Justin Vaïsse

Neoconservatives in American Political Life: 1965-2008 Publication date : October 23, 2008

Does neoconservatism alone explain the war in Iraq? In this in-depth study, Justin Vaïsse takes us beyond the usual conspiracy theories to explore U.S. neoconservative political thought and its impact. In the process, he reveals a little-known side of American history.

Act I, New York. The protest movements of the 1960s drive toward the right intellectuals who wish to limit State intervention and are wary of the consequences of egalitarianism. The ideas of these “New Conservatives” are met with derision.

Act II, Washington, D.C. The Democratic candidate George McGovern runs against Richard Nixon, in the 1972 presidential election. McGovern favours policies and a form of isolationism that are unacceptable to voters in his own party who wish to maintain the traditions of Truman, Kennedy and Johnson. In 1980, the neoconservatives decide to back Ronald Reagan, who is influenced and inspired by their ideas.

Following the Cold War, Washington's neoconservatives begin to favour America's “benevolent hegemony”; their aim is to support — and export — democracy all over the world. In 2000, George W. Bush becomes president and adopts part of the neoconservative worldview.

Will the failure of the war in Iraq lead to the disappearance of neoconservatism? This outcome is unlikely, argues Justin Vaïsse, since neoconservative thought is supported by deeply entrenched movements that John McCain is much closer to than Bush ever was.

This is the first historical exposé of the neoconservative movement that clearly explains its origins and great diversity, from the 1960s to the present. To write this book, the author, a specialist in U.S. politics, spent six years researching archive material and conducting numerous interviews.

Also included here are profiles of the leading figures in the movement.

In addition, Jusin Vaïsse provides some crucial insights into George W. Bush's presidency, and helps us understand the sort of president John McCain could become — if he were elected.

Justin Vaïsse, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution (Washington, D.C.), is a historian specialising in U.S. domestic and foreign policy. He teaches at Johns Hopkins University and was previously an adjunct professor at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (IEP), in Paris.

He is the author of Le Modèle américain (1998), the co-author of L'Empire du milieu. Les Etats-Unis et le monde depuis la fin de la guerre froide (with P. Melandri, 2001) and of Washington et le monde. Dilemmes d'une superpuissance (with P. Hassner, 2003), and the co-editor of La Présidence impériale. De Franklin Roosevelt à George W. Bush (with D. Lacorne, 2007).