Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography

Neoconservatism: A Very Short Introduction

Neoconservatism is a political philosophy that emerged in the United States from the rejection of the social liberalism, moral relativism, and New Left counterculture of the 1960s. It influenced the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, representing a realignment in American politics, and the defection of some liberals to the right side of the political spectrum; hence the term, referring to these "new" conservatives.  Neoconservatism emphasizes foreign policy as the paramount responsibility of government, maintaining that America's role as the world's sole superpower is indispensable to establishing and maintaining global order.

The term neoconservative was originally used as a criticism against liberals who had "moved to the right." Michael Harrington, a democratic socialist, coined the usage of neoconservative in a 1973 Dissent magazine article concerning welfare policy. According to liberal editorial writer E. J. Dionne, the nascent neoconservatives were driven by "the notion that liberalism" had failed and "no longer knew what it was talking about."

The first major neoconservative to embrace the term was Irving Kristol, in his 1979 article "Confessions of a True, Self-Confessed 'Neoconservative.'" Kristol's ideas had been influential since the 1950s, when he co-founded and edited Encounter magazine. Another source was Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine from 1960 to 1995.  By 1982 Podhoretz was calling himself a neoconservative, in a New York Times Magazine article titled "The Neoconservative Anguish over Reagan's Foreign Policy.”

Prominent neoconservative periodicals are Commentary and The Weekly Standard. Neoconservatives are associated with foreign policy initiatives of think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

Neoconservatives had a prevailing voice in President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. As the unpopular war in Iraq has dragged on for five years, many observers have come to believe that neoconservative assumptions about the purported beneficial outcomes in the Middle East region of the American invasion were egregiously wrong.

Source:  "Neoconservatism."  New World Encyclopedia.  8 Oct. 2008.  Web.  3 Jan. 2011.

Web Resources about Neoconservatism

Neoconservative and American Foreign Policy

Score: 16

Summary: This article reviews the ideology of the neoconservative movement, particularly in regards to foreign policy, as well as how its supporters implemented their ideas in reality. It concludes with an analysis as to whether or not the neoconservative agenda is still present in politics today, assessing that if nowhere else, it is present in the war with the Middle East despite Obama trying to distance himself from Bush’s political agenda. The focuses of the article include the War on Terror, the neoconservative relation with Islam, and how Israel factors into neoconservatism.

Evaluation: All of the references used are properly cited, the article is fairly recent, and it covers its included topics in depth. The author’s credentials are not provided. Regardless, the article connects events within the last several years to the neoconservative agenda without bringing much of a bias in – it sticks more or less to the factual.

Neoconservatism Unmasked

Score: 15

Summary: By the author of the book Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, this essay covers many topics in the neoconservative view, such as neoconservative ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, and politics. Evidence is presented comparing the neoconservative movement to fascism, and the ideology of Irving Kristol is reviewed. Also discussed is how neoconservatives present themselves and their views on the government as a whole.

Evaluation: Largely analytical, this is one of the least biased of the included sources. It presents a comprehensive look at the various views of neoconservatives and breaks down the key elements. However, in comparing it to fascism, the essay lends itself to debate, as evidence can just as easily be produced to oppose such a viewpoint. Despite that, it’s a cohesive overview of the neoconservative movement as a whole, and in this sense, it is a valuable work from which to learn more about neoconservatism. Additionally, it is the most recent of all included sources – it was published in March of 2011.

Commentary Magazine

Score: 14

Summary: Another magazine, this one was founded in 1945 by the American Jewish Committee and known as a leading voice in neoconservative views by 1976. It is no longer associated with the American Jewish Committee, and is currently edited by John Podhoretz. The magazine has less influence now than it had in the past, but has nevertheless also began an affiliated blog known as Contentions.

Evaluation: Again, the main flaw with this is that it is lengthy, but because it is still being updated regularly by modern neoconservatives, it’s a valuable source of information for the neoconservative perspective on current issues. The other flaw with this as a source is that being a magazine, it is biased; nevertheless, this allows insight into how modern-day neoconservatives see the events around them. Another long-running publication, this, too, can show the evolution of neoconservative ideas.

Neoliberal and Neoconservative Security Policy: Views, Criticism, Alternatives

Score: 14

Summary: This website is a compilation of articles from a variety of sources that provide an overall review of both neoconservatism and neoliberalism. It covers a wide range of topics that include critical perspectives, strategic options, the role of force in the U.S. policy, and views on the defense budget.

Evaluation: As there are many articles compiled into this website, the qualities vary. Every single article may not provide the unbiased perspective desired by one looking to learn more about these topics, but the fact that it includes information about the opposing side – neoliberalism – is handy in that it provides access to another facet of politics.

Neoconservativism v. Classical Conservativism

Score: 13

Summary: An essay on a website entirely about conservatism, this provides a comparison in several areas between neoconservatism and what is considered to be “classical” conservativism. It goes over morality, reason/knowledge, and the state, presenting the views of both conservatives and neoconservatives to demonstrate how they are different from one another.

Evaluation: This site in particular is good for learning the distinguishing points between these two sides of similar movements, as the finer details are very important. On the other hand, the article is short and could very well cover more topics. However, the author of the article provides his credentials, stating that he has a doctoral degree in philosophy. Knowing this, the reader can most likely safely assume that the views that were compared in his article were done so fairly and accurately. That being said, despite this article only covering several of a multiplicity of potential topics, what it did review was well thought-out.

In Defense of Sarah Palin

Score: 13

Summary: Norman Podhoretz is one of the leading neoconservative theorists still writing today, and this article written in March of 2010 discusses his views on Sarah Palin in comparison to other presidents. Also discussed is theories as to how such hostility towards Palin arose, which Podhoretz then attempts to refute. He concludes that he would prefer Palin and the Tea Party to Obama and the Democrats.

Evaluation: Of all of the articles, this is perhaps one of the most biased – it’s an article written by a neoconservative in defense of a politician that he personally supports. Despite the facts that are presented, the perspective is slanted.  Yet although this is so, Podhoretz has been an influence on the neoconservative movement with his writings, and it is therefore advantageous that such a recent work of his should be available.

National Affairs: Public Interest Archives

Score: 13

Summary: The Public Interest was a magazine centered on culture and the political economy that ran from 1965 until 2005, headed by Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, and Daniel Bell who later left the project when he was unhappy with what we saw as a conservative bias. This website archives all of the publications in chronological order. It ceased to be published after readership declined sharply and Kristol had nobody to succeed him.

Evaluation: Given that the quarterly journal was used by Kristol to help promote neoconservative views, a reader can trace the evolution of these ideas over the forty years that it was published. However, it’s on the lengthy side – there are 160 volumes, each of which contains multiple sections – and the most recent entry was in 2005; in addition, it didn’t begin with the neoconservative bias it picked up along the way. Despite this, it’s the project of a key neoconservative and contains the ideas of him as well as the neoconservative writers that were featured.

The Neoconservative Persuasion

Score: 12

Summary: This is an essay written by Irving Kristol, the so-called “godfather of neoconservativism.” It covers the basics of the neoconservative views and describes the ways in which it is different from other political movements. Topics covered include neoconservative foreign policy, economic views, and views on world leadership.

Evaluation: While it contains a good deal of the author’s opinion, his credentials qualify him to speak his mind on the issue, given that he was a profound early contributor. Short but informative, this essay provides the neoconservative view from the perspective of one such individual rather than from how they appear to those of other political dispositions. The biggest flaw with this essay in particular is that it’s a touch outdated – it was written in 2003, and therefore may not be representative of the views as they are now. However, at the very least it is a good source of information for how the views began and can therefore serve as a note of comparison to track how the movement has evolved.

Conservative: What is a Neocon?

Score: 11

Summary: This is simply a compilation of several different technical definitions of neoconservative set side-by-side for comparison from the website, The Classic Liberal, and is part of a series of posts that aspires to define what makes a conservative. In addition to reviewing several definitions of neoconservative, it provides a basic summary of the beliefs and origins of the movement.

Evaluation: On the opposite end of the spectrum, this website is on the short side. However, it is still useful because it is more recent in comparison to some of the previous sources as well as because it provides not only technical definitions of neoconservative, but also definitions as put forth by political writers.

Neocon 101: What Do Neoconservatives Believe?

Score: 11

Summary: A 2007 article, this covers the origins of neoconservative beliefs, how they are different from the previous conservative movement, how the neoconservatives have influenced the foreign policy of the United States, and what the ideal world would be under the neoconservatives.

Evaluation: It provides simple answers to the most basic questions about neoconservatism without going into great detail. The author is left unnamed and with no credentials; however, the facts presented about neoconservatism are discussed with relatively little bias. This website is useful for getting a general idea of what the neoconservative movement was, as well as how it has been as of several years ago.

Content created by Carina Carbone.