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A neo-conservative (abbreviated as neo-con or neocon) is part of a U.S. based political movement rooted in liberal Cold War anticommunism and a backlash to the social liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. These liberals drifted toward conservatism: thus they are new (neo) conservatives. They favor an aggressive unilateral U.S. foreign policy. They generally believe that elites protect democracy from mob rule. Sometimes the spelling is "neoconservative."

Origins of the neo-conservative movement

In their book Right-Wing Populism in America, Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons wrote that:

Neoconservatives, including many Jewish and Catholic intellectuals rooted in Cold War liberalism, clustered around publications such as Public Interest and Commentary and organizations such as the Committee on the Present Danger. They emphasized foreign policy, where they advocated aggressive anticommunism, U.S. global dominance, and international alliances. Although they attacked feminism, gay rights, and multiculturalism, "neocons" often placed less emphasis on social policy issues, and many of them opposed school prayer or a ban on abortion. In addition, many neocons supported limited social welfare programs and nonrestrictive immigration policies." [1]

Inter-Press Service journalist Jim Lobe noted that the development of a common understanding on the definition of neoconservative "can help distinguish them from other parts of the ideological coalition behind the administration's neo-imperialist trajectory". Lobe identifies the main strands as "the traditional Republican Machtpolitikers (Might Makes Right), such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, and the Christian Rightists, such as Attorney General John Ashcroft, Gary Bauer, and Pat Robertson."[2]

Writing in 2002 Lobe and Tom Barry argued that"neoconservatives have a profound belief in America1s moral superiority, which facilitates alliances with the Christian Right and other social conservatives. But unlike either core traditionalists of American conservatism or those with isolationist tendencies, neoconservatives are committed internationalists. As they did in the 1970s, the neoconservatives were instrumental in the late 1990s in helping to fuse diverse elements of the right into a unified force based on a new agenda of U.S. supremacy."[3]

For a list of prominent American neoconservatives, see Neo-conservatives/list.

Neoconservative forums and advocates

The early leaders of the neoconservative movement were Irving Kristol (author of 1983 book Reflections of a Neoconservative) and Norman Podhoretz, both of whom have served as editors of Commentary Magazine, the flagship publication of the American Jewish Committee, a centrist American-Jewish organization. On its webpage Commentary boasts it is known "as the intellectual home of the neoconservative movement" which is "vitally engaged in the preservation and spread of democracy and Western values." [4]

Other magazines include the Weekly Standard, currently edited by William Kristol and owned by Rupert Murdoch. The editorial page of Wall Street Journal can generally be relied upon to promote solidly neoconservative analysis. Irving Kristol also founded The National Interest, a journal vying to compete with Foreign Affairs.

Important neoconservatives in American politics include Paul Dundes Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, David Wurmser, William Kristol (son of Irving Kristol), Elliott Abrams (son-in-law to Norman Podhoretz) and Douglas Jay Feith.

Think tanks and organizations closely related to the neoconservatives include American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century and JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs).

The neoconservatives and the Bush administrations

Many neoconservatives found important positions in the Department of Defense under George W. Bush. They had long argued for a preventive war against Iraq in particular, but also several other Middle Eastern countries (Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia).

Immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, they renewed their calls for attack on Iraq. The Bush administration chose to first invade Afghanistan, but the neoconservatives eventually prevailed.

Criticisms of neoconservatives from within the conservative movement

Neo-conservatism has come in for criticism by some from other strands of the conservative movement. The rather disparagingly dubbed "paleo-conservatives" criticise neoconservatives for being too liberal and too internationalist. Writing in The New American, a publication of the John Birch Society, John F. McManus complains that a neo-conservative is "an opponent of Communism but a supporter of socialism and internationalism." McManus complained of a 1993 article in the Wall Street Journal expressing support for aspects of the welfare system. "These neocons have taken over the conservative wing of the Republican party. And they have succeeded in doing so to the degree that the word 'conservative' is now being applied to individuals and ideas that are, in fact, liberal (in the leftist sense), socialist, and totally undeserving of the conservative label," he complained.[5]

Right-wing ideologue Joseph Sobran echoed these sentiments complaining that "As a powerful movement, conservatism also attracted new members who were more interested in power than in principle. Some of these were called “neoconservatives” — admirers of Roosevelt and recent supporters of Lyndon Johnson who cared nothing for limited government and the U.S. Constitution." [6]

Neocon influence in the US media

The number of neocon dominated/controlled journals and program outlets has steadily increased ever since the introduction of Commentary. Eric Alterman lists the following outlets according to their degree of neoconnery [7]:

Although not listed in Alterman's list, The Atlantic Monthly also registers increasingly as a neocon-dominated periodical.

In Canada, neocon-dominated news outlets include:

  • Western Standard
  • The National Post

Increasingly, since Kenneth Whyte, the former editor of the right-wing and now-defunct Alberta Report' and former editor-in-chief of the National Post and the now defunct weekly magazine Saturday Night, took over as editor-in-chief and publisher of Canada's only weekly news magazine in 2005, MacLeans has also taken on a slick neoconservative bias. [8]

SourceWatch resources

Integral External Links



  • "The Neocons", You Tube, July 5th, 2007. (1 minute long)


The history of Neoconservatism

Incidental Neo-conservative External Links

NOTE: Portions of this article were adapted from a corresponding article in the Wikipedia.