A political liberal was just a liberal in the 1930s and 1940s, but the reaction to Stalinism prompted a new type of liberal to surface on the political scene, and those liberals supported the Cold War. The term neoconservative was used to describe this group, and many of them were Jewish and emerging intellectuals that lived in New York City. Most of them considered themselves liberal democrats in the 1960s when the New Left or hippie movement in the US became a voice in the movement for American reform.
The first intellectual to embrace neoconservative principles was Irving Kristol, who is considered the godfather of neoconservatives. He wrote about his beliefs in his 1979 book, Confessions of a True, Self-Confessed Neoconservative.
Kristol's son, William, and Robert Kagan founded the Project for the New American Century in 1997, a think tank based in Washington D.C. which promotes the notion that American leadership is good for the world, and moral, as well. Such leadership, in fact, requires diplomatic energy, military strength and commitment to moral principle.
The other important figure in the early neoconservative movement was Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary Magazine from 1960 to 1965. Podhoretz wrote an article for the New York Times in 1982 titled "The Neoconservative Anguish over Reagan's Foreign Policy." That article left no doubt in anyone's mind; Podhoretz was a staunch member of the neoconservative movement.
In the beginning, neoconservatives were more concerned with domestic policy than foreign policy thus strongly opposed the counterculture movement of the 1960s, which they blatantly called anti-Americanism. The Vietnam War served as the catalyst that separated the Democratic Party into two factions: the anti-war faction and the war-supporting neoconservatives.
Today, neoconservatives advocate the use of American economic and military power to destroy enemies they perceive as threatening to American liberal democracy as well as liberal democracy in other countries. The change of focus initially occurred when the anti-war faction of the Democratic Party took control in 1972 by nominating George McGovern. The neoconservative faction rallied around Senator Henry Jackson and the "second age" of neoconservatism was born from the revolt. The focus was now on the Cold War.
President Lyndon Johnson's New Left policies pushed the Democratic Party to the left, so the intellectuals in the neoconservative faction became disillusioned with his domestic agenda. Ben Wattenberg's 1970 book, The Real Majority brought out the point that the majority in the party actually supported social conservatism. The book also warned the party that liberal stances on crime and social issues could be disastrous.
During the 1990s the neoconservative faction opposed the foreign policy decisions made by George H. W. Bush as well as Bill Clinton. Both presidents were criticized for lacking a sense of idealism and reducing military expenditures. Neocons berated both administrations for the lack of moral clarity and the lack of conviction to pursue American strategic interests on the world stage, issuing strategy papers meant to influence these presidents (and others), many of which are posted on the website of the Project for the New American Century.
George W. Bush did not have much support from the neoconservative movement until the September 2001 attacks. Bush awakened a sense of neoconservatism in the entire country when he said the United States should promote liberal democracy around the world. Bush's case for invading Iraq put neoconservatism center stage and it became evident everywhere. Critics called the movement a unified ideology that sanctioned torture, justified military adventurism and stood behind aggressive Zionism.
Neoconservatism can be seen in the modern era as a philosophy that tried to clothe the power elite's thrust toward global governance in the drapery of philosophy and government ideology. In fact, those who adhere to neoconservatism are merely obscuring the violent tendencies of Money Power and its drive toward global dominance. Neoconservatism is not really a movement. It is a kind of justification for the totalitarian tendencies of the impossibly wealthy Anglosphere families that control central banks and want to extend their domination, formally, around the world.
This movement toward globalism likely will not succeed. Neoconservatism itself may fade away like the bad dream (and ill wind) that it is.
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