I don’t think the term “neo-conservative” serves any purpose any more except as a convenient epithet for the puerile political left. What is needed currently more than anything else, is common sense, which despite its name, is anything but common. To have thought, for example, following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, that the world was headed to a sort of Buddhist nirvana of peace, prosperity and happiness, a la Fukuyama, was contrary to common sense and indeed did not happen. Quite the contrary. The Fukuyama nirvana lasted a mere ten years before dissolving in the infernos of the twin towers in Manhattan.
Michael is certainly right about Iraq, and I would add Afghanistan. Two strategies would have reflected common sense. After the Taliban refused to turn over bin Laden and his associates, a quick invasion, overthrow of the Taliban government and turn the country over to the Northern League. Stay for say six months to support the new government, and get out. In Iraq the situation was more complicated. Saddam did not threaten the national security of the U.S., so there was no necessity to do anything. If, however, the decision is made to overthrow Saddam (in this case because he tried to assassinate President Bush’s father), then invade, overthrow Saddam and turn the country over to a compliant general, with admonitions to be a good boy, stay six months or so to support the new government and get out.
Alternatively, settle down for a long stay and oversee the democratization of both countries. Supposedly this is what was done in Iraq, but as Michael points out execution was atrocious. Every possible mistake was made, including but not limited to the dismantling of the entire army and police force as well as the civil bureaucracy (“No member of the Ba’ath Party may stay in office”). Instead of receiving the medal of freedom, Bremer should have been dismissed and prosecuted for incompetence amounting to insanity. Finally, Obama put the seal on the idiocy by a precipitous withdrawal. In Afghanistan there was never any pretense of a real democracy, just the rigged election of a compliant stooge.
After we leave it will be post-occupation Iraq all over again.
As to domestic policy, as David points out, the Reagan administration did everything right and decades of prosperity ensued, leading to the dawn of the 21st century with a United States the richest and most powerful country in the history of the world, and with no rival. A mere fifteen years and two awful administrations later and the U.S. is a pathetic giant, genuflecting before the likes of the Castro brothers and the Supreme Leader and his grinning foreign minister. As the saying goes, “How are the mighty fallen!” And we may add, “Fallen by their own gross incompetence, hubris and lack of common sense”.