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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

An AEI President? Plus: The President’s Reading List

An AEI President?

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, many commentators noted the high degree of influence in the administration of one particular rightist faction—the neoconservatives. A sign of the group’s clout was the large number of "scholars" from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) who were tapped to serve in the administration, a point highlighted by President Bush during a January 2003 speech at AEI celebrating the life and work of neocon progenitor Irving Kristol. After commending the institute for having "some of the finest minds in our nation," the president added: "You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds."

The folks at AEI, however, don’t seem content with merely having their "minds" fill mid-level posts, as the early campaign for the 2008 presidency reveals. Three potential Republican candidates closely tied to the institute have been heavily promoted by neoconservatives, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who championed, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), an AEI-supported "surge" strategy during a speech at the institute in early 2007. McCain has been closely affiliated with many neoconservative leading lights like William Kristol and supported a number of neocon-led advocacy campaigns, including the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. In a late 2006 article for Foreign Policy, AEI fellow Joshua Muravchik promoted McCain’s candidacy, arguing that he was the sort of leader "who could prosecute the war on terror vigorously." He added: "As for vice presidential candidates, how about Condoleezza Rice or even Joe Lieberman? Lieberman says he’s still a Democrat. But there is no place for him in that party. Like every one of us, he is a refugee."

Then there is Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who is currently a fellow at AEI. His hints that he might run have many neocons salivating, including writers at the Weekly Standard. In a glowing review of a speech Gingrich gave last September in which he argued that the United States was fighting World War III, the Standard opined: "His rivals should take note. The first speech of the 2008 presidential campaign was delivered on the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001."

More recently, Fred Thompson—former senator from Tennessee, TV actor known for his role in Law and Order, and visiting fellow at AEI specializing in national security issues—has hinted that he too might run. As Tom Barry points out in a recent Right Web analysis, "The Conservative Credibility Test," many AEI-types have long been excited about Thompson’s political potential, with outlets like the Standard pushing him as a replacement for John Bolton at the United Nations and discussing at length what a Thompson presidency would look like.

The Conservative Credibility Test
By Tom Barry | April 3, 2007

The Republicans may have found a leading man for the presidential run in lawyer/thespian/senator Fred Thompson, but his ties to Corporate America and the neoconservatives may dissuade many grassroots conservatives from giving him their vote. Read full story.

SEE ALSO

Right Web Profile: Sen. John McCain
During a recent trip to Baghdad, Senator McCain saw a serene open market that he argued proved the "surge" was working; merchants there saw something different—one abnormal day of heavy security in the form of hovering attack choppers, U.S. sharpshooters on rooftops, armored Humvees, and an entire company of U.S. soldiers.

Right Web Profile: Newt Gingrich
The former Speaker of the House and current senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Gingrich has been threatening for months to officially enter the presidential race. Few but the neocons seem excited about such a possibility.

Reading on the Right
By Jim Lobe | April 5, 2007

A slew of right-wing books have turned up on the nightstands of Bush administration officials. What is remarkable about these books is—much like the cherry-picked and manipulated intelligence stove-piped to Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War—both their extraordinary ideological narrowness and their utility in the pursuit of a neoconservative agenda, especially in the Middle East. Read full story.

Right Web Profile: Bernard Lewis
Princeton University professor Bernard Lewis’ book What Went Wrong?, which details the "decline" of Muslim civilization, is regarded by some as a kind of handbook to the war against Islamic terrorism. And his "Lewis Doctrine," the idea of imposing a secular society on Islamic countries, became a key idée fixe of the Bush administration and its neocon allies, helping spur the disastrous Iraq War and dreams of remaking the Middle East.

Right Web Profile: Eliot Cohen
In his 2002 book Supreme Command, Eliot Cohen, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a high-profile neoconservative academic based at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, argued that civilian leaders make better strategic decisions than military leaders. The book, which was paraded about publicly by the likes of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney during the lead up to the Iraq War, seemed intended to preempt efforts by military brass to intervene in administration war plans.

ALSO NEW ON RIGHT WEB

The Bluster Offensive
By Gareth Porter | April 10, 2007

Bush’s tough talk on Iran now looks much more like a cover for a decision to reverse his earlier policy of disdaining the need to reach an understanding with Tehran. Read full story.

Right Web Profile: Tom Tancredo
It’s official—Tancredo, the rabidly anti-immigration representative from Colorado, is running for president. His chances of success might be slim, but his culture-war rhetoric could push the presidential race to the right.

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Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


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From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


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