WASHINGTON -- It was, as the hero tells it, his Road to Damascus moment. There he is, in a hall of 1,500 people he has long considered to be his allies, hearing the speaker treat the Iraq War, nearing the end of its first year, as "a virtually unqualified success." He gasps as the audience enthusiastically applauds. Aghast to discover himself in a sea of comrades so deluded by ideology as to have lost touch with reality, he decides he can no longer be one of them.
And thus did Francis Fukuyama become the world's most celebrated ex-neoconservative, a well-timed metamorphosis that has brought him a piece of the fame that he once enjoyed 15 years ago as the man who declared, a mite prematurely, that history had ended.
A very nice story. It appears in the preface to Fukuyama's post-neocon coming out, "America at the Crossroads.'' Last Sunday it was repeated on the front page of The New York Times Book Review in Paul Berman's review.
I happen to know something about this story, as I was the speaker whose 2004 Irving Kristol lecture to the American Enterprise Institute Fukuyama has now brought to prominence. I can therefore testify that Fukuyama's claim that I attributed "virtually unqualified success'' to the war is a fabrication.
A convenient fabrication -- it gives him a foil and the story drama -- but a foolish one because it can be checked. The speech was given at the Washington Hilton before a full house, carried live on C-SPAN and then published by the American Enterprise Institute under its title "Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World.'' (It can be read here.)
As indicated by the title, the speech was not about Iraq. It was a fairly theoretical critique of the four schools of American foreign policy: isolationism, liberal internationalism, realism and neoconservatism. The only successes I attributed to the Iraq War were two, and both self-evident: (1) that it had deposed Saddam Hussein and (2) that this had made other dictators think twice about the price of acquiring nuclear weapons, as evidenced by the fact that Gaddafi had turned over his secret nuclear program for dismantlement just months after Saddam's fall (in fact, on the very week of Saddam's capture).
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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