This was -- and may still be -- a "third way", if you like, between two other strategic alternatives for foreign policy. On the one hand, there was the naive idealism/crass cynicism of "liberal internationalism", which was an attempt at a top-down imposition of order by creating the shells or facades of global institutions fluffed up with a lot of talk about "international law", etc., but behind which facades sheltered the worst sorts of despotisms and petty tyrannies engaged in the same old squabbles that states have always fought over. As a general strategy, it failed miserably the first time it was tried, with the League of Nations, and at least as miserably the second time, with the United Nations, except, of course, that nuclear weapons have preserved us from another world war. On the other hand, there is the older notion of realpolitik, exemplified by Kissinger, which at least has its realism, or attempt at realism, to save it from cynicism. But, even in Metternich's or Bismark's day, its lack of any moral principle other than national self-interest was never realistic enough in a long term sense, and fails all the more dismally today when nations and their economies are so much more tightly interlocked. So, on the third hand, we have the strategic approach known as neoconservatism, which views a truly realistic foreign policy as one guided by some long-range and general principles, such as democracy, the rule of law, and individual rights. Contrary to popular leftist opinion, this doesn't imply a policy of belligerent intervention and nation building in states that lack those principles now (except under exceptional conditions, where alternatives are worse), but instead a policy of positive encouragement and help, in a long-term effort to build a bottom-up world order chacteristized by peace and mutual prosperity.
Now, as I indicated, I don't hold out much hope that Obama even understands these kinds of distinctions -- not because he's stupid, but simply because his whole background indicates a kind of can't-we-all-just-get-along foreign policy naivete at best, and a lefty, America as the real "evil empire" mind set at worst. See this post summarizing Kenneth Anderson's take on the present Administration's underlying foreign policy assumptions for a more nuanced, but no less skeptical, analysis. But it would be nice to think that, regardless of the label used, and notwithstanding the forum in which they were uttered, words like these had some real "neoconservative" substance behind them:
The idea is a simple one -- that freedom, justice and peace for the world must begin with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings. And for the United States, this is a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity. As Robert Kennedy said, "the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit." So we stand up for universal values because it's the right thing to do. But we also know from experience that those who defend these values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights -- whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments -- have chosen to be our adversaries....
...experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty; that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and open governments. To put it simply, democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens. And I believe that truth will only grow stronger in a world where the borders between nations are blurred.