Neo-conservatism is a strand of American political thought. It has been argued that it is neither new (neo) nor conservative. And that makes sense.
Some, like the South African political economist Patrick Bond sees it as a separate, most right wing, type of movement. On the other hand the Canadian star journalist Naomi Klein views neo-conservatives and neo-liberals as two sides of the same coin: she argues that the extreme free market ideas of neo liberals can only be imposed on a people with the violence so loved by neo conservatives.
Why would we care about some hairsplitting in American political thought far away? Well, because neo conservative thinking is mostly concerned with international politics and US international politics happens to include us. (Neo conservatives are mostly interested in the Middle East, with focal point Israel, but they impose their ways worldwide).
Neo conservatives advocate for pushing American interests hard, and are not shy to use war to further American interests. They define American interests as the interests of American Big Business. So they want to impose extreme free markets on the world, with violence if that helps.
The GW Bush (junior) administration was very neo con. Bush himself did not have much political thought or theoretical strength so he left the policy making to others, like the very neo con Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz. They started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supported violent politics of the Israeli government with money and weapons as well as diplomatic cover. All this to the detriment of the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon.
The neo-con movement has a peculiar relationship with religion: the top dogs like Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney are usually Atheist or Jewish, but the rank-and-file are usually members of the Christian Right. This is a relatively new strand of anti intellectual Christianity that is particularly homophobic, anti women, anti free thought, anti poor people and often racist. In Malawi Pastor Nicky Chakwera is trying to introduce it. You can see it in his column in the Malawi News: he often, for a lack of local content, discusses US issues that have no relevance to Malawi, but that he copies and pastes form US sources of the Christian Right.
We in Malawi as a very small country with a minuscule economy and no oil to speak of are not worthy of the interests of the US Army. But they are pushing neo-liberal ideas on us with the help of the IMF, World Bank, and WTO. These three organizations are mostly financed by the US government to push US interests (and mostly the interests of US Big Business). It is neo-colonialism: controlling our economy without the costs of having to occupy the land. So if the IMF declares Malawi’s government policy off track, it means that it is not supporting the interests of US businesses. IMF, World Bank, and WTO always push for more open borders for capital (not necessarily for people) for less government, for less regulation of business, especially the financial sector. This type of policy has created crisis after crisis (the Mother of All Economic Crises in 1929 was caused by lack of regulation of the financial sector and the same goes for the 2007-2008 crisis). If IMF, World Bank or WTO declare something negative about Malawi, they mean it is negative for the US businesses, not necessarily for the Malawian people. They are offshoots of US neo-liberalism, and neo-liberalism needs neo-con violence to be implemented. In our Malawian case we are lucky it is not military violence but the economic violence that keeps us poor, underdeveloped and dependent on the neo-liberal, neo-colonial, neo-con organizations of IMF, World Bank and WTO is bad enough.