Not least, as America bumped down to earth, “liberal” lost the mantle of political insult most foul. Its place was taken by the pervasive, glib “neocon.”
What’s a neocon? A liberal “mugged by reality,” Irving Kristol said. The reality in question, back then, was communism-as-evil, the centrality of military force, the indispensability of the American idea and much else. But that’s ancient history. The neocons are the guys who gave us the Iraq war.
They’re the guys who, in the words of leftist commentator and blogger Matthew Yglesias, “believe that America should coercively dominate the world through military force” and “believe in a dogmatic form of American exceptionalism” and “favor the creation of a U.S.-dominated ‘universal empire.’ ”
But the term, in these Walt-Mearsheimered days, often denotes more than that. Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy, whatever that may be, although probably involving some combination of plans to exploit Iraqi oil, bomb Iran and apply U.S. power to Israel’s benefit.
I’m not sure if I’m meant to be included within the scope of those nameless Jew-haters who appear to be criticizing an ideological movement of the American right while actually criticizing a shadowy Zionist conspiracy, but if you’re interested in the post from which Cohen drew those quotations, it’s here and you’ll see that neither Israel nor Zionism actually comes up. Rather, I was attempting a close reading of Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol’s 1996 essay “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy” and trying to tease out the implications of its vision of “benevolent hegemony.”