Neoconservatism (commonly shortened to neocon) is a political movement born in the United States during the 1960s among Democrats who became disenchanted with the party's domestic and especially foreign policy. Many of its adherents became politically famous during the Republican presidential administrations of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Neoconservatives peaked in influence during the administrations of George W. Bush and George H W Bush, when they played a major role in promoting and planning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Prominent neoconservatives in the Bush administration included Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, and Paul Bremer. Senior officials Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, while not identifying themselves as neoconservatives, listened closely to neoconservative advisers regarding foreign policy, especially the defense of Israel, the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, and the buildup of American military forces to achieve these goals.
The neocons have influence in the Obama White House, and neoconservatism remains a staple in both parties' arsenal.
The term "neoconservative" refers to those who made the ideological journey from the anti-Stalinist Left to the camp of American conservatism. Neoconservatives typically advocate the promotion of democracy and promotion of American national interest in international affairs, including by means of military force, and are known for espousing disdain for communism and for political radicalism. Many early neoconservative thinkers were Zionist and published articles in Commentary, published by the American Jewish Committee. They spoke out against the New Left, and in that way helped define the movement. C. Bradley Thompson, a professor at Clemson University, claims that most influential neoconservatives refer explicitly to the theoretical ideas in the philosophy of Leo Strauss (1899–1973), though in doing so they may draw upon meaning that Strauss himself did not endorse.
Friction with moderate conservatives
Many moderate conservatives oppose neoconservative policies and have sharply negative views on it. For example, Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke (a libertarian based at Cato), in their 2004 book on neoconservatism, America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order, characterized the neoconservatives, at that time, as uniting:
… around three common themes: 1.A belief deriving from religious conviction that the human condition is defined as a choice between good and evil and that the true measure of political character is to be found in the willingness by the former (themselves) to confront the latter.
2.An assertion that the fundamental determinant of the relationship between states rests on military power and the willingness to use it.
3.A primary focus on the Middle East and global Islam as the principal theater for American overseas interests.
In putting these themes into practice, neo-conservatives:
1.Analyze international issues in black-and-white, absolute moral categories. They are fortified by a conviction that they alone hold the moral high ground and argue that disagreement is tantamount to defeatism.
2.Focus on the "unipolar" power of the United States, seeing the use of military force as the first, not the last, option of foreign policy. They repudiate the "lessons of Vietnam," which they interpret as undermining American will toward the use of force, and embrace the "lessons of Munich," interpreted as establishing the virtues of preemptive military action.
3.Disdain conventional diplomatic agencies such as the State Department and conventional country-specific, realist, and pragmatic, analysis. They are hostile toward nonmilitary multilateral institutions and instinctively antagonistic toward international treaties and agreements. "Global unilateralism" is their watchword. They are fortified by international criticism, believing that it confirms American virtue.
4.Look to the Reagan administration as the exemplar of all these virtues and seek to establish their version of Reagan's legacy as the Republican and national orthodoxy