November 7, 2007

Yet another excerpt from the

The Anti-Neocon Fervor
Parsing the new political discourse
by James Kirchick
6 November 2007

The term "neoconservatism" has undergone a number of shifts in meaning.
It was coined in 1973 by the socialist intellectual Michael Harrington to
deride liberal thinkers such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Nathan Glazer,
who had begun to criticize the welfare state’s excesses. By the 1980s,
its meaning expanded to include a small group of former liberal intellectuals
who hewed to a strong anti-Soviet line and had defected from the Democratic
Party to support Ronald Reagan. They were motivated in part by an increased
awareness of, and distinctive moral clarity about, human rights in international
affairs, a worthy tradition whose liberal incarnation found embodiment in
figures such as Senator Scoop Jackson, labor leaders George Meaney,
Lane Kirkland, and Al Shanker, and intellectuals Bayard Rustin and Michael
Walzer. None of these people held traditionally movement conservative views
on economics or social issues far from it; some of them were outright socialists.
Neoconservatives had not been content with the d├ętente policies of Richard Nixon,
because they wanted not to coexist with communism, but to end it...a more
ambitious goal that Reagan shared.

After September 11, the "neocon" label, which had fallen into disuse, came
back into vogue as a way to categorize the intellectual godfathers behind
the Bush Doctrine, which of course has advocated both military responses
to terrorist threats and promoting liberty around the world via "regime change"
(not all necessarily through military means). According to the leftist narrative,
the neocons got us into the Iraq war...never mind the widespread assumption
among intelligence services around the world that Saddam Hussein did have
WMDs, or that large segments of the Democratic Party and liberal opinion
leaders supported the invasion of Iraq, etc., etc.

By now, "neocon" has mutated into a political curse word to discredit not just
those who happily accept their status as neoconservatives, but also anyone
who merely believes that the West should respond in muscular fashion to
national security threats, such as those posed by the cooperation of Iran,
Syria, and North Korea on nuclear weapons technology and the equipping of
terrorist groups around the world. The chief purpose of this emergent rhetorical
style is to cast aspersions on anyone who believes, say, that Iran must not attain
nuclear weapons, even if it requires war.

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