A neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.
The above definition has joyfully and repeatedly been cited by many defenders of neoconservatism. They consider their branch of political thought a benign movement even though its clout has been recognized as dominant over the Bush administration. Kristol likely hopes that everyone who learns of his quip will emit a slight chuckle and remain convinced that neoconservatism is no threat to the nation.
But Irving Kristol, who has willingly accepted the title of "Godfather of Neoconservatism," earlier produced a more incisive definition of the movement he helped to create. In his 1995 book Neoconservatism: the Autobiography of an Idea, he wrote:
It describes the erosion of liberal faith among a relatively small but talented and articulate group ... (which gradually gained more recruits) toward a more conservative point of view: conservative but different in certain respects from the conservatism of the Republican party. We ... accepted the New Deal in principle, and had little affection for the kind of isolationism that then permeated American conservatism.
There you have it: neoconservatism's most prominent adherent wants it to be linked to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal socialism and, because of its rejection of "isolationism," to be further identified as a champion of meddling in the affairs of other nations. The opposite of isolationism, of course, is interventionism, a tactic favored by all neoconservatives. Earlier, in 1983, Kristol claimed that "a conservative welfare state is perfectly consistent with the neoconservative perspective." Old-line conservatives would justly label the phrase "conservative welfare state" a classic oxymoron. By 1993, in a piece he authored for the Wall Street Journal, the Godfather lauded Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and Medicaid, even a cash allowance for the children of unwed mothers. Virtually any socialist program can count on support from the neoconservative camp.
As for interventionist meddling, neoconservative Charles Krauthammer candidly presented the movement's attitude in a 1989 article appearing in Kristol's journal, The National Interest. Boldly calling for the integration of the United States, Europe, and Japan, he yearned for a "super-sovereign" state that would be "economically, culturally, and politically hegemonic in the world." Not satisfied with such a novel creation, he further urged a "new universalism [which] would require the conscious depreciation not only of American sovereignty but of the notion of sovereignty in general." And he added: "This is not as outrageous as it sounds." Maybe not to a neoconservative, but a real conservative and especially a constitutionalist wouldn't hesitate for a moment in labeling such ideas "outrageous."
During the 1960s and into the 1970s, the "small but talented and articulate group" Kristol haughtily described sought a new home for its ideology. Leftists to the core, most were followers of Leon Trotsky, the revolutionary communist leader who was expelled from Russia following a power struggle with Stalin in the 1920s. They didn't like Stalin, but they did like the style of communism advocated by Trotsky. In his 1995 book Neoconservatism, Kristol proudly stated, "I regard myself as lucky to have been a young Trotskyite and I have not a single bitter memory." As students of the communist movement well know, Trotsky broke with Stalin in 1927 merely over which tactics would best succeed in achieving the world domination each sought. Run out of Russia by his former partner in monstrous crime, Trotsky ended up in Mexico, never renounced his desire to communize or socialize the world, and went to his Maker when one of Stalin's henchmen plunged an axe into his skull in 1940.
The Trotsky link provides a key to understanding neoconservatives. …