Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill


I’d like to see how this has held up:

A quote from Hill’s forward to Ajami’s new book on Syria as discussed in the video:

“[The] greatest strategic challenge of the twenty-first century is involves “reversing Islamic radicalism”‘

Both men wanted to see more leadership out of the Obama administration.  They both argued that there needed American led involvement of some sort in Syria.  It’s a bad neighborhood, and we’ve got to provide leadership and side with the rebels as best we can.

Hill pushed further to suggest that if America doesn’t lead onto a new set of challenges that now face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either.  If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism.  If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.

I wanted to contrast this vision with Francis Fukuyama’s then new piece, entitled ‘Life In A G-Zero World,‘ where if I’m not mistaken, Fukuyama is ok with such a diminished role for the U.S:

‘It is clear that no other power is going to step in to fill this role of structuring world politics on a grand scale. It does not necessarily imply, however, that the world will turn into a chaotic free-for-all. What occurs after the retreat of US hegemony will depend critically on the behavior of American partners and their willingness to invest in new multilateral structures. The dominant role of the US in years past relieved American allies of the need to invest in their own capabilities or to take the lead in solving regional problems. They now need to step up to the plate.’


‘The regional military balance has already shifted toward China more than many American allies would like to admit. Moreover, while the basic American commitment to Tokyo under the US-Japan Security Agreement remains sound, the willingness of the Obama administration to risk military conflict with China over some uninhabited islands in the middle of the Pacific is not at all clear.’


To some degree, I think both analyses are right, in that we either renew our ideals and pursue exceptionalism, confronting and pushing against those who don’t share our ideals and interests as we have in the past (including the threat and potential use of military force), and/or we re-adjust and recognize the roles of others, but also recognize that they don’t necessarily share our ideals and interests and we can’t necessarily trust anyone to look out for our interests.

This requires us to cooperate and rely on international institutions to some extent, but also institutions which have serious design flaws, poor incentives, and can bind us in treaties and obligations for which our interests can be poorly served.

What I don’t want to see is a continued squandering of our leverage and our strength, mainly at the hands of what I see as a rather utopian and naive worldview, held aloft by tempered, but still rather Left-leaning democratic radicals and activists, who claim peace but see many of their own worst enemies in the West itself, and who still must deal with the world and its political base as it is.

What’s the best way forward?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.


Addition:  Walter Russell Mead thinks Fukuyama gets Japan right.

Related On This Site:  From The Wall Street Journal: ‘Charles Hill: The Empire Strikes Back’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…Is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Richard Fernandez At PJ Media: ‘The New Middle East’Niall Ferguson At The Daily Beast: ‘China Should Intervene in Syria, Not America’…From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From Via Media At The American Interest: ‘History Made; Media Blind’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’Repost-From The American Interest Online: Niall Ferguson on ‘What Chimerica Hath Wrought’

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

3 thoughts on “Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

  1. Chris, I know we differ on the subject of foreign policy but how do you answer the Chalmers Johnson thesis in ‘Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire’. Do you simply deny we are suffering from ‘blowback’ as a result of American policies?

    • Malcolm,

      Oh I agree there’s a lot of blowback. I’ll have to check on Johnson’s work. I believe we’re overextended, sometimes precariously so.

      I’ve also increasingly taken what I consider to be a realist view: Individuals and tribes, city-states, and nation-states naturally seek to expand their influence and their spheres of influence, for better or worse. People make alliances with those who align with their interests most in a given situation, often following the logic presented and arrived at, usually while facing a common threat or problem, and/or while pursuing and protecting a similar interest/resource/ideal.

      America is still an idealistic and ‘young’ nation in many respects and it’s undergoing a lot of change, and seems particularly beset by political differences at the moment.

      In the hands of unbalanced and what I consider to be immoral and amoral individual actors (a lot of room for disagreement there, I realize, but there are Caligulas and Gadhafis), but also tribes, groups, nation-states it can get very bad very quickly, and even these folks can find themselves competing over limited and perceived limited resources, rival rulers and factions, led by the logic of their designs, tinpot dictators, etc. America has often gotten involved, sometimes wisely, sometimes very unwisely.

      Such was the world we were born into as I see it, no thanks to disagreements amongst the varying factions of settlers and traders, religious refugees, the religious sects, the native tribes, the French, the British, the Spanish etc.

      I don’t see us as much different in our desires from much of what’s come before, and frankly, some of what I see as suspicion and hostility in international affairs can be placed squarely at the feet of a lot of tribal and basic instincts to which all people so often return.

      Some protections and designs in place in America can slow and check a lot of those impulses that lead to the application of organized violence and military expansion without careful consideration and without wisdom, but a lot of prople seem happier when applied violence is not a threat to their interests and when, in fact, it even supports their ideals and interests.

      I don’t see that changing much.

      It may be may be a prerequisite to trade and basic civil society, this freedom from violence in a world such as it is (my thinking is still a work in progress, obviously and you can be the judge of what kind of thinking I’m doing).when made answerable to competing concerns acts in favor of people’s interests, ideals,

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