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Issue No. 84 (March 1, 2006) -- Mark Satin, Editor

Neo-conservatism, neo-isolationism
or global community?

Last month in a long article in The New York Times Magazine, Francis Fukuyama -- one of our most prominent “neo-conservatives” (and author of one of the most widely read foreign policy articles of all time, “The End of History?”) -- renounced neo-conservatism and called for certain “new ideas” in foreign policy.

I wasn’t surprised. I’d seen Fukuyama on panels several times over the years, at your standard-issue Washington DC think tanks, and his quicksilver mind and hyperactive conscience always made him seem like he didn’t quite fit in anywhere in Washington.

I can remember thinking he’d have been at home in the New World Alliance, a national “transformational” political organization I helped start in the 1970s.

Although Fukuyama’s article will go down in history as a renunciation (even a denunciation) of neo-conservatism, it was more than that.

It was a plea that we shouldn’t take the easy way out and move over to neo-isolationism, or to a sloppy, hyper-idealistic Wilsonianism -- the kind of stuff you can find at the Common Dreams website.

And it was an argument that we rather desperately need a new foreign policy that can do three things ASAP:

-- win over moderate Muslims;

-- build pragmatic and effective international organizations; and

-- emphasize good governance (e.g., rule of law, genuine economic development) and not worry overmuch about democracy promotion. If you build secure and prosperous societies, democracy will come.

Hey Francis Fukuyama, meet Amitai Etzioni

Fukuyama didn’t use the terms “third way” or “radical middle,” but he’s savvy enough to know where he’s going.

Groups like the New World Alliance, and Planetary Citizens, were there a quarter of a century ago (though we had no power). Groups like Amitai Etzioni’s Communitarian Network are there today.

In fact, Fukuyama’s three suggestions above are all extensively developed in Etzioni’s recent book From Empire to Community: A New Approach to International Relations (Palgrave Macmillan / St. Martin’s Press, 2004).

Etzioni and Fukuyama have a lot in common. Both are social scientists, both reached the pinnacles of their professions at an early age. Etzioni eventually served in the Carter Administration; Fukuyama, a generation younger, worked for Wolfowitz.

Let’s all hope that Fukuyama reads Etzioni soon.

The third way in foreign policy

Etzioni describes his approach in From Empire to Community as a “third way.”

The first way is that of the neo-conservatives, which he characterizes as “might-makes-right.” ‘Nuff said.

The second way is that of the “hyper-liberals,” which he characterizes as “consensus-makes-might.” The liberals’ consensus-based approach cannot possibly be "relied on to uphold even a minimal level of global law and order in the foreseeable future,” Etzioni says -- and without order, he adds, we have no hope.

Etzioni’s third way would have us work for three goals ASAP (all of which dovetail with Fukuyama’s):

First, we need to construct a genuine global community, one that bridges East and West.

Second (and even as we’re proceeding with the first), we need to construct competent global institutions that can provide for our physical safety.

And, third, we need to construct global institutions that can help make the world more just and prosperous.

Sounds daunting. But one of the most hopeful aspects of Etzioni’s approach is that he sees movement already on all three fronts. We just need to learn, better, where to look and what to look for.

Building a global community

Like Fukuyama, Etzioni is no idealist (fighting in the Israeli army can do that to you), and Etzioni makes global community a priority for unabashedly pragmatic reasons: no global community, no global governance.

In other words, the world will never be able to run itself effectively if it doesn’t constitute a real community. Only real communities are willing to make sacrifices in exchange for mutual benefit.

Academics like Fukuyama (i.e., the Fukuyama of 2004) and Samuel Huntington are fundamentally opposed to global community, Etzioni says, since they don’t get that community means forging a synthesis between East and West.

Fukuyama wrongly assumes that everyone in the East is moving toward the West’s values. Huntington poisonously assumes that the East’s values are so alien to ours that we’re bound to have a “clash of civilizations.”

In real life, Etzioni says, East and West have much to learn from each other.

The East can and must learn from our emphasis on autonomy. But we can and must learn from the East’s emphasis on social order if we hope to preserve our society through the 21st century.

And that learning has already begun, Etzioni says. All over the East and West, societies are “moving toward the middle of the autonomy / social order spectrum,” albeit at different speeds and in different ways.

A new safety architecture

Many North American hyper-liberals exaggerate the importance of the U.N., Etzioni says.

They want us to act as if it’s the shining, powerful instrument they want it to be, rather than the weak and hidebound and often incompetent institution it is today.

Virtually everyone else in the world sees the U.N. for what it is, Etzioni says; which means there’s an opening for a “new global architecture” that can get us where we need to go.

If there’s a silver lining coming out of the Iraq war, Etzioni says, it’s that a “New Safety Architecture” is being cobbled together by the U.S. and its allies and quasi-allies. Nearly 100 nations are participating in some way in crafting an ad hoc regime that can protect the world’s peoples against terrorists.

And that’s a start, a “first step,” toward constructing what is in effect a “Global Antiterrorist Authority.” It is messy, it is imperfect, it is ever-evolving. But it’s getting us to a better place.

For if there’s no personal security for the world’s peoples, Etzioni says, then it’s over -- civilization is kaput.

Next in line, he says, should be a global anti-nuclear-proliferation authority. For the same reason. And that, too, is beginning to take shape -- haltingly, imperfectly, and largely under the radar of the mainstream and alternative media. For example, there is extensive networking going on among the relevant government officials all over the world.

Beyond physical safety

As global community becomes stronger (“thicker” is Etzioni’s preferred word) and as our physical safety becomes better assured, the world’s peoples may be more willing to consider the creation of structures to deal with a broader range of pressing transnational problems -- transnational organized crime, trafficking in people, spread of infectious diseases, cybercrime, etc.

Even now, Etzioni says, these problems are beginning to be addressed by a galaxy of governmental, quasi-governmental, and “third sector” institutions. So it may be only a matter of time before formal supranational Authorities are formed to deal with them too.

As for democracy

As for democracy -- well, never again should the U.S. seek to bring it to another people without their prior, organized consent. (On this point see especially the George Packer book we reviewed HERE.)

Besides, says Etzioni, sounding very much like Fukuyama, after a certain point every people can be expected to come to democracy in their own way.

In the meantime, the world can probably best be served if we remember Etzioni’s aphorism,

“Democracy makes sense only when there is a community to be governed.”

So let’s build a global community that bridges East and West.

And let’s build pragmatic global institutions that the global community can govern itself by . . . with physical safety and nuclear nonproliferation front and center.

Blessings on us all

So much of this approach to foreign policy was known to us in the New World Alliance and Planetary Citizens and other tiny “transformational” groups in the 1970s. (The Alliance’s Platform spoke soaringly of an “emerging planetary civilization” that melded the views of “people everywhere,” and Planetary Citizens’ literature spoke hopefully of emerging global “departments of planetary management.”)

It breaks my heart we were never able to take such ideas beyond the talking stage . . . though we did help seed them in the larger culture.

Thank God Etzioni has expressed such ideas powerfully and authoritatively in print. And thank God Fukuyama has had the courage to leave his neo-conservative path and begin groping for such ideas.

Thus out of the efforts of a diverse American community (1970s activists, a Carter advisor, a neo-conservative guru) has a radical middle approach to building global community begun to see the light of day.

Blessings on us all.



Fukuyama’s New York Times Magazine article is an adaptation of his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (pub. date March 28, 2006).

Etzioni’s foreign policy ideas are rooted in his third way / communitarian philosophy. See especially his books The Spirit of Community (1993), written for activists, and The New Golden Rule (1996), for scholars.

Books from the 1970s that anticipated Fukuyama’s and Etzioni’s current foreign policy perspectives (and that were popular among New World Alliance and Planetary Citizens activists) include Saul Mendlovitz, ed., On the Creation of a Just World Order (1975), and Gerald Mische and Patricia Mische, Toward a Human World Order (1977). Mendlovitz worked closely with Planetary Citizens, Pat Mische was an original Board member of the Alliance. In addition, all had their own foreign policy groupings: Mendlovitz co-founded the World Order Models Project, and the Misches founded Global Education Associates.


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