RALLYING AROUND A STRONG LEADERSHIP
The following article was writen on April 4, 2006. It’s republished here for the readers of this new blog hoping that they will find it to be of some interest.
“The greater the danger is, the greater is the need to reach agreement quickly and easily about what must be done; not misunderstanding in times of danger is what human beings simply cannot do without in their relations”. Friedrich Nietzsche
Francis Fukuyama in his intellectual volte face from a neo-conservative who supported the war in Iraq has now, with the difficulties that have issued from the war, turned himself into a “soft-power” conservative. In his article in The Melbourne Age on April 8, 06, “Time For Softer, Smarter US”, he argues, “that before the Iraqi war, we were probably at war with no more than a few thousand people who would consider martyring themselves and causing nihilistic damage to the US”, whereas now we are facing tens of thousands as a result of our invasion of Iraq. Because of this America should use “soft power rather than hard power” promoting “political and economic development… by focusing primarily on good governance, political accountability, democracy and strong institutions”. Another reason why a soft power policy is more prudent is that the “unipolar world that emerged after the Cold War has stoked broad new currents of anti-Americanism”, and one way to mitigate the latter is for the US to use its power latently, instead of displaying it arrogantly. Also, the broader involvement of international institutions is a prerequisite, if this new policy is to bear its fruit. Although he concedes that these institutions “are inherently slow, rigid and hobbled by cumbersome procedures”. And he admits that the implementation of such a policy cannot be quick and would “require tremendous patience”. But the conundrum of what to do with the war in Iraq continuous to haunt him. As he states, that “walking away… would leave a festering terrorist sanctuary”. And finally,and unwillingly, giving credit to where credit is due, to President Bush’s doctrine of pre-emption, he acknowledges that the war against terrorists could be pre-emptive and could often violate the principle of national sovereignty.
There are however historical, political, and strategic reasons that Fukuyama’s soft power strategy will be a greater failure than the presumed failure of hard power. Moreover, one cannot contrive “smarter” US policies as a recipe of success. All policies of government in their major part are made by smart people. But in the scope of their implementation are often “outsmarted” by a multiplicity of variables that no human mind can foresee or imagine or absolutely control. But that does not mean that one has to be nihilistic about intelligence. The latter rules the world, but it’s not an absolute sovereign. It has its limits. And within these limits governments carry out their realpolitik on calculations of the highest probability and without being immune from committing errors. The war in Iraq is an illustration of this. It started with a smart military strategy which within three weeks defeated Saddam’s army. But at the commencement of the American occupation, US strategists committed a series of mistakes, such as the disbanding of the Iraqi army and the delay in setting up an interim Iraqi government, which had the result that units of the disbanded military personnel regrouped into the ranks of the future insurgency. No one anticipated that from the ashes of the defeat of Saddam’s forces the Phoenix of insurgency would rise. Only a clairvoyant could possibly see the unraveling of this possibility and could have prevented the errors of the Americans.
But let us deal with the main reasons why Fukuyama’s soft power idyll has no chance of being successful. The historical and political ones go together. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a result of its inability to compete with the unsurpassable economic and military power of the US, the latter became the sole hyperpower in a unipolar world. It carried, like Atlas, all the burdens of the globe on its shoulders as well as the responsibilities of keeping the world in order, and suppressing either by diplomacy or force the tribal and sectarian conflicts that would arise from nascent states in their pursuit to expand and consolidate their power, but which could destabilize parts of the rest of the world – not to advert to the humanitarian issues. But responsibilities are coupled with dangers. Dangers that emanate both from success and failure. The US has both on its scorecard. The defeat by the might of its military power of the Axis alliance in World War II, and especially the defeat of the Soviet Behemoth by its economic power and belligerent diplomacy, brought in its wake both the admiration and the envy of the world upon the US. But admiration is a passing passion, unlike envy. The former lasts as long as when the performance ends. The duration of the latter however does not end in one act, but continues to exude its bitter vapors against the US as long as the latter dominates the world scene. Monopoly of power, generates monopoly of hate. Not only by nations that have been pushed by the US from their former positions of power, but also by nations that have been America’s allies during the Cold War, as a result of being cast to play, as nations with proud cultures such as France, a secondary role in the affairs of the world. And of course, by most Islamic nations, whose failure to make their entry into the world of economic development and prosperity blame America for their condition, which is more likely than not the outcome of their failed culture, and the overdetermination of their people’s lives by religion in a secular world where people can only succeed by adopting whole-heartedly the latter’s values.
This is the fate of America as “Prometheus Unbound”, in a unipolar, unequal, and enviable world. Whatever America will be doing in the affairs of the world, it will not be able to avert the wrath of these nations. Even its most benign, if not altruistic, humanitarian actions will be seen as having a rapacious interest at hand. In the political domain, the policies of democracy, good governance, that Fukuyama is suggesting, if they are going to be implemented under US auspices, will be seen by many nations as latent expansion of US imperialism. America therefore finds itself in the unenviable situation of being “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”.But in the dangerous situation that the Western world has been placed by the attacks on New York and London, it’s better to be damned for one’s actions than for one’s inactions. As strategically,only by swift hard power action can one ward off and prevent such danger from expanding into an even more lethal form than 9/11. And this cannot be otherwise, even if, because of the magnitude of scale and its uncertainties, mistakes will occur, as it happens in all wars, in the performance of these actions.
A strong leadership, such as the Bush administration is – despite the critique of the malevolent rabble-rattlers of the media and the populist cocottes of its political opponents – cannot mortgage its strategic policies against this potential mortal threat to the weathervane of polls nor to its fickle allies and that Babel of discord and indecision, the United Nations. And the people of the Western world who have not lost their pride for the achievements of Western civilization, must rally behind a strong leadership that protects this civilization from the deadly attacks of a horde of fanatic barbarians.