…has ended, according to Walter Russell Mead.
I never thought much of this “end of history” stuff in the first place. Perhaps I didn’t quite get what Fukuyama was saying, but it seemed absurd to me. History may repeat itself and rhyme and all that (with no end in sight), but it also has a lot of tricks and black swans up its voluminous sleeves.
Here’s a clarification of some common misunderstandings of what Fukuyama was writing about in 1992 what he declared “history” to be at an end:
The most basic (and prevalent) error in discussing Fukuyama’s work is to confuse “history” with “events”. Fukuyama claims not that events will stop occurring in the future, but rather that all that will happen in the future (even if totalitarianism returns) is that democracy will become more and more prevalent in the long term, although it may suffer “temporary” setbacks (which may, of course, last for centuries).
Some argue that Fukuyama presents “American-style” democracy as the only “correct” political system and argues that all countries must inevitably follow this particular system of government. However, many Fukuyama scholars claim this is a misreading of his work. Fukuyama’s argument is only that in the future there will be more and more governments that use the framework of parliamentary democracy and that contain markets of some sort.
I don’t see why, and the last five years has only deepened my skepticism, although I hope Fukuyama was right.
But let’s get back to Mead, who has a gloomy point of view about current history (is that an oxymoron?), one that I share:
Iran should be giddy with joy; pro-administration commentary from the White House and its media allies has focused on the nuclear technicalities to paint the deal as a success, but there is no disguising the immense diplomatic gains that Tehran made…After the nuclear deal came more joy for Tehran; as the New York Times reports, morale is flagging and unity is fraying among the Syrian opposition even as Butcher Assad’s ground forces continue to grind out more gains…President Putin, meanwhile, is giving hearty thanks for one of Russia’s biggest successes since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Kremlin is high-fiving its stunning, come-from-behind victory as Ukraine said a polite “No thank you” to the European Union’s offer of an economic association agreement…Putin may not be able to hold onto his prize, but for now he can justly boast of having outwitted and bested the EU on one of the biggest issues of the day.
The entire piece as worth reading, as Mead goes on to analyze why the US is failing to look out for its own strategic interests and what should be done about it. He believes that time is of the essence, and that “the longer we wait, the harder and more urgent our task will become.” Nowhere in his essay, however, does he seem to acknowledge that our losses during the Obama administration just might have been both strategic and intentional, and that those in charge may be deliberate rather than naive.