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US must remain vigilant & tolerant in post-9/11 world

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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In 1989, political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama penned a famous essay "The End of History?" in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union into a fragmentary collection of nascent capitalist,, liberal democracies.

Fukuyama later expanded the essay into a 1992 nonfiction book, "The End of History and the Last Man," arguing that humanity was witnessing the end of our "ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government" either as a confederation of allied democratic states, much like the European Union or United Nations or as a federated world government that forms the background of many science fiction narratives.

Cultural differences, regional strife, economic inequality, corruption, autocratic power grabs and crony capitalism will still be ever present threats, Fukuyama argued, but there was no rival ideology that would unseat democracy, whether permanently capitalist or with the emergence of a socialist or communist economy, as Marxist theorists propose. Even communist China and autocratic Russia go through the motions of democracy and will likely become free, liberal democracies given enough international pressure and internal agitation.

On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killing nearly 3,000 Americans. In the aftermath, conservative columnist George Will wrote that history had "returned from vacation" while left-of-center political scientist Fareed Zakaria opined that the attacks marked "the end of the end of history."

Samuel P. Huntington theorized in 1995 that "The Clash of Civilizations" between East and West would be the primary source of conflict with the end of the Cold War. Cultural differences, occasional brutal violence, religious fundamentalism, tribalism and nationalism would continue to shape world events as the attacks of Sept. 11 demonstrated.

Yet Fukuyama himself defended his theory a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, noting that even despite the horrors, such violence would not fundamentally change the values we place in democracy. Fundamentalism of any kind tends to cannibalize both leaders and followers, not create stable states. In the 14 years since, religious fundamentalism has terrorized the world but has not taken hold except in pockets already ruled by totalitarian oligarchs in the Middle East and North Africa where it serves as the only alternative to subjugation by the state. The Arab Spring upended many of those states into civil wars yet failed to affect much change in stable autocratic sultanates, yet those nations that endured were forced to make concessions toward democratic movements.

The biggest threat is not a rival ideology to democracy but in walking the fine line between provincial and religious tribalism and abuse of the system by corporations and those in power, described in Benjamin Barber's book "Jihad vs. McWorld." Cultural differences must be addressed and integrated into our democracies while we must remain vigilant against those who would exploit our system in their own self-interest.

Our nation did not collapse into anarchy like those who sponsored the Sept. 11 attacks had hoped, nor have radicals overturned stable democracies like dominoes. We are still faced with violence from afar, but a more greater threat comes from growing economic inequality. Our nation endured that Tuesday morning 14 years ago and the wars that followed, but we must dedicate ourselves to ensuring democracy remains the last, best hope for humanity's future until the end of history.

— Christopher Fox Graham Managing Editor

Copyright 2015 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: September 9, 2015

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