Cold War or no, the world is still a very dangerous place for the United States and its vital interests. From Pyongyang to Tehran, chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons—and the missiles with which they can be delivered—are falling into the hands of some worrisome regimes. This development and others are accelerating shifts in the security situations in Asia and the Middle East that could have enormous implications for the United States.
The gravity of these potential dangers—and the magnitude of the steps the United States needs to take to address them—argues for an informed, rigorous national debate. Yet such debate has been remarkable for its absence.
To be sure, the foreign policy journals are packed with articles debating various points of foreign policy, and it is said that where there are two defense policy analysts you can expect at least three opinions about a given subject.
Yet, for a matter of such critical interest to the American people, there has been precious little public debate about the direction of American foreign and defense policy. This absence is all the more curious since many of the initiatives being pursued in these areas by the Clinton Administration, and those being urged upon it by the most audible voices in the public policy arena, are precisely the sorts of efforts which were eagerly exploited by our opponent in the Cold War.
In part we are hearing these arguments again because the collapse of the Soviet Union convinced many that the security of the world’s only superpower would henceforth be assured. Equally important, though, the last seven years have seen the coming to power in both the executive and legislative branches of a generation of Americans with little firsthand experience with the military. And finally, there is the perennial seductiveness of the notion that arms control, peace processes, and other multinational arrangements can provide greater security, at less cost, than a strong U.S. defense establishment.
A World Imagined
And then there is private philanthropy, among the least recognized forces in the shaping of United States security policy. Specifically, the leading funders in international security programs at U.S. think-tanks, academic institutions, and grassroots groups are generously underwriting an ambitious and highly politicized agenda.
Today, as in the past, arms control and other international legal endeavors are the organizing principle behind much of what the Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund calls the “One World Program.” The operative premise has been described by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer as “a world imagined [where] laws, treaties and binding international agreements can domesticate the international arena.”
A collective endowment of over $25 billion is being brought to bear by private foundations to advance, in the words of the Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund, “responsible action” aimed at realizing such an imaginary world. The magnitude of the funds being applied to related projects by three top philanthropies alone are impressive. The MacArthur Foundation’s “Program on Global Security” awarded $27.5 million in 1997; that same year the Carnegie Corporation’s “Cooperative Security Consortium” spent $13.2 million; and in 1998 the W. Alton Jones Foundation’s “Secure World Program” gave $13.9 million.
Such programs, and the organizations they support, pointedly reject the concept of American national security in favor of a concept they call “global security.” A muscular U.S. defense posture is, at best, seen to be outdated and chauvinistic; at worst, it is depicted as a threat to world peace. In keeping with the traditions of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, the working assumption seems to be that the United States cannot be trusted to exercise its global power responsibly.
The One World agenda seeks to diminish that power in two ways. It seeks to shrink the U.S. military, canceling its weapons modernization programs and transferring billions of defense dollars to civilian applications. A prominent example of this part of this genre is the high-profile ad campaign on the op-ed pages of the New York Times underwritten by the Washington, D.C.-based Florence Fund on behalf of a group called Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. The advertisements show, side by side, a retired military officer decrying wasteful defense expenditures and seconding the adjacent call by a prominent social activist for such funds to be spent on projects supported by the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Education Association.
The One World agenda also seeks to reinforce or compel steps toward disarmament—and make them difficult to reverse—by promoting treaties and other multilateral arrangements. Among the organizations charged with advancing this aspect of the agenda is the 17-member Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers. This umbrella group represents such anti-nuclear organizations as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Council for a Livable World, the British-American Security Information Council, and the Peace Action Education Fund.
The Coalition is not content merely to promote new arms control agreements like the problematic Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (which, if ratified, would seriously undermine the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent). It is also feverishly trying to perpetuate the defective and obsolete 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This accord prohibits the United States from providing anti-missile protection to its people—a reckless posture in light of the emerging ballistic missile threat. The notion that the ABM Treaty remains “the cornerstone of strategic stability” (even though the other party, the Soviet Union, ceased to exist eight years ago) and must be protected at all costs is an organizing principle for the Coalition, its members, and its funders.
The War According to Ted
The One World agenda also features several other, more subtle, initiatives aimed at influencing public attitudes about security policy. One of these is the contributions of the New York University Center for War, Peace and the News Media, which has received at least $600,000 from the W. Alton Jones and Merck Foundations over the past two years. Its seemingly innocuous mission is “to educate journalists around the world about nuclear nonproliferation, thereby encouraging expanded media coverage of these issues.” In practice, however, news organizations like MSNBC seem to be relying on the Center without taking into account its biases.
There is also plenty of foundation money for media savvy defense critics with military coloration. Among the most prominent of such critics are: former Director of Central Intelligence Admiral Stansfield Turner (whose travel around the country and internationally “to promote de-alerting nuclear forces” was underwritten by the W. Alton Jones Foundation last year by a $25,000 grant to the Lawyers Alliance for World Security); former Assistant Secretary of Defense Larry Korb; retired Army Colonel David Hackworth; and retired Navy admirals like Eugene Carroll and John Shanahan.
The effort to unlearn or distort the lessons of the Cold War has also invaded the classroom. Consider Ted Turner’s “The Cold War” television series on CNN. The series combined previously unavailable video footage with an editorial line dictated by Turner to argue, rather counterintuitively, that there were “no winners and no losers” in the “twilight struggle” between the Soviet Union and the West. Turner, whose previous documentary “Portrait of the Soviet Union” was described by Washington Post media critic Tom Shales as “a post card from Binky and Biff at Camp Whitewash,” invested $12 million in the project (which was more than recouped, thanks to the $5 million apiece ponied up for sponsorship by Ford, Unisys, Archer Daniels Midland, and LCI).
In addition to videos distributed to schools and universities across the country, the documentary also spun off an interactive Web site, curriculum guide, and teaching tools. The latter are intended to satisfy requirements for history and social studies, laying the groundwork for a distorted pedagogy of the nearly fifty years of U.S. policy following World War II. No comparable effort has been made to tell the history of the Cold War in a more dispassionate and accurate fashion to the American people and their children.
In recent years, moreover, private philanthropy’s support for this agenda has been supplemented by large sums of government funding. Under the Clinton Administration, activists long associated with radical disarmament notions and environmental agendas have been appointed to senior positions at the National Security Council, CIA, and the departments of Defense, State, and Energy. There, they have been in a position to channel sizeable government grants to their former colleagues on the outside. For example, the Department of Energy has awarded grants of $600,000 to anti-nuclear activists at the Nautilus Institute and over $100,000 to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Restoring an Informed Debate
The peace won during the Cold War was the result of American policies rooted in realism, common sense, and the principle of peace through strength. Yet this peace can still be lost if, without serious deliberation and debate, the United States drifts into an embrace of discredited unilateral disarmament and arms control measures—policies that might well have prevented our victory over the Soviet Union.
Concerted corrective action is needed, and there is a role both for donors and their colleagues among the think tanks and grassroots organizations. Thanks to the strong arguments and historical experience at the realists’ disposal, it should not be necessary—were such a thing even possible—to match the “world imagined” crowd on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
That said, a modest but significant and sustained commitment of additional resources is required to articulate an alternative agenda and place it in competition for the public’s support and that of their elected representatives. The One Worlders’ irenic vision of international orderliness must be contrasted with the world as it actually is. Wishful thinking must be challenged with facts and experience.
Such an alternative should be rooted in a clear-eyed vision—complete with hard data and relevant analysis—of the threats emerging to the United States and its allies, not least from the proliferation of ballistic missile-deliverable weapons of mass destruction. It should rest on such precepts as a commitment to assuring that America’s armed forces have the superior technology and equipment they need to deter aggression and, failing that, to prevail in conflicts. And it should reflect the fact that squandering U.S. prestige and military wherewithal on peacekeeping operations in which no vital interest has been demonstrated is a formula for weakening, not properly exercising, American leadership and power.
Equally importantly, we must seriously examine the merits—and risks—of relying upon agreements and international organizations to safeguard our security. As President Truman once observed, “If you can’t trust a man’s word, it won’t help much to have it in writing.” There is always a place for diplomacy but the disadvantages can greatly outweigh the advantages if the resulting arrangements are unverifiable or compromise American sovereignty.
Sensible donors who had written off this area need to take a fresh look. Should they be willing to make their resources available to support fresh thinking and activity on behalf of more realistic foreign and defense policies, one thing more is required.
Donors should convene a meeting comparable to the conferences organized in recent months by the MacArthur and Henry B. Kendall Foundations to orchestrate the One World agenda. Such a meeting should help the community of security policy realists to forge a coherent program of their own, a natural division of labor to make it a focus of public debate and decision making, and an agreement that additional resources will be made available and efficiently utilized for this purpose.
This sort of coordinated approach would be highly beneficial to philanthropic foundations, to the number of fine institutions and talented experts ready to serve in such an effort, and to the national interest. By so doing, public-spirited donors can do much to maximize the positive effect of their philanthropy and the contribution it will make to a more secure America and a safer world.
Devon Gaffney Cross is executive director of the Gilder Foundation in New York City and has supervised grantmaking in international affairs for three foundations over the last 15 years. Her brother, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. held senior positions in the Reagan Department of Defense and is currently president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.