Irving Kristol, Neo-Con Godfather, R.I.P.

Despite this headline, this post is not a eulogy celebrating the life and deeds of Irving Kristol. Instead, his death provides an ideal opportunity to focus on and critique the dangerous political group of which he was a founder.

Irving Kristol—who died Thursday, aged 89—was one of the key instigators of the poltical movement known as neo-conservatism, which (hopefully) had its final toxic flowering during the first term of the Bush administration. The Washington Post reports on the originary moments of this ideology three decades earlier:

Mr. Kristol and his wife, the Victorian-era historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, along with a group of sociologists, historians and academics, including Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, Richard Pipes and, for a while, Daniel P. Moynihan, emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s as prominent critics of welfare programs, racial preferences, tax policy, moral relativism and countercultural social upheavals that they thought were contributing to America’s cultural and social decay.

Many of this group and several newcomers, including Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, inveigled their way into Washington’s corridors of power during the 1970s in order to promote their own political agenda.

To gain some understanding of what this group was like, I urge you to watch the attached clip from a documentary called The Power of Nightmares. This section details the rise of the neo-con movement in the ’70s. What the clip demonstrates most effectively are the methods used by neo-cons in their zealous quest to reshape American and the world to their deluded fantasies of how things should be. This included the manipulation and reinterpretation of evidence in order to produce a conclusion desirable for their own ends, regardless of any facts to the contrary.  

Scarily, the same techniques the neo-cons used to sway public opinion during the Cold War were once again employed  in the lead up to the Iraq War, with similar success. Watch and learn how easily populations can be manipulated:


The neo-cons fell from political grace in the late 1980s and 1990s before re-emerging as a political force inside the Bush administration in 2000.

Fortunately, this poison was exorcised from the central hub of American politics soon into President Bush’s second term. To give Bush some credit here, he realised the damage wrought by the likes of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Feith and Bolton and slowly moved them on.

They have not completely disappeared, however. Many continue to preach the neo-con message of fear through various organs and thinktanks such as the National Review Online, The Weekly Standard, and The Heritage Foundation.


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