Monday, February 20, 2006

Fukuyama, The Iraq War, and Darwinian Conservatism

In my book Darwinian Conservatism, I say very little about international relations and foreign policy. Francis Fukuyama's article in The New York Times Magazine(February 19)on neoconservatism and the Iraq war indicates to me the kind of foreign policy that would be supported by Darwinian conservatism. Although Fukuyama would not identify himself as a Darwinian conservative, Carson Holloway does identify him--along with James Q. Wilson and me--as a Darwinian conservative, and thus an object of his attack.

Fukuyama announces in this article that he can no longer consider himself a neoconservative, because he disagrees with the neoconservative foreign policy that supported the American invasion of Iraq. He agrees with the neoconservatives that American foreign policy should advance the ideals of democratic liberty. But he does not think that the unilateral and preemptive use of force in Iraq is a good means to achieve that end. More generally, he accuses the neoconservatives of discarding what he thought was originally fundamental to the neoconservative position--a realistic suspicion that grand social engineering can work without undesirable and unintended side effects. In Iraq, American forces are attempting to impose a new democratic regime as a massive project in social engineering, and Fukuyama regards this as naively utopian.

I agree with Fukuyama, and I think his major points conform to my arguments for Darwinian conservatism on at least four points.

First, I agree with Fukuyama's "end of history" argument insofar as this means that liberal democratic capitalism has a universal appeal to human beings because it satisfies the 20 natural desires that constitute the motivational core of human nature. I also agree, however, with Fukuyama's claim that the Bush neoconservatives are mistaken in thinking that the "end of history" is best achieved by preemptive wars of democratic imperialism. Rather, this will be achieved only gradually over a long period of time as people around the world are attracted by the success of the Western liberal democratic regimes.

Second, I agree with Fukuyama that the "end of history" does not mean the end of war or conflict. One of the 20 natural desires is the desire for war to defend one's society against others. The tendency to in-group/out-group behavior is so deep that there is no reason to think that the "end of history" will bring perpetual peace.

Third, I agree with Fukuyama that social order arises not just from a universal human nature but also from cultural traditions and deliberate choices. Consequently, the 20 natural desires of human beings will be diversely expressed in different societies based on the local traditions and choices of each society. So although liberal democratic capitalism should have a universal appeal because it fosters the satisfaction of natural human desires, we should expect that the particular social orders around the world will develop in unique ways to express the traditions and choices of each people. The Darwinian emergence of social order is a complex interaction between natural selection, cultural selection, and deliberate choice. So if an Islamic democracy does emerge in Iraq, it will do so through a long period of social evolution and particular choices that cannot be planned out according to some rational design given them by Americans.

Finally, I agree with Fukuyama's fundamental point that the democratic imperialism of the neoconservatives is utopian, because it ignores human imperfectibility. To assume that we can design liberal democratic regimes for every society and enforce our designs by force assumes more knowledge and virtue than human beings have. When George Bush proclaims--as he did in his Second Inaugural Address--that American foreign policy will have "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world," he adopts a utopian idealism that is contrary to the conservative principle of the imperfectibility of human nature. In that Second Inaugural, Bush did go on to say that freedom cannot be imposed by force of arms because freedom must be chosen by every people, who will adopt institutions that "reflect customs and traditions very different from our own." But that prudent stance is denied by the democratic imperialism that Bush and the neoconservatives have adopted in Iraq.


airth10 said...

I think you will like the following article, if you haven't seen it already. It has a Fukuyama, Darwinian flavor to it:

airth10 said...

There is something wrong with Fukuyama's assessment. He presumes that necons knew what they wanted to do from the beginning. When they first went into Iraq, establishing democracy was not on their mind. They stubbled into that mindset when their argument for war did not pan out or was discovered to be false.

Necons know nothing about how to establish and what makes work democracy. Like their leader, they relied on faith. In fact who, really knows how democracy works.

Larry Arnhart said...

I would say that promoting democracy as the goal of American foreign policy has been a principle of neocon thinking from the beginning. It's clearly stated in the 2002 "National Security Strategy of the U.S." document, which Fukuyama cites.

airth10 said...

You are absolutely right. But I read it more as a platitude than a real commitment.

airth10 said...

In his article Fukuyama does not mention the possible hubris and misconception his "end of history" thesis gave neocons. Neocons may have been embolden by his theory, thinking they had the right to throw America's weight around in establishing global hegemony.

Fukuyama came up with a worthy and legitimate theory. But like with most ideas put out by philosophers it has been hijacked and twisted by individuals - neocons - for their own self-interest. The trouble is, neocons are shallow thinkers who don't delve into the deeper meaning of things. And as we see they have screwed things up because of their lack of insight. They are typical MBAers (Bush, for example) who think that they can correct the world with a few little twists.

There is a lot more to be said about this. Fukuyama has opened up an new field of thinking and philosophizing that has only just recently come to our attention. He has reintroduced a philosophical debate about universal human governance and what shape it should take, and how to implement it.