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2003-04-28 - 3:20 a.m.

Neocons: In the Most Definitive Terms

A few diarylanders have asked me what Neocons are and I have tried to give them a few definitions: former liberals turned conservative; pro-Israel linked; and definitely war hawks. So now I give you Neoconservativism in all its definitive terms straight from the horse's errr...the main backer's mouth:

'Neocons' get boost in defeat of Saddam
By Ralph Z. Hallow

The swift military defeat of the Iraqi regime by U.S.-led forces represents a dramatic foreign policy victory for the evolving worldview called "neoconservatism."

"Neoconservative ideas have penetrated very deeply and have tremendous influence," said Michael Joyce, who from the late 1970s until his retirement last year was the most powerful financial backer of the movement.

"Its tenets have significantly influenced what Irving Kristol once described as the 'political imagination' of those charged with formulating and implementing American foreign policy," said Mr. Joyce, referring to the prominent author and intellectual known as the "godfather" of neoconservatism.

The neoconservative movement first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as a reaction to the cultural and political turmoil of the era. Many "neocons" were former liberal Democrats who once supported many programs of the New Deal and the Great Society.

Angered by what they perceived to be growing pacifism and opposition to the Vietnam War within the Democratic Party, neoconservatives began to defect and support the anti-communist policies of the Republican Party especially during the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

Their influence over the Republican Party only has increased. Proponents or allies of neoconservatism reach the highest echelons of the current administration President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Exponents of this new conservatism "have a strong presence in the Bush administration, the Republican Party, the press and the think tanks," said Mr. Joyce, who led the Olin and Bradley conservative philanthropic foundations. "But it's not been without continuing criticism about conspiracy and dual loyalty."

Neoconservatives champion a hawkish U.S. foreign policy, the latest example being the war in Iraq. But because many "neocons" have Jewish backgrounds and tend to be strong supporters of Israel, some critics on the left and the right have charged that their loyalty to the Jewish state isn't always in America's best interests.

"Now you have on the right this very severe critique of neoconservatism that it best represents the interests of Israel and not necessarily of the United States," Mr. Joyce said. "An extreme view, but it is out there."

During the run-up to the military campaign against Iraq, the skepticism of some critics about the motives of neoconservatives was so widespread that on NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert asked Richard Perle, a prominent neoconservative adviser to the Pentagon, whether he could "assure American viewers" that removing Saddam Hussein was in the United States' security interests and not just Israel's.

Mr. Perle, like other neoconservatives and their allies such as Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld steadfastly has denied the charge, maintaining that the war was fought to make the world safer for the United States by removing the threat posed by Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

What seems beyond dispute is that the war was a major victory for the neoconservative worldview.

Heritage Foundation political analyst John C. Hulsman, who is skeptical of neoconservatism, agrees. "Certainly the intellectual momentum is with the neoconservatives they are on a winning streak," he said.

Neoconservatives argue that with the implosion of the Soviet Union, a "bipolar" world divided by two superpowers no longer exists. Hence, the United States needs to project its influence to ensure global stability and order.

Although they attained prominent positions in the Reagan administration, neoconservatives lost much of their influence with the end of the Cold War. They did not figure much in either the first Bush adminstration or the Clinton administration.

By 1995, however, many "neocons," having once called for the rollback of communism, were beginning to call for a new kind of rollback: those of undemocratic regimes especially in the Middle East seen as potent terrorist threats to the United States and Israel.

Specifically, they called for a pre-emptive war against Iraq, and perhaps Syria and Iran.

By 2001, the new Bush administration had hired such intellectually determined neoconservative advocates as Mr. Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith at the Defense Department and John R. Bolton at the State Department. Reinforcing them were outside advisers such as Mr. Perle and Weekly Standard magazine Editor William Kristol, the son of Irving Kristol, plus a host of syndicated columnists and such print outlets as the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, the New York Post and National Review magazine.

In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the neoconservatives succeeded in bringing around to their views, at least on the Middle East, the people who really mattered in the administration: Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, Miss Rice and, for the moment, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Yet the success of neoconservatism also led to a deep and bitter split among conservatives. Antiwar conservatives or "paleoconservatives," such as commentators Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak, have been engaged in a nasty feud with neoconservatives such as former House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich and pundits David Frum and Charles Krauthammer.

In the April 7 issue of National Review, Mr. Frum, until recently a Bush speechwriter, charged that Mr. Novak held Israel responsible for the September 11 attacks.

"Who was the first paleo to blame Israel for 9/11?" Mr. Frum wrote. "It's a close call, but Robert Novak seems to have won the race. His column of Sept. 13, 2001, written the very day after the terrorist attack, charged that 'the hatred toward the United States today by the terrorists is an extension of hatred of Israel.' Novak lamented that, because of terror, 'the United States and Israel are brought ever closer in a way that cannot improve long-term U.S. policy objectives.' "

Mr. Gingrich, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, entered the fray, saying the war in "Iraq had nothing to do with Israel."

"It had everything to do with how do you help the Arab world move toward a future in which people are not so oppressed and desperate that terrorism is a reasonable behavior," Mr. Gingrich told The Washington Times. "And in which you don't have dictators who have proven they will use weapons of mass destruction trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction."

But Mr. Buchanan disagrees, saying neoconservatives are bent on waging endless military crusades that are not in the nation's interests. "Newt Gingrich is the front man for the neoconservatives and is as much beside himself as they are that Bush has postponed World War IV," Mr. Buchanan said in an interview.

Mr. Krauthammer, a columnist for The Washington Post, said the war in Iraq is part of a larger strategy by the administration to protect the United States from terrorist groups and rogue states.

"The war in Iraq is simply one battle in the longer campaign," Mr. Krauthammer said in an interview. "The president deeply understands the nature of the conflict. He deeply understood the challenge and created, with his national security team, a whole new conception of how America should defend itself."

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