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UPDATE: Who's failing? America or Neoconservatism?

Francis Fukuyama used to be one of the leading Neocons who promoted regime change in Iraq as early as 1998. Now the Johns Hopkins professor distances himself from other Neocons in his latest book: America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. To better sell his book in Germany, the publisher decided to use a more gloomy title: Scheitert Amerika? Supermacht am Scheideweg, which means "Is America Failing? Superpower at the Crossroads." While the US cover has a plain black background, the German cover depicts U.S. soldiers covered in dust and protecting themselves, primarily their ears. Thus for the German audience the book is advertised as being not about power, democracy and the neoconservative legacy, but whether America fails. Neoconservatism had a strong and negative influence on U.S. policy, but America obviously is much more than Neoconservatism or even the Iraq war.
Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute Berlin, reviewed Fukuyama's book in the German Tagesspiegel and made similar arguments on the different titles and covers. He is concerned that talkshow pundits will use Fukuyama's book to argue their cases, without having read his book past the first page.
Our related post: Conservative experts critical of Democratic Peace Theory.
Likewise, Newsweek appealed differently to the U.S. and the international audience.  After President Bush's second inaugural address, Newsweek's international edition included a good essay critical of U.S. foreign policy by Princeton's Andrew Moravcsik, which was excluded from the domestic edition although the real audience was not the readership abroad, but Americans at home: Dream On America.

UPDATE: Our reader David, who blogs at Dialog International, asked Professor Fukuyama to comment on the German title of his book and received this response from him:

I was taken by surprise by this title--they gave me a copy of the translation, but not that.  I agree that they're trying to play to current German anti-Americanism but it's unfortunately too late for me to do anything about it.


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tcobb on :

Despite the fact that the majority of Americans are of European descent, it amazes me that we seem, on a very fundamental level, to be incapable of understanding one another. Europeans often seem to be insulted because Americans simply don't seem to give a damn about what they think. There is much truth in this. But what they don't seem to realize is that this mindset applies within America as well. The citizens of the State of X really don't care AT ALL what the people from State B or State C think about their laws. And the same principle applies down to the local governmental levels. It is cultural. For the most part, most Americans just want to be left alone to pursue their own lives. Utopia for them is a personal vision, not a collective one. We tend to see ourselves more as autonomous individuals rather than as members of a collective unit. And to the extent that we are members of a community, we see no problem with seceding from the community and moving on whenever it suits our desire. Perhaps I am wrong but Europeans in general seem unable to grasp this concept. But if you can, and if you do, just imagine what such a world view would be like if it was reflected in the foreign policy of a nation. That nation is the US. We did not really want to be involved in World War I, nor did we want to be involved in World War II. After World War II, America essentially started a process of unilateral disarmament, which stopped and reversed when the Soviets engaged on a course of aggressive behavior. Does anyone remember what George Bush, who many consider now to be the new Hitler, was proposing prior to 9-11? Basically it was to shrink the US military and reduce our military presence in the world, because it was no longer needed after the fall of the Soviet Union. But then, just like at Pearl Harbor, some one pushed our buttons. This tends to be a mistake. If America truly was the dark evil empire that many people accuse it of they would not dare to utter such accusations. They would be stomped on like bugs. The fact that many of the fearless press can criticize America but fears to reprint cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed for fear of physical reprisal says much. The plain fact is that most Americans don't want to be engaged at all with the affairs of the world. They have no desire for empire, and they are really wholly indifferent as to whether the rest of the world loves them or hates them. They simply don't care, and have a hard time understanding why anyone would.

David on :

@Joerg, Have you read Prof. Fukuyama's book? I have, amd the German title is completely appropriate. The crux of the argument is that America will indeed fail if it continues to follow the course set by the Bush administration. Here's an idea. Rather than quoting the views of a right-wing war apologist (Jeff Gedmin) why not encourage everyone on this blog to read Prof. Fukuyama's book? Then let's come back in ten days or so and have a real discussion and debate on the ideas. "America at the Crossroads" is an important book that has major implications for the future of the Germany-US alliance.

Jorg on :

1. What does Fukuyama write about the likelihood that "America" will indeed "fail"? Why should this be the title of his book? For me "failure" is a big word. I am thinking about "state failures", which was the topic of a superficial Fukuyama book (State Buiding, governance, 21st century, blabla). 2. There are plenty of discussions on Fukuyama's book. [url][/url] Your posts are good: [url][/url] and [url][/url] You write in your post above: "But where was his voice in late 2002 when many of us were warning about what would happen with a unilateral US invasion of Iraq?" Wasn't he supporting the war because it was popular to support the war at that time? Fukuyama likes to write and say what is popular, just like this The End of History nonsense. Now, it is popular to criticize the Neocons... He is a prof, but he does not write scientific books. He does not contemplate much, but writes whatever is popular or Zeitgeist and changes his mind enormously when he writes the next book. I have read his "End of History" and I have read several essay. That's enough. If he would not make such bold statements. He would not need to change his mind so much so often. 3. If you think the German title is more appropriate, why did not they use the more gloomy version in the US? The only point I wanted to make was that the publishers appeal to the audiences. Apparently they think Americans can't stand the idea of their country "failing" => Thus a more positive title. The same with the Newsweek story. For German reader it has too be pretty gloomy to attract attention. So the criticism goes both ways. I don't know how common it is to have such different titles. (Perhaps it is more common than I think...?) However, I don't think Fukuyama would have wanted to use "failing" in the title. I am surprised that they did not use the word "Neocon" in the German title at all. After all there were so many popular debates about "Neocons." Everybody seems to have an idea of what Neocons are, what they did etc. Perhaps the publishers thought that Germans consider "Neoconservatism" dead and irrelevant, i.e. the book isn't as hot as it is in American. Therefore they had to consider whether America is failing. 4. The Neocons have not been the only ones, who got you into Iraq. 5. You write in your comment here: ""America at the Crossroads" is an important book that has major implications for the future of the Germany-US alliance." Do you think any die hard Neocon will listen to him? Will anybody else learn something new from Fukuyama?

David on :

I will try to get Professor Fukuyama's opinion of the German title and report back. I personally found the book pretty gloomy since he writes about how far off course we have gone as a nation. I am interested in your comment: "The Neocons have not been the only ones, who got you into Iraq." Whom else do you see as culpable for that strategic blunder?

Jorg on :

Thank you for contacting Fukuyama. I have skimmed the preface and the first chapter, which are available here: [url][/url] Re your question: Many politicians, civil servants, journalists. Most of them have not been Neocons. And they have not been fooled by Neocons, I believe. Fukuyama writes on p.16 that the connection of the Bush administration to neoconservatism is "often overstated and glosses over a more complex reality." Fukuyama does not consider Cheney and Rumsfeld to be Neocons. I did not see Fukuyama considering that America could fail. He does not seem to talk that much about America, but more about Neoconservatism, its history, and influence etc. I have not read the book and I have not read the preface and first chapter that thoroughly, thus I could be wrong. Are you saying Fukuyama seriously considers America's failure in his book?

David on :

I asked Professor Fukuyama to comment on the German title of his book, and here is his short but succint response: "I was taken by surprise by this title--they gave me a copy of the translation, but not that. I agree that they're trying to play to current German anti-Americanism but it's unfortunately too late for me to do anything about it." Francis Fukuyama

Manfred Heim on :

We all, like Herr Professor Fukuyama, must curse George Bush for permitting the great curse of our age--Islamist terror--to permeate our societies to where our women are raped, our cemetaries and places of worship defiled, our freedom of speech threatened, and anyone who challenges the muslim oppressors to be stabbed and shot down in the streed. We all must curse Bush for allowing this to happen to us.

Jorg on :

Fukuyama does not curse George Bush. I don't understand what your point is besides thinking that Pres Bush gets too much criticism for other people's faults.

Dr. Dean on :

The article of Gedmin gave me a good laugh. Gedmin is completely wrong.

joe on :

Dr Dean, Want to explain why you feel Gedmin is completely wrong?

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