neocon history


History, Ismael Reed once said, is the story of warfare between secret societies. I’m not ready to go that far, but I think it’s fair to say the history of U.S. foreign policy over the past forty years has been the story of the war between two not-so-secret societies: the neoconservatives and the realists. And it now seems the realists have won another battle — although perhaps not the war.

The neocons may be down, but they’re not out — and aren’t likely to be, not as long they continue to enjoy the support of the ultras: the Christian conservatives, Sunbelt demagogues, Arab haters and hyperpatriots that constitute the Republican Party’s popular base. The realists may be the ones who have a clue about how to run a foreign policy, but the neocons are still the ones with the political juice.


common themes that are generally identified with the neocons: contempt for international organizations and the concept of multilateralism; impatience with traditional balance-of-power diplomacy; a cultish devotion to the use of military power; an outspoken belief in the superiority of Western culture and political institutions; a messianic vision of America’s mission to “civilize” the world, which at times (Max Boot) makes them sound like caricatures of old-fashioned European imperialists. And of course: an intense identification with the state of Israel, and a willingness, even eagerness, to use American power to protect and further Israeli security interests.

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