January 30, 2008

Think Tanks and U.S. Foreign Policy

Fortunately, right-wing tanks have been more successful at shifting the political landscape than those in the center or left, in part, because they are far better at attracting funds but more importantly, because American Interests are best served by them.

U.S. Foreign Policy is influenced and shaped by a complex array of informal networks and Think Tanks that extend American Power and interests through the design and augmentation of a consensus consistent with, America’s worldview. Collectively they form a foremost source of ideas that are often weighted in the Washington policy making apparatus. In some ways, we may refer to them as both official and unofficial lobby groups and/or professional pressure groups that exert intellectual force on elected officialdom on a variety on issues.

Apart from creating a common worldview amongst their own, that is, those who share similar political and ideological viewpoints, they also enhance relationships between business and Government through more than common interfacing. They actually steer policy through meetings and research projects. Apart from operating on a trans-national platform, they also lubricate intellectual understandings and perceptions within a globalized world. Many a conspiracy theory has flourished because of there very existence for their essential qualities dictates that associations are often guarded, almost secretive.

Interestingly, and as a example and quasi-addendum to this post. After taking on some wider reading about neo-conservatism I stumbled across many an article that referred to its exponents and there collective actions as an “informal network” and/or “influential group in Washington”, “largely responsible for the push toward war in the Middle East”.

More precisely, I would venture to suggest that the neoconservative establishment is a political movement more so than a Think Tank group or network, formal or otherwise. One that concededly, but not to suggest, of detriment to the U.S., has gained traction in both Bush presidencies and the Reagan administration earlier.

Critics, particularly of liberal ranks have oft criticized neocons of being part of the pro-Israeli lobby for American Middle East policy. While some Jewish interests are, present within neocons judgment, this accusation, apart from being disparaging, is not accurate. Joshua Maravchick in an excellent 2007 article, “The Past Present and Future of Neo-conservatism” says, “that the “neoconservatives” in question were in reality a group of Jews who were attempting to divert U.S. policy in the interests of Israel. This particular bit of slander ignored, among other things, the fact that the neoconservative position on the Middle East conflict was exactly congruous with the neoconservative position on conflicts everywhere else in the world, including places where neither Jews nor Israeli interests could be found—not to mention the fact that non-Jewish neoconservatives took the same stands on all of the issues as did their Jewish confrères."

Some praiseworthy Think tanks and lobbies that impact U.S. Foreign Policy:

Heritage Foundation – “Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute - a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” It was the architect of the 1980’s Reagan doctrine and supportive of the policies of George W. Bush.

Rand Corporation - Conducts research and provides analysis to address challenges that face the United States and the world. Originally a scientific advisory service to the U.S. armed services, it now develops systems analysis to commercial organizations as well. Most of its work relates to national security an issue of which most is highly classified.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies – Seeking to “advance global security and prosperity in an era of economic and political transformation by providing strategic insights and practical policy solutions to decision makers.” It looks to the future to anticipate change.

The Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee - Providing the Secretary of Defense with advice on issues important to strategic planning. Its former chairperson, Richard Perle was a key figure in George W. Bush’s policies and is also "... a core representative of the neoconservative political faction; playing a "central role in championing the war in Iraq and an aggressive war on terror centered on the Middle East in the wake of 9/11."

American Israeli Public Affairs Committee - For more than half a century, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has worked to help make Israel more secure by ensuring that American support remains strong. From a small pro-Israel public affairs boutique in the 1950s, AIPAC has grown into a 100,000-member national grassroots movement described by The New York Times as "the most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel."

Project for the New American Century – “Established in the spring of 1997, the Project for the New American Century is a non-profit, educational organization whose goal is to promote American global leadership.” I for one won't argue with that...

Bilderberg Group – “…a group of influential people, mostly politicians and business people, whose existence and activities are private, and due to its secretive nature is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories. The group meets annually at five-star resorts throughout the world, normally in Europe, although sometimes in America or Canada.”

Bohemian Grove – “An all male membership includes many prominent business leaders, government officials (its membership has included every U.S. president since the Kennedy’s), and senior media executives. As a measure of the club's exclusivity, it is reported the waiting list for membership is from 15 to 20 years .. An initiation fee of $25,000 as of 2006 is required in addition to yearly membership dues. Elected members are allowed to prorate the initiation fee into equal annual payments until they reach the age of 45.”

Carlyle Group - A Washington, D.C. based global private equity investment firm with more than $74.9 billion of equity capital under management. It specializes in politically sensitive areas such as aerospace, and mainly has interests in military contracts.

These networks certainly influence a climate of opinion and ideas however indirectly; but they do not actually write the script for policy makers. Thus it could be argued that the influence of think tanks maybe sometimes, overstated. Nevertheless, they represent an important component of the decision making process as, ideas factories. Fortunately, right-wing tanks have been more successful at shifting the political landscape and impacting policy than those in the center or left, in part, because they are far better at attracting funds but more importantly, because American Interests are best served by them.

Comments welcome...

19 comments:

Donald Douglas said...

Welcome back, Ottavio!

Karen said...

Welcome back! I see your vacation has refreshed you and inspired excellent thought.

Great post. Think tanks are an interesting part of the political mix. Some bear scrutiny about funders, though, before taking their writings as truth. For example, on the liberal side, George Soros funds some think tanks in Washington, D.C. that simply push his anti-American agenda. Some of the more conservative think tanks are also guilty.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Welcome back from vacation.

I like you agree that right think tanks have a greater influence than those on the left.

There is good reason for this. These that you outline here use current data and apply it to current issues from a logical outlook and though lean to the right do not use their conclusion to force a ideological reaction to that conclusion.

Left think tanks use the same data and twist it to match a ideological conclusion which mekes them irrelevant by most standards.

Jeff said...

Welcome back, Otto. We need your energy in the blogsphere.

American Interests said...

DDouglas: See you are doing a great job over at AP...Congrats to John Sidney McCain...

Karen: Thanks and don't start me on Soros....You are doing great work at your end too....

Ken Taylor: Could not agree more. typical looney left antics to change us for the worse...

Jeff: I'll be over at the Capital Tribune soon

Tapline said...

welcome back Otto....Hope you had a great vacation.....I just did a complete comment secion and the blesses thing got eaten......An outstanding post. These think Tanks really can come across with expertise in any given field. I read one postion paper on the Iraq war and how the US should proceed, I think it was a group with 3 letters to identify it, My mind is like a sieve, sometimes....Anyway it was the most energizing paper I have ever read. They could make a preacher swear...seriously, the points they made were reinforced, it was really fantastic..... your points in this post were also interesting and made their point. welcome back again,,,,and stay well....

WomanHonorThyself said...

Welcome back buddy!..great post ..I hadnt thought about the influence in depth...I will ponder!

American Interests said...

Tap: Had a good break thanks, and thanks for stopping by...

angel: loved your recent post...thanks...

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Otto,
Great bit with this one - very well done. Reckon in the new millenium fans of American Unbound could create a cyber think tank?

Dang glad you're back - mIsSeD yOu! Oh, and how was that there vacation? Hope ye be all rested up - it's gonna be fully crunk in 08, mate!

Aunty Belle said...

Hey Ottavio,
good insight here on the think tanks --check out CNP too (Council for National Policy).

Thanks for your visit to the Back Porch--do come back and share your ideas on jihad- past and present.

Glad ya' had a fine vacation.

Frasypoo said...

Thats very interesting,I wish they would use it for the local school system where I live.

Thats awful to hear about your cat,I believe there is a special place in hell for whoever did that to an innocent animal.
Our neighbour( who I suspect stole our mailbox )did not realise that I was on the screened in porch one day and I saw him throw a fire cracker at my dog who was at the fence.But he is a pot smoker so who knows what he comprehends.But its awful,awful,awful.I am so sorry to hear about your cat

The Troll said...

I don't care for the term "right-wing" in describing those organizations. And I most definately do NOT think they'll be more influential than the leftist groups should the democrats steal the White House in 2008.

I also think the "far better at attracting funds" statement needs to be clarified if not disputed.

Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation do have a BROAD range of SMALL donors. Most are people like me who still work for a living, aren't fanatics, and don't expect anything specific in exchange for our donations. Broadly, I and millions of others want lower taxes, reasonable regulations, and a Strong Defense. Generally, the studies these groups do and the policies they advocate coincide with my broad interests.

If I were to demand a study and policy-promotion that directly favors my business and only my business, I expect the Heritage Foundation would politely decline. My .000007% contribution to their operating budget isn't going to make them fudge facts and lose their reputation for integrity.

They'd also decline if I had some sort of fanatical position on a specific issue.

The leftist groups have an extremely narrow donor-base but those few individuals give a TON of money. Fanatical Billionaires like George Soros who very definately do expect and demand specific recommendations. His 90% contribution to their budgets can't be ignored.

Right now, I believe the lefties are ahead in total cash. They're certainly WAY ahead in using their cash in a vicious manner.

Debbie said...

That's a fine group of think tanks you list. I heard somewhere yesterday, that the think tanks really do have a big influence on politicians. I'm not sure about that, or how much influence they have, but I think they serve a valuable service.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

American Interests said...

g.s's girl: a cyber think tank? why not? 'specially if we're going to go "crunk" in '08...thanx for visiting aye...

aunty belle: good insight at your end too aunty...

frasysoo: really appreciate your thoughts about our pet...I wasn't going to mention it, just when I read about the mailbox theft we'd just got back from visiting sooo many letter boxes....kids have taken it hard...thanx again...

American Interests said...

troll: Am glad you contributed ... shared your thoughts and knowledge here. It's good to not have any individual expectations, certainly I doubt whether any of the tanks/groups I mentioned would cater to any of my requests. No doubt when you have billionaires like Soros adding to the coffers of interests groups it's going to make a difference...It pleases me that you seek "lower taxes, reasonable regulations, and a Strong Defense." and that the aformentioned bodies of thought, broadly promote same.

debbie: glad you approve of the list...keep up the fine work at Right Truth and I hope the whole GOP thing isn't getting you too down at the moment...thanx...

MK said...

Welcome back otto, nice to have you back, good post this, think tanks eh, i guess when politicians are all out of ideas, they turn to these folks.

American Interests said...

mk: Be nice if they actually turned to the aforementioned folks...Thanx for coming by...

Aurora said...

Otto, think tanks are obviously a neutral concept, neither good nor bad, left or right. I'm surprised you mention Bilderberg and Bohemian Grove, both federalist, bureaucratic manipulators in the eyes of many. Just mention either of them and you can be accused of being a conspiracy theorist. As a matter of fact, yours is the first blog that mentions them in such a positive and matter-of-fact tone.

American Interests said...

aurora: You make a good point about the Bilderberg and Bohemian Grove bodies. However, mine was more a case of existential connotations as opposed to positive. I could have been clearer though. Thanx!