- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
By David Sterman
Best Defense guest columnist
The question of “what is History?” loomed over the Cato Institute’s June 6retrospective on Francis Fukuyama’s famous essay “The End of History,” an event featuring Fukuyama himself and a group of other panelists.
As Adam Garfinkle, the founding editor of the American Interest, noted, Fukuyama’s essay is perhaps “the most vulgarized” essay ever written, with many of its critics simply failing to understand the meaning of the Hegelian capital “H” history to which Fukuyama refers. Indeed, Fukuyama noted, citing an official Cuban meeting on his essay, that the most perceptive critics of his essay when it originally came out were Marxists, who had long drawn from the Hegelian dialectic and its definition of History as something grander and distinct from the progression of day-to-day events. Fukuyama even stated his agreement with Walter Russell Mead’s thesis about “The “Return of Geopolitics.”
Yet for some of Fukuyama’s interlocutors on the two panels, the Hegelian view of “History” with its particular European lineage constituted too limited a view of the existing ideological challenges to liberal democracy. Garfinkle noted that the Hegelian definition, being formed out of European debates on modernization, may miss the ideological challenge from non-western societies and others who seek to avoid modernization. Paul Pillar, a senior fellow at Brookings and former deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, prefaced his remarks by saying that while many misunderstand the “History” Fukuyama refers to, not being students of Hegelian philosophy, they could be forgiven for insisting that day-to-day events and competition still matters. Pillar also argued that while it is not often phrased as such, political polarization within Western society over the role of government and the willingness to hold the government’s functioning hostage in debt ceiling negotiations is a crisis rooted in ideology. As he put it, something does not need to begin with a capital letter and end with an -ism to be a competing ideology of historical import, and there is some capital H history going on in the United States.
Fukuyama for his part argued the suggested threats to liberal democratic order are exaggerated. Though he did nod to the dangers of a failure of governance in established liberal democracies saying that his future work will focus on that issue, he warned that a foreign policy community rewarded for pessimistic analyses and criticized for optimistic ones influences the perception of threats as Historical when they may not be.
John Arquilla earned his degrees in international relations from Rosary College (BA 1975) and Stanford University (MA 1989, PhD 1991). He has been teaching in the special operations program at the United States Naval Postgraduate School since 1993. He also serves as chairman of the Defense Analysis department.
Dr. Arquilla’s teaching interests revolve around the history of irregular warfare, terrorism, and the implications of the information age for society and security.
His books include: Dubious Battles: Aggression, Defeat and the International System (1992); From Troy to Entebbe: Special Operations in Ancient & Modern Times (1996), which was a featured alternate of the Military Book Club; In Athena’s Camp (1997); Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime and Militancy (2001), named a notable book of the year by the American Library Association; The Reagan Imprint: Ideas in American Foreign Policy from the Collapse of Communism to the War on Terror (2006); Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military (2008), which is about defense reform; Insurgents, Raiders, and Bandits: How Masters of Irregular Warfare Have Shaped Our World (2011); and Afghan Endgames: Strategy and Policy Choices for America’s Longest War (2012).
Dr. Arquilla is also the author of more than one hundred articles dealing with a wide range of topics in military and security affairs. His work has appeared in the leading academic journals and in general publications like The New York Times, Forbes, Foreign Policy Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Wired and The New Republic. He is best known for his concept of “netwar” (i.e., the distinct manner in which those organized into networks fight). His vision of “swarm tactics” was selected by The New York Times as one of the “big ideas” of 2001; and in recent years Foreign Policy Magazine has listed him among the world’s “top 100 thinkers.”
In terms of policy experience, Dr. Arquilla worked as a consultant to General Norman Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Storm, as part of a group of RAND analysts assigned to him. During the Kosovo War, he assisted deputy secretary of defense John Hamre on a range of issues in international information strategy. Since the onset of the war on terror, Dr. Arquilla has focused on assisting special operations forces and other units on practical “field problems.” Most recently, he worked for the White House as a member of a small, nonpartisan team of outsiders asked to articulate new directions for American defense policy.| Rational Security |