Fukuyama: U.S. ‘got it wrong’ on the Middle East

U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama is best known for his 1992 book “The End of History” and the “Last Man”

Eman El-Shenawi
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The U.S. has made the mistake of believing Middle Eastern states “can’t get their acts together” without American help, U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama said during a session at the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai on Sunday.

Because of this belief, the U.S. has sought to intervene in Middle Eastern states in turmoil without allowing internal institutions to solidify, the top academic said.

arab forum
arab forum

Fukuyama - best known for his 1992 book “The End of History” and the “Last Man” – spoke at a panel discussion hosted by Al Arabiya News Channel General Manager Dr. Adel Al-Toraifi on the Middle East’s upcoming challenges and changes in 2015.

“The Americans need to understand that before you introduce democracy and the rule of law to limit power in foreign countries, you need to create power” within weak states, Fukuyama said.

“Cogently, Obama has argued that no state in this region is going to get its act together in terms of state building and creating a coherent political unit that can deploy a monopoly of legitimate power if the United States plays too large a role in this region.


“This was a mistake that American foreign policy has made over and over again; If the U.S. military is working with an ally, the temptation is to do the job for them. This mistake has been made in Afghanistan, Iraq and even in Vietnam. ”

‘Overplayed threat’

Fukuyama said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, believed to hold about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-styled caliphate, has been largely “overplayed” by the U.S. government and the media.

ISIS - Reuters
ISIS - Reuters

The U.S. has led a coalition of Arab and European countries to strike Iraq and Syria militant targets since August.

“I do not believe ISIS is a long-term powerful geopolitical actor in this region. The reason it appears powerful is because everyone around it is weak. ISIS has no overt supporters on the outside, geographically it is not in a favorable position in the deserts of Syria and Iraq.

“It has access to oil resources but cannot sell them legally and I believe it has grown so rapidly that it has become more vulnerable to air power,” Fukuyama added.

On Friday, the U.S. Congress authorized a massive U.S. annual defense policy bill which included $5 billion in emergency funding for military operations and training for Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIS, as President Barack Obama had requested.

‘Islam not an obstacle’

When asked about this surge in radical Islam in the Middle East, Fukuyama said he was “not convinced religion or Islam is an obstacle to democracy” in the region.

UAE-based political commentator Sultan al-Qassemi commended Fukuyama for noting the West “should not do all the work in eliminating the threat of ISIS.”

On the sidelines of the Forum, Qassemi told Al Arabiya News: “Without building the institutions that ultimately combat the militants, the region will not be able to face up to the challenges that ISIS present.

“Yes, the U.S. should help, but it should also be the regional states that take a front seat in the fight. If not, this will be a recurring problem. ISIS’ power comes because the regional states are weak,” Qassemi added.

Launched in 2001, the Forum focuses on foreseeing the future and gaining a deeper understanding of major political and financial issues that affect the Arab world and the international community. Previous distinguished speakers include former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former prime minister of Lebanon, the late Rafik Hariri.

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