US Must Balance Hard Power With Soft Power
Francis Fukuyama is the famed author of The End of History and the Last Man. His forthcoming book focuses on the history of nation-building by the United States. He spoke with NPQ editor Nathan Gardels on March 24.
NPQ | After 9/11 we all understand that out of failed states like Afghanistan come terrorists like Al Qaeda. Is that why the focus of your new book is on state building—the long-term antidote to terrorism?
FRANCIS FUKUYAMA | For me, the issue goes beyond terrorism arising from failed states to the broader problem of why the rest of the Third World outside of East Asia—from Latin America to Africa to the Middle East—has been unable to develop. The old answer was that the non-developing countries just needed a new set of free market policies—“the Washington consensus”—and then they’d be on the road forward. That is only true for India, the one case where functioning self-governing institutions are in place, but until recently, their economic policies have been counterproductive. With market liberalization, India is now poised to take off in the next 20 years just like China.
The truth of the matter is that the real problem for most of the Third World is more political—bad institutions and bad governance. That has been the underemphasized aspect of development theory. Development requires governance first of all. By that I mean the core functions of a society that cannot be privatized and done by the market or outsourced—providing the rule of law, protection of property rights, protection of individual rights, physical security, infrastructure. The dominant problem in the Third World is not too much government, but not enough government or no government at all.
For the promise of “the end of history” to come true, competent self-governing institutions have to come into being. That is why state building is important.
NPQ | Mustn’t a state be democratic to develop?
FUKUYAMA | Well, before you have democracy you have to have government. Period. You have to have a functioning state that can, first of all, provide security and the economic basics. It can be authoritarian and still develop. Most of East Asia has done well under authoritarian governance. It is only over the longer term as the society grows more prosperous and there are greater social demands for participation that not having democracy becomes problematic from a development standpoint.
The cutoff is usually about $6,000 per capita. At that point a country has usually transformed itself from an agricultural, raw-materials-exporting country to a largely urban, industrialized one.
Then, people are less willing to tolerate an authoritarian government. Not to have a democracy then becomes destabilizing because democracy is the basis of legitimacy in modern societies. We see this in Hong Kong today, where the per capita income is far beyond the cutoff point at about $25,000.
NPQ | Just as Marx thought industrialization had to precede socialism, for you competent government must come before democracy?
FUKUYAMA | Yes.
NPQ | The United States is trying state-building in Iraq. Where does that stand?
FUKUYAMA | The reason there is so much trouble in Iraq is that the US did not anticipate how the state would just collapse when Saddam fell. There was a vacuum of sheer administrative capacity. The people who could connect the phones, get the water running, the oil flowing and, most of all, provide physical security just weren’t there.
Though the disappearance of police is a universal condition of most post-conflict situations, the Bush administration completely failed to anticipate that, and it should have.
NPQ | How much can a distant foreign power do in terms of state-building? If the US can’t even get little Haiti on the right track, how can it bring good governance and democracy to Iraq and the entire Middle East?
FUKUYAMA | I don’t think it can. That is why I was not very enthusiastic about undertaking the Iraq war in the first place. The historical record shows that where state-building has been successful—Germany, Japan, South Korea—American forces have stayed for at least two generations, that is 40 or 50 years. Those countries where the US has stayed five years or less—Haiti is a good example—have not had any lasting change or are worse because of US intervention.
If we had gone into Iraq with the understanding it would take that level of commitment, we might accomplish something. That is not the case. The Bush administration’s lack of planning underscores the lack of seriousness with which the war was undertaken.
Nonetheless, we have to realize there are periodically times when it is in the US, and indeed global, interest to undertake the right kind of state-building commitment.
NPQ | By justifying the war on the basis of eliminating mass destruction weapons that weren’t there instead of on rebuilding the Middle East, doesn’t the US now lack the legitimacy to fulfill the political objective for which its military might paved the way?
FUKUYAMA | That is absolutely right. Without a buy-in by the American public, the whole state-building project is unsustainable. Typically what happens is that we get enthusiastic about the military intervention, and then interest wanes after a couple of years. The real problems begin to set in around year four or five after the intervention, usually in another presidential cycle with a president from another party who wasn’t an architect of the policy.
This is what happened in Nicaragua. The US ﬁrst went in there in 1927, but then was out by 1934 after the 1932 election. Roosevelt felt it wasn’t his war. More recently, Bush felt that intervention and nation-building in Haiti were Clinton’s policies, not his.
Enduring change in Japan, Germany and South Korea came as a result of bipartisan strategic consensus over decades. We don’t have that in Iraq.
NPQ | After the Madrid terrorist attacks, (German Chancellor) Gerhard Schroeder, (French President) Jacques Chirac and (EU High Representative) Javier Solana all said that terrorism couldn’t be fought by military means alone, but by development in the Third World. Indeed, the EU security strategy calls for anticipatory or “preventive engagement” in contrast to the US strategy of “preemptive war.” Isn’t “preventive engagement” the same as your idea of state-building?
FUKUYAMA | If that is more than a slogan, then, yes, the idea is on the same track. Often, though, it is difficult to anticipate the outbreak of a violent and destabilizing eruption, yet it is only that outbreak that enables you to mobilize the consensus and resources to act. Politically, it is never very likely that democratic governments can act in the abstract.
Europeans pride themselves on their “soft power” approach to international problems. Nation-building fits in that category. The US has gone the other route with its “hard power” approach. Consequently, there has been a de facto division of labor where the US goes in and does all the fighting and the Europeans come in after to clean up and rebuild.
This only gets you so far because both components of power are ultimately necessary. You cannot do without either of them. For that reason, the US needs to repair all its alliance relationships damaged in its one-sided use of hard power. As the hegemonic power, though, the US can’t just offload all the soft duties to the Europeans or the Japanese. We need to complement US might with a more serious commitment to state-building.