The unbridling of virtue: neoconservatism between the Cold War and the Iraq War

McClelland, Mark Jonathan Lamdin (2012). The unbridling of virtue: neoconservatism between the Cold War and the Iraq War. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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During the years between the Cold War and the Iraq War, neoconservatism underwent an important shift from a position sympathetic to realist thought to a position much closer to a particularly conservative form of liberal internationalism. This change has largely been ignored in the literature, and when discussed, simply attributed to new, more radical neoconservative actors replacing a more cautious cadre. This thesis utilises a ‘history of ideas’ approach to examine the evolution of neoconservative thought from an emphasis on stability and normality to one of ambitious transformation abroad and wide-ranging democracy promotion. It argues that this modification can be attributed to several material and ideational drivers. In material terms, the end of the Cold War and the ensuing decline of bipolarity in the international system in combination with the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 were pivotal events in neoconservatism’s evolution. The former removed the primary constraint on the use of American power overseas, while the latter demonstrated, as far as neoconservatives were concerned, the cost to the US of inaction and restraint abroad. Ideationally, the advent of Francis Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ thesis, an embrace of liberal democratic peace theory, and a religious ‘turn’ in neoconservative thought, all contributed to the development of a neoconservative foreign policy much more sympathetic to ideas of democracy promotion and humanitarian intervention.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, Other
Other Funders: The University of Birmingham
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
E History America > E151 United States (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)


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