The man who declared the ‘end of history’ now fearful of the very fate of liberal democracy -National Post

Standard

In the early 1990s, just after the end of the Cold-War, Francis Fukuyama argued that we had reached the “end of history”. He was not saying the world was coming to an end, but instead that liberal, capitalist democracy had emerged as the only accepted form of government. Fascism had been discredited by WWII and communism discredited by the collapse of the USSR. The liberal model was, so to speak, the last man standing.

His argument was controversial at the time. Many saw it as simple self-congratulatory American rhetoric. Others, like Samuel Huntington argued the new world order would be dominated by a clash of civilizations.

Now Fukuyama is himself questioning the future of liberal-democracy. Much of his concern is due to the election of Donald Trump. However, the problem is deeper then this, according to Fukuyama, and more widespread.

In part he argues it is a long-standing problem in American politics where “the Republican Party has gerrymandered districts and established what amounts to de facto one-party rule in parts of the country.”

In part, it is also globalization, which produces “internal tensions within democracies that these institutions have some trouble reconciling,” he said. Combined with grievances over immigration and multiculturalism, it created room for the “demagogic populism” that catapulted Trump into the White House.”

It is also present in Europe, where he argues the EU is “unraveling” and right-wing nationalism is on the rise.

He certainly is not arguing that liberal democracy is doomed, but his ideas about the nature of the international system have certainly changed:  “Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward,” said Fukuyama in a phone interview. “And I think they clearly can.”

The man who declared the ‘end of history’ now fearful of the very fate of liberal democracy

 

 

Ideology and US-Iranian Nuclear Negotiations -The Atlantic

Standard

Below are links to two articles from The Atlantic debating whether the US should negotiate a compromise with Iran concerning its nuclear program:

On the con side, we have David Brooks, who argues that Iran continues to be an actor driven by an extremist ideology. Rhetorically, he wonders if “Iran’s leaders really believe what they say. It could be that Iranian leaders are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are. It could be that Iran will be as destabilizing and hegemonically inclined as all its recent actions suggest.” Although he never uses the word “Munich” the Munich analogy is at the heart of his argument. Iran is Nazi Germany and he wonders why we have not learned from our mistakes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/opinion/david-brooks-converting-the-ayatollahs.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fdavid-brooks&_r=1

On the pro side, we have Peter Beinart, who argues that Iran is essentially a realist actor, driven by careful calculations of costs and benefits. It is fighting a regional cold war much in the same way that the US fought the Soviet Union, “Through its proxies, Iran is fighting a regional cold war. And like the United States, U.S.S.R., and China when they were fighting their global cold war, it is doing so in a distinctly non-suicidal way. Iran is seeking to extend its power without doing something so aggressive that it provokes retaliation that imperils the regime’s survival. Iran isn’t doing truly reckless things like invading a Saudi ally in the Persian Gulf or launching chemical or biological weapons at Israel, either directly or through its terrorist proxies. And it never has. This is a regime, after all, that accepted a UN-sponsored ceasefire rather than fight to the death against Saddam’s Iraq and that cooperated with the United States to depose the Taliban.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/03/irans-leaders-are-not-suicidal-nuclear-deal/386507/

There are a couple of things to note: First, both make interesting use of historical analogies to explain the current situation. Their analogies make sense in certain ways, but neither fits the current situation exactly. Iran’s political system does not function in the same way Nazi Germany did and the Middle East is not a two-power system being contested by nuclear powers. Secondly, both tend to see ideology in black and white terms. For Brooks it is everything, for Beinart it is nothing. As noted in an earlier post regarding the Islamic State, the role of ideology is often complex and subtle. Iran is neither the fanatical state Brooks paints it as, nor is it simply a realist state hiding behind Islamic symbolism, as Beinart suggests.

My thanks to Dr. Bill Wieninger of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, who passed these articles on to me.

p.s. here is a link to an article on the former US Embassy in Tehran which has been turned into a revolutionary museum. The murals on the outside wall are maintained on a regular basis, and there is a gift shop for tourists on the corner where you can by revolutionary memorabilia (Posters, Key chains etc…). The revolution will be merchandised.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/what-became-of-the-former-u-s-embassy-in-tehran/

What ISIS Really Wants -The Atlantic

Standard

The following article is a long, detailed discussion of ISIS’ ideology, how it influences their policies, and what the implications are for the West’s attempts to deal with the threat they pose.

“The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

There are a number of things to consider when reading this article. First, how accurate is the description of the groups ideology. Although the article does give a good account of how ISIS explains its ideological position, there have been critiques of the way the article deals with Islamic thought (see: http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/02/18/3624121/atlantic-gets-dangerously-wrong-isis-islam/).
Second, are ISIS’ goals derived from their ideology, or does ideology just provide legitimacy to mundane political goals after the fact.
Third, are there ideological schisms within ISIS and if so, what could they mean for ISIS’ policies? Ideological movements (communists in the USSR and Khomeini’s Islamist followers in Iran) looked monolithic at first but it did not take long before deep divisions became apparent. We actually know very little about what is happening inside of ISIS right now. It is possible that ideological divisions may lead to moderation, with soft-liners diluting the ideological zeal of the movement. But it is also possible that divisions will lead to more extreme behavior as competing factions try to out-bid each other for ideological legitimacy.
Fourth, there is a tendency to see ideologies as static, when in fact they may evolve over time. It may evolve because of internal divisions and debates. Or, it may evolve as the organizational needs of the movement change. Right now, ISIS is in its formative stages. The extremism and violence provides the group with an identity, improves solidarity and intimidates internal dissent.However, if ISIS survives over the long term, it will likely begin to function more and more like a regular state, with regular institutions etc… In the Iranian case, the day-to-day demands of running a state and keeping it safe had an important moderating effect on the ideology of the leadership. This may, or may not happen with ISIS.