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What the hell is a neocon anyway?

By Doug Thompson
June 23, 2012

Neocon has become a preferred insult in many political debates among conservatives, especially those who doubt the sincerity of others who claims to support a right-wing point of view.

Websters’ dictionary appears to support this point of view:

Definition of NEOCONSERVATIVE

1 : a former liberal espousing political conservatism

2 : a conservative who advocates the assertive promotion of democracy and United States national interest in international affairs including through military means
— neo·con·ser·va·tism noun
— neoconservative adjectiv

Says Wikipedia:

Neoconservatism is a variant of the political ideology of conservatism which combines features of traditional conservatism with political individualism and a qualified endorsement of free markets. Neoconservatism (or new conservatives) is rooted in a group of former liberals, who in the late 1960s, began to oppose many of the policies and principles associated with President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. The term “neoconservative” was initially used in the 1930s to describe American liberals who criticized other liberals who followed a path closer to Soviet communism.

Three years ago, Jonathan Clarke at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs defined neocons as those who display:

  • a tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms
  • low tolerance for diplomacy
  • readiness to use military force
  • emphasis on US unilateral action
  • disdain for multilateral organizations
  • focus on the Middle East
  • an us-versus-them mentality

In other words, like most political labels, it depends both on who’s doing the labeling and who’s getting labeled.

5 Responses to What the hell is a neocon anyway?

  1. Sandy Price

    June 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I’ve been a Fiscal Conservative since the 1960s where I read many books on the need for fiscal responsibility with a focus on limiting the amount of money given to people for no reason except need.

    Many programs were in the planning based on allowing more people to get into the work force. The schools were targetting with plans for training the students to enter the workforce. Our Congress were not elected to increase the academics and they refused to work with any of the programs. It was easier to stay in a state of defense where the jobs would be offered through defense contracts.

    America needed a reason to be at the ready for any foes and it seemed to many of us that our government began to piss off many in the Middle East and the GOP wanted to be ready and the programs were passed for this protection. This became the new label.

    The original Conservative movement did not support this program so the split in the party became the neo conservatives versus the fiscal conservatives.

    All the pro-war Conservatives needed support and they found it among the churches and the rest is history. The Middle East were on the side of Islam and of course, America being a Christian nation, it was obvious to protect all us Christians from Islam.

    The National Republican Committee developed a new agenda for the Party which is now in the hands of a class of white supremacy pro-war Americans.

    The result of this division showed many of us that racism is playing a large part of American values. It shocked me personally as I had no idea of the amount of racism and homophobia that runs both sides of the Conservative Party. Could this have come from the number of Christians who were voting again? I know it is the base of the Evangelicals where only a select few Christians are accepted.

    Are we in a new version of cleaning out the religious voters? I attended a couple of Christian revival meetings and they make it very clear who they accept and who they want destroyed. This is not new as it was the base for the Inquisition that ruled much of Europe for many years.

    If this continues to direct the Republican Party it will be up to the voters to remove them from our law makers in the Congress.

    Most voters are too lazy to take the trouble of learning how our congress votes when in session. I’ve wasted 50 years trying to expose the war mongers. I’m old and tired and thoroughly depressed at how little people care about equality or even how our schools are lacking academics.

    It is much easier to whine about how our kids are failing in school instead of approaching the schools and then our Representatives. Seeing Bs and As on the report cards is a fraud. Sitting down and discussing political agendas is where the discussions are to be made.

    There is so much to be covered and so little time before our kids turn away from the parents. Exposing our kids to all the choices for their future seems to stop the minute their friends become more important than their future.

    If the parents support war the kids will either become peaceniks or neo cons. Teen years are the extremist years.

  2. Lillibet Hunt

    June 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Sandy, you remind me of the writings of Charlotte Iserbyt, a woman with much experience, great common sense, and unfailing ability to connect some really important dots. She too has found the change in education to be from knowledge to ideology, with the largest number of children educated to be worker bees. The rich will continue in their own programs so as to own the bees.

    Conservatism has been hijacked by ideologues, and during the first Reagan presidential campaign, it was done brilliantly to convince even nominal Christians to vote against the teachings of Jesus, their own best interests, and against all sorts of nominated enemies (without any evidence of threat or harm to the US.) It worked, largely because the education system had been so hollowed out as to provide the necessary, non-thinking voters who pulled the lever for a man Goldwater would have run out of the Republican party for failure to adhere to real conservatism in either thought or deed.

    Once youth were just educated enough to think, but not deeply, entire swaths of the population could be counted on to support the surface image, cheerlead the causes of the ‘leaders’ and blindly push whatever policy du jour was needed to prop up the defense industry and its related businesses.

    On the other side, the neoliberals aren’t much better, and nor much different.

    Both are essentially the same side of a same sided coin. Flip it, and heads are always tails, and vice versa. This is the present reality in a nation run by ideologues who differ little in substance, running both parties. It is self-evident in the present occupant of the White House continuing all prior policies that were to be stopped after inauguration. The result has been more war, more banker friendly “non-reform,” and more curtailment of personal and public freedom. Yet, the corporatists run the world for their own benefit and the worker bees get outsourced or drop off the unemployment rolls.

    The neocon Chicago School has been battered and discredited of late, yet it endures under different labels for the same policies or for those carrying out those policies. What is a neocon? Simple. A neocon is one that’s able to get the public to fund their own demise for the benefit of the tippy-top of the pyramid scheme called the economy.

  3. Sandy Price

    June 23, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Lil. I sent my kids to private school until they attended the University of California at Berkeley.

    I had two girls and my husband (College Professor) thought educating either of them a waste of time and money. He was the son of a Baptist Minister and I saw the hell and damnation in many of his words. My family were Mormons who were just getting started removing themselves from the bigotry against women and gays. They sent me to a private school that was based on a strict structure of time and strength in academics. Keeping my grades up allowed me access to UCLA and a lot of extra classes.

    Some time before I had to determine what private schools for the girls I read and met Ayn Rand. She warned all of us that the world would turn on her and anyone who appreciated her words. It was a challenge I took and gained from it. I have never studied what is popular with others as if I did, I would learn nothing. Rand’s words to me focussed on striving for individual freedoms and to push my own kids into appreciating diversity. I chose a couple of schools for the kids that understood my message and the fact my kids did well at Berkeley showed me I got what I wanted. I refusded to allow the schools to play games with the Price girls and when my step son joined the family he wanted the same message given to him. His father left the family and I got custody of Brick allowing him to make his own choices and decisions and he did the right things.

    When I joined CHB I was stunned at the small minds of so many members of the forum. My younger girl had been on line for several years and warned me that many who spend time on line are playing to the fools. There is no room for diversion and serious political discussion is not possible.

    Many of my girl friends in the neiborhood ended up watching cartoons in front of the TV and gave up living in the world in which we lived. I became a beach bum with a book under each arm eagerly waiting to start school in the fall. I could not tolerate the music that was in this world so I fell into the classics. I’m still there with a world of Grand Opera entering my home via satellite radio from the N.Y. Met. I now learn from my kids as they have expanded their own world of art of impressionistic paintings and music. My son works in the film industry and is very successful. I have two glorious grandkids who just got married last year. I am proud that they brought a Jewish Attorney and a Cambodian costume designer into the family. Not a Mormon in sight.

    Nothing makes me giggle more than to have a couple of ranters try to tell me how to look at American values.

    I would never trust any politico to design academics for my kids. They are different from each other and from the masses. We spent years in the arms of Shakesoeare and Verdi The last time I spoke to my older girl, she still does not have a TV. J.J. does and is showing the rest of the family how to watch HBO. I get my news from 3 am until 6 am and then over to the Met until noon. I do water therapy most of the day and will head back to the Red Cross working on the plans for evacuation of this part of the desert when the next earthquake hits.

    Got a tall pile of books waiting for my consumption but I know better than to mention them here.

  4. Lillibet Hunt

    June 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Sandy, perhaps we are the exception to the general rules of today’s culture. I took much the same path, spending more time on academics than much else, except for the demanding violin. I never had children, but if I had been so blessed, they would have gone to private schools and would have found their schoolwork supplemented with lots of additional lessons and reading.

    I read all the books on the St. John’s curriculum (or the Basic Program at the Univ. of Chicago), in high school, along with standard texts for my classes. I also audited courses at the Univ. of MN at the same time. Had I not done this, I wouldn’t have been ready for college at all, as my own class was the first in St. Paul to get the ‘new, improved study plan’ that was the beginning road to functional illiteracy for middle class public school children. (H/T Charlotte Iserbyt)

    Today, schools are even further along the path of dumbing down, spending about a third to half the day on discipline problems and little time at all on classics, logic, deep exploration of history or language. I recently heard that the Pew Center has discovered 40 percent of Americans cannot name the VP, and a third can’t even find Japan on a globe.

    I fear that the general public could accurately answer any questions about movie stars and rock musicians, unfailingly identifying all pertinent data about those who entertain us. I’ve seen YouTube recorded surveys showing the public can’t get the Korean Conflict in the right century, and respond that 911 is an event occurring in December. 1991.

    The public are not going to know the difference between various schools of economics, nor will they know the ill effects of the Federal Reserve and its actions that prolonged the Great Depression. Generally, reporters have yet explain why the Stimulus failed to ‘stimulate’ enough to even get us above job creation in excess of that needed for population growth. We have yet to see any net job increases sufficient to set off against jobs lost due to outsourcing or bankruptcies. We still haven’t gotten over the population threshold of between 150-250 thousand jobs needed per month.

    Neocons, or Neoconservatives are neither new, nor are they conservatives. Their goal is a country run by corporations for the benefit of corporations, with military might shoring up resource extraction around the world. They are a favored constituency of the Federal Reserve, which is not federal and has no reserves. At heart, they seek corporatism, which Mussolini defined as classical fascism. We even have those Roman fascia surrounding the podium in the House, likely warming the hearts of neocons worldwide at every State of the Union speech. These ideologues brought us Iraq in 2003, and tried to deny any tie between 911 and Iraq was ever even hinted at before the invasion.

    Neocons, and their fellow traveling neoliberals, have done everything to raise the standard of living of those who started out at the top of the top of the heap. As a result, income inequality is now in excess of the Roaring 20s. They encourage public cheerleading for economic favor being lavished upon those with the greatest income, because no one should be paying taxes if Joe Six-Pack sees he might have a high income brought about by a winning lottery ticket or an extraordinarily generous plumbing client.

    All of this has been done with support of blind followers of ideology, whose voices have been louder in an echo chamber enabled by the dearth of critical thinking by the masses. None seem to have read basic physics, economics, history or mob psychology to see where we’ve been lied to about every invasion, bailout, corrupted power, or even the issues used in the recruitment of Tea Party membership.

    Hannah help us all, there’s just so much wrong with our nearly functionally illiterate body politic. They are unable to recognize we’ve been had by the Neocons, Neoliberals, warmongerers, military industry, privatization, tax forgiveness, federal subsidies, lowered expectations, outsourcing, NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, vote counting fraud, and the rest of it. If the public could not need the question of what a neocon is, answered, we just might be about halfway to achieving effective action to save our sorry mess of a country before it is beyond all hope.

  5. tabonsell

    June 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Doesn’t matter who are neocons, they are the same as the GOP and the Tea Party and they are dangerous. The idea that the right (GOP, neocons or Tea Party) put forth about limited government and individual liberties is completely ludicrous. The three are pretty much the same, so let’s look at their record.

    Alexander Hamilton was the only Founder who addressed “limited government” and he said (paraphrasing here) that “when I refer to a limited Constitution, I mean one in which there are limits, such as Congress can pass no ex post facto laws, no bills of attainder and the like”. The “like” would include no repeal of habeas corpus. Those three limitations are repealed or seriously damaged by the right’s PATRIOT Act, that few in Congress were brave enough to oppose.

    The Bill of Rights is also limited government and individual liberties. The right is almost universal in damaging those.

    First Amendment: The right wants government in religion and religion in government. The right (especially Ann Coulter) wants to imprison newspaper editors and reporters who print stories the right doesn’t like. As for peaceful assembly; ever hear of “free speech zones”? And there’s speech limitations such as if pregnant woman wants to end the pregnancy she has to inform the guy who knocked her up, even if he’s in prison for rape, and limiting speech of advisors and medical providers. Your right to petition government for a redress of grievances is under attack because the right wants to eliminate “frivolous lawsuits (i.e. lawsuits brought by commoners).

    Second Amendment: Totally misread by the right.

    Third Amendment: not applicable because no one wants us to house soldiers in our private residences.

    Fourth Amendment: The right says police can break down your door and invade your home by claiming they smelled marijuana smoke, no search warrant needed. Unreasonable searches and seizures, out the window because of the PATRIOT Act. Plus New York City’s stop-and-frisk program aimed at anyone who is a tad bit overly tan.

    Fifth Amendment: The right used to jail Americans for thinking Marxism was a good idea even though the Fifth pertains to “capital or otherwise infamous crime”. The right wants added time to a sentence if the defendant doesn’t confess (i.e. testify against himself). As for taking property: if a person buys an American flag, he/she is the legal owner; it isn’t owned by government; it isn’t owned by neighbors. So if that private property is used in a protest, punishing for that use is taking of property, perfectly acceptable to the right.

    Sixth Amendment: This one is totally destroyed by the right. The accused must be tried in the state and district where the crime occurred. That means the prisoners held in Gitmo must be tried in the New York City area or Northern Virginia where 9/11 happened. The right in Congress said “no way,” and refused to fund transfer of prisoners to the US to meet constitutional requirements. The accused must have a speedy and public trial. Eleven years later, where is the speedy trial? Trials held in secret in Cuba aren’t public. An impartial jury in a military tribunal? Ask Sen. Mitch McConnell who cited the Casey Anthony acquittal in Florida to say we should not try terrorist suspects in civilian courts because one or two of them might be acquitted. In other words, we need to conduct show trials like the ones we criticized the Soviet Union for holding for many years. Witness for the defense and being informed of the charges, facing the accuser, having legal representation were all opposed by the right and some had to be secured through the Supreme Court.

    Seventh Amendment: The right of a trial under common law. Under attack by the right. No overturning of a judgment, under attack by the right.

    Eighth Amendment: No cruel and unusual punishments. The right constantly whines that prisoners are sent to “country club” facilities and we must get tougher. I.e. more cruelty. We don’t need more laws outlawing Sharia law” the 8th prohibition on unusual punishment already does that just as the prohibition of cruelty prohibits cutting off the hand of thieves or stoning people to death. But the right wants more government, more unnecessary law.

    Ninth Amendment: John Jay said that in forming the new government Americans would give up some of their rights in order for the government to have necessary power. The 9th refers to that by saying that rights not given up are retained by the people, even though they are unnamed, unknown, or uncounted. The right says rights not written down in the BofR don’t exist. Hamilton opposed a BofR in the original Constitution because he said if they wrote down a handful of rights Americans would come to think those were the only ones that existed. He was right because the right can’t find a right of privacy or to be left alone, it can’t find a right of a woman to manage her own pregnancy, it can’t find a right for us to choose our own lovers of mates; among many other rights the right can’t find. So it wants more government intrusion into those areas of personal liberties.

    Tenth Amendment: This says powers of government come from the people (i.e. democratic powers) and the powers not given the federal government are given to state governments (through their constitutions) and those not given to either of the governments are retained by the people. It means the people are the fourth branch of government with the legislature, executive and judicial and the fourth layer of government with federal, state, local and the people. The right says the 10th means states can do whatever they want, even overrule the federal government even though the Constitution, federal law and treaties are the supreme law of the land.

    Then the Fourteenth amendment says no state can abridge “privileges and immunities” of US citizens. Voting is a privilege, but right-wing governors and legislatures are abridging voting all the time with complex unneeded voter ID laws. It also says states may not deny equal protection of the law to any PERSON. Immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, are persons but the right goes out of its way to deny rights to persons it claims are “illegal aliens.” Doesn’t matter if persons are gay or straight; male or female; black or white, Christian, Jewish or Muslim; religious or atheist. Doesn’t matter; they are all persons and have the same rights under state jurisdiction as the farthest-right nutjob, according to the Constitution that “neocons” claim to love but appear to hate everything it says. On this matter Alabama and Arizona may be the most anti-Constitutional nutjob factories in the United States. This will be the only agreement with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but when he allowed in-state college tuition to children of “illegal aliens” who graduated from Texas high schools, he was in total compliance with the Constitution, but his primary right-wing opponents attacked him for obeying the Constitution.

    The Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments are “Limited Government,” but are undermined by those claiming to want “limited government.”

    Another area of limited government are Supreme Court decisions. The Court told state governments to stay out of religious practices of school children, and the right hates the school-prayer decision. The Court told states to stop using their school system to disadvantage minority children, and the right hates that Brown decision. The Court told the federal government it can’t try civilians in military tribunals when civilian courts are open and operating, but the right says “to hell with that” and will try civilians in military courts, out of public view in Cuba, and with stacked “juries.”

    Then we have the absence of power as another form of “limited government.” There are no powers listed or implied in the Constitution that authorizes government to regulate the reproductive process; no power to interfere with family planning, to regulate who we choose as lovers and spouses; no power to regulate our patriotism or lack of patriotism; no power to regulate what we inhale, ingest or insert into our own bodies; no power to interfere with how we wish to die (see Oregon’s first-in-the-nation assisted-suicide law the right tried to overturn to have government make the decision for us); no power to regulate our travel from state to state, or many other areas of the right’s quest for Big Brother government.

    The last area of “limited government” includes organizations that represent citizens who feel government has acted outside its constitutional authority and harmed the individual. Such groups as the NAACP, the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild; all hated by the right.

    We saw a good example of what the right means when it calls for “limited government” during the 2009 town-hall meeting to discuss the health-insurance reforms the right calls “Obamacare.” Tea Party nuts interrupted those meetings with shouts of “no government” in the health-care area but “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” They meant they wanted government limited to serving only their selfish wants, not doing anything to benefit “them others.”