What maketh a neo-con? [Jamie]

There's been a lot of discussion on the blog about the use--and abuse--of the label "neo-con." Which has got me thinking--what is it that causes people to label others this way? And why is it that people who would never consider themselves neo-conservatives are labeled as such?

Today, it seems that a "neo-con" (at least in the fevered imaginations of the net-left) is someone who frequently calls attention to the unprovoked aggression of despotic regimes (e.g. Iran and Syria), the violation of human rights in other countries, and advocates the moral superiority of democratic countries in international affairs. A "neo-con" is now anyone who dares make an issue out of the aggressions and inhumanity of despotisms without explaining them away, and for advocating America do something about these aggressions and inhumanities. It is for this reason that so many on the left attacked Bayard Rustin in the 1970's and 1980's when, in addition to speaking out about racial injustices in the United States and condemning Reaganomics, he also spoke out, vociferously, against the PLO, Robert Mugabe, and the Sandinistas. But Rustin was hardly a proper neo-conservative, even if he happened to write the occasional article for Commentary and helped found the Coalition for a Democratic Majority. And so, simply for stating uncomfortable realities about the world, someone is called a "neocon" (which in today's political discourse--not just left-wing discourse--is akin to labeling someone a "pinko" in the 1950's) and readily dismissed.

It seems that, in both the right and left blogospheres those who do not toe the party line are attacked and called names: Liberals are traitors and conservatives are warmongers. "Neo-con" has become the de facto curse word in the left-wing blogosphere, applied to anyone who dares oppose the dictates of Chairman Kos (do his followers realize the cruel irony of calling themselves "Kossacks?")

While I write frequently about despotic regimes, their threat to America, and criticize the United Nations for being, what Daniel Patrick Moynihan referred to as, "A Dangerous Place," the neocons--at least the ones at the American Enterprise Institute--will probably be really surprised to hear Steve claim that "Jamie has been providing a 'sideways defense' for the neocons," considering this. Needless to say, not everyone who advocates for an internationalist, engaged, muscular foreign policy is a "neo-conservative."