The fiasco in Iraq was predictable, and so was the defection of Francis Fukuyama from the neo-conservative camp. There have always been two Francis Fukuyamas: the ideologue who elevated the fleeting moment of American supremacy at the end of the Cold War into the end of history, and the sober policy analyst who for many years produced research papers for the Rand Corporation and other think tanks on subjects such as democratic transition in South Africa and the political prospects of the post-Brezhnev Soviet Union. As a realistic analyst, Fukuyama seems always to have harboured doubts about regime change in Iraq, and as the country descended into chaos it was to be expected that the analyst would at some point take over from the ideologue.
Fukuyama's theory of the end of history has not had a good press, but he continues to defend it in After the Neo-Cons. Like all prophets who have had to suffer the mockery of history, he insists he has been misunderstood. He has often protested that when he declared that history had ended, he was not telling us that there would be no great conflicts in the future - only that one type of government would be legitimate.
In his new book he reaffirms his belief that American-style "democratic capitalism" embodies the only viable model of modern society, which the rest of the world must adopt. He is at pains to distinguish this view from the " Leninist" stance of the Bush administration, which believes it can accelerate the Americanisation of the world by force of arms. Rather like Trotsky, who imagined the Soviet Union could be the centre of a worldwide proletarian revolt, the neo-cons in the Bush administration believe the US can promote a "global democratic revolution" that will spread American values everywhere.
Fukuyama criticises the administration because he thinks its foreign policy has retarded this process of Americanisation. He is surely right that it has triggered a global blowback against US power, and it is refreshing to have an erstwhile neo-con attack the "global democratic revolution" as a right-wing version of Leninism.
Yet Fukuyama remains wedded to some of the most dubious features of neo-con ideology. He continues to hold to a view of history as leading to the universal triumph of an American model, and seems still to share the neo-conservative view that democracy is bound to promote peace.
Fukuyama writes that regime change in Iraq could have been better justified as preventing Saddam acquiring nuclear weapons. He appears not to have considered the possibility that a democratic Iraq might also seek to acquire WMD. Military intervention to overthrow an unpalatable regime will not stop proliferation. Indeed, it could well accelerate the spread of WMD, as other states hurry to protect themselves against American attack.
After the Neo-Cons is not so much a critique of neo-conservatism as another version of it, and while effectively criticising the delusional world-view that governs the White House it continues to promote some of the most dangerous neo-con illusions. Even so, it deserves to be widely read - not least by the political class in this country. British politicians should heed Fukuyama's view that comparing the "War on Terror" to the world wars or the Cold War "vastly overstates the scope of the problem" and take seriously his warnings of the dangers of Leninist foreign policy.
Tony Blair is beyond redemption, but perhaps Gordon Brown and David Cameron should acquaint themselves with Fukuyama's latest thoughts - if only to prepare themselves for the next mess the Bush administration gets us into.
John Gray is the author of 'Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern' (Faber)
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies