Russian President Vladimir Putin and the extremist Islamic State group are both engaged in efforts at state building that share two qualities: each seeks to create a political alternative to a modern liberal democracy, and each is doomed to failure, political scientist Francis Fukuyama says in a wide-ranging interview with RFE/RL:
Fukuyama said history shows that the process of modernization leads societies to form liberal democracies with market systems. Yet some leaders insist on trying to create alternative models, even though those models are unstable and retrograde.
“[Putin’s] model is based on a narrow energy-dependent economic model which right now is falling apart,” the political scientist notes. “I think what is happening in Russia right now as global commodity prices have fallen is the exposure of the hollowness of this and we will see after another decade of economic failure whether Russians really think this is such a great alternative to the kind of both freedom and prosperity that is seen in Western Europe.”
Similarly, the political scientist sees little future for radical Islam as an alternative to liberal democracy…. He ascribes the success of Islamic State and other radical Islamic groups to the failure of authoritarian governments in the Arab world to create regimes that have popular legitimacy and meet the economic needs of their citizens.
“The Islamic State is not a state and I would predict fairly confidently that they are not going to establish a viable one and it is certainly not an attractive state,” says Fukuyama [a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy]. “It is not a state in which millions of people are dying to live in a place which beheads people regularly and forces women into these highly constrained roles.”
“It’s true that liberalism is not doing well in that part of the world,” he observes. “But I do not think that radical Islam represents a long-term civilizational alternative to the kind of (democratic) regimes that exist in Europe and North America and Asia.”