In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Americans would have allowed President Bush to lead them in any of several directions, and the nation was prepared to accept substantial risks and sacrifices. The Bush administration asked for no sacrifices from the average American, but after the quick fall of the Taliban it rolled the dice in a big way by moving to solve a longstanding problem only tangentially related to the threat from Al Qaeda - Iraq. In the process, it squandered the overwhelming public mandate it had received after Sept. 11. At the same time, it alienated most of its close allies, many of whom have since engaged in "soft balancing" against American influence, and stirred up anti-Americanism in the Middle East.Later on, it seems that Fukuyama's really pissed by the fact that the Iraq war might cause Americans to think twice about trying to drop the loving bomb of freedom on countries we think might need it in the future, as he writes, "If Jacksonians begin to perceive the war as unwinnable or a failure, there will be little future support for an expansive foreign policy that focuses on promoting democracy."
The Bush administration could instead have chosen to create a true alliance of democracies to fight the illiberal currents coming out of the Middle East. It could also have tightened economic sanctions and secured the return of arms inspectors to Iraq without going to war. It could have made a go at a new international regime to battle proliferation. All of these paths would have been in keeping with American foreign policy traditions. But Mr. Bush and his administration freely chose to do otherwise.
Look what Bush's dirty little war did to my bright, shining theory!
Either way, if Bush is losing the neo-cons then he's beginning to lose the true believers who started this war in the first place. All he will have left in the end are the party operatives who will eventually also abandon him rather than sink their whole endeavor.
*This is kind of a big deal. Read Sands of Empire for more on the influence of Fukuyama.