Last week, Al Franken talked about a Neocon confession written for the NYT Magazine by Francis Fukuyama, an instructor at John Hopkins University and apparently a noted Neocon. ("After Neoconservatism," New York Times Magazine, 2.19.06.) I had to pick it up.
I was disappointed. I was thrilled. I was perplexed.
As an intellectual foundation, this is beach sand. Neocons knocked down the gate with their big budget spin machines and this is all they have? They didn't use Occam's Razor, they used Occam's Silly String. Rather than work from evidence to conclusions, Neocon thinking runs from conclusions to a misapprehension of the facts. And there is no economic part of it.
You can get an idea of where they were, when after an apparently long trip of self-searching Fukuyama expresses this as an epiphany: "Good governance, which involves not just democracy but also the rule of law and economic development, is critical to a host of outcomes we desire ...."
Actually, that is the outcome we should desire. But he never really gets the point, because this "democracy" of which he speaks is a top-down version provided by the "benevolent hegemon," i.e., the U.S. Real democracy never penetrates his thinking.
In the category of strange discoveries:
Neoconservatism was begun by a cadre of New York intellectuals in the late 1930s and early 1940s, many of whom started out as Trotskyites. Being disillusioned by Stalin's dictatorship, they extracted lessons and applied them to the pragmatic liberalism that informed this country's development from FDR until Reagan.
Later in the piece, Fukuyama identifies a position articulated by Neocon authors as "Leninist." "They believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as a farce when practiced by the United States."
He does point out that Americans who wanted to defend the country from nuclear attack – Jackson Democrats, he calls them – do not have the same appetite for a war to promote Democracy for the godless, or at least Falwell-less.
The "benevolent hegemony" which I always assumed was an affectation of arrogance invisible to its practitioners is actually a conscious program. The following is a tenet from one of the texts: "It is precisely because American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality that other nations find they have less to fear from its otherwise daunting power."
Obviously this was written before the Iraq War, but still ... can it be that where I assumed was a cynical and ruthless pursuit of parochial interests was instead this Pollyana foolishness?
No. It can't be. This intellectual base is so weak that it rose to power only on the strength of Texas Oil and a corporate coup d'etat led by Dubya and Cheney. Any theoretical pretensions are simply a fig leaf to cover the Right's doing what it wants to do because it has the power to do it. It is similar to Reagan and Supply Side economics. Supply Side is a totally fatuous proposition based on the idea that the only incentives that work are big incentives for those already at the top. But Reagan wanted to spend himself silly and cut taxes at the same time, so he raised the Laffer Curve from the back of a napkin to national policy. (The Laffer Curve described how cutting taxes can increase revenue. Don't Laff, Dubya is blowing the same smoke today.)
Near the end of the piece, Fukuyama rises to the full extent of his professorial frame and announces, "Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support." Then he trots off down the anchor chain and into the dockside warehouses.
I have the feeling that he didn't know this wouldn't work only because up till now nobody has been dumb enough to try it.