Neoconservatism is a political philosophy which uses conservatism as a cover for power-oriented unprincipled and quite non-conservative political maneuvering. Neoconservatives (often called "neocons") claim to be conservative, and heavily emphasize largely irrelevant issues which tend to sway conservative votes in their favor (such as gay rights and abortion) as well as doing and saying things which tend to appeal to the authoritarian follower mindset (which predominates among conservatives), while actively pursuing radical non-conservative goals.
To the extent that neoconservatives actually have an ideology beyond the acquisition of personal power, it appears to be based in the Straussian school of thought that rule by elites is necessary in order to provide restraint to human sinfulness.
The neoconservative movement appears to have first come to public attention in the conservative backlash – often called the Republican revolution of 1994 – against the election of Democratic President Bill Clinton. They spent the remainder of Clinton's two terms in office relentlessly hounding Clinton and members of his administration; but were unable to uncover anything worse than personal indiscretion, and obtained no convictions despite many millions of dollars spent.
With the election of Republican President George W. Bush, the neocons gained significantly in power, and gained still further prominence after the beginning of the US Invasion of Iraq as they allied with Bush to give the office of the Presidency unprecedented powers ostensibly towards the pursuit of the War on Terror.
Neoconservatives in the post-9/11 era tend to support or favor most of the following:
- the US Invasion of Iraq
- President George W. Bush
- the precedence of presidential authority over constitutional law
- using Christianity as a basis for legislative decision-making
- big government spending for political ends
- the use of legislation and non-competitive contracts as rewards for those who support their goals
There may be other characteristics as well.
Neoconservatives generally reject the term "neocon[servative]" and instead self-describe as "conservative", despite the fact that they philosophically differ with the traditional conservative views on items such as:
- small government, a basic tenet of US conservatism (neocons outwardly deplore wasteful government spending while actively working to increase bureaucracy and governmental powers)
- nation-building, which the 2000 US Republican Party Platform described as a "discredited idea"
- honesty, honor, integrity (values often emphasized by conservatives, and outwardly claimed by neocons; neocons have demonstrated, however, that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want – very much the authoritarian leader mindset)
It seemed at first that a new, more ruthless and less principled variety of neoconservative had emerged under Bush's leadership, but it is becoming apparent that there are significant areas of overlap (including personnel) between the two groups and that there are probably no significant distinguishing factors.
Author David Brin says that the neoconservative movement consists of three main components :
- A sub-set of aristocrats seeking (with great success) to use government as a free source of new wealth.
- A sub-set of messianic "Left Behind" Christianity that actively hungers for a final confrontation between Good and Evil, culminating in a stage-drama end of the world as predicted in the Biblical Book of Revelations.
- A movement of doctrine-focused intellectuals – many of whom are neither Christians nor aristocrats – pushing a particularly aggressive version of nationalism with a theoretical, neo-platonic basis and its own fervid sense of non-religious but messianic mission.
- Neoconservatism is a puppet ideology in which US conservatism is a cover for an agenda which leans strongly towards totalitarianism (Bush's elevation of presidential power), kleptocracy (exemplified by the unprecedented fiscal irresponsibility in Iraq, and American imperialism (US-Iraq War, potential US attack on Iran).
- Neoconservatism often uses the threat of Islamofascism as a stick to convince many people (especially conservatives) of the "unfortunate" necessity of reductions in personal freedom which would normally be considered absolutely unacceptable by the vast majority of citizens – leaving those who still do consider them unacceptable in the power minority.
- Conservapedia: agrees they aren't really conservative, though it claims they are former liberals instead
- dKosopedia (Neoconservative)
- SourceWatch (Neo-conservative) agrees that they are former liberals
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- Leo Strauss and the neoconservatives by Shadia B. Drury
- from David Brin:
- 2007-07-17 Ship of fools: Johann Hari sets sail with America's swashbuckling neocons (aka Neocons on a Cruise: What Conservatives Say When They Think We Aren't Listening) by Johann Hari, Independent UK. Bird Brains blog points out, however, that they actually do say this sort of thing on American talk radio, which isn't generally heard outside American borders. Description of neocons: "tireless champions of the overdog"
- 2006-11-03 Neo Culpa: As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war's neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence.
- 2005-08-04 Leo Strauss and the American Right by Shadia B. Drury (book review by Thom Hartmann): "How is it, some have wondered, that the Republican Party has been taken over by a relatively small band of radical ideologues who don't believe in democracy or honesty or any specific religion, but relentlessly flog the language of "freedom," "honor," and Christianity? How is it that people who run the government into deficit can campaign on fiscal responsibility? Or that people who campaign on a "pro life" position can be responsible for lying us into a war that has killed well over 100,000 human beings, nakedly advocate torture, and openly promote the death penalty in America?"
- 2007-05-12 Government shouldn't judge morality for us: the so-called conservative movement has drifted so far from its roots that it is now advocating the very thing it once fought: government intrusion into our personal lives. (Filed here as an example of how the party has been hijacked by neocons.)
- 2005-12-02 "The Political Battle over Modernity" by David Brin: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4: Part 4 includes an analysis of some of the major tools used by Neocons
- Goldwater-Miller '08: the granddaughter and daughter of Barry Goldwater and Bill Miller make the point that George W. Bush's Republican Party is not truly conservative
From David Brin:
|on 2006-08-14, in The Worst Habit of Liberalism... Handing Karl Rove Every Advantage:|
For 14 years and more, Rove & allies have bent all efforts toward maintaining a Big Tent coalition, uniting a melange of contradictory groups. With the sole aim of achieving and holding actual political power, they managed to wed together:
... and so on.
A great... nay incredible... morass of contradictions! How on Earth did they manage that? There is one simple answer. By getting every last one of these forces to call themselves "conservative."
[ ...later, in the comments section... ]
The Roveans do not ACTUALLY GIVE ANYTHING to the teeming masses under their big tent. Only three of the many "conservative" groups in the Red America coalition have received anything more than lip service from the real masters of the movement.
Except for these groups, none of the "conservatives" gathered under Rove's Big Tent are getting a damned thing they wanted.
|on 2005-10-23, in Propertarianism IV: the only (if crackpot) solution:|
Right now, the very word "conservative" is used to mask the fact that one group wants dynamic markets and measures our success according to the rate of small business startups, vigorous investment in new business opportunities, social mobility for those who exhibit honest ambition and hard work, and rapid rewards for innovation. Sooner or later, champions of markets will realize that these traits are being systematically quashed by others who use "conservative" to mask a different agenda. The old agenda that destroyed every other market system on record.
|in Neoconservatism, Islam and Ideology: The Real Culture War:|
What appears stunning to me is how few have pointed out the deep commonalities between American neoconservatism, Islamic fundamentalism, and every other prescriptive dogma that wracked and afflicted the Twentieth Century. The one common theme uniting all of these ideology-based systems is a burning contempt for the secular, pragmatic, accountable and tolerant legacy of the Enlightenment. Especially its promotion of skepticism toward the subjective, self important mind games that allow each of us to play tricks upon ourselves.