Interview: Francis Fukuyama

Photos: Japan's Devastation Q. Sakamaki / Redux for Newsweek

What's Tokyo to do?

Beyond the obvious, they need to get their act together. Japanese citizens are frustrated about getting essential information like, for one, radiation levels.

Japan's government has been paralyzed by infighting for years.

This could be an occasion for major renewal. I hope that happens, because, like us, Japan faces similar problems—a dire fiscal situation, aging population. Only theirs are far more severe.

Will the Fukushima catastrophe squelch the global nuclear renaissance?

It already has. But it's too bad because it's just as dangerous to, say, be addicted to oil in the Middle East and every 10 years or so have to go to war for it.

Your mother was born in Kyoto. Both you and your father were born in the States. What kind of connection do you feel to Japan?

I don't speak Japanese. In many ways the country feels like a foreign place.

Is it true that members of your family were held in internment camps during World War II?

Yes, my grandparents and my uncle. He later joined the Army and served in the China-Burma theater.

Has that fact dimmed your view of American democracy?

The entire internment episode was a grave injustice. Any person of Japanese-American ancestry watching today's Islamophobia has to be very sensitive.

You're at Stanford now. California's not exactly immune to such massive earthquakes. Are you nervous?

I am personally nervous only in a completely abstract way. You just have to prepare.

Is Washington more prepared than Tokyo?

More likely here is a terrorist attack. But my suspicion is that if there was, say, a biological weapon in downtown Washington, we wouldn't handle it very well.

With the tsunami and the changes in the Middle East, it feels more like the end of days than the "End of History."

Actually, no. There's something very gratifying about the Middle East demonstrating that Islam is not at odds with the democratic currents that have swept up other parts of the world. But what's most important, actually, is what happens next.