The aftermath of September 11 makes clear that funding for projects arrayed against terror is more important than ever before. Prior to the terror attacks, comparatively few philanthropists were giving to groups that aimed to expose the threat of terrorists. But Al-Qaeda’s success that bright fall day has forced donors into action.
“To the extent this is a war we are in, we can’t lose it,” David Steinmann, a New York City donor active in defense funding, tells Philanthropy. “If we lose it,” he continues, “everything else is gone.”
On the governmental front, the war is costing the nation billions of dollars. Philanthropists, however, are finding it possible to have a significant impact with relatively small contributions. According to Steinmann, the modest budgets of alternative organizations that are doing excellent work mean relatively modest grants can produce significant results.
The variety of terrorism projects being funded is impressive. From relief efforts to translation services and education, donors are finding areas to fund that the government can’t or won’t support. What follows is a survey of some of the leading funders and grantees in the field of defense.
German Marshall Fund.Since September 11, many private foundations are focusing their giving on projects having to do with the Middle East, but few are looking at how the war on terror affects the trans-Atlantic relationship. Given that the mission of the German Marshall Fund is to promote cooperation between the United States and Europe, it’s not surprising the foundation would fill this gap.
“We decided right away the big issue for us was, How do you coordinate the U.S. and European governments around the issue of homeland security?” says Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. The fund has already begun supporting exchanges of policy experts and government officials on hard questions such as how immigration policy is used to control terrorist threats, and how local police forces can respond to chemical weapons attacks.
The German Marshall Fund has also invested money in supporting U.S. and European groups that sit on the “front line” with Middle Eastern countries. For Kennedy, this means Turkey, an aspirant to the European Union and long-time NATO ally. In Turkey, the fund has sponsored a series of projects working with independent Turkish organizations, as well as U.S. and European nongovernmental organizations, to strengthen the burgeoning democracy in Ankara. “Turkey, in our mind, is an important place. It is a front-line state like West Germany in the Cold War. It should be a model for democracy in the Middle East,” Kennedy explains.
JM Foundation. When the terrorists attacked New York on September 11, 2001, the JM Foundation did what most people in the philanthropic world did. “We asked ourselves, What can we do to get involved in this issue?” says Chris Olander, executive director emeritus for the foundation. That meant thinking about how New Yorkers in particular responded to disaster. The foundation funded a project through the American Council on Science and Health to publish a book on “what every New Yorker should know in the event of a terrorist attack,” Olander says. The guide focuses on everything from nuclear attacks to different strains of biological agents, with an emphasis on preventive measures average citizens should take.
But the JM Foundation did not stop with New Yorkers. In a similar vein, the charity funded a project with the National Organization on Disability to study how to help disabled people in the event of a catastrophe. “How do people with disabilities get the information they will need?” Olander asks. “Sometimes they are living in the community, sometimes in group homes. We wanted to get them involved in the actual planning.”
These kinds of projects, Olander says, fill the gaps between the public and private sector. “The private-sector role is to improve things and test new ideas.”
John M. Olin Foundation. While the John M. Olin Foundation is planning to spend down and close shop within the next couple of years, it still has a number of projects directly relating to the war on terrorism. William Voegeli, the foundation’s chief program officer in international relations, says private foundations can support research and scholarship in areas the federal government, with its tendency to focus on crisis management, cannot.
“It is true in general that universities and research foundations are the wholesalers of ideas that are then retailed at the level of governing and policy making,” he says in an interview. “The government is necessarily concerned with urgent practical matters. You rely on professors and scholars to look over the horizon.”
In that spirit, the Olin Foundation provided the initial grants to the Council on Foreign Relations that underwrote the research for Fareed Zakaria’s book, The Future of Freedom: The Rise of Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. “The war on terrorism requires clear-sighted understanding of the difficulties and prospects for turning states with little history of democracy into functioning, stable nations,” Voegeli says. “That’s what we hope to support at the Olin Foundation.”
Lauder Foundation. Since September 11, 2001, Ronald S. Lauder has supported the work of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, Germany, a think tank in the heart of old Europe that has brought such American national security thinkers as Richard Perle and Henry Kissinger to European audiences. In the area of public diplomacy, the Aspen Institute is an excellent example of a group not controlled by the U.S. government or any government, says Allen Roth, director of public affairs for RSL Management and a close associate of Lauder’s. It is an independent voice that Roth calls a valuable complement to the State Department.
Roth would not discuss specifics, but he said Lauder would be looking to fund new organizations that focus on strengthening ties between the United States, Eastern Europe, and the United Kingdom by bringing U.S. policymakers to their respective publics. One of our foci is to do what we can in terms of keeping our natural allies, Roth says. In Great Britain and the Eastern European countries, we need to let them know that America appreciates their support.
Merrill Family Foundation. If the last Iraq war is a model for the kinds of battles the U.S. military will have to wage in the war on terrorism, then the Pentagon will need policy experts who know not only how to win the wars, but also how to win the peace. Helping to supply such experts was the Merrill Family Foundation’s aim when it established the new Center for Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
“In so many trouble spots around the world, we’re not at war, but we certainly aren’t at peace,” says Philip Merrill, the foundation’s chairman and a former assistant secretaryĐgeneral of NATO. “Understanding how political and military affairs intersect is essential in dealing with today’s ambiguous, shifting situations.” Merrill says his foundation is looking for ways to bridge the worlds of academics and government.
“Philanthropically there has been inadequate support for security studies. I have tried to do it, but there are only a few foundations interested in this.” Merrill in particular is looking to apply the creative analysis of the legendary Cold War thinker Andrew Marshall to the war on terror. “We need to think about the consequences of nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue states and non-state actors as well as terrorism,” Merrill says.
Rosenkranz Foundation. Robert Rosenkranz does not have much confidence the federal government can react in the event of a terrorist attack that uses weapons of mass destruction. Who can blame him, considering that last year the Department of Homeland Security urged Americans to duct tape their windows to prepare for possible chemical weapons attacks. Rosenkranz says it’s vital that private think tanks become the “best informed critics” of the U.S. government, and that these think tanks make their findings known by “marshalling the facts, getting studies done, and publicizing the results.”
“I think the private sector can shed a lot of light on what is actually going on,” Rosenkranz tells Philanthropy. “I don’t think we have particularly good responses set up for medical emergencies or any of the other kinds of public response systems that might be needed.” Rosenkranz points to a recent Rand Corporation project as a good example of how think tanks can be valuable to the government. Rand’s report, “Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks,” gives average citizens the information they will need to survive in case of an attack.
Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation. Abby Moffat, executive director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation, says the foundation has been funding projects in the war on terrorism well before September 11, 2001. It has long supported national security initiatives at the Institute for World Politics, the Heritage Foundation, and the Center for Security Policy. The foundation has been on the front lines of funding not only the crucial scholarship needed for post-September 11 policy, but also the advocacy needed to educate both the public and the government on the nature of America’s new enemies. “We are trying to educate the grassroots about how to prepare for the next attack,” she says.
On that note, Moffat is excited about a new initiative with the Center for Security Policy to educate women voters about the government’s policies on the war on terrorism. “From Soccer Moms to Security Moms” is the working title she says. “Now is the time to reach out past Washington. It is our patriotic duty to prepare for our future.”
David Steinmann. David Steinmann is a donor himself and also helps groups he works with to raise money from other funders. In all his efforts, he has one major criterion: Know thine enemy. “We encourage donors to select grantees and look for people who are willing to say who the enemy is,” Steinmann says. “Until we are willing to say the enemy is radical Islam, then we are fighting a phenomenon. You cannot be at war with a phenomenon.”
And on this Steinmann has raised funds and encouraged other foundations to support advocacy groups such as the Center of Security Policy, which promotes international peace through American strength; and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (whose advisory board Steinmann chairs), a group that brings U.S. military officers every year to Israel and Jordan to foster ties between the United States and two of its most important allies in the Middle East.
In August 2002, Steinmann helped raise money for a JINSA initiative to bring American law enforcement officials to Israel for meetings with Israeli counterterrorism officials from its internal security services and the military. “It was amazing what the Americans learned,” Steinmann says. For example, the Israelis explained that they were fighting terrorists using new kinds of explosives that U.S. bomb sniffing dogs had not been trained to detect. “We are now creating an ongoing regular conduit to bring the senior Israeli people here,” Steinmann says.
Stuart Family Foundation. For a relatively small organization, the Stuart Family Foundation has a number of ambitious goals for the projects it hopes to fund in the coming year. Its executive director, Truman Anderson, says that in the next year the foundation will focus on funding both creative thinking about responses to bioterrorism and reaching out to Islamic nations to bring them closer to democracy. “Because we are a small outfit, it makes a great deal of sense to stay focused narrowly,” he says.
In the last year the foundation gave a grant to the Center for Strategic and International Studies to investigate how the federal government will quarantine infected citizens in the event of a biological attack. “The main problem is that the federal government has not conducted a large-scale quarantine” test in quite some time, Anderson says. “This raises the prospect of different layers of government working at cross-purposes with one another if they have to improvise in a hurry. The global experience of SARS has served to underscore the problem.”
In a very different direction, the Stuart Family Foundation has funded a study of the effects of higher education in the West on Egyptian elites. Last year Anderson approved a grant to bring Egyptian alumni of U.S. universities together for a symposium on modernization of their country. The report from this symposium found that most Egyptians with some experience in Western higher education institutions are primarily concerned with bringing their country into a democratic future. “Philanthropists have an important role to play because we cannot expect government to come up with all the answers,” Anderson concludes.
W.H. Donner Foundation. Sometimes schoolbooks and medicine are the best defense against terrorism in the Islamic world. At least that is the conclusion W.H. Donner Foundation board member Rebecca Winsor drew after talking with long-time congressional staffer Al Santoli, who worked for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California. “Al Santoli has gone where a number of people cannot go,” she says. “He knows the Philippines quite well. He set up a project in the worst-off areas.”
Specifically, Santoli has set up a system with local Islamic leaders on the islands of Sulu and Mindanao to provide social services, such as National Geographic text books and cheap medicine, for the local population before Al-Qaeda offshoots like Abu-Sayyaf can fill the void. “At Donner we decided this was a way of holding the center for Islam from these hideous groups that have hijacked Islam in this area,” Rebecca’s father, Ambassador Curtin Winsor Jr., tells Philanthropy.
Santoli’s Philippines project had a relatively low start-up price tag, $135,000, and the Winsors recognize it is a high-risk proposition. “Many Western relief groups have gone into this area and not come out,” Ambassador Winsor notes. But nonetheless, he believes the private sector is vital in reaching out to the most desperate Islamic populations. “Marcos firebombed these islands,” he says. “We have to find opportunitiesÉwhere the government cannot go.” He adds that these types of initiatives will be the focus for future grants from the Donner Foundation. “We are hoping to take this idea into Indonesia,” he says.
Conducting the research, advocacy, and scholarship needed for the war on terrorism requires organizations that can keep watch not only on the government, but on terrorist organizations and their various apologists. Some groups, such as the Middle East Media Research Institute, are providing real-time access to the Muslim press, a service National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg has called indispensable. Others are opening up the Muslim world to the public. Groups such as the Project for a New American Century, for example, can often operate more efficiently with major media to get information out than can government officials, who are tethered to restrictive press offices. Finally, private think tanks and publications are providing a powerful bench for Washington policymakers. Earlier this year, the editor of the National Interest, Adam Garfinkle, moved to the State Department to be Colin Powell’s chief speech writer.
What follows is a sampling of groups that are having an impact on a range of issues related to terrorism.
American Enterprise Institute. The American Enterprise Institute has started a new Middle East Democracy Program. According to Danielle Pletka, AEI’s vice president for foreign affairs and international studies, the program “is an attempt to connect grassroots voices for reform throughout the Middle East with opinion-makers and a wider audience in Washington.”
Asia Pacific Initiative. When Al Santoli left the staff of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, he chose an atypical career path for ex-legislative aides. Santoli set up offices in Manila and Washington and established a project to get de-worming medicine and school books to the poorest Muslims in the Philippines. His hope is that by getting to the most-likely recruits for radical Islamic terrorist groups early, they can be steered onto another, more productive path. With the help of moderate Muslim clerics, Santoli is beginning to deliver the human services that are needed.
Aspen Institute Berlin. The Aspen Institute Berlin may have one of the most thankless tasks in the war on terrorism-to persuade the German public that the Bush administration is not a threat to, but actually a guardian of, European security. Since 2001 the Aspen Institute has sponsored a series of events to bring speakers to German restaurants and pubs for public meetings in the hopes of persuading an edgy populace on the merits of the U.S. war on terrorism.
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America monitors news outlets ranging from National Public Radio to the Washington Post to identify and expose media bias. One of their success stories involves last year’s Operation Defensive Shield, carried out by the Israel Defense Forces. Early reports suggested the IDF was deliberately targeting civilians as it went house-to-house rooting out terrorists in the West Bank. Work by the committee was able to change what it saw as an incorrect perception.
Foreign Policy Research Institute. The Foreign Policy Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania performs a critical task for U.S. policymakers by studying long-term issues that many in the public sector don’t have time to consider. The center’s projects on homeland security and counterterrorism have focused on using advanced computer software to better predict and respond to terrorist threats and sharing this technology with local and state governments.
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The foundation offers a number of programs ranging from policy conferences in Washington to academic exchanges. Cliff May, the executive director, likes to talk about the foundation’s program that brings American college students and professors on two-week intensive tours through Israel. The point of these tours is to create a base of pro-Israel grassroots activists in America. One of May’s favorite stories involves Arizona State University student Oubai Shabandar. Following his trip to Israel, Shabandar became fed up with his fellow American-Muslims’ silence about the extremist rhetoric from the Middle East. Moved to action, he invited Daniel Pipes to his campus as a speaker. He also wrote an op-ed for the Arizona Republic calling on Muslim Americans to support the U.S. war on terrorism.
Freedom House. The Center for Religious Freedom under the direction of Nina Shea opposes blasphemy laws in Muslim countries that suppress more tolerant and pro-American Muslim thought. It also fights the imposition of Islamic law in the new Iraq and Afghanistan, and insists that U.S. foreign policy defend persecuted Christians and Jews, Muslim dissidents, and other religious minorities in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, and Sudan.
Imagine New York. This organization, formed shortly after the September 11 attacks, has solicited ideas from the general public on how to rebuild the World Trade Center and how to memorialize the 2001 atrocities.
Institute of World Politics. The Institute of World Politics aims to offer students of international affairs a curriculum steeped in American principles-a quality often missing from other top graduate schools in foreign policy. Founded in 1990, the institute is located in Washington, D.C., and affiliated with Boston University. The school focuses on the kinds of statecraft American policymakers are likely to encounter as they talk face-to-face with authoritarian regimes.
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. The biggest threat to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, may be that nation’s own citizens-but only if they have the skills to organize. The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict is working with Iranians and other groups in the Middle East to develop the kinds of strategic skills they will need to turn popular anger into a mass movement capable of changing the mullahs’ regime, preferably without violence.
Investigative Project. Researcher Steven Emerson digs deeper into the threat of Islamic terrorism than most journalists who cover the topic. That might be one reason why many journalists rely on his information for their own reporting. Using a staff of Arabic translators, the Freedom of Information Act, and his contacts at the FBI, Emerson generates the best information available on radical Islam and is increasingly consulted by Congress and other governmental bodies.
Islam and American Democracy Project. The Islam and American Democracy Project at the Ethics and Public Policy Center has sponsored a series of seminars and lectures aimed at exploring the role of Muslims in American democracy and how democracy can be exported to the Islamic world. Headed by Hillel Fradkin, the project has brought Washington audiences into contact with a number of Islamic scholars. Zainab Al-Suwaij, who spoke at the center last June, said in her talk on political reforms in Iraq, “At the Ethics and Public Policy Center you believe that standing up for freedom, democracy, and civil society makes America and the world a better and safer place.”
Middle East Forum. The war on terrorism has many fronts, and one of them is academia. The Middle East Forum’s Campus Watch aims to equip college students with the information they will need in dorm rooms and lecture halls to stand up to the establishment Middle East studies programs that too often apologize for militant Islam.
Middle East Media Research Institute. MEMRI’s English translations of Arabic articles, speeches, and documents are so accurate that three years ago the Palestinian Authority linked to the institute’s website for an English version of a letter from Yasser Arafat to President Clinton. Today the service has broadened its translation services to include the voices of both moderates and extremists in the Islamic world.
National Interest. Founded by neoconservative icon Irving Kristol, the National Interest is one of the most widely read international journals on foreign affairs. Under its new editor, John O’Sullivan, the journal plans to expand its daily website in order to provide a forum for top writers on the war on terror.
Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. Formed in January 2003, the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies aims to become the world’s premier place for scholars to study political conditions in countries that are between military war and peace. Operated from the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, the center is headed by Dr. Eliot Cohen, an influential thinker and advocate for toppling Saddam Hussein who contributed to the U.S. debate on the second Iraq war both prior to and following its execution.
Project for a New American Century. Started in the mid-1990s by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, PNAC is an agenda-setting institution in Washington. Early on, PNAC’s faxes and e-mails on Iraq helped frame the way major media groups covered the war against Saddam Hussein.
Shalem Center. While the Shalem Center in Jerusalem is most often associated with its research on the history of Zionism, it has begun producing serious scholarship on the terrorist threat against Israel. In its summer issue of Azure, the center’s scholarly quarterly, Yagil Henkin compares civilian casualties by the Israel Defense Forces during its spring 2002 campaign in Jenin with similar operations conducted by NATO in Kosovo and the Balkans. He shows that, contrary to United Nations opinion, the Israel Defense Forces killed civilians at a far lower rate than did NATO forces in Kosovo and the Balkans.
Eli Lake is a freelance writer who most recently worked for United Press International.