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Empire Builders. Neoconservatives and Their Blueprint for US Power (Neocon 101)
The Christian Science Monitor 27.08.03 staff, various interviews

What do neoconservatives believe?

Empire Builders: Wolfowitz, Perle, and Kristol

In their own words A collection of quotes by neoconservatives.
"Change - above all violent change - is the essence of human history." "Iraq is just one battle in a larger war, bringing down the regime in Iran is the central act, because Iran is the world's most dangerous terrorist country."- Michael Ledeen

"This WTC/Pentagon attack is anchored to a terror network embedded in Saudi royal politics. I don't think we will win this war if we do not honestly examine the full nature of Saudi politics and behavior. This is the key issue." - David Wurmser

"American power should be used not just in the defense of American interests but for the promotion of American principles."- William Kristol

"The President of the United States, on issue after issue, has reflected the thinking of neoconservatives."- Richard Perle

"It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world."- Robert Kagan

"On the outcome of the confrontation with Tehran, more than any other, rests the future of the Bush Doctrine - and, quite possibly, the Bush presidency - and prospects for a safer world." - William Kristol

"Republicans are good at wielding power, but not when it comes to the idealistic motives of liberal internationalism. Democrats are better at liberal internationalism, but not at wielding power. I would say that if there were a Joe Lieberman/John McCain party, I'm in the Joe Lieberman/John McCain party."- Robert Kagan

"We have to take the war against the terrorists often to other people's territory; all the norms of international order make it difficult to do that. So the president has to reshape attitudes toward those norms, or we are going to have our hands tied by an antiquated institution [the traditional international system] that is not capable of defending us."- Richard Perle

Neocon 101
Don't know much about neoconservatism?
Learn basic concepts.

Key figures
Who are these guys?
Profiles of top players.

Interactive quiz
Are you a "neocon"?

Expert Q&A
2 leading US foreign policy thinkers
discuss the neocon movement.
Max Boot
Walter Russell Mead

Birth of a superpower
Timeline of key events in the historyof US foreign policy.

In their own words
Remarks from leading figures.

Spheres of influence
Neocon think tanks, documents, and periodicals.

Spheres of influence: Neoconservative think tanks, periodicals, and key documents.

Top neocon think tanks

Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
Established in 1997 by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, PNAC's goal is "to promote American global leadership." Creating a blueprint for the US' current role in the world, PNAC's original Statement of Principles called for the US to return to a "Reaganite foreign policy of military strength and moral clarity."

American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
Founded in 1943, this influential Washington think tank is known as the headquarters of neoconservative thought. In a crucial speech in the leadup to the war in Iraq, US President George W. Bush said this to an audience at AEI: "You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds."

Jewish Intitute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)
Based in Washington, JINSA "communicates with the national security establishment and the general public to explain the role Israel can and does play in bolstering American interests, as well as the link between American defense policy and the security of Israel." Some of the strongest supporters of Israel's right-wing Likud Party in the already pro-Israel neoconservative circles are on JINSA's board of advisers.

Center for Security Policy (CSP)
CSP's 2001 annual report boasts of its influence saying it "isn't just a 'think tank' – it's an agile, durable, and highly effective 'main battle tank' in the war of ideas on national security." Securing neoconservatives' influence at the nexus of military policymakers and weapons manufacturers, CSP's mission is "to promote world peace through American strength."


The Hudson Institute
The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies
Ethics and Public Policy Center
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

Top neoconservative periodicals

Describing itself as "America's premier monthly journal of opinion," Commentary magazine is widely regarded as the leading outlet for neoconservative writing. Founded in 1945, this American Jewish Committee publication steadily gained ideological influence under the editorships of Iriving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, two of neoconservatism's founding fathers. Today, Commentary advocates passionate support for Israel, and regime change in at least half a dozen countries deemed hostile to US and Israeli security and interests.

National Review
Founded in 1955 by precocious conservative William F. Buckley, National Review promised to stand "athwart the path of history, yelling Stop!" AntiCommunist in stance, Catholic in judgment, Republican in preference, the magazine has weaned generations of conservative leaders. Its continued emphasis on traditional moral values and limited government put it outside the neoconservative camp, but in recent years, the magazine has increasingly adopted neocon attitudes.

The Weekly Standard
Weekly Standard editors comprise a "who's who" of neoconservative figures. Currently led by William Kristol and Fred Barnes, the magazine has, since its founding in 1995, encouraged the cultivation of an American empire.

The New Republic
Like neoconservatism's own founding, The New Republic's roots tap into an unlikely intellectual resevoir. Begun as a progressive oriented journal in 1914, the magazine initially supported the Soviet Union and opposed the Vietnam war, but later supported President Reagan's foreign policy and both Gulf Wars. Today, its advocacy of a muscular, pro-Israel, pro-interventionist US foreign policy -coupled with its embrace of Democratic centrist domestic policies -make it a leading neocon voice.

The National Interest
The National Interest claims "it's where the great debates begin." Founded in 1985 by Irving Kristol, the quarterly journal examines international relations from a broad perspective that embraces social issues, religion, and history. Though it does not always promote neocon causes, the journal's editorial board is dominated by some of the movement's most influential voices, including Midge Decter, Samuel P. Huntington, Charles Krauthammer, Richard Perle, and Daniel Pipes.

The Public Interest
When he founded the magazine in 1965, Irving Kristol defined the aim of The Public Interest: "to help all of us when we discuss issues of public policy, to know a little better what we are talking about – and preferably in time to make such knowledge effective." The Public Interest focuses more on American domestic culture and politics rather than international affairs. As a result, its contributors reflect a wide diversity of ideological perspectives.

Key Documents

Draft of the 1992 "Defense Planning Guidance" [excerpts]
This classified document, which called for US military preeminence over Eurasia and preemptive strikes against countries suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction, circulated for several weeks at senior levels in the Pentagon. After it was leaked to the media in 1992, it proved so shocking that it had to be substantially rewritten. Many aspects of this document are included in the US' 2002 National Security Strategy

"A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm"
Prepared in 1996 by a group led by Richard Perle for Israel's right-wing Likud Party and published by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank, this report called for "a clean break" with the policies of negotiating "land for peace" with the Palestinians. It also advocated "reestablishing the principle of preemption."

"Toward a Neo-Reaganite foreign policy"
Published by Foreign Affairs in the summer of 1996, this neoconservative manifesto by William Kristol and Robert Kagan set the course for the modern neocon cause. By linking Reagan's foreign policy approach with neoconservative ideas, the authors energized Republican foreign policy and moved it away from both Pat Buchanan's "neoisolationism," or Henry Kissinger's "realism."

PNAC letter to Clinton
Leading conservatives, many of whom became senior officials in the Bush Administration, wrote this open letter to then-President Bill Clinton in 1998. The letter, sponsored by the Project for a New American Century, expressed the urgent need to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

PNAC letter to Bush
Written just weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this open letter from PNAC to President George W. Bush urging Saddam Hussein's ouster marked the beginning of a concerted effort by neoconservatives to persuade President Bush to take action against Iraq. The letter stated, in part: "...even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [9/11] attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." The relentless campaign worked. Within two years years, US forces would occupy Iraq.

President Bush's speech to AEI
Less than a month before the US-led coalition launched its attack on Saddam Hussein's regime, President Bush symbolically chose the de facto headquarters of neoconservative thought, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), as a venue to outline his vision for a new Iraq – and a new Middle East. AEI had been arguing for regime change in Iraq and democratization of the Middle East for over a decade.

"Beyond the Axis of Evil"
In this controversial May, 2002 speech to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton accuses Libya, Syria, and Cuba of actively developing weapons of mass destruction programs.

Empire Builders. Neoconservatives and Their Blueprint for US Power (Neocon 101)
The Christian Science Monitor 27.08.03 staff, various interviews

What does a neoconservative dream world look like?
Neocons envision a world in which the United States is the unchallenged superpower, immune to threats. They believe that the US has a responsibility to act as a "benevolent global hegemon." The US would maintain an empire of sorts by helping to create democratic, economically liberal governments in place of "failed states" or oppressive regimes they deem threatening to the US or its interests. In the neocon dream world the entire Middle East would be democratized in the belief that this would eliminate a breeding ground for terrorists. This approach, they claim, is not only best for the US; it is best for the world, which, in their view, can only achieve peace through strong US leadership backed with force, not weak treaties to be disrespected by tyrants. Regimes outwardly hostile to the US could pose a threat and would be confronted aggressively, not "appeased" or merely contained. The US military would be reconfigured around the world to allow for greater flexibility and quicker deployment to hot spots in the Middle East, as well as Central and Southeast Asia. The US would spend more on defense, particularly for high-tech, precision weaponry to be used in preemptive strikes, working through multilateral institutions such as the United Nations when possible, but never constrained from acting in its best interests whenever necessary.
Empire Builders: Neoconservatives and their blueprint for US power features profiles and photos of the top dozen players in the modern movement: Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Lewis Libby, John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, Robert Kagan, Michael Ledeen, William Kristol, and Frank Gaffney, Jr.. It’s clear, succinct, journalistic (not editorial), and from a source which is not known for being especially liberal. It’s probably the best location for introducing this subject. The focus area, the PNAC, comes out of an atmosphere of concern that goes well beyond that one publication. Their site doesn’t have links or references to related critical or investigative resources—or things like Ron Paul’s "Neo-conned" speech.
How have neoconservatives influenced US foreign policy?
Outside of Reaganite think tanks and Israel's right-wing Likud Party, neocon calls for regime change in Iraq were deemed provocative and extremist by the political mainstream. With a few exceptions, such as President Clinton's isolated strikes at suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, their talk of preemptive military action was largely dismissed as overkill. Neocons used the 1990s to hone their message and craft their blueprint for American power. Their long-time ties to Republican circles helped many neocons win key posts in the Bush administration.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 moved the Bush administration closer than ever to neoconservative foreign policy. Only days after 9/11, one of the top neoconservative think tanks in Washington, the Project for a New American Century, wrote an open letter to President Bush calling for regime change in Iraq. Before long, Bush, who campaigned in 2000 against nation building and excessive military intervention overseas, also began calling for regime change in Iraq. In a highly significant nod to neocon influence, Bush chose the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) as the venue for a key February 2003 speech in which he declared that a US victory in Iraq "could begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace." AEI – the de facto headquarters for neconservative policy – had been calling for democratization of the Arab world for more than a decade.