Charles Krauthammer

In that entire 6,000-word lecture, I said not a single word about the course or conduct of the Iraq War. My only reference to the outcome of the war came toward the end of the lecture. Far from calling it an unqualified success, virtual or otherwise, I said quite bluntly that "it may be a bridge too far. Realists have been warning against the hubris of thinking we can transform an alien culture because of some postulated natural and universal human will to freedom. And they may yet be right.''

We do not yet know. History will judge whether we can succeed in "establishing civilized, decent, nonbelligerent, pro-Western polities in Afghanistan and Iraq.'' My point then, as now, has never been that success was either inevitable or at hand, only that success was critically important to "change the strategic balance in the fight against Arab-Islamic radicalism.''

I made the point of repeating the problematic nature of the enterprise: "the undertaking is enormous, ambitious and arrogant. It may yet fail.''

For Fukuyama to assert that I characterized it as "a virtually unqualified success'' is simply breathtaking. My argument then, as now, was the necessity of this undertaking, never its assured success. And it was necessary because, as I said, there is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the root causes of 9/11: "the cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world -- oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism.''

Fukuyama's book is proof of this proposition about the lack of the plausible alternative. The alternative he proposes for the challenges of 9/11 -- new international institutions, new forms of foreign aid and sundry other forms of "soft power'' -- is a mush of bureaucratic make-work in the face of a raging fire. Even Berman, his sympathetic reviewer, concludes that "neither his old arguments nor his new ones offer much insight into this, the most important problem of all -- the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them.''

Fukuyama now says that he had secretly opposed the Iraq War before it was launched. An unusual and convenient reticence, notes Irwin Stelzer, editor of "The Neocon Reader,'' for such an inveterate pamphleteer, letter writer and essayist. After public opinion had turned against the war, Fukuyama then courageously came out against it. He has every right to change his mind at his convenience. He has no right to change what I said.


Charles Krauthammer

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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