Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Down the Think Tank

I share Paul Krugman's concern that the Mike Brown phenomenon is symptomatic of a government bureaucracy made ineffective through political patronage gone rampant. And I'm concerned about the departure of so many competent career government servants who refuse to work for clueless cronies of the Bush machine.

But I'm equally concerned by the number of qualified people who are institutionalizing the neoconservative ideology throughout the United States government.

Neo-connect the dots...

They're everywhere now. They're so prevalent that it's darn near impossible to track all the ties between big business, big religion, big government, and the military.

Today we'll go to Wikipedia and start our seach with Dick Cheney. You'll find that after leaving office in 1993, he became CEO of Halliburton and joined the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative, non-profit think tank that...
...has emerged as one of the leading architects of the Bush administration's public policy; more than two dozen AEI alumni have served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government's many panels and commissions.

In 1997, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and others formed the Project for the New American Century, the group that crafted the Bush administration's policy on Iraq. Along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, other PNAC members appointed to government posts by Mister Bush were John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and Richard Armitage. PNAC members also represented religious right advocates Gary Bauer and Bill Bennett.

The Heritage Foundation is another influential conservative think tank headquartered in an eight story building on capitol hill.
Unlike traditional think tanks, which tend to house scholars and politicians-in-exile who produce large books, Heritage tends to employ bright, aggressive public policy analysts who produce comparatively shorter policy papers intended to pass what Heritage calls "the briefcase test" for busy politicians to read on the run. Heritage also pioneered the "marketing" of policy ideas by astute packaging and public relations, now a staple feature of Washington think tank activity.

Heritage members include John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan; Richard Allen, a Reagan National Security Advisor; Paul Bremmer, former military governor (for all purposes) of Iraq under Donald Rumsfeld, and Lawrence ("Curly Joe" to his friends) DiRita, special assistant to Rumsfeld.

Closely associated with Heritage is the Hoover Institution. Richard Allen is also a member of this group, as are conservative columnist Thomas Sowell and Secretary of State Condolleeza Rice.

Established as non-profit organizations, these think tanks share many of the same private funding sources. Not surprisingly, major corporations in the energy, transportation, banking, and defense industries are key contributors.


And from another angle...

Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran
gave me a steer to these comments by Lucian Truscott posted in Mark A. R. Kleinman.
A little known study of the political opinions of senior military leaders was done by Duke University a few years ago. The study -- of Colonels and above, up to and including 4 star Generals -- revealed that in this time of the volunteer military that some 66% described themselves as conservative Republicans, and something like 5% described themselves as Democrats. The rest described themselves as "independents."

Friends of mine at the Pentagon and in the military at the time the study was done said the real numbers are far worse. One friend, a West Pointer with a Phd. from Harvard who taught me economics at West Point in the late 60's and who recently retired from being an Asst. Secretary of the Army, told me the so called "independents" included savvy senior officers who were actually very conservative Republicans but who realized how it would look if the numbers were "bad" and so labeled themselves as "independents." My friend said the senior military is more likely 90% or more conservative Republican, with few if any independents.

As an aside, I personally know two West Point Captains who were run out of the Army by their senior commanders when it became known that they had voted for Clinton in 1996, so the political leanings of senior officers are not an abstract thing. The far-right leanings of senior military officers have real consequences. If you have any doubt of this, see also the reporting on what you might call the take over of the Air Force Academy --including its most senior leadership -- by fundamentalist Christians in recent months. See also what they did to the one (female) chaplain who dissented from the prevailing wisdom on religion at AFA. She was fired and reassigned and has resigned from the Air Force. One guess which political party the fundamentalist "leaders" of the Air Force Academy belong to.

Like I said: they're everywhere.


  1. Jeff, I retired out of the Navy in 1974, I was a Chief ET, and as such was involved in training and repairs on electronics systems/equipment on all classes of ships in the Navy. I found that at the time, the religious right was beginning to make its imprint in the military as many of the technicians and sailors were openly pushing their evangelical beliefs on the various ships they were assigned on. At that time, it was mainly in the junior rates. After I retired I became a CETA, and was assigned to 2 guided missle destroyers and a LHA as ships company. By the time I quit for good, these lower rates had become the middle rates, and some in the senior enlisted ranks and also had spread to the officer corps...

    IMHO, religion should be a personal thing, but I am of the old school, having joined the military back in the early 50's. I don't know if religion has anything to do with discipline in today's military or not, but after 30 years of being away from the mil, I am appalled at what I would consider the lack of same, and the fraternization I saw between the senior rates and the junior ones.. This wasn't on only one ship, it was on several...

    I do know that I wouldn't want to serve in todays military, nor would they probably want me as one of their senior enlisteds.

    Just an old chief's 2 cents.

  2. Chief,

    Quick anecdote--in my last command, the senior chaplain was both a Catholic priest and a navy captain. He must have scoped out my record and seen I had checked the "catholic" block when I joined, because he started in on me right away about coming back to the church.

    "It's good for your career," he assured me.


    Thanks for dropping by and posting.

  3. Okay, Jeff, thanks for scaring the sh*t out of me this morning. They're everywhere . . .

  4. So the military brass will start to speak in tongues? And how will we tell the difference? ;)

  5. Doug,

    It's Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets the Stepford Wives.


    You're right, they speak in tongues now. "We'll use NCW and EBO to create shock and awe and employ robust R and D to develop a transformational RMA that will...

  6. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Jeff, have you seen this piece by Katherine Yurica?

    Infiltrating the U.S. Military: Gen. Boykin's "Kingdom Warriors" on the Road to Abu Ghraib and Beyond?

    Jeff Sharlet and Chris Hedges have been writing a lot, too, on this rampant evangelicalism aka dominionism and how widespread it is in the govt and military.

    I can barely read the details without suffering a major bout of indigestion.

    I would love to read more about the history of neo-conservatism. I've been picking up bits and pieces through my blog reading, but do you know of anyone that is researching and writing on this phenomenon?


  7. My stomach's turning too.