from What Conservatism Means
Particularly intriguing about Huntington's argument is that it perfectly predicted what was to happen in the 1960s. In that decade, there was a powerful upsurge of radicalism, associated initially with the Civil Rights movement and protest against the Vietnam War but quickly going beyond that to reject the whole fabric of American society. New Deal liberalism was denounced and rejected as Cold War liberalism or worse, and the radicals began their long march through our institutions.
It was in these circumstances that a group of liberal intellectuals, almost all of them members of the Democratic Party, many of them prominent members of the New York intellectual community, began to oppose the radical movement, to defend American institutions and values with classic conservative arguments. They were attacked from the left and derisively labeled neoconservatives. It was meant as an insult but readily accepted by Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, and his colleagues.
They became an important force in American politics and have remained so. Many joined the Republican Party. They brought with them intellectual and polemical skills that had been in scarce supply on the Right, and by the 1980s they had seized the intellectual initiative from the Left.
Under the neoconservatives guidance, we now have a president committed not only to nation building in Iraq but also to region building throughout the Middle East. The belief that democratic institutions, behavior, and ways of thought can be exported and transplanted to societies that have no traditions of them is a profoundly unconservative, indeed a radical, belief. Conservatives traditionally have believed in the slow, organic growth of political institutions, not their imposition from without. Yet the most enthusiastic advocates of exporting democracy are American neoconservatives, which perhaps suggests that their break with their earlier modes of thought has been less than complete.