However, just days after Romney lost to Obama, the neocons got an unexpected surprise when their cozy ally, David Petraeus, was forced to resign as CIA director due to a sex scandal. Given his star status, Petraeus had expected to have his sexual escapades swept under the rug but he was informed that he would have to leave and that the reason would be made public.
According to intelligence sources, Obama was upset with a behind-his-back effort by CIA Director Petraeus and Secretary of State Clinton to push a scheme for shipping arms to the Syrian rebels. The Petraeus-Clinton thinking apparently was that Obama, in a tough reelection fight, would not have the political guts to block their Syrian plan and face possible accusations of timidity, but he did.
Then, heading into his second term, Obama finished clearing the decks of his first-term national security team. Defense Secretary Gates already had resigned in 2011. With John Kerry at State and Chuck Hagel at Defense, Obama also has two Vietnam War veterans with Purple Hearts who have expressed a reluctance to go casually off to war, as many neocons -- who typically have never served in uniform -- do.
Yet, despite their loss of standing within the Executive Branch, the neocons can still be counted on to push violent solutions to diplomatic problems. Indeed, their voices may become even more strident if they see Obama's second term seeking more multilateral solutions and more "realist" approaches to the rest of the world.
The neocons may still raise their voices and type out angry op-eds, but their hands are off the levers of military power more so than we have seen since the 1970s.