|Neocon Bill Kristol|
Seventeen years after the United States overthrew the government of Afghanistan, 15 years after we toppled the government of Iraq, and seven years after we deposed the government of Libya, neoconservative pundit William Kristol announced the goal of American foreign policy over the coming decades should be "regime change" in China, a nuclear power that also happens to have a population more than four times the size of the United States.
This is important — for several reasons.
It's important because it shows that Kristol, despite burnishing his mainstream reputation over the past few years by unwaveringly opposing Donald Trump, remains an unrepentant neocon.
It's important because, along with a tweet storm Kristol produced to explain and defend his endorsement of Chinese regime change, it helps to clarify exactly what's distinctive about neoconservative foreign policy thinking.
And it's important, finally, because it so clearly illustrates just how dangerous and deluded that way of thinking really is.
Yes, Virginia, there really are worse options than President Trump.
In recent years, the term "neoconservative" has been emptied of meaning — used either by anti-Semites to mean "Jewish conservative" or by journalists as a synonym for "foreign policy hawk." Neither is true to the history of the movement or what's distinctive about the evolution of its ideas.
The word was originally coined as an epithet to describe a group of liberal intellectuals who migrated rightward during the 1970s, eventually coming to support the presidency of Ronald Reagan. (Kristol's father Irving was among them.) At the time, these writers endorsed a range of domestic and foreign policy positions: They were tough on crime, defended the conservative side in the culture war, favored work requirements for welfare recipients, and endorsed a revival of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
This first phase of neoconservatism faded during the 1990s, when Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress co-opted and implemented much of its domestic agenda and the collapse of communism seemed to render its foreign policy priorities superfluous. But a second generation of neocons had other ideas. With the founding of The Weekly Standard in 1995, Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, and other likeminded writers banded together to rebrand the movement as advocates for what they originally dubbed a "Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy.
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