Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Zachary Selden in WSJ's Opinion Journal: What Europe Doesn't Understand

What Europe Doesn't Understand: Neoconservatism is neither neo nor conservative. It's just American.

A portion of this wise and illustrative essay ...

Although there are notable exceptions, many European commentators and much of the public are resorting to conspiratorial theories to explain the direction of U.S. foreign policy and somehow overlook the fact that American public opinion runs in favor of the president's handling of foreign affairs. Perhaps more important, however, they overlook the deep historical roots of the current direction of American foreign policy. It is not driven by a "neocon cabal." Rather, it is that certain individuals associated with the neoconservative label have been particularly articulate in expressing a set of policies that flow from two ideas that resonate deeply in American public opinion. The first is a belief that the United States has a responsibility to spread its vision of individual liberty. The second is that the primary and perhaps exclusive task of the federal government is to protect its citizens from external threats. Whatever the actual causes of U.S. action in any particular instance, those principles loom large in the public debate and shape how and when the United States becomes involved in other countries' affairs.

If you really want to understand where neoconservatives are coming from, and I count myself among those who accept the label, this piece will help you to understand the principles that form the basis of neoconservatism. It's worth the read, and written in an accessible way that most people can understand.

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