History Still Ending

An article I’m a week behind on from Francis Fukuyama.  Here.  Entitled, “They Can Only Go So Far” the second, it takes a review of his earlier thesis about The End of History related to the recent Russian war in Georgia as a push back against the new (old?) neocon meme of The Return of History.

If this were the old Batman, this quotation would receive a KERPLOW!! to Kagan:

But while bullies can still throw their weight around, democracy and capitalism still have no real competitors. The facile historical analogies to earlier eras have two problems: They presuppose a cartoonish view of international politics during these previous periods, and they imply that “authoritarian government” constitutes a clearly defined type of regime — one that’s aggressive abroad, abusive at home and inevitably dangerous to world order. In fact, today’s authoritarian governments have little in common, save their lack of democratic institutions. Few have the combination of brawn, cohesion and ideas required to truly dominate the global system, and none dream of overthrowing the globalized economy.

On one hand he is says most autocrats run economic basket cases (see Mugabe & Chavez) while others do not necessarily have a guiding ideology or seek to overthrow the system (see China).

On the latter (and Russia):

If today’s autocrats are willing to bow to democracy, they are eager to grovel to capitalism. It’s hard to see how we can be entering a new cold war when China and Russia have both happily accepted the capitalist half of the partnership between capitalism and democracy. (Mao and Stalin, by contrast, pursued self-defeating, autarkic economic policies.)

And then this argument (which I have not seen before) on how the Beijing Consensus (so-called) may not be appropriate beyond East Asia:

But China’s development model works well only in those parts of East Asia that share certain traditional Chinese cultural values. In dynastic China, no checks and balances restrained the emperor’s power; instead, a sense of accountability was fostered by the moral education of rulers and by an elite bureaucracy that was oriented toward public service. That legacy lives on in a host of modernizing, developmentally minded leaders, from the Meiji aristocrats who founded modern Japan to more recent authoritarian rulers such as Park Chung-hee of South Korea, Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore — and the current leaders of China.

Here to me is a key point:

We should also not let the speculations about an authoritarian resurgence distract us from a critical issue that will truly shape the next era in world politics: whether gains in economic productivity will keep up with global demand for such basic commodities as oil, food and water. If they do not, we will enter a much more zero-sum, Malthusian world in which one country’s gain will be another country’s loss. A peaceful, democratic global order will be much more difficult to achieve under these circumstances: Growth will depend more on raw power and accidents of geography than on good institutions. And rising global inflation suggests that we have already moved a good way toward such a world.

Now all of that is to say that Fukuyama as a Hegelian quasi-techno economic determinist obviously emphasizes economics.  Something someone like Kagan completely dismisses–as he has no understanding of global capital or economics generally. It’s all statecraft, war, and nationalism.

I think Fukuyama overemphasizes how Russia and China give lip service to democracy.  They are full blown autocracies.  FF is aware that this presents a situation that is as he says both more safe and more dangerous:  safer in that everyone is bought into the system, more dangerous in that baddies have more cash than say the Soviets or Maoists.

Fukuyama is I’d still say however on the whole much more realistic even then this new supposedly realist strain of neoconservatism exemplified by Kagan.  Can’t be very realistic when it’s built, as Fukuyama says, on bad historical knowledge and has no understanding of the entire economic structure of the world today.  Again not to play the determinist here, but the idea that energy-economics is not involved, hugely and intrinsically involved (though not reducible to), is just plain nuts.

Fukuyama also uses Kagan’s own logic against him vis a vis Russia.  If you want to say Putin Russia is a revival of czarist 19th century Russia, ok–that means they were a regional power brought into the international system who (sadly) trounced some of their smaller neighbors/within their sphere of influence.

For such states, the way of course to defend themselves is not to make big weapons deals with the US as Sens. Graham and Lieberman argue for today with Georgia, but rather the state as global guerrilla model.
That changes Kagan’s equation completely given that second option was not even an option in a prior century.

Plus (h/t Thomas Barnett) we can see a longer term good (coming out of the bad) as South Ossetia and Abkhazia now headed more into the Core and out of the Gap as a result of the Russian invasion.

I’d have to look more into the Chinese/East Asia thesis. Intriguing but would need more of a sense of African contexts (which is where this is really if anywhere likely to take off).  Call it ethical realism, liberal internationalism, post-American world, whatever, but some basic realization that it is going to be a particularly amorphous, gray period in foreign policy.  Both safer and more tricky/dangerous as Fukuyama says.  And that Russia and China are autocracies and they do practice brutal violation of human rights but truth be told that is going on all over the world.  Sadly.  And you have to pick your battles.  And there is no way the battle to be had is Great Power Revival War.  Not with nuclear weapons in abundant supply.

Update I:  WTH, since I mentioned it, a montage for Wednesday:

Published in: on August 27, 2008 at 10:46 am  Leave a Comment  

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