“If you ever read a sentence that starts with ‘neocons believe,’ there is a 99.44 percent chance everything else in that sentence will be untrue,” David Brooks once wrote.

But help is on the way for those who wonder what the correct definition of neocon is: There’s a new book that will help you figure out who these mysterious people are and what they believe.

Suzanne Fields is on the case:

“In ’The Neocon Reader,’ edited by Irwin Stelzer,” Fields writes, “a sense of what’s ’old’ about the ‘neos’ comes clear, as various writers trace the roots of political thinkers as different as John Quincy Adams and Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair….There’s a whiff of Jew-baiting in some of the criticism of neoconservatives, too. Many neocons are Jewish, but many are not. Similar criticism was leveled against FDR when many Jews made up his brain trust and his New Deal was derided as the ’Jew Deal.’ Some neocons are Catholics, others are evangelical Protestants. When Bill Bennett, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus and theologian Michael Novak go to the synagogue it’s not to read the Torah. They’re going there to make a speech….

“…Most neocons support ’coalitions of the willing’ to depose dictators who threaten American security and world order. Neocons are not ‘soft Wilsonians’ like former President Jimmy Carter, writes Max Boot, but ‘hard Wilsonians’ who want Americans to lead others without foolishly relying on them. Neocons wouldn’t have had an impact on the thinking of the president but for September 11. He campaigned for his first term against ’nation building.’
“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose essay is included in ’The Neocon Reader’ though she isn’t usually identified as a neocon, says that the bombing of the Twin Towers ended a long transitional period that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall, changing American vulnerabilities, realities and opportunities. Yuri Ushakov, Russian ambassador to the United States, pleads for understanding that the road to democratic institutions in his country is a bumpy one. You don’t have to be a neocon to hope that when President Bush meets President Putin in Bratislava he talks about smoothing out some of those bumps.
“A neocon, in Irving Kristol’s famous quip, is ’a liberal who was mugged by reality.’ Today reality has mugged as all.”