ON A SATURDAY IN ,JANUARY 2003, AS THE IRAQ War approached, the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment convened a meeting in a nondescript building in Arlington, Virginia, with three dozen of Washington's top conservative policy intellectuals. Using an information-gathering technique dating back to the Eisenhower administration, the office asked four groups to study the long-term threat the United States faced from international terrorism and to report back to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.
One of the groups was led by Francis Fukuyama, a professor at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), best known as the author of The End of History and the Last Man, the international bestseller that led British political philosopher John Gray to dub Fukuyama "[the] court philosopher of global capitalism." The relationship between Fukuyama and Wolfowitz went back 35 years, to when Fukuyama was a Cornell undergraduate and Wolfowitz, then a Yale political-science professor, was a board member of the Telluride Association, the elite group house where Fnkuyama lived. Fukuyama interned for Wolfowitz while a graduate student in the mid-1970s at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and later followed his mentor to the State Department during the first Reagan administration. When Wolfowitz became dean of the SAIS, he recruited Fukuyama from George Mason.
When Fukuyama received the Pentagon's call, he immersed himself in subjects--the politics of the Middle East, Islam, terrorism--he hadn't thought about since he'd worked with Dennis Ross on the Palestinian autonomy talks that followed the Camp David accords.
Fukuyama had spent much of the previous summer in Europe promoting Our Posthuman Future, his most recent book at the time, and Iris encounters with editorial boards throughout the continent left an impression on him. "That was the point at which I started to think about the whole issue of American hegemony," he says. "Until then I had accepted the neoconservative line, which is, 'OK, we're hegemons, but we're benevolent hegemons.' But when I was in Europe, the reality of what non-Americans thought hit me more forcefully than it had before. Even the editor of the Financial Times, which is a pretty conservative paper, was absolutely livid about the way the Bush administration was dealing with the U.K. and Europe."
Fukuyama's team prepared furiously for three months, and, of the presentations made that January day by the four groups, Fukuyama's was the only one Wolfowitz attended. This was precisely the time when preparations to invade Iraq were in full swing. The news Fukuyama delivered was most likely not what Wolfowitz wanted to hear.
The group's recommendations--which have never been mentioned publicly, much less released--were a photographic negative of the path the Bush administration followed. The United States, the group advised, should avoid overreacting to the events of September 11, and particularly resist military incursions that would "lead to a world in which the U.S. and its policies remain the chief focus of global concern," as Fukuyama put it in The Washington Post on the first anniversary of the attacks. The group reasoned that although military action was a necessary component of the American response, it should be of secondary concern to a "hearts and minds" campaign directed at the vast majority of the Islamic world that generally admires America.
It was an analysis that departed from the "clash of civilizations" scenarios that Fukuyama's friend and former teacher Samuel Huntington predicted some years earlier. In contrast, Fukuyama's group portrayed the conflict between democratic capitalism and Islamic fundamentalism as so lopsided that Huntington's formulation overstated the strength of America's foe. "Neither Arab nationalists nor Islamic fundamentalists, or any other alternatives in that part of the world, present a really serious route to modernization," he told the London Independent in April 2003. …