I have been asked for this panel to reflect on the question of how the core ideas of the early 1990s on what the post-Cold War world would look like have held up over time, and how they relate to contemporary American foreign policy. The End of History has been juxtaposed to The Clash of Civilizations in countless introductory international relations courses as contrasting visions of global politics. By most accounts, the former posited that the world would see a growing zone of stable liberal democracy and integrating market capitalism—what has since been labeled globalization—while Huntington’s paradigm organized the world into conflicting zones with culture replacing ideology as the chief fault line.It is too bad that Sam Huntington can’t be here today since we actually disagree less on a lot of issues when talking in person than many people think. I remember talking to him after September 11 but prior to the Iraq war, which he opposed. He said that we were not engaged in a civilizational conflict at that point, but that the fight could escalate into one if we invaded Iraq. In this, he proved to be quite prescient. I also disagree less with Ben Barber than many might expect, since I think he is right that backlash against globalization and against American hegemony has become one of the defining characteristics of the present world. Because my thesis was always intended as a hypothesis rather than a definitive prediction, it is worth going through what has stood up over time and what needs to be modified. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the former President of Brazil, provided perhaps the best encapsulation of the hypothesis of The End of History in his recent memoir The Accidental President. In it, he describes a private meeting he had with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, leader of the Brazilian Workers Party, who ran against Cardoso unsuccessfully on two occasions. After the second loss in the 1998 election, Lula became even more radical and angry, and in the aftermath of the Asian economic crisis was expecting a breakdown of the global capitalist system. Cardoso, a man of the Left who flirted with Communism when younger and was one of the founders of dependencia theory, reports that he said the following:
“We were taught, years ago, to expect there would be a tremendous crisis, the uprising of a new society, a new political system, and the working class taking power. That is what I sense you are expecting. Still.“All that is gone, Lula. The Berlin Wall is gone. So is the Soviet Union. There is no historical alternative now. So if there is a crisis in Brazil, after that there will only be disaster.”1Fernando H. Cardoso, The Accidental President of Brazil: A Memoir (New York: Public Affairs, 2006). pp. 242-43.
This was the essence of the end of history: for any society that wanted to be modern, there was no alternative to a market economy and a democratic political system. Not everyone wanted to be modern, and not everyone could put in place the institutions and policies necessary to make democracy and capitalism work, but there was no systematic alternative approach that would yield better results. So in a sense, the validity of the end of history is tantamount to asking whether Cardoso was right in what he said to Lula.In my view, there is no question but that he was correct that there was no other option. Lula himself seems to have been persuaded of this, since he remained within a democratic, market-oriented framework when he finally assumed the presidency of Brazil in 2002. Cardoso in my view was a great democratic statesman who accomplished an extraordinary amount during his presidency. He stabilized the Brazilian macroeconomy and returned it to slow but steady growth; he redistributed substantial amounts of land to landless peasants; he contained the HIV/AIDS crisis; he initiated a number of social policies to open up greater opportunities for Brazil’s poor. On the other hand, the democratic nature of Brazil’s political system prevented him from carrying out reform of the pension system, or a more massive reallocation of resources away from the well to do to the poor, that would make a more significant dent in his country’s massive social inequalities. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, facing similarly entrenched inequalities, is breaking out of the checks and balances of a democratic political system and concentrating power around himself. Chavismo does represent a real alternative to the path taken by Cardoso and Lula, but it is one underwritten by high oil prices. It will not be available to resource-poor countries, and will not be sustainable in Venezuela itself over the long run. The twentieth century was full of experiments of this sort, but that experience in my view proves that Cardoso was right in the end. The End of History was finally a thesis about modernization. It is important to remember that the two largest countries in the world, China and India, which together contain more than forty percent of the globe’s population, are rapidly integrating into the global economy and modernizing at breakneck speed. Unlike India, China is doing this under an authoritarian political system. But it has accepted the basic capitalist rules of the game, so at least half of the formula is there. Chinese society is changing in many of the same ways that Western ones did under the impact of rapid modernization: extended families and kinship groups are giving way to smaller, nuclear ones; women are entering the work force and developing resources that they control; consumerism and access to information are expanding big time. The relationship between modernization and democracy is a complex one, but there are functional reasons why it is difficult to govern complex modern societies without feedback and accountability mechanisms, i.e., democracy.DEMOCRACY AND AMERICAN HEGEMONYMy thesis about the end of history has been linked by a number of people to the Bush Doctrine and American hegemony.2See for example the discussion by Stephen Holmes on OpenDemocracy.org. President Bush initially justified intervention in Iraq on the grounds of, first, its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, second, its alleged links to al-Qaida, and third, the regime’s violation of human rights and lack of democracy. As the first two justifications crumbled in the wake of the 2003 invasion, the administration increasingly emphasized the importance of democracy, both in Iraq and in the broader Middle East, as a rationale for what it was doing. Bush’s Second Inaugural contained the following language:
Some I know have questioned the global appeal of liberty, though this time in history—four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen—is an odd time for doubt.Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.
Bush argued that the desire for freedom and democracy were universal and not culture-bound, that Huntington’s Third Wave of democratization had not exhausted itself but in fact had yet to crest, and that America would be dedicated to the support of democratic movements “with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” Supporters of the war saw confirmation of their views in the ink-stained fingers of Iraqi voters who queued up to vote in the various elections held between January and December 2005, in the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, and in the Afghan presidential and parliamentary elections.Inspiring and hopeful as these events were, the road to liberal democracy in the Middle East is likely to be extremely disappointing in the near to medium term, and the administration’s efforts to build a regional policy around it are heading toward abject failure. Anyone who thinks that my ideas constitute the intellectual foundation for the Bush administration’s policies has not been paying attention to what I have been saying since 1992 about democracy and development. The Second Inaugural was of course political rhetoric, but there are at least four ways in which its underlying ideas need to be seriously qualified.What is universal or nearly universal is a desire to live in a modern society and to be free of tyranny. This is quite different from saying that there is a universal desire to live in a liberal society—that is, a political order characterized by a sphere of individual rights and the rule of law—since this type of “free society” is actually much rarer than a democratic polity. The universality of the desire to live in modern societies is demonstrated, in my view, by the efforts of millions of people each year to move from the developing to the developed world, where they hope to find political stability, job opportunities, health care, and education, all of which are lacking in the places from which they come. The desire to live in a liberal democracy is not in the first instance universal, but is something acquired over time, often as a byproduct of successful modernization. The desire to live in a modern liberal democracy does not translate necessarily into an ability to actually do so. The Bush administration seems to have assumed in its approach to post-Saddam Iraq that both democracy and a market economy were default conditions to which societies would revert once oppressive tyranny was removed, rather than a series of complex, interdependent institutions that had to be painstakingly built over time. Long before you have a liberal democracy, you have to have a functioning state (something that never disappeared in Germany or Japan after they were defeated in World War II), which is something that cannot be taken for granted in many developing countries, including Iraq. The End of History was never linked in my mind to a specifically American model of social or political organization. Following Alexandre Kojève, the Russian-French philosopher who inspired my original argument, I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States. The EU’s attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics through the establishment of a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a posthistorical world. Americans by contrast still believe in God and national sovereignty, love their military and Fourth of July parades. Finally, I never linked the global emergence of democracy to American agency, and particularly not to the exercise of American military power. Democratic transitions need to be driven by societies that want democracy, and since the latter requires institutions, it is usually a fairly long and drawn out process. Outside powers like the United States can often be very helpful in this process, primarily by the example they set as politically and economically successful societies. They can also provide funding, advice, technical assistance, and yes, occasionally military force to help the process along. But coercive regime change was never key to democratic transition. Proper understanding of the obstacles to earlier democratic transitions should have made the Bush administration much more cautious about expecting a quick and relatively painless transition in Iraq. James Dobbins has pointed out that Bosnia or another ethnically divided society would have been a better model to plan against than homogenous societies like Germany or Japan. President Bush on several occasions has dismissed arguments about cultural preconditions to democracy, and specifically whether Islam presented a special problem. In his 2003 address to the National Endowment for Democracy, he said “It should be clear to all that Islam—the faith of one-fifth of humanity—is consistent with democratic rule.” As a long-term proposition, he is undoubtedly right; there are functioning Muslim democracies in the world today like Turkey, Indonesia, or Mali. But the general proposition he attacks is also a straw man: the Muslim world is today populated by powerful Islamist organizations that in more extreme forms may or may not be democratic, but are definitely not liberal. This is not a problem in Latin America or most of East Asia and Africa, but it is a big near-term obstacle to liberal democracy in the Middle East. Why did the Bush administration make this mistake? We will not finally know until memoirs have been written and documents published. It would seem, however, that the rapid collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 had something to do with the expectation for a similarly quick end to Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. Rather than seeing the former as an historically unusual event (at least with regard to the speed and lack of violence with which the communist regimes ended), it was seen as an harbinger of a larger pattern—the four decade advance of freedom referred to by the President. That Iraq in 2003 would look something like Poland or Romania in 1989 was the only way one could explain the administration’s failure to plan more seriously for a long and potentially costly stay in Iraq.In addition to misunderstanding the potential difficulties of a democratic transition, the Bush administration put forward a coherent but ultimately misguided theory of the underlying causes of jihadist terrorism that became a central component of the administration’s foreign policy, particularly in the first year of the second term. The administration argued that the root cause of Islamist extremism was the lack of democracy in the Arab Middle East, and that the US could deal with the terrorism problem by encouraging a broad democratic transition in the region. It is likely in fact that the causality is exactly the reverse: it is modernization itself that stimulates terrorism, and democracy that allows political Islam to flourish. That is, jihadism grows out of the intense identity crisis brought about by modernization, whether through the uprooting of villagers and their urbanization in contemporary Middle Eastern societies, or through their transplantation to Western countries through migration. It is not an accident that so many terrorists or would-be terrorists were radicalized in Western Europe. Those migrants failed to be properly assimilated into the Western values and culture of the receiving countries, and were thus particularly susceptible to the appeal of an ideologized, universal religion. In this respect, what is going on today with radical Islamist movements is simply the most recent variant of a longstanding phenomenon, that produced earlier generations of anarchists, Bolsheviks, fascists, and left-wing terrorists. CONSEQUENCES OF AMERICAN HEGEMONYThe End of History was always intended to be a weak version of modernization theory. That is, there was an underlying technological-economic logic to development that made modernization a coherent process. But there were multiple paths to the same goal, and many ways in which the train could get derailed or go into reverse, as a result of the short-term political choices made by individuals, electorates, and social movements. One thing I did not anticipate at the end of the Cold War was the degree to which American behavior and misjudgments would make anti-Americanism itself one of the chief fault-lines of global politics. In addition to its failure to anticipate the difficulties of bringing about a stable democratic Iraq, the administration made four key mistakes with regard to its use of power. First, the doctrine of preemption devised in response to the September 11 attacks was inappropriately broadened to include Iraq and other so-called rogue states threatening to develop weapons of mass destruction. Vis à vis stateless terrorists wielding nihilistic weapons, preemption is fully justified. But it cannot be the core of a general non-proliferation policy, whereby the United States uses its military power to physically prevent the development of nuclear weapons. The cost of executing such a policy is simply too high (several hundred billion dollars and tens of thousands of casualties in Iraq and still counting), which is why the administration has shied away from military confrontations with North Korea and Iran. The Bush administration appears to have been influenced by the apparent success of Israel’s attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981, which set back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program by several years. It seems not to have realized, however, that the very success of Osirak meant that it would never happen again, as would-be proliferators learned to bury, hide, or duplicate their nascent weapons programs. The second important miscalculation concerned the likely global reaction to the exercise of hegemonic American power. Many people within the administration believed that the successful use of American power would be perceived by global opinion as legitimate ex post, even if the US was unable to secure ex ante approval through a mechanism like the UN Security Council or NATO. This had been the pattern for many US initiatives during the Cold War, and in the Balkans during the 1990s; back then, it was known as “leadership” rather than “unilateralism.” But by the time of the Iraq war conditions had changed: the United States had grown so powerful with regard to the rest of the world that the lack of reciprocity became an intense source of irritation to even America’s closest allies. The structural anti-Americanism arising from the global distribution of power was very evident well before the Iraq war, in the opposition to an American-led globalization during the Clinton years. It was exacerbated by the Bush administration’s in-your-face disregard for a variety of international institutions the year it came into office, a pattern that continued through the onset of the Iraq war. The third mistake was an overestimation of how effective conventional military power would be in dealing with the weak states and networked transnational organizations that characterize international politics, at least in the broader Middle East. It is worth pondering, given the theme of this year’s APSA Convention, why it is that a superpower that disposes of more military power than any other society in human history, and spends as much on its military as virtually the whole rest of the world combined, cannot bring security to a small country of 24 million people after more than three years of occupation. At least part of the problem is that it is dealing with complex social actors that are not organized into centralized hierarchies than can enforce rules, and can in turn be deterred, coerced, or otherwise manipulated through conventional power. Israel made a similar mistake in thinking that it could use its enormous margin of conventional military power to decisively destroy Hezbollah as a political player. Both Israel and the United States have manifested a nostalgia for a twentieth century world of nation-states, and have consistently interpreted the challenges they face in terms that are more state-centric than they really are—whether by linking al-Qaida to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or Hezbollah to Iran and Syria. This linkage does of course exist in the latter case, but the networked actors have their own social roots and are not simply pawns in a game played by regional powers. The nostalgia is understandable, since the kind of conventional power the United States and Israel possess is more useful in a world of nation-states. But the state-centric view of the world unfortunately does not fully conform to the reality of the early 21st century, and for that reason the exercise of power has become very frustrating.A final issue with regard to the Bush administration’s use of power concerns not strategy or doctrine, but simple competence and execution. For an administration that has set such ambitious goals of military and political transformation for itself, it has been remarkably incompetent in carrying out its own objectives. The administration misestimated the threat of Iraqi WMD; it failed to plan adequately for the occupation of Iraq; and then failed to adjust quickly when things went wrong. It failed to anticipate the consequences of its own push for Arab democracy, and to this day has let the ball drop on very straightforward operational issues like funding democracy promotion efforts inside Iraq.The administration’s incompetence in implementation should actually affect its strategic posture. It came into office arguing that it would act as a benevolent hegemon, using the tremendous margin of American power to fix problems like WMD, rogue states, terrorism, and human rights abuses as they came up. Even if the rest of the world saw American intentions as essentially benign, it could not look on with equanimity as Washington stumbled around, invading countries on mistaken premises and failing to clean up after itself. Many of the voices that called for war with Iraq are now calling for war with Iran. What makes them think that conflict with a larger and more resolute enemy will be handled any more competently than the last time around?As a result of these misjudgments, we now find ourselves in a very ironic position. At the end of the Cold War 17 years ago, America emerged as the sole superpower, and the power of democratic ideals and open economies looked poised to sweep everything before it. Globalization looked like an unstoppable force. Americans themselves were relatively united over the kinds of economic issues that used to drive Left-Right politics, and could afford the luxury of arguing over cultural issues related to family and gender roles. What we have today is a situation in which religion and to some extent nationalism has made a big comeback; globalization continues to be a powerful driver, but is under threat. America is widely reviled around the world, and supporters of Western-style democracy, particularly in the Middle East, have to explicitly dissociate themselves from the United States if they are to get any hearing. The “West” of the Cold War is deeply fractured. And Americans themselves are as sharply divided as they were towards the end of the Vietnam War period, disagreeing sharply not just over cultural issues but over America’s role in the world, and the society’s response to those who choose to come here to live. Since this is a room full of political scientists, I will leave you with the following question. Was this outcome, in which the world’s largest democracy undermined its own legitimacy as a bearer of democratic ideals, made inevitable by the lopsided distribution of power in the international system? That is, if America were an authoritarian superpower with no peer competitors, it could exercise hegemony quite consistently with its own internal sources of legitimacy. But a democracy in the same position will be challenged, and will face temptations to exercise its power with less and less restraint. A more even international distribution of power, even in a global system that was less than fully democratic, would not pose similar temptations, and would require the more prudent exercise of power. The American founding fathers believed that unchecked power, even when democratically legitimated, could be dangerous, and therefore created a constitutional system of internally separated powers to limit the executive. Such a system does not exist on a global scale today, and therefore may explain how we got ourselves into such trouble. 1Fernando H. Cardoso, The Accidental President of Brazil: A Memoir (New York: Public Affairs, 2006). pp. 242-43.2See for example the discussion by Stephen Holmes on OpenDemocracy.org.