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Neoconservatism vs Neoliberalism. No Difference?

April 3, 2009


What’s the difference between a neolib and a neocon anyway? I’m not sure I get it.

Well, they’re first cousins. The neocons started out as extreme leftists, if not outright Trotskyist, but gravitated to the right — first to the ADC (anti-Stalinist) liberals, who became the JFK Democrats, then the Scoop Jackson Democrats. They turned on Bobby Kennedy because he switched sides over the War in Vietnam, then became “Democrats for Nixon” in 1972, then abandoned the party entirely when Carter won the nomination in 1976. They glommed on to Reagan like the political parasites that they are, and have spent the past 25 years worming their way into positions of power. But always appointed positions. They’re unelectable in their own right, which means they constantly have to find new hosts. Shrub, Cheney and Rumsfeld are just the latest.

The neolibs share some of the same characteristics, and views, as the neocons (particularly on foreign policy) but generally did NOT start out on the Marxist left. They’re a much more diverse lot than the neocons, and thus harder to describe.

In general, though, the neolibs are also heirs to the old ADA/JFK Democratic tradition — liberal on domestic policy; hawkish on foreign policy. But they also include some old McGovernites (like Gary Hart and Bill Clinton) who were never all that left on domestic issues, and who moved to the right on foreign policy issues once the Vietnam War ended. (I could also be catty and say it was after their own eligibility for the draft ended.)

You could say the neolibs are just neocons who never quite left the Democratic Party, and there would be a grain of truth in it. But the neolibs would probably argue that they are much less doctrinaire than the neocons, and more willing to take a multilateral approach to the use of American power (i.e. “empire lite”)

But those distinctions tend to blur or even disappear where the Middle East is involved. In general, the neolibs are just as inflexibly pro-Israeli as the neocons, but less reflexively pro-Likud. Most neolibs still believe in the mirage of a “two-state” solution that will bring peace and globalization to the Middle East — once the Arabs have been sufficiently domesticated. (Think Tom Friedman)

The New Republic types would have to be considered as sort of the “militant tendency” of the neolibs, at least on foreign policy issues. On Middle East issues, there is absolutely no daylight between them and the neocons.

Michael Ignatieff  &  Empire Lite:

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