From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

Full essay here.

I’ve often admired Fukuyama because he thinks deeply and is a moral realist enough to realize that American influence abroad has a strong military component.  However, he’s also hitched himself to the neocon wagon, which then hitched itself to the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq…and’s not a good time to be seen anywhere near those wagons.   I don’t think this invalidates much of Fukuyama’s thinking, but he’s been busy looking in other directions.

So, where does Fukuyama see us headed?

“This is not a story about American decline. The US remains the dominant power in the world, but the rest of the world is catching up.”

Why?  In part because we owe a lot of countries money, and they’re earning and saving their own money:

“The People’s Republic of China has $1.5 trillion in reserves; Russia, $550 billion; South Korea, $260 billion; Thailand, $110 billion; Algeria, $120 billion. The little states of the Gulf Cooperation Council collectively have about $300 billion in reserves. Saudi Arabia just by itself is saving money at the rate of approximately $15 billion every single month as a result of energy exports.”

Another of Fukuyama’s reasons is that we’re still operating on dated models of statecraft: 

“We are trying to use an instrument—hard military power—that we used in the 20th century world of Great Powers and centralized states in a weak-state world. You cannot use hard power to create legitimate institutions, to build nations, to consolidate politics and all of the other things that are necessary for political stability in this part of the world.”

Yet, if we are in a weak-state world, we must work with our allies more closely, and I suppose this includes the U.N.  The U.N has problems and we are currently rationally pursuing much of our interest outside of it.  Also, the weak-state world is only part of the world.  Russia seems happy to try and re-live the cold war days by being weak enough to need to do so, and powerful enough to succeed in some ways.

Fukuyama goes on to argue that our biggest problems are of our own making and need our own solutions.  There are three that he highlights:

“…first, the diminishing capacity of our public sector”  

“…second, a certain complacency on the part of Americans about understanding the world from a perspective other than that of the US…”

“…third, our polarized political system that is incapable of even discussing solutions to these problems.”

He characterizes his 1st point by example of FEMA, The Department of Homeland Security, and other enormously inefficient public behemoths. 

The second is kind a vague moral chastizement of Americans for meeting their moral obligations as they did during the cold war:

“It is a scandal that in this monstrous new embassy we’ve created in Baghdad, we only have a handful of fluent Arabic speakers.”

I don’t know what to say to this, other than the fact that it’s a pretty bad argument.  

I suspect the many Arabic speakers we do have in America aren’t entirely integrated into our society enough to offer their services to fill that new embassy even if they wanted to (however much the equity ideologues insist that it’s so).  Bush has committed us to Iraq in many ways we didn’t, and couldn’t, forsee.   It’s important to note that Fukuyama himself has been distancing himself from Bush, the necons, and precisely those elements that have decided where our moral obligations are to be pursued.

The third point may be news to nobody:

“Polarization has put off the table serious discussion of how to solve some of these long-term and very clear challenges that every public policy expert understands.”

I’m pretty unsure as to what to do about this either.

See Also:  Fukuyama’s The End Of History

Related On This Site: Charles Krauthammer From March 2006: Fukuyama’s FantasyA Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionFrom Bloggingheads: Robert Kagan Discusses The U.N. Security CouncilFareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

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