What is a Neo-Conservative Anyway?


You see the word in the press. You see it used by the Left leaning, Anarchists when there is finger-pointing involved. I have yet to see it used by any Liberal Democrat. What on earth does it mean?

From iconservative.com which has a good definition but terrible opinion:

Neo conservatives are pro-bombing, pro-empire heavyweight intellectuals who have filled the vacuum on the Right, where most Americans have little interest in foreign policy. They dominate Republican foreign policy because they care about it, whereas most Americans don't. NATO expansion was an example; most Americans don't think about it and don't care. "Neo cons" do. Also they heavily influence the Democratic Party from whence they came. They are close to European Social Democrats, many of whom have also now favor pro-interventionist wars, since the collapse of communism.

"Neo conservatives" are mostly former leftists/liberals who converted to conservatism during the '70's and when Ronald Reagan became President. In domestic policy they tend to be moderate "welfare" Republicans. However, their major concern is foreign policy. They strongly favor US military interventions overseas and becoming the world’s policeman. They promoted the First Iraq War and are constantly the instigators for more confrontation with Iraq, Iran, the Sudan, and other Moslem states. They were among the chief instigators of the Kosovo War.

From Eurolegal.org an extremely Liberal website in England:

In contrast to the "old" Conservatives, the Neo conservatives had often come from a liberal Jewish background. Instead of being anti-Semitic, they were rabidly pro-Israel.
According to an article by Michael Lind in the New Statesman, the Neo conservatives are:-
"products of the largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right ."
James Zogby, the President of the Arab American Institute, defines Neo conservatism thus:-
"Neo-conservatism is the secular political philosophy that defined the reaction of a group of former liberals to what they felt was the Democratic party's policy of appeasement toward the Soviet Union--most especially the USSR's treatment of its Jewish population and its relations with the Arab world. They were a small but influential group of writers, commentators and government officials."
This definition is of importance in one respect: it highlights that fact that there are few Neo conservatives who could be defined as original thinkers, they are mainly journalists, media pundits from New York intellectual circles and people from what is sometimes referred to as "official Washington", the people who inhabit Georgetown and the beltway and seek administration places or advisory functions with contractors to government.

The Christian Science Monitor, which is an excellent unbiased media, has this:

Irving Kristol.
Widely referred as the “godfather” of Neo conservatism, Mr. Kristol was a part of the “New York Intellectuals”, a group of critics mainly of Eastern European Jewish descent. In the late 1930s, he studied at the City college of New York where he became a Trotskyist. From 1947 to 1952 he was managing editor or Commentary Magazine, later called the “neo con Bible”.
By the late 1960s, Kristol had shifted from the left to right on the political spectrum, due partly to what he considered excesses and anti-Americanism among Liberals. Kristol built the intellectual framework of Neo conservatism, founding and editing journals such as The Public Interest and The National Interest.
Kristol is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of numerous books, including “Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of an idea.” He is the father of the Weekly Standard editor and oft quoted neo conservative William Kristol.

Also from the CSM, read the short article here. An interview with US foreign policy expert, Walter Russell Mead.

Mead: The Neo cons of today have sort of revived this older Wilsonian tradition. They are no longer concerned, say, about the United Nations, which is what we think Wilsonians are mostly thinking about ... or the World Court. In fact, they think that stuff gets in the way to some degree. But they are more concerned about basic American values and spreading those.

CSM: Where does world opinion factor into this?

Mead: Probably not very much. Except if you reached a point where the unpopularity of American foreign policy was in some way making it impossible for the US to conduct the policy that it wanted to. It's hard for me to see how that would happen.

Finally, Wikipedia.com. After all, how would you explain the term in encyclopedia jargon to researchers in schools?

The term neo conservative is somewhat controversial, with many to whom the label is applied rejecting it. It has become increasingly popular in recent years, to the point where many say it is becoming overused and lacking any coherent definition, especially since many so-called Neo conservatives vehemently disagree with one another on major issues.

David Horowitz, a purported leading neo-con thinker offered this critique in a recent interview with an Italian newspaper:
"Neo-conservatism" is a term almost exclusively used by the enemies of America's liberation of Iraq. There is no "neo-conservative" movement in the United States. When there was one, it was made up of former Democrats who embraced the welfare state but supported Ronald Reagan's Cold War policies against the Soviet bloc. Today "neo-conservatism" identifies those who believe in an aggressive policy against radical Islam and the global terrorists.

--The term was coined by socialist Michael Harrington, who wanted a way to characterize former leftists who had moved significantly to the right -- people he had been deriding as "socialists for Nixon."


This political group supported a militant anti communism, minimal social welfare (to the consternation of extreme free-market libertarians), and sympathy with a traditionalist agenda (is more inclined than other conservatives toward vigorous government in the service of the goals of traditional morality and pro-business policies). They feuded with traditional right-wing Republicans, such as William F. Buckley and the Nativity, protectionist, isolationists once represented by ex-Republican Pat Buchanan, who is the editor of the paleoconservative magazine The American Conservative.
But domestic policy does not define Neo conservatism; it is a movement founded on, and perpetuated by a hawkish foreign policy, opposition to communism during the Cold War, free trade, and opposition to Middle Eastern states that pursue terrorism. Thus, their foremost target was the old Richard Nixon approach to foreign policy, peace through negotiations, diplomacy, and arms control known, détente and containment (rather than rollback) of the Soviet Union, and the beginning of the process that would lead to bilateral ties between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the U.S. Today a rift still divides the neo conservative hawks from many members of the State Department, who favor established foreign policy conventions.


Neo conservatives are conservatives who are "new" (neo) to the conservative movement in some way. Usually, this comes as a result from the migration from the left of the political spectrum to the right, over the course of many years. Though every such neo conservative has an individual story to tell, there are several key events in recent American history that are often said to have prompted the shift.
Many of today's most famous Neo cons are from Eastern European Jewish immigrant families, who were frequently on the edge of poverty. The Great Depression radicalized many immigrants, and introduced them to the new and revolutionary ideas of socialism and communism.
The Soviet Union's break with Stalinism in the 1950's led to the rise of the so-called New Left in America, which popularized anti-Sovietism along with anti-capitalism. The New Left became very popular among the children of hardline Communist families.
Intellectually, Neo conservatives have been strongly influenced by a diverse range of thinkers from Max Shachtman's version of Trotskyism (in the area of anti-Sovietism and international policy) to the elitist, neo-Platonic ideas of Leo Strauss.
Many critics charged that the Neo conservatives lost their raison d'étre following the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the 1990s, Neo conservatives were once again in the opposition side of the foreign policy establishment, railing against the post-Cold War foreign policy of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, which reduced military expenditures and was, in their view, insufficiently idealistic.
Neo conservatives perhaps are closer to the mainstream of the Republican Party today since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon than any competing faction, especially considering the nature of the Bush Doctrine and the preemptive war against Iraq. Nevertheless, many of the prominent people labeled as Neo conservatives are actually registered Democrats.

So we have the Neo-Conservatives generally being former Democrats, usually of Jewish decent, who are pundits and try to influence American foreign policy. Left-leaning pundits then mistakenly call everyone who supports the War on Terror a Neo-Conservative. Plus the term is "becoming overused and lacking any coherent definition", and "many of the prominent people labeled as Neo conservatives are actually registered Democrats" according to Wikipedia.

David Horowitz explains that "there is no 'neo-conservative' movement in the United States". Plus there is a change in the definition because of world political climate change. Horowitz feels the media say it "identifies those who believe in an aggressive policy against radical Islam and the global terrorists."

And during the election year 2004, it's nothing more than a negative term used in mud-slinging by finger-pointing pundits.