The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The foreign policy establishment

April 19, 2006

The Atlantic Monthly recently asked a group of foreign policy “insiders” a number of questions about US foreign policy. The poll results were in the April 2006 issue, which is hidden behind a subscriber wall.

The magazine greatly limited the possible poll answers. For example, the insiders were given a list of seven countries and asked to rank which would post the greatest threats to US security in the next decade.

The outcome was perhaps predictable: Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and then Russia. Venezuela and Egypt each received a write-in vote.

Michael Gersh listed the insiders (and complained about them) here.

Without spending too much time on this, I would estimate that at least two thirds of the names on the list are associated with democrat administrations or leftie positions. Four republicans and three neocons are all I can recognize at first blush. So much for seeking a balanced view.

Is this true?

Here’s how I broke down the list:

These are some obvious Republicans and/or neocons: Ken Adelman, Daniel Blumenthal, Max Boot, Lawrence Eagleburger, Douglas Feith, John Hulsman, Robert Kagan, and John Lehman.

Gersh is correct that the list includes many members of the Democratic foreign policy establishment: Madeleine Albright, Ronald Asmus, Sandy Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ivo Daalder, Leslie Gelb, John Hamre, Gary Hart, Robert Hunter, Jessica Mathews, William Nash, Wendy Sherman, Susan Rice and James Steinberg.

He misses those who are primarily academics: Graham Allison, John Gaddis, Bruce Hoffman, James Lindsay, Joseph Nye, and Ann[e] Marie Slaughter.

He overlooks the fact that many have primarily served as foreign service officers, CIA analysts, international organization bureaucrats or military officers: Steven Bosworth, James Dobbins, Jay Garner, Marc Grossman, David Kay, Carlos Pascual, Thomas Pickering, Kenneth Pollack, Joseph Ralston, and Anthony Zinni.

In sum, this is a truly mainstream foreign policy list, save for the few neocons.

There are almost no true “lefties” on it. Which of these individuals is anti-war in most circumstances or “soft” on security issues? Who opposes the enormous and growing defense budget? Who would immediately withdraw from Iraq?

In fact, many of the individuals worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Many (if not most) supported the war against Iraq and virtually all were cold warriors.

The problem with Washington is that there aren’t enough voices of genuine dissent.

This group is the choir!

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.