So, it Wasn’t the End of History?

Francis Fukuyama.

People pay schools money to have this man teach their children? I wonder of he does the dog-paddle or the back stroke as he swims away from the ship?  His detailed account of the Left wing nature of the neocon movement is delightful.  You don’t like the word Lefty?  Lang

"The roots of neoconservatism lie in a remarkable group of largely Jewish intellectuals who attended City College of New York (C.C.N.Y.) in the mid- to late 1930’s and early 1940’s, a group that included Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Irving Howe, Nathan Glazer and, a bit later, Daniel Patrick Moynihan."  Fukuyama

"It is not an accident that many in the C.C.N.Y. group started out as Trotskyites. Leon Trotsky was, of course, himself a Communist, but his supporters came to understand better than most people the utter cynicism and brutality of the Stalinist regime. The anti-Communist left, in contrast to the traditional American right, sympathized with the social and economic aims of Communism, but in the course of the 1930’s and 1940’s came to realize that "real existing socialism" had become a monstrosity of unintended consequences that completely undermined the idealistic goals it espoused. While not all of the C.C.N.Y. thinkers became neoconservatives, the danger of good intentions carried to extremes was a theme that would underlie the life work of many members of this group."  Fukuyama

I once had one of the leading theoreticians of the "movement" tell me that the "con" in "neocon" is the "con" part.  Translation:  They are not Conservative.  Conservatives in America believe in the limited utility of government, the importance of stopping government when it tries to run one’s life and that Freedom has little to do with the Patriot Act. The religious right in America are no more conservative than the neocons.  They are merely right wing in a narrow minded and sectarian way.  Lang

"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, 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 farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support."  Fukuyama

Apparently, this is not exactly right.  I mean the part about "no longer support."  Fukuyama’s solution for the mess that he and his pseudo-conservative Jacobin friends have gotten us all in is that the US should have much the same policy with regard to "friendly autocrats" but should be careful not to do anything that might further break up the China (dishes).  In other words, he has no solution for the mess that he and his pals made but is frightened by the result of their sophomoric meddling with the deepest forces in human nature and Middle Eastern history. Ah, I forgot.  History has no meaning for them because like all good little Utopians, the past is dead and only the future matters.  Lang

"Peace might emerge, sometime down the road, from a Palestine run by a formerly radical terrorist group that had been forced to deal with the realities of governing."  Fukuyama

This is the best part really.  This "scholar" has not learned a damned thing about Islam, Muslims, human nature and can’t read the newspapers evidently.  I guess he hasn’t read Lang’s Rules of Epistemology or "Pie in the Sky."  Oh well, I don’t suppose that readers of the New York Times magazine will be more than 75% of those who even know who he is.  Lang

Pat Lang

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37 Responses to So, it Wasn’t the End of History?

  1. matt says:

    Greetings. I found reading your ‘James Wolcott-like’ evisceration of Mr. Fukyama’s arguments thoroughly enjoyable…. What has often frustrated me as i have read (or listened to) Neo-Cons like Mr. Fukyama (or others – especially Richard Perle) has been the fact that i what i have read (or listened to) just doesn’t seem to correspond to my sense of how the ‘real world’really is. They always seem to be defining the parameters of their interaction with the world. ANd dealing with it on their own terms.
    In other words, I intuitively just seemed to disagree with them and at times, haven’t really had the vocabulary or ‘bona fides’ (or platform, for that matter…)to challenge this tendency. When i have seen these guys in the media actually challenged by an articulate critic of Neo-Conservatism, they always just seem to reply with a pithy ‘coversation-ender’ type comment. the host then invariably then moves on to a new topic…
    This is a great blog. thanks!

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I was once on a news show with one of their flunkies from AEI. Someone with an Italian name.
    The necons were then trying to make the argument that the occupation of Germany had been like Iraq because “resistance in Germany had not stopped for several years.”
    My father was an officer in the occupation government. I lived there at the time under discussion. I laughed at this clown and said that I had gone camping in the woods with the German Boy Scout troop that Dad sponsored at the time under discussion.
    The Neokid said something like “Aha, Nazi associations…” He wasn’t kidding. Pat

  3. avedis says:

    I have always enjoyed your critical disassemblies of neocon personalities and notions, though I think that you are entirely too kind regarding those that are politically active.
    My sense is that the Perles, Wolfowitzs, Ledeens, etc are not acting from a purely theorectical basis.
    Additionally, I see much interest on their part in – to be crass (true words are often not fine sounding and fine sounding words…..) 1. lining their pockets with kick backs from the industries that benefit from their “wars of liberation”, 2. intangibles derived from advancing policies that coincide with the desires of certain Israeli political spheres and 3. obtaining and maintaining power for its own sake.
    I believe that these alterior motives are sufficiently salient that whatever these people do or say – sophmoric or otherwise – re: neocon policy cannot be viewed entirely as such.
    But Fukuyama is probably operating from a more pure intellectual standpoint and does sound almost as silly as his politicized kin.

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You know that I agree with you. As proprietor of this enterprise I feel the need to maintain a certain tone, almost as though I had come from the cavalry.
    I have been re-reading some JW Bellah novels, and that last slipped out.
    I flatter myself that as a result of our self-restraint we have a good bunch of folks talking here.

  5. angela says:

    I think he’s technically right. Peace *might* emerge from Hamas rule. Also the stock market might hit DOw 30,000 in the second Bush term rather than stagnant in “secular bear.” California real estate *might* rise and rise. And also the treaty I made with the aliens might be declared valid when they levitate the White House and so you can take advantage of this possibility I’ll give you a good deal on a bridge.
    However past history has shown that when many radical movements take power they flib things further and the outlet is blame an external enemy. Whatever the sins of Israel (and they are many) the past has shown that Palestinian “leaders” have little interst in schools or sewage, Fatah was “revolutionaries” with guns and Hamas is more revolutionary still.
    Still they *might* be more competent, but this isn’t necessarily good news. It might simply make them more dangerous to us not lead them to embrace us.
    One of the assumptions behind this end of history thing is that there is an absolute st of truths and values not spiritual, but materialist and pragmatic. And that the heathens will embrace them when the truth shines in their face.
    I actually think there is a good argument that despite their flaws our mechanisms are superior, that over time they wll dominate in a Darwinian (not necessarily bloody, Darwinian not Spencerian0 competition, but even in this country the majority have feeble knowledge of them and don’t embrace them intuitively.
    To expect the rest of the world too is just as stupid (no matter how cloaked in fancy words) as these rightwingers wondering why we are losing the propaganda battle (they can admit it when Rumsfeld told them) when they’ve been calling Arabs ragheads, suggesting bombs on Mecca, romanticizing torture (the bored, depressed prisn guard discovering the 15 year old Iraqi kid who knows where the terrorist nukes in Kansas are hidden!) and come to the conclusion that it’s the fault of the liberal press that the Satan worshipping Muslims don’t hear their thoughts on dropping bacon bits by B52 because certainly if we’d spent more money on Bush cronies to spread the word all the world would see the self evident greatness of our concepts.
    (Incidently I don’t make this up, the really big news sweeping the righties which has cheered them up immensely is that Batman may join the fight on terror.)
    The “end of history” folks have the same sorts of delusion.

  6. avedis says:

    Yes, it is a good bunch of folks talking here.

  7. sbj says:

    Great deconstruction of Fukuyama.
    One of the central characteristics of the neocon palaver seems to be that they frequently postulate cause and effect linkage between various events but usually never reference actual real-world cause and effect connections.
    Whether it’s the hollow rhetoric of an academic blowhard like Reuel Marc-Gerecht or the more nefarious bombast of a creature like Richard Perle, they eschew the relationships between real events in favor of their own delusional ideological constructs as though they were allergic to reality.
    Is it any wonder they can’t even provide a rational explanation of their own position?

  8. fbg46 says:

    “Ah I forgot. History has no meaning for them, because like all good little Utopians, the past is dead and only the future matters.”
    Too bad none of the neocons bothered to read Faulkner — the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even the past.
    We’re not going to get away with this.

  9. Eric says:

    This must be an attempt at historical revisionism on Mr. F’s part.

  10. ikonoklast says:

    I’m grateful that you reminded us about maintaining “tone” here, because reading Fukuyama’s article evokes a litany of creative synonyms for “fecal residue.” Of course no matter the venue, it’s not gentlemanly to kick a craven pompous weasel while he’s down.
    However, there’s something to be said for the ability to expand “We’re clueless, anybody got any ideas?” into six pages of self-congratulatory drivel, and I’m impressed that he knows almost as many big words as Murry. (Insert apology here …)

  11. W. Patrick Lang says:

    People need to speak up, but hey, expect me to respond. I’m not your grandfather. pl

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You think? pl

  13. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Agreed, but we are going to coninue “with style.”
    Ah, “for every real 14 year old Southern boy it is always 1 o’clock in the afternoon on the 3rd of July, 1863.”

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Thanks for a great contribution. Pat

  15. Duck of Death says:

    A lot of good comments here, with which I mostly agree. I will add that it seems like a lot of these neocons have seen way too many bad action movies. It seems like an ideology born of arrested adolescents playing backyard war games. I read the article in the Times earlier today and had a chuckle, these guys can’t back away fast enough from what they’ve done/said, then again…what harm have they done?

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It took me a breathless minute to “get it” early in the pre-cafeinated morning, but I see your point. Boys will be boys and experimentation in the post doctoral world is only to be expected. pl

  17. fbg46 says:

    Per a couple of the on-line quotations sites:
    “The past is not dead. In fact it’s not even past.”
    None of the sites gave the attribution.

  18. ali says:

    I’d regard this as a well conducted retreat under covering fire.
    A difficult maneuver at best and Francis has had the foresight to prepare his position more wisely than some of his PNAC colleagues. Watch this fellow; he’s a sly one.

  19. Duck of Death says:

    Col Lang,
    As a previous poster mentioned, the neocons are now going nuts because the next Batman movie will have our caped crusader(what an appropriate name now) fighting Al Queda in his next movie. These guys are completely caught up in mythology and out of touch w/ reality. I’m sure right now they’re thinking “How can we lose w/ Batman AND Jack Bauer on our side?”

  20. Charlie Green says:

    I was disappointed to get to the end of the comments on this topic with no link to Lang’s Rules of Epistemology. Even Dogpile only had the two URLs from this blog.
    A chimera? Poetic license? Or the product of some secret cabal? 🙂

  21. Eric says:

    Meanwhile Rumsfeld is planning a new total war.
    They shouldn’t allow the old codger into the Shirley Temple supply before he briefs the press.
    From William Arkin and precious:

  22. Robert Murray says:

    Well done, Col! – Fukuyama is pretty hard to take – he’s pretty a poster boy for the Weekly Standard, but by God did you ever tear him new a one!!
    Great moment in the blogoshere – Wow, right up there with “Drink the Koolaid”… Trotskyite wannarule the world Machiavellians iare a far cry from a main street conservative.
    PS Col – Quail to right of them,
    Quail to left of them,
    Quail in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well;…..
    w/apologies to Lord Alfred T…

  23. orionATL says:

    thanks for a nice piece of balloon (gas bag) puncturing.
    on the end of fukiyama
    in the first place
    what francis says now, he could and should have said in sept, 2001 were he the prescient intellect he is given credit for being.
    (remember boys and girls
    it’s a media, media, media world. nothing makes you appear smarter faster than a catchy title like “the end of history”.)
    despite tom freidmans’s hysterical “world war III” headline in sept, 2001, fighting terrorism was never a “war” in any but a rhetorical way, e.g., the “war” on cancer.
    in 2001, or in 1901, or in 1801.
    fighting terrrorism, strictly, was always a matter of tracking down and eleminating small groups of committed and dangerous people.
    in the second place:
    anybody who writes stuff like the following is mostly a blowhard.
    “Neoconservatism, whatever its complex roots, has become indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism and American hegemony. What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world.”
    “whatever its complex roots”?
    what does that mean?
    “new ideas for how to relate to the rest of the world”?
    would that be “new” ideas like
    co-operation with one’s allies,s
    say, building true coalitions,
    instead of sham coalitions like the fiction the bush administration foisted off on the world about a “coalition of the willing” in iraq.
    new ideas like
    not using a terrorist attack on a symbolic building in new york as a shield
    for running the table with ideologically inspired partisian programs, domestic as well as internationa?
    new ideas like exercising awareness of the culture and circumstances that lead men and women to feel that terrorist actions are the best option before them?
    where oh where
    has francis been these past five years?
    what kept him silent so long?
    i don’t know the man’s work, but, from media depictions over time, i have the prejudice of yet another self-promoting intellectual, not as egregious as christopher hitchens, but of the same ilk.
    sounds to me like this latest bit of wisdom from fukuyama is more of a john yoo career-building move, than a thoughtful merging of past and future.
    2001-2006: FIVE WASTED YEARS

  24. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I have to tell you that LJ and I have an article coming out in the “National Interest” (solicited by them)that deals with the issue of an Iranian campaign and its various costs. pl

  25. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Bless you. I have spent a lifetime working these out with the help of many drinking buddies and a variety of first three graders. pl

  26. W. Patrick Lang says:

    None of them would know a Spencer from a chocolate eclair. Pat

  27. john says:

    Greetings, and you offered an interesting piece about the
    neoconservatives. A while back I ran across a BBC documentary entitled
    “The Power of Nightmares” that made a comparison of the leaders of
    al-Qaeda and the leaders of the neoconservative movement–I’m sure
    Fukiyama and associates appreciated the conflation. The reason I mention
    this documentary is because of what you cited from Fukiyama: “The
    neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan
    was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed
    along with the right application of power and will.”
    The point the documentary and the citation bring out is disturbing. The
    neocons see themselves as a vanguard. This is straight out of Lenin’s
    “What is to be Done”. Essentially, a vanguard of dedicated “professional
    revolutionaries” must lead the masses down the correct path. The
    vanguard must educate the people through agitation and propaganda.
    Ideology makes authoritarian rule more palatable than mundane morality.
    Fukiyama’s statement “It is not an accident that many in the C.C.N.Y.
    group started out as Trotskyites” answers the question why he can no
    longer follow the group. Apparently, he is a ‘Trotskyite’ and believes
    in the permanent revolution. That is, for the neocons, the oft-stated
    domino effect of democracy in one Arab state. The fundamental
    disagreement between Stalin and Trotsky was Stalin’s preoccupation with
    the revolution in one state–Russia–and Trotsky’s insistence on
    world-wide revolution. Thus, one might conclude Fukiyama thinks the main
    neocons have abandoned the wider program for a narrower agenda that
    focuses on the U.S. Perhaps they sense that their tentacles do not
    extend deeply enough into the institutions of governance to effectively
    execute their program. Further, Fukiyama’s philosophical adherence to
    the possibility of a universal history makes me think that he is prone
    to grand movements with a little Nietzschean historical rewriting thrown
    in for good measure, a little Orwellian “he who controls the present
    controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future.” It
    is an odd circumstance of extremes that the far-right and the far-left
    come together in the utter belief in their ability to lead their states
    through whatever means are necessary for the greater good as they define
    it. They, extremists, are far removed from the tenants of liberal democracy.
    I had considered reading some of Fukiyama’s books when I got the time.
    It’s always a pity when a brilliant mind loses its way. The neocons have
    a lot to answer for, and I hope the Chicago business throws a goodly
    number of them in jail.

  28. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I hope he does not make it to the next phase line.
    It reminds me a bit of the time in 1972 when I had the privelege of briefing William Westmoreland on a hard pressed day for the NVA and I told him that our colleagues in the 325th NVA Division were withdrawing with their usual skill behind rear guards in an attempt to withdraw across the Saigon River before we could crush them with air and artillery.
    He looked at me and said “you do hope we finish them, do you not?”
    “To the last man,” I replied.
    He nodded and left the room. Pat

  29. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I may be off, but I thought that Faulkner said somethig like that. pat

  30. searp says:

    The truly scary thing is that the Prez and his cohort seem to have swallowed this hopelessly naive, self-serving ideology hook, line and sinker. What does that say about our leadership?

  31. W. Patrick Lang says:

    No. What does it say about us? pl

  32. ked says:

    “It is an odd circumstance of extremes that the far-right and the far-left
    come together in the utter belief in their ability to lead their states through whatever means are necessary…” (John)
    ironic, but not odd – extremists seem equally prone to any alternative extreme position they stumble upon within their personal & historical context. let’s not forget Mussolini’s (among others) switch from Communism to Facism. Extremism is a type of “bad consciousness”, a disorder that should be clearly understood & treated as such.
    “What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world.” (Fuki)
    hmmm, a call for non-real ideas. that’s about as clear as it gets. will realists take action in defense of reality?
    Col Lang, at a difficult stage in our history, your blog offers some solace – thank you. I hope all “realists” take heart & action. This is a time for militant rationality.

  33. Serving Patriot says:

    You nail it in your question to searp (“What does it say about us?”).
    So very few Americans have been taught to really care about where the food, water, and electricity really come come from. I was once told that less than 5 Americans in 100 hold a passport – much less travel beyond the confines of North America. Instead, few appreciate today’s standard of living in America believing instead that it is just a “God” given right and thier due (for what?) to have a comfortable existance.
    Once we had a President that challenged American youth to enter the world and make it better. Now, a mediocre C- student who could not be bothered to discuss the Vietnam War while you were there leads that generation in controlling most every organ of civic power.
    Yep. It is our fault. And we are reaping the whirlwind we’ve sown.
    Well, I refuse to lie down and let that wind take my family and I away with it. I am starting with my kids – teaching and exposing them to the real world beyond America’s TV-inspired phoniness. And going beyond the basic education that teaches no civics, no history, and no critical thinking. I hope it is not too late. And I hope I don’t raise children who will be considered dangerous internal enemies for having experienced life beyond America’s shores and having been given the skills and temerity to critically analyze our politicians and call them on their misdeeds.
    Our continued national embrace of Fukyama’s poor scholarship and other academics theories of “American exceptionalism” will further alienate us from the growing powers in east asia and re-emerging powers in near asia.
    Maybe someday all of us foolish humans will remember we’re all in the big blue lifeboat together – and the last time I checked, there were no other avenues of escape.

  34. Eric says:

    After reading the grand theorizing of Prof. Fukiyama,
    I recalled two works I read about 40 years ago as a college student: Henry Adam’s “The Dynamo and the Virgin” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Celestial Railroad”
    Both are on the Web as E-texts and well worth reading. You can Google them.
    Also yesterday Anne Applebaum in the Post wrote about the 50th anniversary of Mr. K denouncing Stalinist excesses and how long it takes historical events to work themselves out.
    The NeoClown debacle might best be called Amateur Academic Adventurism.
    For individuals who largely holed up in academe during the 60s, it is remarkable to me how little they learned of history and critical thinking.
    Of course, I guess a chimpanzee could dabble in Marx and Hegel and come up with similar one-size-fits-all solutions to complex situations.

  35. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes we need a “well lighted space, where a man could stand up.”
    I dislike the left and the right about equally, but I would maintain that fascism and nazi-ism (pronounced nahzies as in Winston C.)(or the first “Producers” movie) are really marxist heresies. pl

  36. citizen k says:

    What I don’t get is why you don’t see the connection between General Westmorland and the neo-cons. To me, the rise of the neo-cons came as a reaction to defeat in Vietnam and too much democracy at home. Instead of trying to adjust a new world, the US elites took refuge in nostalgia and found hope in the neo-cons dim cheering for elite rule and feeding religion to the masses until they returned to a stupor.

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