|Glossary of the Right-Wing Sectors in U.S. Foreign Policy
By Tom Barry
November 4, 2002
Editor: John Gershman, Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC)
Understanding politics in America and U.S. foreign policy means
knowing about the right wing. The leading ideologues and strategists
of the right wing--who hail from such groups as the Project for the
New American Century, American Enterprise Institute, and Empower
America--have set the hawkish and unilateralist direction of the Bush
foreign and military policy.
Anticommunists: Until the collapse of the Soviet bloc, militant
anticommunism served to unify right-wing sectors around a foreign
policy that stressed military budget increases, rationalized U.S.
support for dictatorial regimes, and supported military intervention.
Unlike cold war liberals, who also identified themselves as
anticommunists, the militant anticommunists of the right believed that
the fight against communism needed to be fought at home as well as
abroad, and they advocated aggressive rollback strategies rather than
merely containment and deterrence. Militant anticommunism no longer
functions as the backbone of the right's approach to international
affairs, although anticommunist convictions still shape the foreign
policy agendas of many right-wing ideologues regarding U.S. relations
with China, Cuba, and North Korea. This political agenda of crushing
all forms of communist governance has created fissures within the
right, dividing the proponents of free trade from those who resist
establishing normal business relations with countries ruled by
Christian Right: Before the 1970s, the U.S. evangelical movement was a
subculture that kept its distance from electoral politics. With a new
focus on social conservatism, Republican Party strategists together
with neoconservatives and right-wing ideologues encouraged the
politicization of the evangelical sectors as part of the New Right
fusionism that ushered Ronald Reagan into the presidency in 1981.
Conservative Internationalists: Neoconservatives often use this label
to describe themselves. It distinguishes them from the
paleoconservatives, from the traditional isolationism of many core
Republicans, and from the liberal internationalists found mainly in
the Democratic Party.
Conservative Mainstream: Today's conservative mainstream encompasses
all those elements of the right who believe that it is possible to
operate within the electoral arena, including all the groups in this
glossary. The mainstream includes think tanks and front groups as well
as major constituency organizations like the Christian Coalition. The
conservative mainstream may call for radical changes in domestic and
foreign policies, but it does not embrace the methods of domestic
right-wing vigilante groups, although most sectors of the right have
supported U.S. assistance to foreign right-wing vigilante groups.
Membership in the conservative mainstream does not equate to resisting
social change. Indeed, many conservative groups espouse radical policy
agendas. However, conservatives react negatively to changes that are
regarded as part of progressive, secular, or liberal policy agendas.
Libertarians: Conservative libertarians have long been part of the
conservative mainstream in their embrace of free market solutions and
processes and in their opposition to government involvement in social
and economic matters. Conservative libertarians share concerns about
government infringement on individual civil liberties with progressive
civil libertarians. Libertarians also share concerns about U.S.
interventionism and foreign aid with paleoconservatives.
National Security Militarists: Closely connected to what President
Eisenhower termed the "U.S. military industrial complex," national
security militarists are among the chief proponents of major increases
in the U.S. military budget and transformations in military capacity,
arguing that the U.S. must maintain military superiority. Closely
allied with the most militant anticommunist sectors of the right, the
militarists have in recent years rallied around a grand strategy of
U.S. global supremacy built on the foundation of unchallenged military
power in order to maintain "the American peace" throughout this century.
Neoconservatives: Neoconservatives constitute an intellectual current
that emerged from the cold war liberalism of the Democratic Party.
Unlike other elements of the conservative mainstream, neoconservatives
have historical social roots in liberal and leftist politics.
Disillusioned first with socialism and communism and later with new
Democrats (like George McGovern) who came to dominate the Democratic
Party in the 1970s, neoconservatives played a key role in boosting the
New Right into political dominance in the 1980s. For the most part,
neoconservatives--who are disproportionately Jewish and Catholic--are
not politicians but rather political analysts, activist ideologues,
and scholars who have played a central role in forging the agendas of
numerous right-wing think tanks, front groups, and foundations.
Neoconservatives have a profound belief in America's moral
superiority, which facilitates alliances with the Christian Right and
other social conservatives. But unlike either core traditionalists of
American conservatism or those with isolationist tendencies,
neoconservatives are committed internationalists. As they did in the
1970s, the neoconservatives were instrumental in the late 1990s in
helping to fuse diverse elements of the right into a unified force
based on a new agenda of U.S. supremacy.
New Right: In the 1970s this manifestation of American conservativism
represented a revival of the coalition of libertarians,
traditionalists, and anticommunists that gave Barry Goldwater the
Republican nomination in 1964. This fusionist movement, however,
differed in that it included a politicized evangelical sector (the
Christian Right), Democrats disaffected with the liberal platform of
the new Democratic Party, and the strong intellectual influence,
particularly in foreign policy issues, of the neoconservatives.
Paleoconservatives: In direct contrast to neoconservatives,
paleoconservatives reject internationalism and interventionism that is
not directly related to protecting U.S. national interests (largely
defined as economic interests). Their roots can be traced back to the
conservative isolationists and profascists of the 1930s and to the
America First movement of the 1940s. After the end of the cold war,
the paleoconservatives were one of the few political sectors that
criticized the new military interventionism, including both the Gulf
War and the humanitarian interventions of the 1990s. On economic
issues such as free trade, the paleocons are nationalists and
protectionists, while on most domestic issues their posture is one of
reactionary populism that includes elements of racism and nativism.
Social Conservatives: This sector, which is mostly focused on domestic
issues, arose from the traditionalist backbone of the U.S.
conservative movement. Unlike libertarians, social conservatives hold
that government has the God-given mandate to enforce a moral order
shaped by Christian values. Although not all social conservatives are
part of the Christian Right, most support the notion of a "culture
war" to protect what they regard to be traditional American values
from erosion due to secularism, feminism, and cultural relativism. The
international perspective of social conservatives has historically
been viewed through the prism of anticommunism, but in the 1990s,
neoconservative authors and activists like Samuel Huntington and
William Bennett were instrumental in internationalizing the paranoia
that fueled the domestic culture wars of the right by positing that
Judeo-Christian values and civilization were threatened around the world.