You Keep Using That Word, Neocon. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means
“I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – nothing more nor less.” — Humpty Dumpty from Alice in Wonderland
There is no word in politics today that is misused by more people than the word “neocon.” I’ve talked about this subject before, more than once, but something that happened yesterday prompted me to address it again today.
I was driving home from work, listening to a local talk show host named Jason Lewis who generally does a pretty good show. But, he starts talking about neocons and to be blunt, he had no idea what he was talking about. By that, I mean that he was claiming that John McCain is a neocon, that neocons support drafts, that they support building an American empire…just nonsense. I’m sure that he wasn’t trying to be misleading; in fact I’m guessing that he was just confused by all the contradictory rhetoric out there…and he’s not alone.
However, there’s no need to fear, because RWN is here with a short Neocon Q&A list to clear things up. Read this post, love it, then bookmark it and the next time someone with no clue starts spouting off about neocons, you can straighten him out…
Question: What is a neocon?
Answer: It’s simply a person who has moved from left to right in their political views.
Question: How did the term originate?
Answer: According to Jonah Golberg, here’s the origin of the word,
“Michael Harrington, the big-hearted socialist, coined the phrase to describe a bunch of “renegade” liberals and leftists who were moving right. It wasn’t meant as a compliment. Indeed, in a very real sense, neoconservatism was from the beginning a more useful word to describe a phenomenon rather than a school of thought.”
Question: Are all neocons Jewish?
Answer: There are a lot of prominent Jewish neocons, but all conservative Jews are not neocons, nor do you have to be Jewish to be a neocon.
Question: Name some prominent neocons.
Answer: Max Boot, Linda Chavez, Jonah Goldberg, David Horowitz, Michael Medved, Richard Perle, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Sowell, Paul Wolfowitz.
Question: How do the views of neocons differ from those of most mainstream conservatives?
Answer: In my experience, they don’t significantly differ from those of most other conservatives.
Question: But aren’t neocons more hawkish than other conservatives?
Answer: I haven’t seen much of a difference between neocons and other conservatives when it comes to the use of military force. For example, if you look at the views of 3 prominent neocons like Richard Perle, Jonah Goldberg, & Paul Wolfowitz and then compare their views on foreign policy to those of three “regular” conservatives like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Donald Rumsfeld, you probably won’t find a dime’s worth of difference.
Question: Do neocons favor a draft?
Answer: Put simply, the answer to that question is “no”. To the best of my knowledge, the only prominent Republican to float the idea of a draft is Chuck Hagel and if I may be so frank, he’s a bit of a doofus.
Question: Do neocons want to create an American empire?
Answer: Again, the answer is “no”. I don’t know of a single, prominent Republican who is suggesting that we create what most people think of as an “empire” (you know, colonies, puppet governments, the sort of thing Europe used to be into).
That being said, I have heard a few conservatives here and there — Max Boot comes to mind — refer to an “American empire,” but it’s pure semantics. They look at all the military bases we have around the world, the multi-national corporations, the cultural influence we have, and call that an “empire”. I, and most people, see the exact same thing and disagree with the terminology they’re using. But, there is no substantial difference between our actual views, the difference is just in the words we’re using.
Question: Are neocons responsible for the war on Iraq? I’ve heard they’ve been planning it for years!
Answer: I’ll let David Frum answer that questions since he did such a superb job of it in the interview I did with him,
“The idea that overthrowing Saddam Hussein sprung out of the minds of a few people in Washington forgets an awful lot of history. In the 2000 election, both candidates spoke openly about the need to deal with Saddam Hussein. Al Gore was actually more emphatic on the topic than George Bush was. In 1998, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. Just to show how conspiratorial they were, they put it in the Congressional record. In 1995, the CIA tried to organize a coup against Saddam Hussein and it failed. The coup was secret, but it has been written about in 5 or 6 books that I know of. In 1991, representatives of President George H. W. Bush went on the radio and urged the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam Hussein. So America’s policy on Saddam has been consistent. What we have been arguing about for years are the methods. First, we tried to encourage a rebellion in Iraq, that didn’t work. Then we tried coups; that didn’t work. Then in 1998, we tried funding Iraqi opposition. That might have worked, but the money never actually got appropriated. Then, ultimately we tried direct military power. The idea that Saddam should go has been the policy of the United States since 1991.”
I hope that helps make things a little clearer for people…