When I decided to call myself neo-neocon, I was only vaguely aware of how much hatred the term engenders. But many trolls and hate mail letters later, I’m far better informed on that score.
I’ve done my bit to explain the current state of neoconservative thought and to try to correct misunderstandings about what neocons stand for (click on the topic “neocons” on the right sidebar for the links).
I’ve been impressed by a recent effort in that direction written by Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute and appearing in that well-known neocon rag Commentary. It’s long and yet succinct, packing a great deal of thoughtful information into one piece, well worth reading for anyone who retains an open mind and a serious interest in the subject.
Muravchik’s thesis could be summarized—to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous dictum on democracy—as “neoconservatism is the worst way to deal with Islamofascism, except for all the other ways that have been proposed or tried from time to time.”
Muravchik takes the long view, starting with the birth of neoconservatism and its successes against Communism and the Soviets, and segueing into a cogent analysis of the Iraq War so far (its not as good as one would have hoped, not as bad as critics say, and—more importantly—showing signs of progress if we don’t give up prematurely).
Here are Muravchik’s four tenets of neoconservatism:
(1) Our struggle is moral, against an evil enemy who revels in the destruction of innocents. Knowing this can help us assess our adversaries correctly and make appropriate strategic choices. Saying it convincingly will strengthen our side and weaken theirs. (2) The conflict is global, and outcomes in one theater will affect those in others. (3) While we should always prefer nonviolent methods, the use of force will continue to be part of the struggle. (4) The spread of democracy offers an important, peaceful way to weaken our foe and reduce the need for force…..
[A] coherent approach, essentially similar to the one by means of which we won the cold war. By contrast, liberals and realists have no coherent approach to suggest…
The extremity of the hatred of neocons has a number of origins (see this and this). It’s become a phrase that’s almost devoid of its true meaning, and used as a substitute for pejorative terms such as “Fascist” or “bigot” or “warmonger.” Agree or disagree with neocon philosophy, but at least learn what it actually is. Muravchik’s article is an excellent way to go about doing just that.
[NOTE: The title of my post comes from Mark Twain's response to his obituary that appeared prematurely in the New York Journal.]
[ADDENDUM: The NY Times chimes in on the demonizing of "neocon," comparing it to the process by which "liberal" became a dirty word a while back.]