I’ll try to be comprehensive.
Many neoconservatives started out on the anti-Stalinist left. Many of them followed the ideas of Trotsky, and even today they’re still informed by a sort of twisted derelict remnant of those ideas. But, by the time of the Vietnam War, they had moved to the far right because many liberals and leftists opposed that war. The former Trotskyite bent of neoconservatives had by then turned into a virulent hatred of all things liberal, and so they joined Republican ranks. Reagan’s increase in military spending, and his promise to fight the “evil empire,” were exactly the kinds of thing they liked. At some point, they created a sort of revolving door for themselves between the government and a whole slew of think tanks funded with the wealth of long-dead tycoons. (For instance, Richard Perle is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute when he’s not doing anything for the government.) They also derive support from right-wing media outlets funded by such people as Richard Scaife and Rupert Murdoch.
The main goal of these neoconservatives is war. About a decade ago, Paul Wolfowitz wrote a memorandum in which he proposed a “new” foreign policy for America, one that involved putting a dominant military presence on every continent. Somewhat later, the think tank known as the Project For A New American Century came about, and started publishing similar policy proposals. (This think tank was run in the offices of the Weekly Standard, a rag owned by Rupert Murdoch; also, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have all been PNAC members.) The neoconservatives used this and other pulpits to call for war with Iraq and other countries in the Middle East many times. Among other neoconservative policy initiatives were astronomical increases in military spending, control of the Middle East (starting with Iraq), installation of permanent military bases around the world, the willingness to use nuclear weapons, and the destruction of international treaties that would be necessary to do the above.
It so happened that Dick Cheney was in charge of the presidential transition, when Bush was about to take office. During this time, he didn’t forget his neoconservative pals. Some had predicted that Colin Powell, a more moderate voice, would come to shape Bush’s foreign policy, but instead, Powell ended up being outnumbered by neoconservatives like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, and Lewis Libby, and after 9/11, Bush chose to listen to them. (Yet, a non-neoconservative wing of the administration still exists, and the CIA and the Pentagon are largely non-neoconservative; this is probably why neoconservatives have not achieved all of their goals yet.) Today, neoconservatives also receive the support of some fundamentalists whose flag-waving jingoism is informed by religious fervour. In exchange for that support, neoconservatives are perfectly willing to promise those fundamentalists what they want - a narrow, extremely reactionary social agenda (prohibition of abortion, intolerance of homosexuality, forced prayer in schools, the mingling of church and state) carried out in the name of “family values.” But neoconservatives themselves don’t really have such an agenda. They don’t really have any one set of beliefs on this matter, but none of them disagree with that agenda so much as to start a fight with the fundamentalists over it.
On the domestic front, the only party line neoconservatives have is unconditional support of any measures that restrict civil liberties, such as the draconian “Patriot Act.” They pay lip service to the idea of free speech, but they always raise the spectre of a “fifth column,” claim the pervasive influence of “traitors” (whenever an antiwar demonstration takes place, neoconservatives like to howl about how it consists of Marxists, communists and “the Left”) and use these “arguments” to justify such things as, for instance, allowing authorities to force anyone (doctors, bookstores, libraries, ISPs) to hand over any records they might have on anyone, without the requirement of “probable cause.” (This is part of the “Patriot Act”.) They also favour indefinite detentions of prisoners, permission of secret trials and secret executions held in secret locations where the defendant is denied a lawyer, restrictions of protests, and all other measures that would consolidate their influence.
However, aside from supporting police measures, neoconservatives don’t really have one coherent set of domestic policies. In other words, such things as environmental issues, Medicare, welfare, the economy, abortion, and other such issues aren’t really addressed in the neoconservative “platform,” as it were. That usually isn’t a big part of their rhetoric. Nonetheless, the sheer vicious <i>callousness</i> that fills the rhetoric of contemporary neoconservatives towards the antiwar movement, Europe, and civilian casualties in Iraq and other places, as well as their contempt for civil liberties, usually leads them to sneer at most of those things, as well. Additionally, they need funding for their many wars, and that means that they have no compunction about a) draining money from government programs that spend it on other things, and b) cozying up to profiteers and corporations, since they’re the ones who have the means to support their ideology and their wars. In doing these things, they co-opt conservative bromides about “limited government” and “economic freedom” from time to time, purely as a PR move.
One might wonder what motivates neoconservatives. It looks like their warmongering is informed by a messianic worldview. Neoconservatives think that by fighting all of these wars, America will become the uncontested dominant force in world affairs forevermore, and thereby usher in a “New American Century.” (Some neoconservative hacks and pundits also like to talk about “national greatness.”) The PNAC, for instance, declares that “American leadership is good for the world” and that this leadership requires “moral principle.” This is why neoconservatives are so contemptuous of civil liberties - to them, the antiwar movement, by failing to accept the “morality” of neoconservative ideology, has forfeited all “moral principle” and therefore represents either decadence, weakness, and immorality (neoconservatives love to hate “liberal college professors”), or treason, evil, and terrorism. Furthermore, this same “moral principle” gives neoconservatives (in their view) not only the <i>right</i>, but the <i>duty</i> to use force in promulgating their ideology - the ends, and the morality behind them, not only justify but demand the means. Additionally, neoconservatives have reapplied Trotsky’s old opinion to their ideology - just as Trotsky said that a communist revolution will not be successful until it has overthrown capitalism everywhere on earth, so do neoconservatives say about American dominance and “democracy” versus non-democratic countries. As a result, this moral imperative that neoconservatives have concocted for themselves outweighs all other considerations - if American intelligence can’t come up with any evidence that Iraq was a threat to us, well then, neoconservatives see nothing wrong with bypassing American intelligence and presenting fabricated evidence, no matter how obviously fraudulent it might be. The end of the Soviet Union cheated them out of an enemy to direct this struggle against, but now the threat of terrorism presents a new backdrop which they use to smear their opponents, ennoble themselves, and advance their ideology. The favourite tactic of neoconservative pundits is to talk about an abstract, looming “evil,” a Manichean struggle in which they represent justice and truth, and thereby have licence to do as they wish.