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The Only Game In Town?

The leftist origins of neo-conservatism are frequently exaggerated but Joshua Muravchik is one of those neo-cons who really did cut his teeth in the radical left scene before heading rightwards – he was a member of the Young People’s Socialist … Read More

By / October 4, 2007

The leftist origins of neo-conservatism are frequently exaggerated but Joshua Muravchik is one of those neo-cons who really did cut his teeth in the radical left scene before heading rightwards – he was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League who has ended up at the American Enterprise Institute. It is perhaps not so surprising then,in his overview of the current state of neo-conservatism, for Commentary Magazine, which is a must-read defence of neo-conservative foreign policy (“the only game in town”), he addresses the old question of revolution from above or below. Francis Fukuyama has explained his disaffection from neoconservatism on the grounds that, in contrast to his own, “Marxist” approach to democratization, his former friends and allies had behaved like “Leninists.” By this he means to separate his analysis in The End of History and the Last Man (1992) from the policies to which that analysis seminally contributed. In writing about the “end of history,” Fukuyama now says, he was only attempting to discover the historical laws that, sooner or later, would lead all nations to democracy. But just as Lenin took matters into his own hands when he tired of waiting for Marx’s predicted revolution, so had the neoconservatives tried, fatally, to force the pace of democratization. Muravchik argues against Fukuyama by showing that many of the advanced democracies reached that stage not due to some historically inevitable process but as a result of intervention – sometimes military. “It turns out that we are all “Leninists,” he says. Fascinating though such a discussion is (and who could argue with the writer’s point?) it is disappointing that Muravchik does not go further into this analogy and address what is surely the fundamental question facing both neo-conservatives and liberal interventionists in the wake of the Iraq disaster, namely what if interventions in favour of democracy in the Middle East end up producing something even worse than the status quo?

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