As a key player in the rise of neoconservatism within the US government, and author of the contentious treatise The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama has an intimate understanding of the Washington scene that formulates so much of US foreign policy. He spoke to The Diplomat’s editor Anastasia Kapetas in Sydney about failed states in the Pacific, Obama’s military problem and India’s nuclear ambitions.
You have done some considerable work on failed states, some in Australia’s immediate neighbourhood. How do you see Melanesia and South Pacific?
FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: I think that first of all Timor-Leste and Solomons are genuine failed states.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The problem in all those places is that you’re dealing with societies that didn’t have states prior to European colonialism and they’ve got a very strong social structure below the state level that really inhibits the formation of things like modern political parties. It’s very hard to do economic development because so much of the land is tied in up in customary land ownership.
I do think though, that when the enhanced cooperation program was started back in 2003, it was in the wake of September 11 and the Bali bombings and the general fear that failed states could be the platform for terrorism. In retrospect that danger is really not nearly as great as it may have been perceived
Now we can look at the problem more calmly and say what’s really necessary to create governments that can actually deliver services and goods to their people with a minimum amount of stability.
Should Australia be the one who takes leadership in that area in the South Pacific, given that there are a lot of players in that area now – New Zealand, China and Taiwan?
China and Taiwan are not going to be helpful at all. Their rivalry has been this great font of money for governments in that region that just end up being used for fairly corrupt purposes.
The Chinese can be brought along eventually but in the short run, as in Africa and other parts of the developing world, their primary interests are commercial and they’re not on board with regard to environmental or other kinds of standards. And so I think the impact of their involvement is largely negative.
It’s quite important that Australia maintain a strong presence there because of all the other international players, with the exception of New Zealand, none has the strength and the combination of the resources and standards for dealing with that region.
Just as there is anti-Americanism around the world, there has been a kind of anti-Australianism in the South Pacific. How can Australia address that?
It’s very hard when you have this kind of highly dependant relationship where one country is so much richer or more powerful than another one. So I think that just comes with the territory.
One comment that I’ve heard from a number of Melanesians is that they actually preferred dealing with New Zealanders. That probably has to do with the Kiwis’ experience in dealing with the Maori populations. I do think that leads to a different kind of perception in the way the two countries handle things. But I don’t want to overstate that because it’s just inevitable that there’s going to be resentment regardless of how Australia behaves.
What about the US’s relationship with Japan? Do you think that’s in good shape or do you think it’s deteriorated slightly over the last few years?
Under the Bush administration it was extremely good. In fact good to the point that it was a little bit troubling because when you have someone like Abe as Prime Minister wanting to revise Article 9 [prohibiting Japan from building up its military forces]… We probably should have distanced ourself a little bit from that.
The Japanese are worried right now that if a Democrat is elected there’s going to be a shift back to a more China centric policy but regardless of whether [the next US president is] a Democrat or Republican the alliance is still going to be a bedrock of American East Asian policy.
What do you think of the debates in the Japanese military about nuclearisation and greater force projection?
The nuclearisation thing never made any sense to me at all because Japan was perfectly happy to live under an American nuclear umbrella during the entire Cold War when the Chinese and the Soviets had thousands of nuclear weapons that were capable of hitting Japan.
And why all of a sudden because of a nuclear threat from Korea they should decide that the American umbrella is not credible any longer and that they need their own, is something that I don’t quite get.