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

Keep America Safe

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Keep America Safe (KAS) was founded in 2009 by two key figures in the hardline nationalist advocacy community, Elizabeth Cheney (daughter of Dick Cheney) and William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative flagship journal the Weekly Standard. A key aim of the group appears to be to pressure the United States to remain in a state of constant military mobilization. The group’s 2009 mission statement bears all the hallmarks of neoconservative discourse. It issues a call to arms (“the United States remains a nation at war”); declares the country’s purported moral exceptionalism (America is “an unparalleled force for good in the world”); rebukes the “weakness” of liberals (the Barack Obama administration “is weakening the nation”); and articulates a “peace through strength” axiom (America must be “feared and respected by our enemies”).[1]

KAS has three board members: Kristol, Cheney, and former Court TV producer Debra Burlingame, the sister of a 9/11 victim and founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America.

Explaining the rationale for creating the group, Kristol told Politico, "The Left has dozens of organizations and tens of millions of dollars dedicated to undercutting the war on terror. The good guys need some help, too."[2]

As of early 2013, KAS appeared to be largely inactive. Although its website provided links to outside news sources covering current events, materials on the group’s resource pages—such as links to materials by neoconservative writers like Elliott Abrams and reports from the Center for Security Policy—all dated back several years. The group reported just over $200,000 in contributions in 2011, compared to over $535,000 in 2010.[3]

A key backer of the group has been Mel Sembler, an important Republican Party donor who has supported a number of other rightist groups, including the neoconservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute and the advocacy group Freedom’s Watch. Sembler, who has long-standing ties to the Cheney family, told Newsweek, "I love Liz Cheney and what she's doing," adding that he would be "as supportive [of Keep America Safe] as my budget will allow."[4]

KAS activities have included using its website to highlight public opinion polls that appear to put a favorable light on the group’s agenda, raising money to run ads criticizing the Obama administration and Democratic members of Congress, and disseminating petitions, including a “Save Gitmo” petition in early 2010 that called for keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention facility open because it is purportedly “a safe, secure, and humane facility where the United States can and should detain terrorists.” The group also apparently intended at one point to engage in lobbying. According to the Inter Press Service, “under the rules of its incorporation, KAS will be permitted to lobby Congress and endorse political candidates.”[5]

A core KAS raison d’etre appears to be publicizing the activities of Liz Cheney, who emerged after the election of President Barack Obama as a major voice pressing for a return to the militaristic foreign policies championed by her father during the George W. Bush presidency. In late February 2010, the KAS website featured a video of Cheney’s presentation at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). While claiming during her presentation that Obama’s national security policy was the greatest “concern,” Cheney also highlighted a number of other rightwing talking points vis-à-vis the Obama administration: “In the year that President Obama’s been in office, we’ve learned a lot, haven’t we? We’ve learned he’s not going to govern from the center. We’ve learned he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism and he’s going to travel the world apologizing for this great nation. We’ve learned he’s going to raise everybody’s taxes. He’s going to try to expand the size of the federal government until it permeates every aspect of our lives and every corner of our land. He’s going to try to turn our health-care system over to the federal government. And we’ve learned that he wants to give terrorists constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent.”

Other items posted on KAS’s website have aimed to stoke fear about the purported dangers of Obama administration foreign policy. A 2009 article from the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer, for example, argued that a “new left-liberal internationalism” had emerged that “goes far beyond its earlier Clintonian incarnation in its distrust and distaste for American dominance. … For what might be called the New Liberalism the renunciation of power is rooted not in the fear that we are essentially good but subject to the corruptions of power—the old Clintonian view—but rooted in the conviction that America is so intrinsically flawed, so inherently and congenitally sinful that it cannot be trusted with, and does not merit, the possession of overarching world power.”[6]

Claiming that the Obama administration is engaged in “strategic retreat,” Krauthammer bemoaned the administration's rejection of the phrase “global war on terror”; the “unilateral abrogation” of missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic; “indecision on Afghanistan”; the failure to treat Iraq as a “prize … of great strategic significance that the administration seems to have no intention of exploiting”; support for a “Chavista caudillo” in Honduras; and “heavy and gratuitous America pressure on Israel.”[7]

 

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Sources

[1] Keep America Safe, “Mission Statement,” http://www.keepamericasafe.com/?page_id=217(access 22 February 2010).

[2] Jim Lobe, “Foreign Policy Hawks Launch New Campaign Against Obama,” Right Web, October 16, 2009, http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/index.php/articles/display/foreign_policy_hawks_launch_new_campaign_against_obama/

[3] Guidestar.org, 2011 and 2010 990s for KAS, http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/27-0520698/keep-america-safe.aspx.

[4] Michael Isikoff, “Update: Major Republican Donor Plans to Fund Liz Cheney’s New Organization,” Newsweek, October 23, 2009.

[5] Jim Lobe, “Foreign Policy Hawks Launch New Campaign Against Obama,” Right Web, October 16, 2009, http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/index.php/articles/display/foreign_policy_hawks_launch_new_campaign_against_obama/

[6] Charles Krauthammer, “Decline Is a Choice: The New Liberalism and the End of American Ascendancy,” Weekly Standard, October 19, 2009.

[7] Charles Krauthammer, “Decline Is a Choice: The New Liberalism and the End of American Ascendancy,” Weekly Standard, October 19, 2009.

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Keep America Safe Résumé

Contact Information

Keep America Safe
1718 M Street, NW #351
Washington, DC 20036
Email: info@keepamericasafe.com
Telephone: (202) 525-4608

 

Founded

  • 2009

 

 

Principals (2013)

  • Elizabeth Cheney, Board member
  • William Kristol, Board member
  • Debra Burlingame, Board member
  • Mel Sembler, Financial supporter


Mission Statement (2013)

"The mission of Keep America Safe is to provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues. … The United States remains a nation at war. We face a growing threat from rogue regimes that seek or have already obtained nuclear weapons. America’s interests are challenged by an authoritarian China, a resurgent Russia, and dictators in our own hemisphere who ally themselves with our adversaries. … By turning away from the policies that have kept us safe, by treating terrorism as a law enforcement matter, giving foreign terrorists the same rights as American citizens, launching investigations of CIA agents, cutting defense spending, breaking faith with our allies and attempting to appease our adversaries, the current administration is weakening the nation, and making it more difficult for us to defend our security and our interests. Keep America Safe believes the United States can only defeat our adversaries and defend our interests from a position of strength. We know that America has, for 233 years, been an unparalleled force for good in the world, that our fighting forces are the best the world has ever known, and that the world is a safer place when America is trusted by our allies and feared and respected by our enemies. Keep America Safe will make the case for an unapologetic approach to fighting terrorism around the world, for victory in the wars this country fights, for democracy and human rights, and for a strong American military that is needed in the dangerous world in which we live."

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