‘Neoconservatism’: Exporting a System of Government

Some people, who think that they know how to govern, also feel that they have a duty to proselytise – to export their expertise to other countries:

  • Colonial powers thought that they had something to offer less developed countries (although they also wanted to enrich themselves).
  • The League of Nations thought that the governments who were on the winning side in the First World War should be entrusted with ‘helping’ countries that were deemed unstable or underdeveloped. This led to the formation of so-called ‘protectorates’, notably in the Middle East: the Sykes-Picot agreement, which led to the formation of Iraq and Syria, and Britain’s Balfour Declaration in Palestine both caused trouble which has still not been resolved – as described in Ramzy Baroud’s article, How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland.
  • Francis Fukuyama, in his book The End Of History and the Last Man,[1] argued that liberal democracy was inevitably the form of government that people would choose – and that the world would then be stable, because democracies haven’t made war on each other. Neoconservatives, taking their cue from this belief, thought that they could bring peace to the world by converting the governments of other countries into liberal democracies.  This was one of the reasons for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as described later (8.7.5).  It also underpinned America’s encouragement of the ‘Arab Spring’ ten years later, including support for the Syrian rebels – although, as described in the BBC article Arming Syrian rebels: Where the US went wrong, it didn’t give them heavy weapons.

Proselytising has been responsible for many problems, because not everyone wants this kind of ‘help’.  Arrogant politicians may see it as offering to share their wisdom, but it appears as an unwelcome radical intervention to the inhabitants of the countries affected.



[1] A review of Francis Fukuyama’s book, The End of History and the Last Man, appeared in the London Review of Books in July 1992; it was available in March 2020 at https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v14/n14/m.f.-burnyeat/happily-ever-after.

This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6244a.htm