What Is Neoconservatism? Why Fukuyama’s 2006 Book Is Worth Re-Visiting

I don’t have any knowledge of Egypt, and won’t comment, but one of the related issues that is back on the table is neoconservative foreign policy.  A few years ago I wrote a review-essay on that topic, Goodbye to All That: A Requiem for Neoconservatism, for my school’s international law journal.  It reviews two books from that time, Francis Fukuyama’s After the Neocons, and Peter Beinart’s The Good Fight.

Of those two books, Fukuyama’s remains highly relevant – and in retrospect, I believe that, while always impressed by his explanation and critique of neoconservative foreign policy, I was too tough on Fukuyama’s prescriptions for a sort of chastened idealism.  Beinart’s book has turned out to be not of lasting value, and in retrospect should have been left as the article that gave rise to it.

But the review-essay, which did not attract much attention when it appeared – partly because people were worn out with the debate, and partly because people don’t read law review articles, especially book reviews – seems to me suddenly relevant again.  If only on account of its discussion for how neoconservatism should be defined, its traits and features, and how what we call neocon foreign policy differs so radically from what the term neocon means in the domestic policy context.  It is somewhat peculiar, as Fukuyama notes, that while neoconservative domestic policy emerged as a movement that asked about the unintended consequences and incentives created by various government efforts at social engineering – hard headed realism in its aim – neoconservative foreign policy is a distinctive form of idealism.

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