" theory about the possible uses of American military force that has been discredited by Iraq.

Taim,

You ask: "Last I checked we were still heavily engaged in Iraq. Why the past tense of 'failed' then?"

This question actually answers itself, once you precisely identify the theory that was subjected to experiment in Iraq. Again, the specific theory in question predicted that we would be able to quickly disengage from Iraq once we toppled Saddam's regime and the Iraqis took over. So, the mere fact that we are "still heavily engaged" shows that there was something wrong with this theory.

In general, some people are talking about the "execution" of this war as if it is somehow separate from the "neoconservative" theory behind the war. But the many poor decisions that have made things worse in Iraq--everything from allocating a grossly insufficient number of troops for the occupation, to the massive underestimates of the cost, to the failure to provide adequate post-invasion security, to the disbanding of the Iraqi army, and so on--were all driven by the theory. So in that sense, the theory is inseparable from what is being called poor "execution", because the theory was used to predict what "execution" would be required.
2.22.2006 1:02pm
Justin (mail):
Taim, no you have not. Nowhere have you addressed how South Korea was "total[ly] defeat[ed] [by] the other side," which was the ONLY question you have answered.

Also, if all you meant to say (which is CLEARLY NOT THE CASE), that Iraq has NO HOPE of successs so long as we cannot quell the insurgency, I'm not sure ANYONE disagrees with you. The question is what ingredients will make for success, not what ingredients will guarantee failure.
2.22.2006 1:06pm
Justin (mail):
srg, given that Clinton never tried any Marshall Plan democracy-creating situation, I'm very curious why you think referencing back to Clinton's rate is the right comparison. I don't think either mine or volokh watcher's point was that the solution to the issue was simply to roll back the Bush tax cuts.
2.22.2006 1:08pm
Justin (mail):
"That's just it. They're stories."

Like the Brothers Grimm stories? Or more like Aesop's fables stories?

They're not "stories", they're "evidence" backing up a position (and given that the position is that Iraq is heading more toward civil war than stable liberal democracy, they're pretty strong evidence). They surely aren't "proof" of conditions generally, but given that neither UCC nor you has anything better than ASSERTIONS to the contrary, they're certainly enough to create an as-yet-unrebutted presumption.
2.22.2006 1:11pm
volokh watcher (mail):
SRG said to me:


What do you mean by "in hock"? Do you have any evidence that the trade deficit is harming us? Do you have a problem with foreigners buying our stocks and bonds?


In a word, "yes" -- I have a problem and I think it's harming us in a geo-strategic/economic sense.

Do you think any publicly traded corporation would allow a direct competitor to finance 25% of its annual borrowings? I don't. Why? Because your competitor can make a strategic decision to dump your debt, thereby driving up the cost of borrowing and driving down the value of your stock. Or your competitor stops being your competitor and, instead, tells you how to run your business.

In the case of the US, China can at any time dump all its US-denominated bonds. The consequence is to increase the cost of US debt-service. Also, the value of the USdollar would go down.

Consider this: China elects to sell all its US bonds when, next month, Iran opens its oil bourse using Euros (or Yen or Yuan) as the exclusive currency for payment; and let's say that Venezeula does the same thing, that is, ties its oil to a currency other than the USdollar. Talk about a shock to the US economy. Dollars get dumped. US bonds fall in price. US interest rates must go up to prop-up the dollar.

I'm all for world trade and market efficiencies.

But I'm not for exposing the security of our economy to tactical financial attacks by foreign powers whose need for oil and raw materials matches or exceeds our own. We don't control China. (I know the argument that, "gee, China dumps US bonds, US consumers won't by Chinese goods." That's fine on the assumption that China is a rationale economic actor. It's not. China is still a communist regime that's buying up every oil-futures contract in sight to secure a constant flow of foreign oil for the foreseeable future. At whose expense is that?)

And as for the tax rates, no one knows what the longterm impact would be of raising marginal rates on earned income over $1 million to 50% (for example).

The question is what's important from a policy perspective. Securing the US Dollar by cutting our foreign borrowing? Lowering, or eliminating, our national debt, as Alexander Hamilton advised to ennsure a strong currency and economic independence? Or staying in office and sticking my kids with the potential consequences of gigantic, unmanageable debt controlled by foreign countries?

We have been out-sourcing our savings to foreign powers for years. The mid- to late-'90s were exceptional in that the national debt actually shrunk.

The past 5 years have been a horror show on the borrowing/savings front. Yes, entitlements present a long-term challenge.

But the current administration's policies are not designed to ween us foreign capital any more than they're designed to get us off foreign oil.

Call me a fool for believing that Hamilton's proscription for independence and power remains the right one.
2.22.2006 1:23pm
volokh watcher (mail):
Oops.

"Call me a fool for believing that Hamilton's proscription for independence and power remains the right one."

That of course should read ". . . Hamilton's prescription . . . "
2.22.2006 1:26pm
George Gregg (mail):
I guess we're looking at soon exceeding $300 Billion in direct costs for the War in Iraq, with more to come.

I can't help but wonder whether that money might have been better spent. Either in Iraq or elsewhere.
2.22.2006 1:27pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Taimyoboi:

Re-read my posts if you're having trouble elucidating either.

Never use a large word when a diminutive one will do. It isn't the reader's job to illustrate your points.
2.22.2006 1:30pm
Justin (mail):
Stupid mistake, my earlier post should read "only question I have asked"
2.22.2006 1:35pm
Taimyoboi:
"Again, the specific theory in question predicted that we would be able to quickly disengage from Iraq once we toppled Saddam's regime and the Iraqis took over."

Medis,

If you're saying that the theory everyone held upon the outset of invasion was that we would be in out in 3 years, then you're right. But I don't think that was the presumption on the part of the administration. I think you're making the same mistake that Fukuyama made in his article; defining your political opponent's policy in a way that makes them indefensible. But simply asserting that someone else holds that view doesn't make it so.

Additionally, you make a lot of assertions about the war's progress, a number of which I don't think are true to begin with, but more importantly, a lot of which are only readily apparent (except maybe to a chosen few) in hindsight.

Even so, it is indeed possible to hold the view that war is a means to go about instilling democracy [right or wrong as it may be], while disagreeing with others who also hold that view about the troop levels, or how much to fund it, etc. The former is a matter of doctrine that determines whether or not you fit into the category of "neoconservative", the latter are matters of prudence. Unless, you define those who subscribe to neoconservative as believing both in war as a means, and also X number of troops, for Y number of years, at a cost of Z dollars.
2.22.2006 1:44pm
Taimyoboi:
"Never use a large word when a diminutive one will do. It isn't the reader's job to illustrate your points."

Fair enough on the first point. On the second, however, at some time it should be conceded that no amount of illustration will satisfy a reader, and so it's more prudent to let things stand as is.
2.22.2006 1:53pm
Huggy (mail):
Justin said:They're not "stories", they're "evidence"

Evidence of what? Something like 30,000 people died last year in the US. From automobile accidents. Something like 98,000 from Medical Misadventure. Google it if you don't believe me.
My point is that your points are anecdotes not research.
2.22.2006 2:00pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Taimyoboi:

You say: "If you're saying that the theory everyone held upon the outset of invasion was that we would be in out in 3 years, then you're right. But I don't think that was the presumption on the part of the administration."

I don't know what "everyone" thought, but I do recall top administration officials saying things like, "Maybe 5 weeks, maybe 5 months, not 5 years"; "they'll greet us with flowers"; "oil revenues will pay for the costs of reconstruction"; "major combat operations are over" ... and etc.

Although I can't prove it, I would bet any amount of money that a clear majority of the majority of Americans that backed this war at the beginning thought it would be over and done with much more quickly, not terribly unlike the first Gulf War. Indeed, the fact that the situation has continued in the state it's in for so long is probably the main reason that a majority of Americans now think the war was a mistake in the first place.
2.22.2006 2:00pm
Taimyoboi:
"...that Iraq has NO HOPE of successs so long as we cannot quell the insurgency, I'm not sure ANYONE disagrees with you. The question is what ingredients will make for success, not what ingredients will guarantee failure."

Justin,

The point was, as I tried to state earlier, that in many a situation, and it can be argued that such is the case in Iraq, that democracy would not currently be a prospect, if military intervention didn't occur. That doesn't address the merits of whether invading Iraq was correct, merely an observation that Saddam would still be ruling there.

I did not say that if you invade a country, democracy will pop-up like pansies. I took issue with Fukuyama's characterization of South Korea as a democratic transition that the U.S. helped along. He seemed to be overlooking military aspect in order to bolster the claim that spreading democratic reform requires substantially less use of the military.

Such was arguably not the case. South Korea would have become a dictatorship like its neighbor to the north, had it not been for military intervention and subsequent continual presence. Likewise for Germany, Japan and Afghanistan.

Germany, Japan and South Korea (and maybe someday Iraq and Afghanistan) are proof by contradiction that democratic reform can take place without ever resorting to military means.
2.22.2006 2:07pm
Mr Diablo:
Taimy,

Were you in a cave in late 2002 / early 2003 ? We've got public comments about the war saying it wouldn't take long, would be over soon, would be paid for with oil revenues, etc. etc. etc.

If it wasn't a presumption of the administration, it certainly wasa great big stinking lie that they told the American people during the march to war.

In some ways, that's worse than just getting it wrong.
2.22.2006 2:09pm
Justin (mail):
Taim, I don't think your now limited point is either contraversial or horribly relevant. Yes, if North Korea had successfully invaded South Korea, it would have been a dictatorship. Yes, if we hadn't invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. These aren't disputed, but they're not getting you very far.

You STILL haven't answered my inital question - are you, in fact, abandoning your original assertion?
2.22.2006 2:12pm
Justin (mail):
Huggy, are you trying to argue that 9/11 was an insignificant event? If not, isn't there (at least in this case) significant difference between medical "misadventure" and political acts of violence?

Regardless, even "anecdotal" evidence (of which, being only a singular event, I suppose 9/11 would be inclusive in that descroption) trumps absolutely no evidence at all.
2.22.2006 2:14pm
Taimyoboi:
"...that backed this war at the beginning thought it would be over and done with much more quickly, not terribly unlike the first Gulf War."

JosephSlater,

Simply placing statements in quotations does not make them anymore credible. But, by way of example, I also recall top administration officials saying that "democratic reform is hard work"; "the campaign is over, and now the hard work of reconstruction begins"...

This is not to say that some administration officials couldn't have acted publicly with a little less zeal. But that sounds more like political positioning at home (something Republicans and Democrats are both guilty of), then lacking in a realistic assessment of conditions abroad.

"that backed this war at the beginning thought it would be over and done with much more quickly, not terribly unlike the first Gulf War."

I certainly agree that people who thought invading Iraq, toppling Saddam, and setting up a functioning government would be on par with driving Saddam out of Kuwait were not looking at things realistically. And they certainly would probably abandon support when those hopes didn't pan out.

Nevertheless, even if a number of Americas had this attitude that does not address the merits of the war.
2.22.2006 2:22pm
Justin (mail):
Taimy, can you please let us know where the goalposts exactly are?

In other words, can you explain what you yourself consider "the merits of the war", with focus on the particulars:

1 - What the definition of a "neoconservative success" is, in general terms?

2 - How that definition applies to the current Iraqi "war"

3 - What the correct measurements are to determine success

4 - What ingredients or actions are necessary to reach "success" in Iraq

5 - Whether the relationship between neoconservatism and political support at home has any relationship, and if so, what relationship that is.

This is not a complete list, but perhaps answers to these questions may help focus the debate rather than having everyone yell about how they aren't listening to each other's arguments.
2.22.2006 2:27pm
Medis:
Taim,

I'm not really interested in the semantic question of who or what is entitled to the term "neoconservative". But I think Fukayama is right that a certain group of like-minded people, whatever you want to call them, did in fact arrive at certain predictions about how the Iraq war would proceed as a result of their more global theories about the use of American military power. And in that sense, I do think Iraq was a failed test of those particular theories, as held by those particular like-minded people.

In that sense, I don't think there is a clean separation between the theoretical and the prudential, anymore than there is a clean separation between physics and engineering. In other words, these people calculated X, Y, and Z in light of their (very) theoretical models, and when it turned out they were dramatically wrong about X, Y, and Z, it does count as evidence against their theories.

And to put this in slightly more practical terms: one of their central "theorems" was that the United States could and should use its military power without the support of any international organizations like the UN or NATO to effect this sort of "democratization". That theorem depended in part on the prediction that once the United States removed a hostile regime from power, it would not take a long and sustained occupation with many troops to continue the process of "democratization".

That was a crucial prediction for several reasons. For one thing, the United States does not have a large enough standing army to sustain a high troop-level occupation over a long period of time, and there would undoubtedly be little political support for doing something like instituting a draft. For another, the technological and training advantages of the United States military are largely devoted to the task of destroying organized armed forces, and have little application to something like a sustained occupation and low-level insurgencies. Moreover, a sustained occupation with a mostly American presence could undermine the success of the occupation insofar as it was perceived as being an imperial effort by the United States. And so on.

So, because this crucial set of predictions was wrong, it implies that these people were wrong about the need for support from international organizations. In other words, to get enough troops for a sustained and high troop-level occupation, we might actually need widespread support from other countries. And our technological and training advantages might be less relevant after the initial invasion. And a sustained occupation under an international umbrella might be more successful. And so on.

In short, these specific "X, Y, and Z" predictions were crucial to the broader prediction that the United States could easily succeed in Iraq with merely a "coalition of the willing", rather than with the support of something like the UN or NATO. And so insofar as those X, Y, and Z predictions were wrong, it calls into question this entire theorem about international organizations.

And that may mean the United States will have to be much more patient in the future about using military force to spread democracy, because the United States may well need to get such international organizations behind any such efforts first, and that is often a very difficult task.

Again, though, perhaps the term "neo-conservatism" could still apply to an internationalized version of future efforts like the Iraq War. But at least a certain sort of theorem about what American military power is easily capable of doing has been disproven by our experiences in Iraq.
2.22.2006 2:34pm
Huggy (mail):
Yes Justin you have proved with your evidence that you and I have equally meaningless opinions.
The main difference between death by medical misadventure and death by political acts of violence is that a person has a fighting chance in one case.
2.22.2006 2:35pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Taimyboi:

I think the things I quoted from top administration officials were given much more emphasis, in the runup and early stages of the war, than the "it's going to be hard work" quotes I agree one could also find. Again, I think the waning support for the war is telling evidence that those things were given more emphasis is the waning support for the war: if people really thought this was going to be hard work that goes on for years, why has the level of support for it dipped so dramtically as the war has dragged on? So I wouldn't blame the American people for having "unrealistic expectations" -- that's how the war was sold.

If I understand your argument correctly, you're saying that (i) a significant number of folks in the administration really did understand that this was going to be longer, tougher, more dangerous, had a higher chance of failing, etc., but (ii) they simply chose not to say that for political reasons. If that's true -- and it might be -- my most moderate reaction is that the administration is reaping what it sowed in terms of plummetting approval ratings in general, and notably in the "trust" and "Iraq War" categories of questions.

Personally, I think it's just as likely the Rummy, Bush, etc. simply didn't know what they were getting into, and wouldn't listen to people, in and out of government, that could have helped clue them in a bit.
2.22.2006 2:35pm
srg (mail):
Medis,

You are right about our need for NATO and the UN, though it should be pointed out that Bush did try, however ineptly, to get UN approval for the war in Iraq and has used NATO in Afghanistan.

What you write goes along well with something said by Theordore Draper, one of my intellectual heroes, who died yesterday (his obit is in the NYT today). He said that in the past there were some people in America who were isolationists, and some who were interventionists, but that neoconservatives were the first to be both and that trying to be both at once was self-contradictory, since if you are going to be an interventionist, you will need all the help you can get. I forget exactly who were the neoconservatives he was referring to, but I'm pretty sure he meant Podhoretz and other writers for Commentary.
2.22.2006 2:48pm
Taimyoboi:
Medis,

I still don't read Fukuyama's piece as evaluating the more narrowly defined version of neoconservatism that you have, but I agree that if such were the case, then the conclusions you draw are correct.
2.22.2006 3:06pm
Taimyoboi:
JosephSlater,

You've read my argument correctly, and I certainly agree that the administration is getting what it deserves for what they emphasized in justifying the invasion of Iraq. I was by no means pleased.

But I would again reiterate that this does not address the merits of the war itself.

You can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, but you certainly can't do the wrong thing for the right reasons. I happen to think that the administration did the right thing, even if their reasoning was not the one I would have chosen.
2.22.2006 3:14pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Taimyoboi: Fair enough.
2.22.2006 3:24pm
Medis:
srg,

It may comes as no surprise that like many critics of how we started and conducted the Iraq War, I am much more supportive of the Afghanistan War. Unfortunately, I think we have not devoted nearly enough resources to that war, which I think was also a consequence of this general theory about what American military action could and should be like.

Anyway, I agree that President Bush, at least, seemed to go along with people like Secretary of State Powell by first seeking UN support for invading Iraq. Of course, the precise problem was then going ahead with the Iraq invasion without getting such support, at least from an alternative like NATO. And to indulge in a little realpolitik, when you make it pretty clear that you are going to take action anyway, you make it a lot easier for other countries to decide to let you take on all the cost and risk by yourself.
2.22.2006 3:27pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Medis:

So let's add "diplomacy" to the list of things that the Bush administration can't do competently. To get back to DB's point, I once again think that people who hold government (including the State Department) in contempt are not likely to peform important government functions competently.
2.22.2006 3:49pm
Medis:
Joseph,

Although--and I mean this quite seriously--I think they make for excellent opposition parties.
2.22.2006 3:58pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Medis:

Who makes for excellent opposition parties? The Bush admin. vs. the State Department? The Bush admin. vs. people who believe that government do things competently and who are able to run government competently?
2.22.2006 4:10pm
JosephSlater (mail):
D'Oh!

Should read: "... vs. people who believe that government CAN do things competently ..."
2.22.2006 4:14pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Huggy and UCC,

Here's some evidence. If you want some more go to this site.

The fact is that reconstruction in Iraq has been slow and costly. Many things, such as oil production, electricity, sewage and water treatment have failed to go above pre-war levels or are just now doing so. This is a problem because the pre-war levels were not that great to begin with. The economy in Iraq is also down. And obviously security is down.

The political progress is the best news coming from Iraq (aside from the anedoctal stories of how our troops are doing good things, like setting up soccer clubs or building schools). Yet even the political outlook is not that good. There are serious issues between Sunnis and Shites. With the Sunnis generally supporting insurgents and also thinking they should run the government and Shites controlling militias that have been torturing and killing Sunnis. The Kurds mostly wish to be autonomous. This is not the best circumstances to create a stable and united government. Three elections have been conducted with great participation and fairly. Yet the governments elected have taken a very long to be formed and when they are formed they still cannot create consensus on a variety of issues.

You don't have to be a genius to see there are some major problems in Iraq and it is not guarranteed that the outcome will be what we desire. More to the point, the outcome will most certainly not be what we wanted before the war.

Noah
2.22.2006 4:58pm
Medis:
Joseph,

I meant that people who are skeptical about the government's ability to use power wisely make for good opposition parties, meaning the party which does not hold the balance of power in the government. In contrast, recent experience suggests to me that people who are generally less skeptical about the government's ability to use power wisely make for pretty sucky opposition parties.
2.22.2006 5:16pm
Grand CRU (mail):
Medis: In other words, these people calculated X, Y, and Z in light of their (very) theoretical models, and when it turned out they were dramatically wrong about X, Y, and Z, it does count as evidence against their theories.

Do I misunderstand? It seems you are saying that if I say "2+3=4" and I am wrong, then addition -- nay, the entire order of operations -- is suspect. But that is not true; the fact is that I simply miscalculated: 2+3=5.
2.23.2006 12:16am
Grand CRU (mail):
Medis: [T]hese specific "X, Y, and Z" predictions were crucial to the broader prediction that the United States could easily succeed in Iraq with merely a "coalition of the willing", rather than with the support of something like the UN or NATO.

This assumes that neoconservatives expected "the coalition of the willing" to do a fair share of the work in Iraq. They did not. A "coalition of the willing" was assembled so that the President could read a list of all the countries on our side to say to the world that the action was as legitimate as the first Gulf War and his action fit within the precedent set by Clinton with Kosovo -- when the Security Council is stonewalling for narrow political reasons, America will come to the aid of the suffering masses (or, whatever formulation polled well that week). The concern there was public legitimacy and it worked. The American people by and large supported the war then and re-elected Bush as a "War President" chiefly on the issue of the War on Terror, which many Americans believed is inextricably tied to our fate in Iraq.

Medis: And so insofar as those X, Y, and Z predictions were wrong, it calls into question this entire theorem about international organizations.

Do I misunderstand? It seems you are saying that if I say "2+3=4" and I am wrong, then addition -- nay, the entire order of operations -- is suspect. But that is not true; the fact is that I simply miscalculated: 2+3=5.
2.23.2006 12:31am
Medis:
GrandCRU,

On X, Y, and Z: Recall that Taim originally defined "X number of troops, for Y number of years, at a cost of Z dollars." My claim was:

"I don't think there is a clean separation between the theoretical and the prudential, anymore than there is a clean separation between physics and engineering. In other words, these people calculated X, Y, and Z in light of their (very) theoretical models, and when it turned out they were dramatically wrong about X, Y, and Z, it does count as evidence against their theories."

So, I am not claiming that what was tested is something like the operation of addition. Rather, what was tested is a theoretical model. Broadly speaking, a theoretical model would allow you to take certain observable facts as an input, and then it would output certain predictions. In this case, the input would be something like descriptions of Iraq before we invaded, and the output would be something like how many troops, for how long, and at what cost, it would take to successfully begin the process of democratization in Iraq.

And since those predictions were wrong--very, very wrong--something must be wrong with the model. Of course, that happens all the time in science (rather than mathematics): someone forms a theoretical model, uses it to make predictions, and those predictions are tested. If the predictions prove correct, that is evidence in favor of the model. If those predictions prove wrong, that is evidence against the model.

On the "coalition of the willing": I don't think we disagree on the nature of that coalition. With the exception of the Brits, we didn't expect major contributions from our coalition partners. That, of course, was precisely my point: the specific predictions about X, Y, and Z were used to support the more general prediction that this sort of "unilateral" (except for the Brits) approach to invading Iraq would work quickly and easily. That more general prediction was a specific application of some even more general theorems.

Essentially, their basic view was that the United States had achieved such a remarkable advantage in military power that the United States no longer needed substantial help from other countries in military efforts. Indeed, it was claimed that military help from other countries was generally more of a hinderance than an aid.

This proposition about military power combined with the notion that democracy was more or less a default condition--once repressive regimes were removed from power, democratization would begin--in turn helped justify a general claim that the United States did not need the aid of international organizations when it came to promoting democracy. Rather, the United States could use its overwhelming military advantage to topple a repressive regime, at which point democracy would flourish, all with little or no help from other countries.

Again, my basic claim is that Iraq showed what was wrong with this theory. As it turns out, I think they were right about the first step--when it comes to destroying organized military forces and toppling regimes, the participation of other countries probably is more of a hinderance than an aid. Unfortunately, they were very, very wrong about what would happen next after Saddam's regime was toppled. And it is in those subsequent steps where the support of an international organization and substantial participation by many other countries would have been extremely useful, and perhaps necessary.

As a final note, I again do not claim that this is a comprehensive refutation of the notion that applications of military force can help bring about democracy. Indeed, if we could generate international support for such efforts in the future, I think much good could be achieved. But it does show that unilateral applications of American military force cannot easily bring about democracy, and that simple realization eliminates a central view that was shared by the like-minded people who planned Iraq.
2.23.2006 8:10am