Editor: Originally published at Upon Hope on 26 August, 2014. It is worth considering that neocons have not learned any of the lessons outlined by Mark.
Neo in Latin means new, so Neo-Conservatism means new Conservatism. What exactly is a new Conservative?
It turns out it’s a branch of Right-Liberalism, it might be new but it isn’t Conservative. Many Neo-Conservatives started off on the Left and as both they and the Left changed they felt a bit left out in the cold. In time they saw that they agreed a lot with “Conservatives” and that is what they thought they were, but not the old type of Conservative, a new but still progressive Conservative, a Neo-Conservative. In reality they were not Conservatives they had simply moved from a Classical Liberalism to a Right Liberal position. Just as the Left moved from a more Classical Liberal position to one further left, much closer to Socialism and Communism.
Neo-Conservatives are solidly Right Liberal in their social and economic policies. In fact I cannot think of any serious disagreement between the two. But one idea stands supreme, the idea that each of us desires to be an autonomous individual, now both Right and Left Liberalism agree with this but what they might not agree with is that Neo-Conservatives believe that America is the greatest Liberal society ever. And that as everyone desires to be an autonomous individual and as America has come further than any other nation in creating a Liberal society, all Foreign and Domestic policy should be aligned to first keep and then extend the ideal of American Liberalism. They further believe that it is profoundly immoral to hinder or stand in the way of Humanity’s greatest goal. Like all Liberals they believe in a perfect world, in a heaven on Earth that they can create. But Neo-Conservatives believe that a piece of that heaven on earth already exists. That American Liberalism is the way to obtain that perfect world. That is why they originally turned against the Left because it attacked and put under threat American Liberalism by moving further to the Left.
They believe in the strength of the United States, that America is the best, last hope for Humanity. That just as open borders and Free Trade allows those not born American to still receive the miracle of American Liberalism, American Liberalism can also be exported. But in most of America Neo-Conservatives are a tiny minority. Their strength lies in New York City and Washington D.C., they tend to be very cultured and academic, to work in Universities and in Government. And while their ideas get a good hearing in the halls of power they do not have much strength or power. Iraq is the perfect example. They supported the invasion of Iraq, as did many others, it certainly was not just Neo-Conservatives who supported the war. But what they wanted was a long occupation and an intense effort to transform Iraq from an oppressed, poor and illiberal country, into a bastion of American Liberalism in the Middle East. A country that would then transform the rest of the Middle East by its sincere conversion to American Liberalism. I even remember President Bush saying things very similar. Of course things worked out differently, very differently.
The Neo-Conservatives sometimes got their way, but not consistently. For example they wanted large amounts of money spent on rebuilding Iraq and that money was spent (often badly). But as part of that effort they wanted political education, basically civic classes, but hardly any of that was carried out. They wanted to rebuild civil institutions, but that proved much harder than most thought, one reason being because many of the civil institutions couldn’t be rebuild because they had never existed before. But instead of trying to achieve a compromised peace, which it may have been possible to achieve, although I admit that is not certain. They wanted to create Switzerland, a multiethnic, multi-party Democracy in the Middle East. That failed, I do not believe as many others believe that Democracy cannot work in the Middle East but Democracy is not magic, it is more like a crop in the field, it needs the right conditions to grow. The right conditions do not exist in Iraq for Democracy to work, at least not as we understand it, maybe some type of limited Democracy might work. The right conditions do not exist for Liberalism to work either.
In many ways Neo-Conservatives seem stuck in the early 1960’s. America is strong, economically, politically, socially and militarily. It is rich and can afford to be generous, it is after all the envy of the world. America was made great by Liberalism, American Liberalism is the future. America rebuilt Germany and Japan after the war, there is nothing Americans cannot achieve if they put their minds to it. Neo-Conservatism will not survive beyond my lifetime because the America that they believe in and admire is not here anymore. Sure parts of it are, America isn’t down and out but how much does it really resemble the early 1960’s anymore?
Originally published at Upon Hope. You can find Mark’s Subscribestar here.