There’s no mystery. The neoconservatives are a group of American political intellectuals (there is no equivalent mass-based movement) who believe the United States should pursue an aggressive and interventionist foreign policy. They emerged in the 1970s, and many of the early ones were converts from 1960s left-radical movements. Yes, many of them were and are Jewish, and from the start, neocons have been markedly pro-Israel. You can read the story in Up from Conservatism by Michael Lind (Free Press, 1996). In the course of the '80s, The New Republic became a markedly neocon magazine in its foreign-policy slant. No, I don’t know what Alessan mean by comparing the neocons to Jesuits. Perhaps it is because the Jesuits were founded to fight back against the Protestant Reformation and aggressively expand Catholicism; and because the Jesuits, since their founding. have been the most intellectual order of the Catholic Church.
The word paleoconservative usually is used to mean someone like Patrick Buchanan, who favors an isolationist foreign policy, withdrawal of the U.S. from the United Nations, strict limits on immigration, breaking the power of big business (especially international big business) limited and decentralized government, and preservation of traditional American (that is, Christian) social and moral values (very strongly pro-life). Buchanan consciously stands in the tradition of the pre-WWII “America First” isolationists, and before that, the late-19th-century Populists and the early-19th-century Know-Nothings. You can read more about his views on the website of his new political party, the America First Party (http://www.americafirstparty.org/); and his “The American Cause” website (http://www.theamericancause.org/); and Buchanan’s new weekly magazine, The American Conservative, which you’ll find on any newsstand that also carries The Nation or The National Review or The New Republic.
Although there is some overlap, paleoconservatives of this kind are not quite the same as religious-social conservatives and white-supremacist conservatives. It’s really a matter of emphasis. Some statements in Buchanan’s books can be read as hostile to racial sensitivity and political correctness but there is little that is overtly racist, a la Mein Kampf. (In fact, sorting out this tendency has caused some trouble to the fledgling America First Party, which was forced to postpone its 2003 national convention to an undetermined date after furor arose over the influence of a racist wing led by Bo Gritz.) And Buchanan (although a Roman Catholic) probably agrees with Pat Robertson on most points, but chooses to emphasize different areas, i.e., foreign, military, and immigration policy.
Libertarians, radical and moderate, can be clearly distinguished from paleoconservative. They are likely to see eye-to-eye with Buchanan on the issues of isolationism and limited government, but would probably oppose his policies on immigration and foreign trade on the grounds of “freedom.” Libertarians want free markets and open borders, even if that means economic globalization and the American job markets being flooded with impoverished Third-Worlders.
And big-business Republicans are yet another group. They agree with the neocons in a lot of ways, with the Libertarians in some ways. The Libertarians, however, are pro-market, which is not the same as pro-business; they would never support corporate welfare.
The point is, paleoconservatives are diametrically opposed to neoconservatives in many ways. The neocons are running the country right now; the paleocons are relegated to the margins. The neocons were all for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the paleocons dead against them. The neocons are for NAFTA, the WTO, and economic globalization; the paleocons are against these things and are economic nationalists. The neocons are for the interests of big business and Wall Street, the paleocons hate these things as much as Communists do. The paleocons want to stop or restrict immigration; most neocons probably regard their cheap foreign nannies as basic necessities of life.
Another difference is that neoconservatism is purely an intellectual-elite movement and paleoconservatism has an actual mass base among the voters.
As for neoconservatism being equivalent to “Trotskyism” – if a parallel can be drawn, it doesn’t help us much in analyzing the situation. Remember that the neocons, together with the big-business Republicans, are running the country right now. In all aspects of foreign and military policy, the Bush Administration follows the neoconservative line. There was never any analogous situation in Soviet history; the interventionist, expansionist Trotsky fled the country shortly after the isolationist Stalin came to power.