6 - Outreach to the Media and Evangelicals  pp. 182-200


By Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke

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“Soft power,” as Joseph Nye explains, is “getting people to want what you want.” While the neo-conservatives spent the 1990s advocating the employment of “hard power” abroad, they made every effort to increase their soft power at home by forming relations with other political forces within the U.S. body politic. We have discussed above how the neo-conservatives' soft-power strategies involved building a shadow defense establishment across a number of think tanks and policy institutes, from which they were able to promote and disseminate their intellectual alternative for American foreign policy. These think tanks were supported by powerful sponsors. They published policy papers, sent open letters to the president, and hosted conferences and symposia attended by political notables of Washington, many of whom would subsequently move into senior policy-making positions.

This chapter looks at how neo-conservatives sought to establish support for their ideas by forging connections with the emerging cable news and political talk radio formats, the most popular of which, unlike the national TV networks, catered to a conservative-leaning listenership. These gave the neo-conservatives a point of purchase for their arguments in an otherwise generally liberal media environment. We also look at how they formed alliances with like-minded political groups within the Christian evangelical community.

If the neo-conservative case for war against Iraq was based on a strategy that aimed at dominating the political discourse, this strategy needed sympathetic news outlets in order to establish the case for war within the general consciousness of the American public.