Fukuyama: 'Europe's 'soft force' disappears outside its borders'

Article published on March 19, 2007
Article published on March 19, 2007

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Francis Fukuyama talks geopolitics as the 4th anniversary of the start of the second Iraqi war rounds up on March 20th

The war in Iraq which saw Europe once again divided in 2003 'is no reason to alter the traditional relationship between the US and Europe,' according to Francis Fukuyama, 54-year-old Chicago-born thinker. He is best-known for his book The End of History and the Last Man (Free Press, 1992). Unlike former colleagues such as former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Fukuyama opposes the policy of favourite alliances between the US and Europe, to the exclusion of others. He does, however, think that Europe has a fundamental problem of collective action and doubts that a true political union will happen.

It is impossible to classify Fukuyama, despite his links with the US neo-liberal right. In the mid-nineties, the International Economics professor at Washington's Johns Hopkins University was firmly positioned within the neo-con movement, but then distanced himself from the Iraqi war in 2003. Then in 2004, he refused to support President Bush in his election campaign. In 2006, Fukuyama published a new book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale, 2006). Here, in spite of reiterating the validity of the ultimate goals of neo-conservatism – that is to say the triumph of liberal democracy around the world – the political economist showed himself to be against the excessive use of military force to achieve said goal, as the US is doing.

The EU in the Labyrinth of the Middle East

Fukuyama has spent a long time analysing the reconstruction of failed status. Lebanon is an example of a country under construction whose situation worsened considerably last summer with the war between Israel and terrorist group Hezbollah. It was the EU who offered to lead a UN military presence to establish the border with Lebanon after the withdrawal of Hezbollah. Fukuyama was full of praise for the 'courage of the Europeans' in offering to intervene in such an explosive situation.

But he remains sceptical regarding the long-term success of the mission. 'Hezbollah's guerrilla war has been weakened - but not eliminated. From a propagandist point of view, it is stronger than ever. Furthermore, while Hezbollah may have retreated from the southern border, it has not disarmed, which continues to make Israel nervous.' Bearing in mind that the UN’s authority does not stretch to disarming Hezbollah, Fukuyama remains convinced that 'there will be further outbreaks of violence.'

For Fukuyama, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a key factor in the last war in Lebanon, but not its only cause. 'Its resolution would not be enough to stabilise the region.' What’s more, a 'deal between Israel and Palestine would make life difficult for many extremist groups, including Hezbollah, who would be prepared to continue using violence.' Saying this does not prevent the professor from recognising, in open contradiction to his old neo-con colleagues – uncompromising defenders of the relationship between the US and the Hebrew state – that siding so openly and closely with the Israelis in their war against Lebanon does the US no favours.

Neither realpolitik nor multilateralism

Fukuyama recognises the successes of the EU’s 'foreign policy' which employs 'soft force' (via political, economic and cultural influence), rather than the 'hard force' of military action, as favoured by the US. In his opinion, the 'perspective of unification with the EU has allowed a peaceful transformation of old Communist Europe.' Still, he believes that this European approach would not succeed in other places, particularly the Middle East, where there is no incentive for creating a sense of community: 'Outside Europe, soft force evaporates, despite humanitarian ventures in Africa and other continents.'

Fukuyama’s rejection of the neo-con and military policies of Bush’s administration converts him neither into a Euro-style multilateralist, reluctant in principal to use force, nor a traditional realist, concerned only with maintaining the stability of the international system. 'Realism is only concerned with relationships of power. It minimises the importance of so-called internal affairs of states, such as the human rights abuse and the lack of civil liberties. Then again, multilateralism cannot function effectively within the current set-up of the UN, which is not equipped to deal with the problems we face today.'

Finally, Fukuyama also rejects the 'clash of civilizations' theory, since 'national identity is more important than belonging to a civilisation: it’s only Islamic extremists who believe themselves to part of a different civilisation.'