Fukuyama vs. Taki on WWI

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A demonstration of the difference — some of the difference — between paleos and neocons can be found in comparing this article by Taki with this one by neoconservative guru Francis Fukuyama.

Note that Taki and Fukuyama agree on the details. Had the Germans won World War I there would have been no Russian Revolution, no World War II, no Hitler, no Holocaust, no Cold War. Instead of all that, a mild form of 19-century imperialism would have persisted and Germany would have been a cultural and military world power. Taki likes the idea; Fukuyama doesn’t.

Fukuyama writes: “A German century may have been peaceful and prosperous, but in the social sphere it also would have been stratified, corporatist and ultimately based on racial and ethnic hierarchy — a world made safe for South Africa.” This is something of a slander on the German national character, but assume its true. Was apartheid really worse than world war? In neoconservative ideology, it was.

But it’s “advancing democracy,” not fighting racism, that is Fukuyama’s primary concern. Supposedly the atrocities of the 20th century brought about “advances…critical to modern democracy.” That includes the Internet and other fruits of military research, but above all war “brought to power working class parties in Britain, France and other countries, laying the basis for expanded political participation and the modern welfare state.” Without World War I there would have been no socialism. As Taki puts it, “socialism, the great cancer that has befallen us, would have remained a dream among hirsute intellectuals on the Left Bank of Paris.”

Neoconservatives profess allegiance to “democractic capitalism,” but the “democracy” matters much more to them than the “capitalism,” as Fukuyama’s piece suggests. If there’s a substantial difference (rather than one of degree) between neoconservatives and social democrats, I can’t tell you what it is. Except perhaps that the neocons are even more eager for war.

Even socialism aside, what kind of case can anyone even nominally on the right make for democracy? Fukuyama doesn’t make a case, he simply assumes that his readers (Wall Street Journal readers) take the worth of democracy for granted. In explicitly left-wing circles this would not be controversial, but the traditions of the right have always been critical of democracy. The Framers of the constitution specifically avoided creating a democracy. Perhaps a right-wing case for democracy can be made, but neoconservatives like Fukuyama don’t make it, they take it for granted.

One could say more, but Taki’s and Fukuyama’s articles speak for themselves. The reader can see for himself how each writer represents his ideology, and decide for himself who’s right.

Daniel McCarthy [send him mail] is a graduate student in classics at Washington University in St. Louis.

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