Trust not one-way street: Fukuyama | india | Hindustan Times
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Trust not one-way street: Fukuyama

The US may have the line 'In God We Trust' on its dollar bills, but Francis Fukuyama, Professor of International Political Economy, Johns Hopkins University, would rather have societies put their trust in something less divine.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 02:15 IST

The US may have the line 'In God We Trust' on its dollar bills, but Francis Fukuyama, Professor of International Political Economy, Johns Hopkins University, would rather have societies put their trust in something less divine.

Delivering his keynote speech, 'Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity', at 'Peace Dividend: Progress for India and South Asia', a two-day conference of the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative on Friday, Fukuyama pointed out that there were two elements to the social trust he encourages. One, the formal elements which include the rule of law, treaties etc; and two, the informal elements which constitute the shared values that create a background for formal trust to exist.

That's all nice on paper, but trust is not a one-way street. As Fukuyama stated, there are problems, paramount of which is that trust cannot be taken for granted. It is in this respect that there is a need to see the flourishing of institutions that foster multilateralism.

Fukuyama highlighted three approximate sources of distrust in contemporary international polity, which are three stages of one phenomenon. First, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the security threats it unleashed; two, the US reaction to the attack through the Bush administration's policy of pre-emption; and three, the reaction of the rest of the world to the American reaction to 9/11. This cascading effect, according to Fukuyama, is the reason for a sudden post-Cold War atmosphere of distrust.

The threat of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism predates 9/11. It is the combination of these two disparate factors that has led to the new scenario in international relations.

Fukuyama is not fundamentally against the use of pre-emption and he reminded the audience that such a policy was not an invention of the Bush administration. But he strongly disagrees with the manner in which the present American government carried it out.

"Pre-emption against Iraq was not put in context," Fukuyama said, adding that coming back-to-back with President Bush 'axis of evil' speech, pre-emption came across for many as a serial policy to be used against one nation after the other. "I don't believe that the Bush administration intended to use pre-emption against countries other than Iraq," he added.

What surprised Fukuyama the most about the reaction to post-9/11 American policy was the strident reaction of the US's traditional allies in Europe.

"I frankly find this sort of trans-Atlantic opposition striking," Fukuyama said. But what is one to do with sovereign states that have 'failed'? A key obstacle to building and fostering 'an architecture of trust', after all, lies in the presence of 'failed states'. And who decides what to do with a dysfunctional sovereign state?

The Bush administration sees the UN as an irrelevance ('a debating club'), while other countries including India see a stronger role for the international body.

So what is really needed, argued Fukuyama, is a strong and legitimate institutional structure that takes care of both a pusillanimous UN and a unilateral America. Such an institution must have both power (what the UN lacks) and legitimacy (what the US lacks in its war against Iraq).