Back in 1997, Francis Fukuyama was the most prominent intellectual of the original signatories of the PNAC (Project for a New Amercian Century) document. The author is extremely critical and in his new book, America at the Crossroads, the subtitle is "Democracy, Power and the Neo-Conservative Legacy", now says that the neo-conservative legacy is fatally poisoned.
It was also Mr Fukuyama who wrote in an earlier book, The End of History and the Last Man, that the whole world was "locked on a glide-path to liberal, free-market democracy" thus supporting the PNAC agenda. His proviso was that the process was gradual, and must unfold at its own pace.
But not only were the neo-cons too impatient. A second error was to believe that an all-powerful America would be trusted to exercise a "benevolent hegemony". A third was the gross overstatement of the post 9/11 threat posed by radical Islam, in order to justify the dubious doctrine of preventive war.
Finally, there was the blatant contradiction between the neo-cons' aversion to government meddling at home and their childlike faith in their ability to impose massive social engineering in foreign and utterly unfamiliar countries like Iraq. Thence sprang the mistakes of the occupation period.
The good news is that those future Bush policymakers who signed the PNAC nine years ago have gone onto other things, not of course without leaving a permanent damaging footprint forever on this countries landscape to say nothing of the more than 2300 American casulaties.
- Paul Wolfowitz, the war's most relentless and starry-eyed promoter, has moved on to the World Bank, silent about the mess he did so much to create.
- Richard Perle, leader of the resident hawks department at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank here, has vanished from the scene.
- Lewis Libby meanwhile has stepped down as Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, to focus his energy on staying out of jail.
- Zalmay Khalilzad, now the US ambassador to Iraq. This week even he - Afghan born and the one original neo-con who had the region in his blood - admitted that the invasion had opened "a Pandora's box" that could see the Iraq conflict spread across the entire Middle East.
Not to worry for all you conservative readers (are there any here?) Diehard PNAC supporters steadfastly remain. Bill Kristol, of the Weekly Standard "accuses Mr Fukuyama of losing his nerve - of wanting to "retrench, hunker down and let large parts of the world go to hell in a handbasket, hoping the hand-basket won't blow up in our faces."
It is on George Bush's lips that neo-conservatism most obviously survives - in the commitment to spreading freedom and democracy that he proclaims almost daily, and most hubristically in his second inaugural in 2005 that promised to banish tyranny from the earth.
But even the extravagant oratory of that icy January day cannot obscure the irony of
America's Iraq adventure. The application of a doctrine built upon the supposed
boundlessness of US power has succeeded only in exposing its limits.
We progressives are, if nothing else, patient, maybe to a fault. There is hope, but my patience is wearing thin.