So I got into a little contretemps online the other day about “neocons” when someone suggested that I was one, or at least a supporter of one in saying Rep. Allen West of Florida would make an interesting choice for GOP vice president. In response I went off on a bit of a historical rant, explaining who the neocons (more accurately “Neo-Conservatives,” as they were originally known) are, and where they came from (the moniker today is usually just used as an epithet, with no historical background; kind of a substitute for “war monger”). My rant apparently served some purpose, as some people have emailed me and said “thanks, I never was clear before on exactly who or what the neocons were.” Then Skip saw it and said “run it, run it!” So, okay, here’s a heavily edited version of what I said:
Actually, my interlocutors are both part right and part wrong about neocons (although both of them are nearly always totally right on the issues they address). There was no phenomenon known as “Neocons” in the way we speak of them today prior to the early 1970’s. The first Neocons—Daniel Bell, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Sen. Daniel Moynihan, to name a few—were old-line, post-WW II American “liberals” who were supportive of and active in building both the welfare state and the civil rights movement. They “kind of” supported a “mixed economy” because they believed that it generated the most money that could be skimmed off by the government to help people (Irving Kristol wrote a book named “Two Cheers for Capitalism”; not three, only two). They were all big supporters of John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier government expansion and spending, supported Lyndon Johnson’s war in Vietnam and so-called Great Society programs (“guns and butter,” as the spending on both Vietnam and welfare expansion was called), and supported Hubert Humphrey who ran against Richard Nixon in 1968. (Humphrey was in some ways the last of the great “welfare-warfare state” American liberals; I asked him at a gathering in front of several thousand students in the early 1970’s how he could justify the overspending the federal government was engaged in even then; he said there’s nothing wrong with spending when it’s for “housing and urban redevelopment and helping poor people”; the crowd roared its approval…and here we are today.) The neocons were also likely supporters even earlier of Adlai Stevenson, the supposedly brainy, great post-WW II liberal who ran as a Democrat against Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, losing both times.
The genesis of the modern neoconservative movement was a political development that began metastasizing in 1972 with Sen. George McGovern, the New Left, and the Vietnam anti-war movement. Remember, the neocons were and are internationalists (as befits people who harken back to the Internationalist communist movement of the 1920’s and ’30’s…while disapproving of the communists’ “regrettable excesses”). The New Left, after its pro-communist victory over America and the South Vietnamese people, turned into a very effective long-term political movement (Sen. John Kerry of Mass. came directly out of it, as did Obama’s great bomber-buddy, Bill Ayers). That movement was “internationalist,” but only to the extent that any overseas movement was also anti-American and anti-capitalist. Under Jimmy Carter our homegrown New Left anti-American movement had a victory in deposing the pro-America, secular, reformist Shah of Iran…and we have what we have today as a result in that country.
Since the neocons did not hate America and what it stood for, they started getting increasingly nervous in the way the Democrat Party was trending. In addition, many of the neocons were Jewish, with strongly held beliefs that Israel should be defended at any cost, as a beacon of civilization and democratic values in a part of the world where neither characteristic was or is welcomed. The New Left, in the meantime, turned anti-Israel (which was and is a pro-American country, remember) and pro-Palestinian, in part no doubt because Palestinians by and large hate America (for its historic support of Israel). In turning pro-Palestinian, the New Left movement also took on an anti-Semitic edge that has grown right up to this day.
So in the face of the beginning of that entire process, starting with the Vietnam anti-war movement in the late 1960’s and the emergence of the New Left, and moving on to George McGovern running for President in 1972 (which launched the takeover of the Democrat Party by the New Left)…the neocons realized that they had created a leftist monster right in the heart of America, and began abandoning it (as statist and collectivist “reformers” generally do when they see the real-world results of their great ideas). Remember also that the neocons were very strongly pro-American, even though they wanted a “more fair” and thus quasi-socialist, welfare state country. Most fought in WW II, and they were all were quite patriotic. So when hatred of America (because it was individualitst, capitalist, and anti-statist) became increasingly popular as a polestar of the New Left—which the Old Left liberals had birthed—the neocons began renouncing the child of their old leftism, and came over to those who still were patriotically pro-American…the modern American Conservative movement, which was reborn out of the Old Right America-Firsters of the early and mid-20th century in the form of the Goldwater Movement of the 1960’s (which, not incidentally, was also internationalist because it was largely based upon anti-communism). The old leftists liked all of that, because they were not communists themselves, they were liberals! They were also patriotic, and also wanted to keep building the Welfare State. However, although the new-right conservatives opposed the welfare state (merely a family squabble among the conservatives and the neocons), they also wanted to defeat communism, support South Vietnam, support Israel, and support exporting America’s superior values and form of government, as did the neocons. All that was anathema to the New Left, as bathed in America-hatred as they were and are, and so the old progressive liberals were driven out of the Democrat party, to take up with the reborn New Right and conservative movement.
That is where the neocons that we talk about today have come from. Given the realities on the ground, including the imminent collapse of welfare states and socialist regimes all over the world, and including the fact that America is bankrupt, their internationalist nostrums aren’t viewed as such a great idea anymore. The left doesn’t believe in them because they think that America is fatally flawed and thus not suitable for emulation (think of leftist Supreme Court Justice Ginzburg, who advised against new nations adopting the U.S. Constitution and form of government), while the right realizes not only that we can’t afford to be internationalist anymore (with endless foreign wars associated with the exporting of American values), but that other peoples may fight to the death against our values of individualism, capitalism, and freedom, e.g. Afghanistan and other Islamic countries. (And let’s not forget our domestic hostility to those values from the Democrats; the local chairman of the Democrat party in my home town of Grafton was quoted as saying this about incoming libertarians and libertarian-conservative Freestaters: “They’re not going to be allowed to come here and cram freedom down our throats!” (LOL.)
I am not a neocon. (I sound like Richard Nixon thanks to you two, who said “I am not a crook.” Sheesh!) And I do not believe that Allen West is one. We shall see. He’s in favor of cutting the military budget, for which he got in trouble from the GOP chairman of the defense committee he sits on. Marco Rubio, unfortunately, seems to have had his head twisted around by the neocon internationalists in the Trilaterial Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, and appears to be in the process of morphing from a Tea Party Conservative to a neocon internationalist. Too bad, that. But it is not applicable to Col. West, who I think would make a most interesting vice presidential candidate because of his obvious courage, intelligence, historical knowledge, and willingess to fight. Not to mention that he would be a rebuke to both the race-hustler con-men like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as to the liberal racists who have “helped” black Americans right into the permanent underclass that a large percentage of them are trapped in today. So don’t give me any of this “neocon” silliness, you two!