What does neoconservative mean? Thoughtful discussion please

http://forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.php?t=29399&start=75Some ‘neo-con’ name-calling began in another thread,
i.e., the PRC’s anti-secession law p.6,

and it didn’t seem like there was even the slightest meeting of minds on what the term meant, so I thought we could start a sober discussion of this relatively new term. Thoughtful, constructive contributions only, please.

Just now I googled neoconservative to see how various folks define it and I got a dizzying array of wildly contrasting definitions.

One definition just for starters, is laid out here.

Would you consider the descriptions there reasonable, or would you modify them? Can you offer a succinct, reasonably encompassing definition that a dictionary could use?

I didn’t see the other thread you referred to, but I believe the subject was discussed a year ago or so and it was pretty much concluded that the term is derived from

Neo - latin for new
Con - a fraudulent scheme or one who perpetrates the same

I hope that helps.


It seems to me that if you agree with the following you are a neocon:

  1. Your nation

It’s true. Neocons don’t like to be called neocons.

I don’t mind. Call me a neocon all you want as long as you don’t call me “late for dinner.” hahhahahahahah ohoooohohhohhoahhahahahahah

I agree. Those nations that are not democracies that respect human rights have no business sitting in the UN chairing human rights commissions but they are on those committees because our European “allies” voted against us.

Your 1, 2 and 3 sound reasonable to me, but maybe you should ask Bill Safire. Isn’t it a fairly new term? (Your link doesn’t work.) As you know, the meaning of words depends on their usage, as Safire demonstrates so clearly in his columns. Thus, if people consistently use it with the meaning you ascribed then that is one of its definitions; if people consistently use it to mean simply one who believes in the superiority of democracy, I believe that would be a stupid definition of the word, but it would be a valid one. So, the question is, how is the word generally used, perhaps most importantly by people who describe themselves as neocons?

Regardless of the etymology, I believe the most meaningful question would be: How is the word used? What is the understood meaning?

In this regard, I commonly see it used in three ways:

(1) A group of people, most of whom were formerly Democrats, who switched to the Republican party. Hence “new” conservatives. In many cases (but not all cases) the reason they switched parties, was because they believed that the Democrats no longer stood for principled positions in the area of democracy and human rights abroad – which brings us to definition (2).

(2) The current group of Bush administration officials who advocate aggressive use of U.S. military power to promote democracy, human rights, and otherwise advance U.S. goals in the world.

(3) A Jewish conspiracy. A shadowy cabal of Zionist masterminds who control the U.S. government in order to promote the agenda of Israel and Zionist hegemony more broadly.

Obviously some people use more than one of these definition, or some combination of them. But I think if one has a basic idea about all three, then one can usually understand the term when it appears in most current discussions. Obviously definition #3 is the reason that some people find the term racist, and offensive.

Neo-conservatism has been around for decades and, strangely, has connections to past generations as far back as Machiavelli. Modern-day neo-conservatism was introduced to us in the 1960s. It entails both a detailed strategy as well as a philosophy of government. The ideas of Teddy Roosevelt, and certainly Woodrow Wilson, were quite similar to many of the views of present-day neocons. Neocon spokesman Max Boot brags that what he advocates is

I’ve only ever seen it used in your #2 meaning, Hobbes. BTW I have tried to fix the above links, if anyone wants to try again.

(to the original name caller) I’d agree that neocons believe only democracies are legitimate, but that doesn’t make someone who believes only democracies are legitimate necessarily a neocon, anymore than something red is necessarily an apple. The difference lies in the advocating of aggressive use of force, and IMO, a generally bully-like, nationalistic approach to things.

Excellent post, sername1 !

A fellow forumosan labelled me as a neo-con for asserting that only democratic governments have legitimacy. I would say that merely makes me a believer in democracy. I wouldn’t agree with any of the above 3 neocon values, so I rejected the label.[/quote]

For the sake of accuracy, let me refresh your memory where I did no such thing. forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.ph … 313#322313

You may reject the label but if you speak their words, well, you’re talking neo-con speak. Which doesn’t necessarily equate to being called or confused with being one.

You are right though that there is a wide array of neo-con positions. The foundations don’t change much but the positions one derive from those foundations do vary a whole lot.

So what do you really dislike about neo-conservative philosophy anyway?

I posted information regarding the use and definitions of ‘neoconservative’ on another thread. The most comprehensive background info I have found, with the least political shading, comes from Wikipeadia the online dictionary.

This listing traces the use and defining areas attributed to the phrase neoconservative. It seems to be prinarily used as a demeaning or condescending label in most discussions.
The origins of the phrase suggest a much more involved etymology.
A listing of the table of contents from the Wikipeadia site shows these areas covered.
1 Beliefs
2 Origins
2.1 Neoconservatism as a “Jewish” movement
2.2 Neoconservatism as an “ex-leftist” movement
2.3 Reagan and the Neoconservatives
2.4 The comeback of neoconservatism under George W. Bush

3 Details
3.1 Neoconservatives and Israel
3.2 World War II analogies
3.3 Neoconservatives and Iraq

4 Contrasts with other perspectives
4.1 Relationship with other types of U.S. conservatism
4.2 Other critics of neoconservatism
5 Criticism of term
6 Quotes and Malapropisms about neo-conservatism
7 Prominent neoconservatives
8 Related Publications and Institutions
9 References
10 External links

This is a very dated “Foreign Affairs” article that was written in 1995, but it gives a good background into the history of neo-conservatism. Of course, considering the past 4 years, the last chapter is now incorrect.

foreignaffairs.org/19950701f … ution.html


I count fifteen uses of the “N” word in your posting. That means I’m down to owing you one beer which you can count on me making good on when the U.S. ends its occupation of Iraq – but not a day sooner.

N_ _ _ _ _s are a shy, self-effacing bunch and don’t like to call attention to themselves as they go about the thankless business of saving the world. Though no one, least of all they, would argue they’re conservatism as usual, they like to keep a low profile and take it almost personally when anyone suggests they’re ‘different’ in any way, which is a bit of a conundrum since breaking with past traditions, alliances and even principles is one of their badges of honor.

So despite their radically new vision of the world and how its business should be conducted, it’s apparently bad form to call them “new” and “conservative” in one breath or apparently anything else distinctive. Like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, we are supposed to pay them no attention at all but keep our eyes and thoughts firmly focused on their thunderous special effects head instead with its alternate reality of official truths and re-treaded history.

If you tell the person I’m talking to that they are talking with a neocon, then you are labelling me a neocon. There’s no major jump of logic involved:

Now, I’m not complaining that you are being insulting or offensive, I’m merely pointing out that you are engaging in dismissively labeling a fellow Forumosan during a discussion, without any apparent interest in finding out whether your label is really applicable. So I started this thread to discuss the label. Glad to see you’re joining it.

Well, I DISagree with the following positions, and find many of these attitudes utterly reprehensible!!!

  1. They agree with Trotsky on permanent revolution, violent as well as intellectual.
  2. They are for redrawing the map of the Middle East and are willing to use force to do so.
  3. They believe in preemptive war to achieve desired ends.
  4. They accept the notion that the ends justify the means

OUCH, talk about a slam dunk. I mean, Yellow Cartman, if your tail isn’t between your legs it should be !!! :laughing:

Now, now. This thread is for “thoughtful discussion” (please?). Yellow Cartman might have had a different interpretation of neocon when he used it. Let’s be nice, shall we?

IMO the main problem with accurately definning the word “neoconservative” is that it has morphed into such a nebulous state.
It has become different things to different people. As shown, it has rather deep roots but these original meanings have changed, been politically altered thru the years.
The term itself somewhat reminds me of a ‘politically imposed border’ on an ethnic group as opposed to a ‘natural border’ of the same ethnic group. For example - the Alsace Loraine region of “France” as just one example. Calling it France and having the politically imposed border define the area as France does not make the people hisstorically living there define themselves as French.
I use this as an example because one of my most favoured beers, Fischer LaBelle, is made there. :beer:

N_ _ _ _ _ s are a distinct group representing an abrupt departure from traditional conservatism so it’s legitimate to want to distinguish them linguistically somehow.

If they find the term “new conservatives” somehow objectionable then, fine, let them suggest their own appellation and I’ll be happy to use it – just so long as it isn’t deliberately vague and diversionary like the “Patriot Act.”

I’d be most interested in hearing what they themselves think they should be called. If nothing else it should be amusing. Maybe that’s why they’re so coy about calling attention to themselves and what they should be called; they’re afraid we’ll laugh.

I think the lack of responses to a request for an acceptable alternative to the term ‘neoconservatives’ illustrates the real problem here.

It’s not that terming anyone a new-style conservative is in any way demeaning. It’s the fox in the henhouse principle. They don’t want anyone to think there’s anything other than chickens in the national chicken coop and ‘neoconservative’ sounds way too much like ‘fox’ for their liking.

It’s not by accident that they call their television propaganda mill “Fox News.”

“There’s nobody in here but us chickens. Next time anyone says the word ‘fox’ they’re going to have to buy us all beer and chickens love beer. Right, chickens?”

“Cluck? Cluck?”

[quote=“Dragonbones”]If you tell the person I’m talking to that they are talking with a neocon, then you are labelling me a neocon. There’s no major jump of logic involved:

OH I see my mistake. “with” vs. “like”. A simple word that changed the meaning of the whole sentence. It should have said “like”. I don’t usually go around labeling people willy nilly.

Well, I DISagree with the following positions, and find many of these attitudes utterly reprehensible!!!
{someone’s ill-advised list deleted}

That list while was posted is not agreed to by all neo-cons. I disagree with a few of them myself. I posted the appropriate links to what is a neo-con at this point in time for your reference. Those are the generally accepted viewpoints on who/what neo-cons are about. Then there are other positions of the neo-con world which isn’t universally accepted by all neo-cons.

Some neo-cons are highly excessive in their hyperbole, I agree. For that reason, I also dislike a number of them, many of them currently in the Bush Administration. Your objection is so noted for future reference.