The End of the Think Tank Era

Buried in a plethora of websites, internet links and tweets.

The era of powerful think tanks is pretty much over. Their glory days—when Brookings, AEI, the Institute for Policy Studies, Cato, along with Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim ones, blossomed all over the country—have been buried in a plethora of websites, internet links, and tweets.

To be sure, the scores of think tanks publish a lot, hold important meetings and seminars, and attract generous donors and consummate intellectuals and scholars. But it’s different now. When I first came to Washington in the late seventies, I started a new foreign policy magazine at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, then the hardcore of the Republican establishment. Most of you are too young to remember names like David Abshire, Ray Cline and Anne Armstrong; they mattered a lot, and CSIS, along with the American Enterprise Institute, served as a counterbalance to the liberal think tanks, especially Brookings.

During the twenty years I spent at AEI, the scholars there would have made a brilliant faculty at any top university, but the schools weren’t interested. Like the think tanks, the university world was divvied up among political parties and factions. FDD, where I currently toil, boasts the most variegated staff, and is training a new generation of researchers centered on the key questions of terrorism, Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela. As in the past, these men and women would add a lot to our higher education, but it’s not happening. Instead, political players and institutions fund those inclined to pursue narrowly defined missions.

The think tanks were a key part of the policy universe, but we don’t need them like we used to. There are so many outlets, so much internet, that anyone with plenty of cash can create a new vehicle, even when the old political categories disappear. This is obvious, as we see from the collaboration between George Soros (pictured above) and Charles Koch, a political mélange designed to bring down the Trump presidency and restore Obama’s strategic partnership with Iran. They're opening a new foreign policy think tank in DC, to be headed by one of the nastiest pro-Iranians, Trita Parsi, who was found to be an Iranian agent by a U.S. court, and who set up the infamous Council on American-Iranian Relations.

This is an important development. A lot of money is going into the effort, and Parsi is unaccountably well-connected in the Washington policy community. It will be fascinating to see who gets hired.

I have long been baffled by those who think the Koch Brothers are somehow “conservative,” when their narcissistic self-promotion has long represented themselves, rather than any political worldview. Just ask yourself a straightforward question: who would be Charles Koch’s pet candidate in the upcoming presidential elections? Do they even have a standard-bearer? Somehow I don’t have an answer. So why has he crawled into bed with George Soros? 

I can answer that one. Their anti-Trump passions are so strong that they are going all-out to defeat him, and they are taking aim at the most important national security issue, which is Iran. They’re joining the crowd that brought Barak Obama, our first anti-American president, to office, so we can view the new think tank as Chapter Two of the domestic war against the United States.

At least Soros has real political (read: leftist) convictions, and he’s found some nasty allies in his ongoing war. It’s an ugly business. Ugly for the country, ugly for Israel, ugly for the global struggle in which we are engaged. Call it a think tank if you insist. I view it as part of the global fight against America.

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Photo by World Economic Forum at Wikimedia Commons

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