Posts Tagged 'Brand America'

Will Fukuyama Embrace Pacifism?

Fukuyama may be coming down hard on the conservative view of economy – Will Fukuyama Embrace Socialism? – but that’s really nothing compared with the blistering critique he has reserved for foreign affairs issues.

Fukuyama sees the economic meltdown disfiguring brand America, but he points out that this corrosive process began earlier, with the Iraq War.

As you may recall, “promoting freedom and democracy” was the fallback story the Bush administration reverted to once it became clear that Iraq had no active WMDs programs and that it had had no part in the 9/11 attacks.

This may seem like a good enough story –  after all, who would be against promoting freedom and democracy? You gotta love your freedom and democracy, right?

The problem, Fukuyama enlightens us, is that “to many people around the world, America’s rhetoric about democracy sounds a lot like an excuse for furthering U.S. hegemony”. And “by using democracy to justify the Iraq War, the Bush administration suggested to many that ‘democracy’ was a code word for military intervention and regime change”

I guess that indeed causes a problem. But that must be for sure the view of those “European socialists and Latin American populists” who are dead set against all things American anyway. As long as America’s allies and the “free world” at large keep buying the story, brand America won’t have to go on sale.

Well, then it’s time to start printing those discount coupons, because the gaps are widening, and the story simply isn’t holding anymore. Just consider Fukuyama’s candid admission: “We don’t have much credibility when we champion a ‘freedom agenda’.”

This is all the more striking if you consider that Fukuyama was one of the intelectual references of the neoconservative movement and an early supporter of intervention in Iraq. In 1998, he signed a letter from the Project for the New American Century (I know it sounds like something out of a James Bond movie, but it really existed) urging President Clinton to implement “a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power”, using a “full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts”. The reason? “To end the threat of weapons of mass destruction”.

In 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Fukuyama and his neocon pals charged again. Indicating that Hussein “may” have “provided assistance in some form” to the terrorists, they again called for his prompt removal from power.

But even if he didn’t, it didn’t matter anyway, because “any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” What’s more, leaving him in place would “constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.” So, guilty or not, he simply had to go. No confusion there.

In case you’re loosing track, here goes a schematic: in 1998, the stated reason for removing Hussein from power was the danger he posed to the world with his WMD programs. In 2001, staying in touch with the latest trends, the reason switched to his being “one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth”. Who said those conservative boys aren’t trendy? They pay more attention to what’s cool than a Japanese Kogyaru girl.

It could be said in Fukuyama’s defense that he was consistent – after all, the only reason he didn’t subscribe to as a casus belli was precisely promoting freedom and democracy.

So Fukuyama may have supported military intervention in Iraq regardless of the flavor of the day justification, but he still tried to salvage the “freedom” and “democracy” ideas from being torched, alongside thousands of people, in the Iraqi hell.

In the end, he failed in that mission, and those pristine ideas wound up dragged through the Trigris’ mud – which may help explain his latter very public falling out with his old neocon friends.

Because it’s one thing to obliterate a country. Another, quite different, is to tarnish the conceptual pillars of brand America. And that he just couldn’t stand.


Will Fukuyama Embrace Socialism?

Since he broke loose from the neoconservatives, there’s no stopping him. Francis Fukuyama, once one of the movement’s luminaries, just can’t seem to stop seeing the shortcomings of the positions that until recently he espoused.

In an article published in the latest edition of Newsweek – ominously titled The Fall of America, Inc – Fukuyama muses about the deteriorating state of “brand America”.

Brand America was in good shape when it managed to propagate around the globe two glossy ideas: a vision of capitalism based in market deregulation, and the notion that the US is a moral power, a “force for good” in the world.

Iraq took care of the latest. Now the ongoing economic meltdown is taking care of the former, and brand America is hurting like never before.

Now that his old pals aren’t watching over his shoulder, Fukuyama isn’t afraid to point the finger at the conservatives that got carried away with their Reaganite mantras as the ones to blame for the current state of affairs.

I mean, don’t get him wrong: Fukuyama still has a poster of Reagan in his bedroom closet. The thing is that he now looks at it with the same nostalgia that drove “Mamma Mia” to the top of the box office. It was fun back in the day, but who would dress like that now, right?

Reagan (as his across-the-pound counterpart, Thatcher) was “right for his time”. The problem is that “what were once fresh ideas have hardened into hoary dogmas”. And what would this dreadful hoary dogmas be? Why, nothing less than excessive market deregulation.

“What!? Market deregulation? Excessive!?”. You can almost hear his neocons pals howling at the concept. For them, “excessive deregulation” seems as absurd a concept as “excessive faith” would to a priest.

But wait, there’s more: this “Reagan-era article of faith—financial deregulation—was pushed by an unholy alliance of true believers and Wall Street firms”. Yeah, I guess you can easily imagine all those CEOs floating in the air with their heads spinning around, while sacrificing a goat over the effigy of the SEC’s chairman.

Now that he has grown allergic to that kind of rituals, all it was needed was for Fukuyama to start pushing for higher taxes and increased government spending – the dreadful “big government”. Impossible, you say?

Guess again. Fukuyama has the audacity to say that the American economy grew just as fast during the Clinton years (with tax increases that lead to a budget surplus of $127 billions when he left office) as it did during the Reagan years (with tax cuts that lead to a deficit of $152 billions and a national debt of $3 trillion when he left office).

Not happy with implying that it’s OK to raise taxes – itself a mortal sin among conservatives – Fukuyama is also calling for a revamp of public services, thus increasing government spending in such dull areas like health and education, and not in the cool and neocon-approved areas of military and, well, military.

According to Fukuyama, “the entire American public sector—underfunded, deprofessionalized and demoralized—needs to be rebuilt and be given a new sense of pride.” How about that?

And now for the grand finale: “there are certain jobs that only the government can fulfill.”

Doesn’t he sound just like Chomsky? No wonder he had to leave the American Enterprise Institute gatherings. They skin people for much less there.

July 2018
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