The neo-conservatism movement is a political school of thought that surfaced in the United States in the modern political era. It advocates for the use of American economic and military power to push for the implementation of liberalism, the ideals of democracy and respect to human rights and freedoms in nations outside the United States (Stelzer 3). The neo-conservatism movement differs from other philosophical dispensations like the libertarians and paleo-conservatives in that it backs the formation of welfare economic state (Stelzer 4).
However, the movement has been criticized and accused of applying double standards because it also supports free markets (Haney). Having amorphous origins, a neo-conservatism proponent named Irving Kristol is commonly regarded as the founder of the movement, and he wrote his views for a magazine back in 1979 (McManus). Ever since, the neo-conservatism movement has become increasingly powerful and has been to some extent thought to have impacted on the United States foreign policy.
In this research paper, I examine the genesis of the movement from the start, analyze the meaning of its philosophy and then examine the criticism it faces, particularly from the libertarians. Origin and Progress of the Neo-conservatism Movement The ideals held by the neo-conservatism movement have their origins in the political developments of the early 20th century (McManus). The earliest members of this school of thought were socialists, but some liberals who strongly supported the cause of the Allied Powers during the Second World War (Dorrien 31).
The Great Depression led to the emergence of new ideas for the formation of an economy that would effectively bear the shocks emanating from the challenges that were facing the world should they arise in future. Liberalism was the dominant intellectual discourse at the time, and early neoconservatives felt that they and American society was threatened by an emerging pool of extreme leftists. Neoconservatives supported the doctrines of the then President Richard Nixon.
In the 1960s, the neo-conservatism movement was opposed to American counterculture pioneered by the so-called baby boomers, and they perceived non-intervention in the movement that opposed the war in Vietnam as going against American ideals (Stelzer 13). The foreign policy stance adopted by left-leaning democrats angered this group and neo-conservatism philosophy evolved more and more towards aggressive militarism; it was even against the Great Society programs initiated under President Lyndon Johnson.
What the movement advocated for was that the United States adopts a liberal stance on economic issues but social conservatism, citing that these were the views of the majority of citizens. Political dynamics continued to shift after the war in Vietnam. William Kristol, the son of Irvin Kristol had founded the Neoconservative Project for the New American Century and was a key activist of the movement (Stelzer 5). Internationally, some progress had been made in terms of the establishment of democratic regimes; but dictatorships continued to exist even in countries where political leaders were democratically elected.
The neo-conservatism movement was now led by second generation members, and they were pushing for the formulation of a clear and engaged policy for tackling all dictators whether right wing or leftist who were violating human rights with impunity (Trutnau 31). This is a time when the movement scored: pushed by these demands, the Reagan administration orchestrated a policy shift and immediately called on Ferdinand Marcos, the authoritative ruler of the Philippines, to step down after there were massive allegations that he had rigged the election.
A neoconservative named Elliot Abrams was behind the rejuvenated movement, and he played a significant role in the eventual ousting of Augusto Pinochet and the restoration of democratic rule in Chile (Dorrien 81). The neo-conservatism movement was further bolstered by the ascension of Margaret Thatcher who, a neoconservative herself became the Prime Minister of Britain (Diamond 191). She exhibited her acumen by dispatching a fleet that ultimately overthrew General Galtieri, the Argentine dictator after he had invaded the Falklands (Diamond 193).
Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was increasingly aggressing against his neighbors, and when Iraq invaded Kuwait, neo-conservatism said that the interventions undertaken by western governments were late and would have halted his aggression had he been stopped earlier (McManus). The neo-conservatism movement gained influence in the 2000s after George Bush was elected to the presidency. During the campaigns, his camp did not display fervent support for neoconservative ideals, and he advocated for moderation in the formulation of foreign policy (Haney).
Neoconservatives decried his stance and noted that this would lead to insufficient support of Israel, which was facing increased adversity from Hamas and other Islamic militants in the Middle East. However, after the unfortunate terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and other installations in the nation, things quickly changed (Haney). In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush declared a radical policy shift and leaned towards neoconservative ideals.
The neo-conservatism movement and its principles were flung into the conscience of the American society, and nations like Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Republic of North Korea under Kim Jong-il were declared as the states that comprised the “Axis of Evil” and a threat to international peace (Stelzer 83). The neo-conservatism movement has been criticized for having influenced the United States’ decision to go to war in Iraq (McManus).
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican candidate John McCain had in his camp of advisors senior neoconservatives (Haney). He supported the war in Iraq and most of his policies were a blend of neoconservative ideals and pragmatism, fitting perfectly into the philosophy of realism. The American public was (as still is) getting fed up with the costly war in Iraq, and in the election was won by democratic candidate Barrack Obama (Haney). Many commentators felt that the 2008 election was an indication of the American public’s repudiation of foreign policy centered on neoconservative principles.
Philosophy of the neo-conservatism movement The neo-conservatism movement is characterized by having a clear distinction and definition of good and evil in terms of domestic policy, foreign policy and foreign governments. It has faith in the use of military force and resources to enforce democratic rule and respect of human rights and freedoms outside the United States (Trutnau 21). In this effect, it views unilateral organizations like the United Nation as a hindrance to the implementation of this philosophy, and therefore disdains them.
Radically nationalistic, its perspective against unfriendly states is confrontational, paying a special emphasis on the Middle East as the base for Islamic militancy and terrorism (McManus). Neoconservatives supported a military approach to the fight against communism and advocate for social welfare; and this was the impetus behind its efforts to combat the cultural changes that were happening to contemporary American society in the 1960s (Stelzer 101).
Economically, the neo-conservatism movement supports capitalism and free markets; citing government intervention and accruing budgetary deficits as necessary measures to safeguard democracy and achieve economic growth (McManus). Lowering of taxes as a policy is recommended for the economy to grow while open markets are necessary to provide consumer goods efficiently and tradition is the source of morality. Criticism to neo-conservatism Opponents of the neo-conservatism argue that it as a political movement, it is too liberal and dwells too much on international affairs while relegating domestic matters to second place (Dorrien 51).
Most of the criticism comes from within the larger conservative movement. There is also the observation that neo-conservatism purports to be an opponent of communism yet it advocates for the implementation of socialist ideals and internationalism (Dorrien 53). It has therefore been branded as not being really conservative in many ways. The movement has also come under fire for its advocacy of military intervention as an approach to solving international disputes and enforcing democracy in other countries.
Distracters particularly cite the movement’s influence in President George Bush’s decision to declare war on Iraq after the conviction that the country had weapons of mass destruction and harbored masterminds of international terrorism (McManus). Conclusion The neo-conservatism movement was able to establish itself as a force within the larger conservative movement as a center of conservative scholars at a time in the 1960s when fully credentialed conservative scholars were few in the American political scene (Dorrien 36).
Ever since, the movement has continuously strived to prove that the centralization of power threatens socio-economic and political progress while inhibiting freedom. This cannot be termed as an achievement however, since old-school conservatives and libertarians have always argued to this effect. However, the movement has managed to influence foreign policy in significant ways. Works cited Diamond, Sara. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United Sates. New York: Guilford Press, 1995. Dorrien, Gary. The Neoconservative Mind: Politics, Culture, and the War of Ideology.
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993. Haney, Karen “The Neoconservative Movement Expose Revealed in THE FORTY YEARS WAR. ” The Neoconservative Movement Expose Revealed in THE FORTY YEARS WAR. 1 May. 2010. 19 May. 2010 <http://ezinearticles. com/? The- Neoconservative- Movement- Expose- Revealed- in- THE- FORTY- YEARS-¬WAR&id=4211295>. McManus, John. “The New America, The Neoconservatism’s Deadly Influence. ” A Look at the Roots of Neoconservatism and the Reasons Why this Deadly Movement Must Be Rejected in Favor of the True Conservatism as Envisioned by our Founders. 22 Jan.
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