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

Stelzer, Irwin

  • Hudson Institute: Senior Fellow

  • American Enterprise Institute: Former Resident Scholar

  • Rothschild Inc.: Former Managing Director

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Irwin Stelzer is an American economist based at the neoconservative Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.[1] Perhaps better known in Britain—where he has been referred to as “a great consigliore of Rupert Murdoch’s”[2]—Stelzer is closely associated with U.S. neoconservatism and has helped promote its ideological agenda in the United Kingdom.

Stelzer’s notoriety in Britain stems from his relationship to Murdoch. He was at one time considered Murdoch's personal messenger to elite British policymakers, including former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. This role was highlighted during the 2012 UK investigation—called the Leveson Inquiry—into media ethics, which was spurred by revelations that Murdoch-owned newspapers had illegally tapped into celebrities’ cell phones and committed other breaches.

During Murdoch’s appearance before the inquiry on April 25, 2012, investigators quoted from journals kept by former Blair adviser Alistair Campbell, passages of which underscored Stelzer’s go-between role. In one journal entry, Campbell writes that Blair “spoke to Irwin Stelzer later who said Murdoch was moving towards supporting [the Labour Party] again, for commercial reasons would make clear who they were backing at the start of the campaign.”[3] Asked if Stelzer served as his “economic guru,” Murdoch replied: “No, a friend, someone I enjoy talking to, a fine economist.”[4]

Stelzer's relationship with Murdoch—as well as his tendency to push Murdoch's News Corp line on domestic and foreign policy—has made Stelzer few friends among liberal elites in the United Kingdom. In a 2004 expose about Stelzer, the Guardian quoted former EU commissioner Chris Patten: “I wouldn't sup with Irwin Stelzer if I had a spoon a yard long.”[5] The Guardian added: “But there are two men who do regularly sup with the patrician New Yorker: Blair and Gordon Brown. It is therefore unsurprising that, in the eyes of liberal conspiracy theorists, when Murdoch says jump and the prime minister jumps, it is Stelzer wielding the cattle prod.”[6]

According to the Guardian, “a brutal example” of the purported influence wielded by Stelzer was the dramatic turnaround in Blair's stance vis-à-vis a referendum on the EU constitution. Blair, who initially supported pushing through UK support for the constitution without subjecting it to a public referendum, made an about-face on the issue shortly after Stelzer made a personal visit to the prime minister in early 2004. Reported the Guardian: “Political commentators were in no doubt: Stelzer had threatened Blair with an ultimatum that, unless he let the people decide, the Eurosceptic Murdoch would order the Sun and the Times to withdraw their support and back the Tories at next year's general election.”[7]

Responding to these allegations, Stelzer told the newspaper: “Think of all the pieces of silliness you've just said. Number one: I would threaten the prime minister. That's an idea that's crazy. The prime minister is standing there being threatened by 600 people almost every day in parliament but doesn't cave in. They can question his job; Rupert Murdoch can't do that. I know 'it's the Sun wot won it' and all that—that's great stuff—but I don't really believe it.”[8]

Stelzer's activities in Britain have not been limited to consulting with elite policymakers. In March 2005, Stelzer—along with an eclectic group of British scholars, journalists, and politicians—signed the statement of principles of the neoconservative-inspired Henry Jackson Society, a British advocacy organization that promotes a “forward strategy” of assisting democratization across the globe. The strategy includes ensuring the maintenance of a strong U.S. military, giving “two cheers to capitalism," and promoting the idea that "any international organization which admits undemocratic states on an equal basis is fundamentally flawed."[9] Among the group's "international patrons" are well-known neoconservatives William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard; Bruce Jackson, president of the Project on Transitional Democracies; Robert Kagan, cofounder with Kristol of the Project for the New American Century; Clifford May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Richard Perle, former Defense Policy Board chairman and coauthor with David Frum of the 2003 book An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror; Joshua Muravchik, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; and former CIA director James Woolsey.[10]

Stelzer created a stir in 2002 when he published in the Guardian an apologia for Enron (an earlier version of which had appeared in the Weekly Standard), in which he argued that the company deserved public approbation for its role in promoting competition in energy markets. Pointing to what he called were liberals' "ill-concealed chortles" at seeing "a wealthy energy industry boss with conservative views laid low," Stelzer wrote: "A generation of lawyers will very likely get rich as the government and private litigants seek to sort out the Enron mess. Many utility executives, their cozy monopolies now destroyed or under threat, will be glad to see Enron gone. Liberal commentators, who see every shrinkage of government power as a threat to their control, will call for regulation. But although Enron made mistakes, creating competitive markets was not one of them."[11]

In a September 26, 2006 article for Hudson about Federal Reserve Board policy, Stelzer echoed neoconservative talking points about world leaders as part of a more general comment on Americans’ inattention to the esoteric details of monetary policy. Americans aren’t exposed to such coverage, he wrote. Instead, "They see Ford and General Motors laying off tens of thousands of workers, read that nutters in Venezuela and Iran are plotting to cut off supplies of oil, get depressed about the situation in Iraq as the nightly television news casts a pall over dinner tables, and see American foreign policy impotent in the face of a drive by America's old adversary, France's Jacques Chirac, to thwart President George Bush's efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."[12]

Stelzer is the editor of the 2004 volume The Neocon Reader (Grove Press, New York), a compendium of writings from different political figures and authors that describes aspects of neoconservatism. Commenting in the book's introduction on Joshua Muravchik's contribution, in which the AEI fellow endeavors to dispel the idea that neoconservatism is a Jewish "cabal," Stelzer argues that this can hardly be the case "since neither Colin Powell nor Condoleezza Rice, the president's principal foreign policy advisers, are Jewish; nor are Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or George Tenet."[13] Stelzer's inaccurate implication that neoconservatism encompasses a large array of individuals with widely disparate ideological views is a standard obfuscatory neoconservative tactic, as is the suggestion that critiques of neoconservativism are influenced by anti-Semitic attitudes.

Today, however, most of Stelzer’s commentary on foreign policy is filtered through his economic analysis. Accusing Iran of purposely trying to inflate the price of oil to harm the West, Stelzer called the country “a nation that has no reason to want to cut prices to shore up Western economies, and good reason to want to cause another recession” in a June 2011 commentary for the Weekly Standard.[14] Additionally, although he has acknowledged that a U.S. or Israeli war with Iran could cause oil prices to skyrocket and hinder the U.S. economic recovery, Stelzer wrote in a February 2012 commentary that “It is not certain that the pessimists are right. … For one thing, Saudi Arabia has agreed to make up any supply shortfall caused by a disruption of Iranian supplies.”[15]

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Sources


[1] Andrew Neil, " The Murdochs: A family Saga," New Statesman, August 6, 2001, http://www.newstatesman.com/200108060004.



[2] Mark Colvin, “Former Sunday Times editor explains Rupert Murdoch's editorial control,” ABC News (Australia), April 26, 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2012/s3489732.htm.



[3] The Guardian, “Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry - as it happened,” The Guardian News Blog, April 25, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/apr/25/rupert-murdoch-live-blog.



[4] The Guardian, “Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry - as it happened,” The Guardian News Blog, April 25, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/apr/25/rupert-murdoch-live-blog.



[5] David Smith, " It’s Crazy to Think That I’d Threaten Blair," The Guardian, October 16, 2004, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2004/oct/17/citynews.politics.



[6] David Smith, " It’s Crazy to Think That I’d Threaten Blair," The Guardian, October 16, 2004, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2004/oct/17/citynews.politics.



[7] David Smith, " It’s Crazy to Think That I’d Threaten Blair," The Guardian, October 16, 2004, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2004/oct/17/citynews.politics.



[8] David Smith, " It’s Crazy to Think That I’d Threaten Blair," The Guardian, October 16, 2004, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2004/oct/17/citynews.politics.



[9] Henry Jackson Society, "Statement of Principles," Henry Jackson Society, March 11, 2005, http://web.archive.org/web/20071214095432/http://zope06.v.servelocity.net/hjs/principles_html.



[10] Henry Jackson Society, "Signatories to the Statement of Principles," The Henry Jackson Society, http://www.henryjacksonsociety.org/signatories.asp?pageid=36.



[11] Irwin Stelzer, "Why Enron Deserves Our Gratitude," The Guardian, January 29, 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/enron/story/0,11337,641134,00.html.



[12] Irwin Stelzer, "When Still Standing is the Best Way to Progress," Hudson Institute: Center for Religious Freedom, http://crf.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=4219.



[13] Irwin Stelzer, The Neocon Reader, New York: Grove Press, 2004, p. 7.



[14] Irwin Stelzer, “Iran Is Key to Deciding America’s Energy Future,” Weekly Standard, June 18, 2012, http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/iran-key-deciding-america-s-energy-future_574835.html?nopager=1.



[15] Irwin Stelzer, “Recoveries and Oil Don't Mix,” Weekly Standard, February 25, 2012, http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/recoveries-and-oil-dont-mix_631898.html?nopager=1.

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Stelzer, Irwin Résumé


Affiliations

  • Hudson Institute: Senior Fellow; Director of Economic Policy Studies Group

  • American Enterprise Institute: Former Resident Scholar

  • Henry Jackson Society: Signatory, Statement of Principles

  • Regulatory Policy Institute (Oxford): Board Member




Business

  • News Corp.: Consultant

  • Rothschild Inc.: Former Managing Director

  • National Economic Research Associates, Inc. (now part of Marsh & McLennan): Founder




Education

  • New York University: BA and MA

  • Cornell University: PhD Economics

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