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Is the influence of neocons a sympton of corruption and decacence?

Old 12-08-04, 11:11 AM
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Is the influence of neocons a sympton of corruption and decacence?

Interesting article which draws comparisons between the influence of neocons and that of the powerful (and corrupt) elites which filled the power void after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Since I don't know that much about the neocon ideology and since I tend to believe that all forms of power lead to some level of corruption, I really don't know if neocons are really more adept at blurring the line between government and private interests and at avoiding accountability.

But I'm sure you guys will have something to say.

Neocon “Flex Players” Await Bush’s Second Term

By Janine R. Wedel, Pacific News Service, Nov 03, 2004

Editor's Note: Forget the ''revolving door'' between government and private interests. New ''flex players'' on the political scene, writes PNS contributor and social anthropologist Janine R. Wedel, exist on both sides of the door at once. President Bush's re-election will likely further empower model flex players, a core group of neoconservatives.

As a social anthropologist I observed the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the rise of powerful, close-knit circles that filled the leadership vacuum and seized large chunks of state-owned wealth. These exclusive groups resemble the neoconservative or ''neocon'' core of 10 or so players who helped push the United States into Iraq. The rise of this neocon power circle -- and its continued prominence within and without the second-term Bush administration -- signals troubling changes in American governing and policymaking.

The Eastern European former apparatchiks and the American neocons share many characteristics. They specialize in blurring state and private interests and spheres. They are skilled at skirting both the government's rules of accountability and business codes of competition. They have created new norms that make bureaucracy more like business and business more contingent on government.

In ''The Power Elite,'' written a half century ago, C. Wright Mills noted that three interlocking prongs of power -- corporations, the military and the political elite -- were diminishing the authority of elected officials. That trend is stronger today. The outsourcing and privatization of government functions in the name of efficiency and cost savings have led to the delegation of more authority to private entities and new opportunities for strategically placed groups of actors to co-opt public policy agendas.

This was certainly the case in Eastern Europe. After the revolutions of 1989, when states began divesting themselves of state-owned resources, informal groups worked in and around the crumbling systems to grab state-owned firms and other resources at fire-sale prices. Players soon learned that wearing multiple hats was the most effective modus operandi. In Poland, officials often presented visitors with two or more sets of calling cards -- their official government ones, and cards naming their position in an NGO or consulting firm, sometimes even one that did business with the public office they headed. Schooled under communism in dodging the overbearing state, ''mafias'' and ''clans'' positioned themselves at the state-private nexus of activity to mold the emerging system to their advantage.

I call these exclusive, informal factions ''flex groups,'' for their ease in playing multiple and overlapping roles and conflating state and private interests. These players keep appearing in different incarnations, ensuring continuity even as their operating environments change.

The flex groups' activity in unraveling communist states was more intense than in stable societies such as the United States. However, with the outsourcing of government functions flex players are now becoming a fixture in American politics, too. Today, consulting firms, NGOs, think tanks and public-private partnerships are doing more of the work of government than do civil servants. They write budgets, manage other contractors and make and implement policy. While government contracts are on the rise, driven in part by the demand for military, nation-building and homeland security services, the number of civil servants available to oversee them is falling. Clinton-era efforts to streamline bureaucracy have further decreased the government's oversight capacity.

The resulting labyrinth presents openings for flex groups to co-opt public policy portfolios and dilute effective monitoring and study of alternative policies. It also makes the flex group mode of operating attractive to an impatient administration. Cohesion and activism make it effective and an asset to a president, except when it becomes a liability. The neocon core, with a long-held strategy for American policy toward the Middle East, had just such an appeal. The group not only had goals that coincided with those of the Bush II administration, it also had a ready-made strategy to achieve them.

Flex groups' interactions are far more complex than traditional good-old-boy networks-such as the ''Wise Men'' who re-fashioned American foreign policy at the end of World War II or John F. Kennedy's ''Best and Brightest'' who executed the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

As flex players, the neocons have had myriad roles over time. They quietly promoted one another for influential positions and coordinated their multi-pronged efforts inside and outside government in pursuit of agendas that were always in their own interest, but not necessarily the public's.

Consider the ties among three members of the neocon core: Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board; Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense; and Douglas Feith, undersecretary for policy in the Defense Department. In 1973, Perle helped his friend Wolfowitz find work in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In 1982 Perle, as assistant secretary for international security policy in President Reagan's Defense Department, hired and later promoted Feith after the latter was fired as Middle East analyst from the National Security Council. A couple of years after leaving the Pentagon, Perle became a highly paid consultant for the lobbying firm International Advisers Inc., which Feith set up in 1989. By serving as a consultant to the firm, Perle-who had just finished a seven-year stint at the Pentagon, during which he supervised U.S. military assistance to Turkey-was able to bypass federal regulations that prohibited officials from serving foreign interests right after leaving government.

The ''mutual aid society'' of these three central figures continues to this day. In 2001 Perle and Wolfowitz (as deputy secretary of defense) saw to it that Feith was appointed undersecretary for policy in the Defense Department. Feith, in turn, selected Perle for appointment as chairman of the Defense Policy Board. (Perle resigned as chairman in March 2003 amid allegations of conflicts of interest, and from the board altogether a year later.)

Flex players are not necessarily engaged in unethical activity, but they always help each other out in furthering their careers, livelihoods and mutual aims. Even when some players are ''in power'' within an administration, they are flanked by people outside of formal government. Flex groups have a culture of circumventing authorities and creating alternative ones. They operate through semi-closed networks and penetrate key institutions, revamping them to marginalize other potential players and replacing them with initiatives under their control.

The neocon core has set up its own duplicative entities in government that often enable them to bypass or override the input of otherwise relevant bodies. Two secretive units in the Pentagon were created under Feith and staffed in part by people recruited by Perle from neocon circles. The core empowered shadow hubs of decision-making, including the ''mini National Security Council,'' a small circle of influence within the NSC, and a similar group in the vice president's office.

The blurring and overlapping public and private roles and offices enable players to avoid accountability. Perle, for example, surfaces at the epicenter of a head-spinning array of business firms, consultancies, lobbying and ideological initiatives, consistently evading accusations of impropriety that have been leveled against him.

Today's most successful players have gone beyond the revolving door, in which executive-branch officials and members of Congress become industry lobbyists upon leaving office, or industry leaders become officials who help regulate their own industries. Revolving-door careerists are now joined by flex players, who may be on both sides of the door at the same time -- or for whom the door itself has vanished.

Flex groups bring impressive energy and staying power in pursuit of their financial and/or ideological bottom line, but they are inherently unaccountable to the public. Their rise pre-dates the George W. Bush administration. But Bush's second term will likely embolden this growing cadre of flex players and others like it, to the detriment of democracy.

Wedel is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University. She is writing a book tentatively titled ''Chameleons in Command: Shadow Power in a Globalizing World.''
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Old 12-08-04, 11:20 AM
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Considering I don't buy the premise that the Neoconservative movement has any undue influende on the current Administration, it is difficult for me to answer the question. If forced, I would simply answer, no.
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Old 12-08-04, 11:47 AM
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Some folks' definition of a neo-con: Anyone who doesn't share their pollyannaish view of the world.
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Old 12-08-04, 11:56 AM
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I don't know about the article. While agree that Business and Military interests have a sometimes dangerous influence on elected officials, I think overall, the article is a bit tinfoil hat-ish.
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Old 12-08-04, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by VinVega
I don't know about the article. While agree that Business and Military interests have a sometimes dangerous influence on elected officials, I think overall, the article is a bit tinfoil hat-ish.
What was Eisenhower's catch phrase?
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Old 12-08-04, 12:08 PM
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Yeah, I think that this has more to do with smaller government than any specific group, neocon or otherwise. If you create a void, someone will come in to fill it so streamlining a goverment also reduces oversight capability and opens the door to increased influence from powerful lobbies and interest groups. So while big government often involves a bureaucratic mess which makes achieving anything extremely difficult, smaller government can create conditions for one specific group with interests close to the ones of the people in power to exert way too much influence. It's a delicate balance to achieve.
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Old 12-08-04, 12:13 PM
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Alexander Hamilton thought just the opposite. His idea was to have a large government - with many many competing interest groups. Therefore, it would be impossible for one to achieve too much power, and the power of government would be less.
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Old 12-08-04, 12:14 PM
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Corruption, No.
Decacence, I want to know the meaning of decacence before I answer.
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Old 12-08-04, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Some folks' definition of a neo-con: Anyone who doesn't share their pollyannaish view of the world.
Sweet Jesus, I think you're right!
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Old 12-08-04, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
What was Eisenhower's catch phrase?
Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation

January 17, 1961

Good evening, my fellow Americans: First, I should like to express my gratitude to the radio and television networks for the opportunity they have given me over the years to bring reports and messages to our nation. My special thanks go to them for the opportunity of addressing you this evening.
Three days from now, after a half century of service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on questions of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the nation.

My own relations with Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and finally to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the nation well rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the nation should go forward. So my official relationship with Congress ends in a feeling on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

Throughout America's adventure in free government, such basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among peoples and among nations.

To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people.

Any failure traceable to arrogance or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us a grievous hurt, both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle – with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in the newer elements of our defenses; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research – these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel. A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.


But each proposal must be weighed in light of a broader consideration; the need to maintain balance in and among national programs – balance between the private and the public economy, balance between the cost and hoped for advantages – balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between the actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their Government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well in the face of threat and stress.

But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise.

Of these, I mention two only.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.


This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.


It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war – as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years – I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

So – in this my last good night to you as your President – I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I – my fellow citizens – need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nations' great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

Now, on Friday noon, I am to become a private citizen. I am proud to do so. I look forward to it.

Thank you, and good night.

That's just Ike keepin' it real Yo!

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Old 12-08-04, 12:32 PM
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These exclusive groups resemble the neoconservative or ''neocon'' core of 10 or so players who helped push the United States into Iraq.
It seems like terribly poor writing for a social anthropologist to make a statement like this, and then not define what a "neocon" is. To simply attach the term and then compare it with "evil" is a beautiful way of spreading a message with no basis in fact, but one that you want to be regurgitated.
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Old 12-08-04, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
It seems like terribly poor writing for a social anthropologist to make a statement like this, and then not define what a "neocon" is. To simply attach the term and then compare it with "evil" is a beautiful way of spreading a message with no basis in fact, but one that you want to be regurgitated.
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Old 12-08-04, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
It seems like terribly poor writing for a social anthropologist to make a statement like this, and then not define what a "neocon" is. To simply attach the term and then compare it with "evil" is a beautiful way of spreading a message with no basis in fact, but one that you want to be regurgitated.
Quite possibly the assumption the author made is that, among the intended audience for this piece, there is a commonly accepted definition of what a 'neocon' is. If one operates from the base assumption that the neocons' aims are not good for the US in the long run (as is probably the intent), then the article is good and useful. If you don't operate from that assumption then the article is much ado over very little. In almost every administration their are very small groups of people with a heavier than normal influence over policy. Bush's administration is no different. Now, whether this is frightful or not depends on how you feel about the actual policies being put forward. This type of <i>a posteriori</i> analysis annoys the hell out of me. Also, one must acknowledge <b>Pharoh</b>'s continued assertion that the neocons really don't have that much overall influence over Bush administration policy. This is certainly an arguable assertion, but he can do it better than I.
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Old 12-08-04, 01:02 PM
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Then it seems like someone (ANYONE) could tell me the definition that is commonly accepted for a "neocon". I honestly have never heard one.
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Old 12-08-04, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Then it seems like someone (ANYONE) could tell me the definition that is commonly accepted for a "neocon". I honestly have never heard one.
Neocons: former liberal Democrats who, in the mid-1960s, grew disenchanted with the growing "soft on Communism" wing of the Democratic Party, and who by the 1970s had broken ranks with their party and continued to advocate for a strong national defense and anti-communist foreign policy. The nominal leader of the movement was Irving Kristol, and leading lights included people like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

Later, as the movement became populated by people too young to have gone through 'the change' in the 60s, the definition became more nebulous. Now it just means hawks who are pro-Israel and advocate a moralistic and interventionary foreign policy, I guess...

ETA: a lot of the leaders of the neocon movement (I use that term loosely, BTW) got their start working for that old hero of mine and <b>classicman</b>'s, Senator Henry 'Scoop' Jackson.

Last edited by wendersfan; 12-08-04 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 12-08-04, 01:20 PM
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For <b>kvrdave</b> <a href = "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoconservatism_%28United_States%29">here's a link to the Wikipedia entry</a> for "neoconservative". It's quite lengthy, so I didn't just copy and paste it here.
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Old 12-08-04, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Then it seems like someone (ANYONE) could tell me the definition that is commonly accepted for a "neocon". I honestly have never heard one.

I have many time in the past.
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Old 12-08-04, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
...

Later, as the movement became populated by people too young to have gone through 'the change' in the 60s, the definition became more nebulous. Now it just means hawks who are pro-Israel and advocate a moralistic and interventionary foreign policy, I guess...

....


That may be a small part, but the ideology, (it's not a movement), is about so much more than that. I agree though that the former liberal aspect is now irrelevant.
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Old 12-08-04, 01:38 PM
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Also remember, there is not one strain of Neoconservative philosophy, as wikpedia somewhat points out. It is like any other school of thought, there is diversity of opinion.

I do take exception though to the notion of Straussian thoughts being prominent within the ideology. Speaking only personally, I am far from that fatalistic. I am rather optimistic in fact.
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Old 12-08-04, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Quite possibly the assumption the author made is that, among the intended audience for this piece, there is a commonly accepted definition of what a 'neocon' is. If one operates from the base assumption that the neocons' aims are not good for the US in the long run (as is probably the intent), then the article is good and useful. If you don't operate from that assumption then the article is much ado over very little. In almost every administration their are very small groups of people with a heavier than normal influence over policy. Bush's administration is no different. Now, whether this is frightful or not depends on how you feel about the actual policies being put forward. This type of <i>a posteriori</i> analysis annoys the hell out of me. Also, one must acknowledge <b>Pharoh</b>'s continued assertion that the neocons really don't have that much overall influence over Bush administration policy. This is certainly an arguable assertion, but he can do it better than I.

I am going to leave Mr. Cheney out of this discussion at the moment. He had never been described as a Neoconservative prior to the Liberation of Iraq and I certainly don't believe he is of that mindset. However, many seem to want to include him amongst that list of evildoers in the Bush administration. Of course seemingly everybody gets included in that list, as C-Man already pointed out. It is best then for that argument to be left for another time.

So excluding the Vice President, let's look at those who have been at least somewhat influential in the current administration.

non neocons:
Ashcroft
Evans
Rumsfeld
Powell
Abrahams
Ridge
Card
Rice
Tenet

neocons:
Feith
Wolfowitz
Perle (non-appointed position)


Which side exuded more influence and control?
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Old 12-08-04, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Pharoh
That may be a small part, but the ideology, (it's not a movement), is about so much more than that. I agree though that the former liberal aspect is now irrelevant.
I actually meant to type a lot more than what I did, but I was interrupted by a grad student who needed me to do actual work.

One might actually argue that there is no such thing as a 'neocon' movement, and that, as an ideology, it's very hard to define. One major issue, at least for me, is that most people consistently ignore any neoconservative domestic policy, and instead pretend it's all about foreign policy. In terms of foreign policy I would argue that the major strains of neocon thought are that, in a general sense, US foreign policy should be proactive and that its main aims should be promoting American ideals worldwide, and not just improving America's position across the globe. Most specifically, the aims are that US support of Israel is tantamount, and that the US should use its power to change the behavior of nations hostile to American values, most specifically in the Middle East.

But the truth of th matter is that, for most people, journalists, bloggers, whoever, <b>classicman</b>'s definition is the most accurate and practical.
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Old 12-08-04, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
For <b>kvrdave</b> <a href = "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoconservatism_%28United_States%29">here's a link to the Wikipedia entry</a> for "neoconservative". It's quite lengthy, so I didn't just copy and paste it here.

The beauty of wikipedia. Click here and you can make it mean whatever you like as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml...29&action=edit
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Old 12-08-04, 03:15 PM
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Just added a little to the bottom of wikipedia for you.
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Old 12-08-04, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Just added a little to the bottom of wikipedia for you.
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Old 12-08-04, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Just added a little to the bottom of wikipedia for you.
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