From a reader:
Jonah, I have been reading with interest your analysis of the “neocon” phenomenon. I re-read your thoughts on Africa, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. In it I think you accurately described the essence of what I understand to be neo-conservatism in that article. It is the idea that the social experiment called America is mankind’s best hope, and therefore, it must be exported by the most efficient means possible (including invasion when a threat is present) to the ultimate betterment of mankind. Yes it has its warts, but it is self-correcting as no other system is.
Lefties and postmodernists attack this approach as empire building, neo-colonialism, and worse (yeah, like their heroes the Soviets never tried to forcefully export their ideas to the world). Paleo-cons differ in that they don’t want to export this system. Not their job. (If the rest of the world discovers it, great. If not, the heck with ‘em.)
The fact that the first neos were ex-lefties is clear evidence to me of this distinction. They truly wanted to make the world a better place (I still believe there is a measure of altruism, however grossly misguided, in Leftist thought). They just finally realized that any degree of socialism wasn’t the answer. The answer was literally right under their feet!