Had you Googled “neoconservative” and “death” that day, four days after the 89-year-old Kristol expired, you’d have found lots on their long-rumored—and for some, much-anticipated and -savored—demise. On both the left and right, neoconservatism was deemed a spent force. Its ideas, Foreign Policy magazine had pronounced, “lie buried in the sands of Iraq.”
But obituaries can be premature. At the moment, in fact, the neocons seem resurrected. One of their own, Frederick Kagan of AEI (Robert’s younger brother), helped turn around the war in Iraq by devising and pushing for the surge there. More recent-ly, President Obama—whose foreign–policy pronouncements (nuanced, multi-lateral, interdependent) and style (low-key, self-critical, conciliatory, collegial) were a repudiation of neoconservative assertiveness—has swung their way, or so they believe. First, he’s sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, nearly as many as leading neocons had sought. Then came his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which, with its acknowledgment of the need for force, its nod to dissidents in Iran and elsewhere, and its talk about good and evil, was surprisingly congenial.