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The End of the End of History
By Robert Kagan, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor

Writing in The New Republic, Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explores the emerging geopolitics of the twenty-first century in an article provocatively entitled, “The End of the End of History.” The title of the piece is a rebuke to Francis Fukuyama's famous book, The End of History, in which Fukuyama, in the wake of the West's victory in the Cold War, proclaimed the final triumph of liberal democratic ideology. “The great fallacy of our era,” Kagan maintains, “has been the belief that a liberal international order rests on the triumph of ideas alone, or on the natural unfolding of human progress. It is an immensely attractive notion, deeply rooted in the Enlightenment worldview of which all of us in the liberal world are the product.”

Instead of Fukuyama's notion of ideological convergence, confrontation between liberalism and autocracy, writes Kagan, will “dominate the geopolitics of the twenty-first century.” “Autocracy,” Kagan laments, “is making a comeback,” as is evident by the domestic and international policies of China and Russia.

Domestically, China's rulers and Russia's rulers pursue policies designed to maintain themselves in power against any internal opposition. Globally, they promote an international order that is safe for autocrats. In practice, this means that they oppose the right of the “international community” or any great power within that community to intervene against sovereign states that abuse or mistreat their citizens. China and Russia, therefore, often side with other autocratic regimes, such as those in Iran and Serbia, when those regimes are subjected to international pressures to liberalize or democratize. “In today's world,” writes Kagan, “a nation's form of government, not its 'civilization' or its geographical location, may be the best predictor of its geopolitical alignment.”

Kagan marvels at the vitality of the vision of linear human progress that prompted notions such as “the end of history,” given that the Cold War punctuated the most destructive century in human history — total wars, famines, nuclear warfare, genocides. Kagan concedes that liberalism progressed in the twentieth century, but its progress “was not inevitable, [and] was contingent on events — battles won or lost, social movements successful or crushed, economic policies implemented or discarded.” Most important, he worries that the global shift toward liberal democracy will not last, and that the rise of two powerful autocratic states combined with the forces of Islamic radicalism have already weakened the liberal order.

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