December 9th, 2013

The end of history…

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.

33 Responses to “The end of history…”

  1. parker Says:

    “…those in charge may be deliberate rather than naive.”

    Well, they are not naive so therefore they must be…..

  2. rickl Says:

    I probably didn’t read Fukuyama’s whole article, but I remember thinking it sounded pretty absurd at the time.

    I think he has been proven wrong, though. The dominant political/economic system in the world today is not free market democracy, but corporatism, also known as fascism.

  3. Mike Says:

    History, as the West understands it (which is the “history” everyone means when they say “history”) is a religious concept – The Judeo-Christian one in particular.

    No one else had history, not even the Greeks. They had books about great leaders and battles and such.

    All other so-called history was either tribal mythology or some version of Hinduism as the religion of Eternal Returns.

    Not only is there nothing new under the sun; nothing should be new!

    When religion dies in the West – which it can’t but it seems to be dying now – so will history “end”.

    And when history ends, if it ever did, it will be horrible, a return to barbarism that even Nietzsche would have shrunk in fear from.

    Fukyama, like almost all contemporary intellectuals, has an narrow and shallow understanding of his own field. He cannot give a full account or even close since he on principle leaves out the most important element in the thin he is supposed to be expert on, history.

    Sorry, in the Land of the Blind the one-eyed man is King. I have the one good eye. These days even cripples run faster than all-stars because they know what feet are and the runners don’t/

  4. Matt Harris Says:

    The link goes to the IRS article at Hot Air, not Walter Russe; Mead’s.

  5. KLSmith Says:

    Neo: both links are going to Hot Air.

  6. KLSmith Says:

    My recollection of the time was the debate over who was right:
    Fukuyama or Samuel Huntington ( Clash of Civilizations). I believe Fukuyama conceded that Huntington was more correct.

  7. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “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.”

    Which is why he opines about what ‘should’ be done about it, as if with Obama and the dems in charge, anything substantive can be done about it.

    It never fails to amuse and frustrate me when pundits opine about “what should be done” as if the left is going to say, oh! ok, your reason persuades us…now we see the light!

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the bad links.

    They’re now fixed.

  9. KLSmith Says:

    WRM voted for The Lightbringer in 2008. Anyone know if he repeated that mistake in 2012?
    He has written some good articles on the failure of the blue-state model and a good criticism of Al Gore as the climate change messenger.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    God is just going to push the Reset button on this universe once the simulation runs its course. This what people do of their own free will, doesn’t matter any more. Do what you think is useful or good.

    If you end up nuking DC, I won’t say anything about it at least.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    WRM is an intellectual. People with high IQs or educational levels, are easier to propagandize and control.

    One person responded to that by saying Ivy Leaguers aren’t real intellectuals, just fake credentials.

    Well, WRM isn’t fake exactly, now is he.

    The smarter you are, the more difficult it is to train your inherent psychological resistance to mind control.

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    When pundits opine about what should be done, they are seeking to convince good intentioned liberals, what some would call such at least. That’s no different a position than what some here hold.

  13. Eric Says:

    Professor Fukuyama could have been right. His error was in assuming the decisive contests were decided and we would sustain throughout this historical epoch the spiritual mettle and social and economic fundamentals that underwrote our WW2 and Cold War victories.

    In meeting the challenge of 9/11, Bush rose as a worthy liberal successor of Wilson, FDR, Truman, Ike, and Kennedy and championed the brand of American liberalism and leadership of the free world that he inherited as American President.

    But We the People undermined Fukuyama’s assumptions about us by choosing to reject our American liberal heritage and leadership of the free world.

    From my blog:

    In response to 9/11, the US could have pulled back from the Middle East, supported greater repression in the Middle East, or promoted greater freedom in the Middle East.

    President Bush also could have reacted to 9/11 with a narrow focus on hunting down and killing terrorists, like President Obama’s drone-centered campaign. (Bush used hunter-killer drone killings, too, but as one tool in the toolbox, not the centerpiece of his counter-terror strategy.) However, President Bush understood punishment and revenge did not amount to a big-picture, long-term solution.

    Instead, the centerpiece of President Bush’s big-picture, long-term response to 9/11 was revitalizing the American grand promise that animated the “free world” after World War 2. When he officially declared America’s entry into the War on Terror on September 20, 2001, President Bush announced a liberal vision on a global scope and warned of a generational endeavor:

    Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. . . . But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows. . . . This is not, however, just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom. This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom. . . . As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world.

    President Bush’s liberal view of the American response to the 9/11 attacks aligned with President Clinton’s liberal view of the American response to Saddam’s noncompliance:

    In the century we’re leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community; fear and hope. Now, in a new century, we’ll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past — but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace. Tonight, the United States is doing just that.

    President Bush understood the obstacles and the ambitious scale of the aspiration. He recognized that a patiently assisted, controlled transition would be necessary for liberal reform to succeed in the Middle East:

    For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability, and much oppression. So I have changed this policy. In the short-term, we will work with every government in the Middle East dedicated to destroying the terrorist networks. In the longer-term, we will expect a higher standard of reform and democracy from our friends in the region. Democracy and reform will make those nations stronger and more stable, and make the world more secure by undermining terrorism at it source. Democratic institutions in the Middle East will not grow overnight; in America, they grew over generations. Yet the nations of the Middle East will find, as we have found, the only path to true progress is the path of freedom and justice and democracy.

    I observed in a January 2005 post:

    Whether or not George W. Bush is doing a good job of the Presidency, I have to respect his decision in the War on Terror to make a try for it – [Francis Fukuyama's] the End of History. It is revolutionary and will either result in America’s finest hour or the beginning of the end.

    President Bush positioned America to provide assistance for liberal reform, but he couldn’t achieve his idealistic liberal vision alone. American liberals needed to become magnificent again and rally around Bush as he advanced the Freedom Agenda along with peace operations in Iraq to spark and empower a pluralistic liberal movement in the Middle East. Liberals over here needed to buy in to Bush’s goals in order to convince liberals over there to buy in. They could not fairly be expected to trust the liberal intentions of the American president when American liberals refused to trust him, and worse, discredited and actively worked to undermine his agenda. Much of the anti-American propaganda in the Middle East was drawn from anti-Bush and anti-OIF misinformation legitimized by liberals in the West. Outside of Iraq, a few Middle East liberals recognized the lost opportunity of rejecting America’s help, but most of them didn’t trust Bush. Instead, when the liberals in the region attempted the “Arab Spring” revolution on their own, the result was predictable.

    President Bush gave us the opportunity to reaffirm that we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, & our sacred Honor in order to battle the regressive challenge to our hegemony and make the world a better place. Instead, Bush’s detractors used the opportunity to attack Bush with a false narrative in order to advance their own parochial partisan self-interests at the expense of the Iraq mission, our national interest, and a progressive world order.

    Our peace operators – military, non-military, and contracted civilian – have been magnificent. But the rest of us shrank from President Bush’s idealistic liberal vision. We the people let down our President, we let down our American heritage, and we let down the world. Rather than rise to the challenge of 9/11 with America’s finest hour, we chose the beginning of the end.

  14. sergey Says:

    This famous article of Fukuyama was full of caveats that were overlooked or ignored in general atmosphere of euphoria after collapse of communism, but actually he was much more sober than majority of his followers and critics, too.

  15. Eric Says:

    sergey,

    If the present course continues, the history will show we weren’t defeated. We surrendered. Not that it makes a difference.

  16. sergey Says:

    Not surrendered, but betrayed by turncoats and Five Columnists.

  17. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Heard Fukuyama speak once, and I thought that the guy was a dunce.

  18. Don Carlos Says:

    WRM is trying to figure out “why”, sans success? Ergo, he is useless.
    I stopped reading him some time ago.

  19. NeoConScum Says:

    Amen, N-Neocon. Obama and his very tight-closed Inner Circle know WTF they’re doing and are dedicated to bringing Liberty down and putting Equality up. NOT what the Founders built. Valarie Jarrett is no dummy, but she IS a hard left ideologue.

    The great French Medievalist, Marc Bloch, gave the best brief definition of History I’ve ever read: ‘History is the study of man in time. Time being a continuum and continual change.’

    His historiography ‘handbook’ is, I believe, still in print from Vintage: “The Historian’s Craft: Reflections on the Nature and Uses of History and the Techniques and Methods of Those Who Write It”.

  20. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Obama and his very tight-closed Inner Circle know WTF they’re doing and are dedicated to bringing Liberty down and putting Equality up.” NeoConScum

    I agree, Obama and his closed Inner Circle are clearly dedicated to their strategic goals, which requires the suspension of liberty and elimination of the individual’s inalienable rights. Though Obama et al are somewhat inept at tactics, no doubt due to a lack of real-world experience.

    But…they are NOT serious about “putting Equality up” all the left’s rhetoric about ‘equality’ is a tactic designed to assist in the “fundamental transformation” of America into ‘The United Socialist States of Amerika’.

    Both socialism and communism result in a privileged elite and the poor. Communism does so quickly, socialism incrementally as greater entitlement requires the oppression of the productive. Once the socialist elite “run out of other people’s money”, the transition to full communism occurs.

  21. Don Says:

    WRM is an intellectual. People with high IQs or educational levels, are easier to propagandize and control.

    One person responded to that by saying Ivy Leaguers aren’t real intellectuals, just fake credentials.

    Well, WRM isn’t fake exactly, now is he.

    The smarter you are, the more difficult it is to train your inherent psychological resistance to mind control.

    I disagree. IQ isn’t the problem. “Intellectuals” generally have high IQs, but many other people have high IQs but are less likley to be duped.

    I notice that smart people with solid practical experience tend to be hard to dupe. People who are smart, but lack practical experience and who have marionated in leftist thought are easy to dupe.

    One example I can think of was Esquire magazine, which managed to convince itself that Obama was smart and Bush (who flew F-102s and managed an oil rig, among other things) was stupid. The characters who write for the likes of Esquire are young, smart, and educated, but I doubt one of them has done as much as managed a McDonald’s, replaced a transmission, or flown an F-102.

  22. American.rebel Says:

    beautiful little diversion/education:

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/12/10/bruno-leoni-institute-video-celebrating-leonis-100th-birthday/

    As the alternative to Mandela hype.

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    Eric:

    I think you are correct.

    Bush misjudged the American people.

    Let’s hope Obama also misjudged them, in the opposite direction. I’m not at all sure he did, however.

  24. NeoConScum Says:

    GeoffreyB…Agreed. I meant “Equality” in the sense that the Left uses it. Not(horrors!!)’Equal Justice Under the Law’ as our freedom loving founders intended. Thus, all the unending blather on “Social Justice” and “Fairness”..ie.The Left’s meaning of Equality. I’ve studdied for decades the horrendous costs of that crap when applied by communist in the 20th Century: 100+Million corpses. And the old CPUSA and contemporary(cough)Liberals call themselves “Progressives”.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    Equality=Slavery to use one 1984 phrasing.

    Slavery=equality

  26. parker Says:

    I’m just waiting for the sun to burn out and the end of history as we know it. ;-)

  27. Eric Says:

    Neo: “I think you are correct. Bush misjudged the American people.”

    Bush’s choices in response to 9/11, including on Iraq, were squarely within the “city on a hill” vision of America as leader of the free world. Bush didn’t, and neither did Clinton at first, realize that Kennedy and Reagan’s America had been replaced by Kerry and Obama’s America.

    FYI, it says on my screen that the comment to which I believe you responded is awaiting moderation.

  28. neo-neocon Says:

    Eric:

    You’re right; it was in moderation for some reason (perhaps the length???). I just approved it and it’s showing now.

  29. Eric Says:

    Neo,

    Thanks. I think the comment was suspended in moderation due to its length, too. I knew it was long and considered an excerpt, but I decided keeping the parts intact better showed the point of view of one (this) liberal connecting Professor Fukuyama’s theory to President Bush’s choices.

    If you hadn’t approved the comment, well, it’s your house, but I didn’t think you’d respond to a comment you decided not to publish.

  30. neo-neocon Says:

    Eric:

    Every now and then I off a comment, but it’s usually for something quite offensive. I don’t do it lightly.

  31. Ymarsakar Says:

    Eric, it’s in moderation because it has more than 2 html links in it.

  32. Ymarsakar Says:

    If IQ isn’t the core fundamental issue, but experience is, then how do you explain how all the intellectual conservative writers all happen to be on one side obeying their authorities and experts here?

    http://gatesofvienna.net/2013/08/yet-another-circular-conservative-firing-squad/

    Certainly some of those conservative writers and “thinkers” should have been able to own businesses and experience life outside the Ivory Tower. And yet they act indistinguishable from what we might term Democrat voters and marks to be conned.

    This is no longer merely a correlation of convenience.

  33. Eric Says:

    Ymarsakar,

    Thanks.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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