Sunday, September 30, 2007

CNAS: Intellectual Support on Foreign Policy for Hillary Rodham Clinton

As to 2008 election, Hillary Rodham Clinton is the most likely to win Democrat nomination for presidential candidate. In a previous post, “Democrats Need to Act beyond Defeatism on Iraq”, I quoted a comment by AEI Resident Fellow Thomas Donnelly, saying that a new think tank called the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) will provide intellectual support for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Donnelly criticize CNAS “a rather awkward name summons echoes of the Project for a New American Century, well, it is supposed to--has brought together a powerful collection of veterans of the Clinton administration.” Let’s have a brief look at the webpage of CNAS.

This think tank was founded by Kurt Campbell, current CEO, and Michèl Flournoy, current president. Both are educated at Oxford University (Campbell received BA from UC San Diego, certificate from the University of Erevan in USSR, and D Phil from Oxford; Flourny received BA from Harvard, and M. Litt from Oxford). This background could have tied them with the Clinton administration, as there were some Rhodes Scholars in this cabinet including President Bill Clinton himself, Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.

The mission of CNAS is mentioned in Co-Founder’s Forum and the Introductory Video. In view of new security challenges in the post 9-11 era, both founders describe their missions as the following.

The CNAS mandate is to help identify the key challenges confronting this generation of Americans in the foreign policy and national security arena, and to help shape thinking about the governance choices for dealing with these concerns. We aspire to transcend the current campaign mode that permeates many Washington policy shops and political discussions to consider the real and enduring challenges and opportunities facing the nation.

CNAS states that they are ready to provide ideas for any administration from 2009 onwards, regardless of the party. However, it is noticeable that CNAS explores some different approaches in US foreign policy from those of the Bush administration. Regarding personal contacts, this think tank develops ties with liberal Republicans who do not necessarily share national security visions with the current administration. Also, in terms of policy agendas, CNAS tackles new issues.

Leading Republicans like Senator Chuck Hagel and Senator Richard Lugar are associated with CNAS. Particularly, Senator Hagel has been a vocal critic to President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy. It is quite noteworthy that Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who served the Bush administration joins the Board of Directors along with Clinton cabinet members such as Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Quite importantly, Armitage was one of signatories to launch PNAC, which was co-founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan: leading proponents of the Iraq War. This implies that CNAS is more suitable for a centrist like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton than other Democrat candidates like Senator Barak Obama, Former Senator John Edwards, and New Mexican Governor Bill Richardson.

CNAS held its official launch on June 27 this year at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, DC. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Hagel delivered keynote addresses. This illustrates close relationship with Hilary Clinton and bipartisan nature of CNAS.

Among many research subjects, key issues at CNAS are the Iraq problem and transformation of US military forces. Asia Initiative ’09 is another important project, which explores further cooperation between the United States and Asia, beyond preoccupation with Iraq. Quite importantly, CNAS tackles some issues which were not given sufficient consideration by the Bush administration, such as climate change and international refugee problem.

Among those subjects, Iraq is the most crucial one. The most recent report on Iraq, entitled “Measuring Progress in Iraq”, published on August 30 by Assistant Professor Colin Kahl of Georgetown University, recommends that the surge should end no later than the spring of 2008. Also, this report says that successful transition of power from US military to the Iraq Security Forces is the key to make some gains meaningful and sustainable in the long run.

However, since the Center for a New American Security is a small think tank, some critical issues to US foreign policy are not discussed sufficiently. Though active commitment to Asia is mentioned, CNAS has not published a policy brief on North Korea. Alliance with Western industrialized nations like Europe, Japan, and Australia, is no less important than ever in the global war on terrorism. Democracy promotion has been a key agenda in US foreign policy, and the Bush administration addresses its preeminence for US and global security. However, CNAS has no project on this issue.

Whichever party wins 2008 election, CNAS will address new agendas which current administration does not explore enough. The Center has to spend sufficient energy on some issues with which the Bush cabinet is struggling. At this stage, it is important to watch how this new think tank provides intellectual support for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.