Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, Inc.

Sign up for IRmep's periodic email bulletins!
me.gif (2179 bytes)

New IRmep book now available!


on Twitter!

Audio podcast.gif (1429 bytes)

Email list Subscribe
Audio Archive
Video Archive
Israel Lobby Archive
About IRmep
Policy & Law Enforcement

centle.jpg (8432 bytes)








Jittery Reflections from the Brookings Institution

ON Tuesday, August 19, 2003 at 11:00 AM, Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution participated in an online chat with the Washington Post.  IRmep, which has published a great deal lately about American think tanks in general and Middle East think tanks in particular, was not invited, but provides annotated comments to our readers that help explain the crisis of credibility now engulfing Brookings and other formerly vaunted American think tanks.

Politics: The Brookings Institution
Strobe Talbott
Brookings Institution President
Tuesday, August 19, 2003; 11:00 AM

The transcript and IRmep data and analysis in Bold follows.

Strobe Talbott: I'm delighted to have a chance to join in a discussion with your Web-users. As a former journalist who frequents cyberspace, it's fun to see the way the Post is taking advantage of the medium....

College Park, Md.: Who are the main funders of Brookings, and how does that impact your choices of topics to study and the outcomes you advocate?

Strobe Talbott: Brookings gets its funding from a combination of sources. We have an endowment, which covers about a quarter of our 40 million dollar a year budget; the rest comes from foundations, corporations and individuals....

IRmep:  Brookings has immense resources available for research, advocacy, and lobbying.  In 2000, Brookings reported just under a quarter of a billion dollars in assets ($242,176,802) to the Internal Revenue Service.  With its current financial resources and expenditures, Brookings could be completely self sufficient from any further donations. 

However, donations continue to pour in.

No one funds research without a motive.   The resources of those still funding Brookings and the centers to which they contribute is an all-important question that Brookings, and most other think tanks, simply refuse to answer.

Washington, D.C.: What is your best response to individuals who assert that think tanks are of limited practical value, but rather produce thoughts or rather lines of thinking that are highly esoteric and disassociated from actual real life situations and social needs?

Strobe Talbott: There are obviously lots of different think tanks -- more than a hundred just in Washington -- and different kinds as well. Brookings has, for its more than 80 years in existence, made a specialty out of research that is of use and interest to policymakers, and also to informing the public about policy issues. In short, we put a premium on relevance.

IRmep:  This is a question of perspective.  Esoteric and disconnected is not an accurate description of Brookings policy promotion.  Brookings enjoys privileged access to policy makers and key government officials, without the need for filing as a lobby, foreign agent, or special interest group.  It is precisely this level of access and ability to influence policymakers from behind the scenes that makes Brookings an excellent investment for some vested interests.  The only group that legitimately considers Brookings to be esoteric and disassociated is average Americans.

Arlington, Va.: Why do you think people have different views and opinions? How does you institute try to influence and persuade others?

Also, is there an objective analysis versus politically influenced analysis? For example do you think any one or any agency could have produced an object analysis on Iraq that is not politically motivated one way or the other?

Strobe Talbott: It's healthy and natural that there should be a wide range of views on Think Tank Row, just as there is in the country at large. In fact, we encourage a diversity of views here at Brookings. Our ability to influence the public and the policymaking community derives not just from the expertise of our scholars but from the fact that they are truly independent and nonpartisan -- that is, they're not advancing a political party's agenda.

Iraq is a good example of this. Our scholars who know a lot about that subject -- and there are quite a few -- had some points on which they supported the premise of the administration's policy, other points where they had their differences.

IRmep:  Brookings, like most fellow think tanks and immediate neighbors on Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. contributed relatively little to what would be considered "honest debate" on the Iraq question.  A content analysis of Brookings press quotes reveals that issues of low to no relevance at Brookings were the likely costs of postwar occupation, implications for U.S. credibility if WMD intelligence was flawed, and the new era that would be created by a democracy launching a "preemptive" war the rest of the world protested.   Similarly irrelevant to Brookings were the conflict's impact on trade, regional economic development and other issues affecting the U.S. economy.

Parkville, Md.: The Brookings Institute is often cited as a Democratic counterpart to right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Many Democrats, however, disagree and have gone about putting together a American Majority Institute, to serve as a counterweight to Heritage and AEI.

My question is this: How would you contrast Brookings with AEI and Heritage, and what advice would you give Democrats in setting up a more unabashedly partisan think tank of their very own?

Strobe Talbott: The key word in describing Brookings is nonpartisan. That, by the way, is different from "bipartisan." Our Congress is, or should be, bipartisan in that it looks for common ground between the two parties. A nonpartisan approach is one that is open to the possibility that neither party has the right answer to a tough issue. At Brookings, we have people who are registered Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We have an environment here that is open and collegial. People listen to each other and think about alternative views in shaping their own. We have had people who come to Brookings from Republican administrations (for example, Ken Dam, who was deputy treasury secretary, and it was recently announced that Larry Thompson, the deputy attorney general, will be coming here next month), as well as from Democratic administrations. An example there, in addition to myself, is Jim Steinberg, the head of our foreign policy department. His predecessor, Richard Haass, went from Brookings into the Bush administration as director of policy planning -- a job Jim had held before. So there's a revolving door that ensures maximum nonpartisanship, at least at this outfit.

IRmep: From a systems analysis perspective, the think tank ecosystem does not at all favor progressive or liberal thought.  Since conservative principles are generally broadly agreed upon, with an anchor in the past, think tanks can, and often do, tacitly agree on general principles. 

Liberals, however, generally only agree on the need for change.  Any three liberals gathered among the fluted columns and polished marble floors of a new think tank would likely profoundly disagree on approaches for changing and improving America.   Thus, truly progressive and liberal thinkers will for ever be found scattered about in colleges and universities.

West Palm Beach, Fla.: Dear Strobe: Brookings is considered to be the moderate to left think tank as compared to the libertarian Cato or right/conservative American Enterprise Institute or Hudson, or the conservative Heritage Foundation, etc. Is there any updated score card or chart that arrays/arranges think tanks based on their bias/point of view and perspective. Please don't say you are "fair and balanced" or I'll report you to Fox News Network and you will become a co-defendant with Al Franken.

Strobe Talbott: Okay, I'll rise to the bait! We're fair and balanced. Take a look at our mission statement. And more to the point, take a look at our product, which comes in the form of books, op-eds, "policy briefs," appearances by our scholars in the media -- and you'll see that they are not advancing any party agenda and that, because they reach their conclusions through open-minded inquiry and rigorous analysis, they often surprise people who mistakenly associate us with a fixed point on the political spectrum (sometimes they even surprise themselves).

IRmep:  Brookings is the single most influential think tank in the U.S. if measured by number of media citations.  Brookings provided 17% of the media quotes from the 25 think tanks profiled in a year 2002 Nexis search conducted by FAIR.   When ranked by media quotes, Brookings emerges as the most important opinion leading think tank in America.

Exhibit 1 Citations of Think Tanks in Media
(Source: FAIR and IRmep 2003)

brookings_large.jpg (13355 bytes)

However, the output of policy analysis at Brookings differs little from that of conservative think tanks.  47% of total quotations from think tanks are Conservative or right leaning, 41% are Centrist, and only 12% are considered Progressive or left leaning.  Brookings does little that is unique in the way of media influence that could be called "fair and balanced" much less "Progressive".

Exhibit 2 Number of Media Citations by Ideaology
(Source: FAIR and IRmep 2003)
brookings_small.jpg (3836 bytes)

Brussels, Belgium: Mr. Talbott,
Europeans liked (loved!) Clinton but can't stomach Bush. Why? The Clinton Administration also used U.S. forces to affect regime change and, arguably, Bush follows the same foreign policy objectives: securing U.S. interests, fighting terror, promoting democracy, engaging allied forces in peace-making operations, etc.

What did Bush do that so alienates Europeans (or, what did Clinton do to endear himself so to Europeans?) There is more to this than Kyoto and Iraq, but what? (Not the Saxophone!?)

Strobe Talbott: Actually, the situation is more complicated than you suggest. As someone who worked in the Clinton administration, I can assure you that there was plenty of complaint abroad, particularly in Europe, about American "unilateralism" from time to time. The French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, called the US "l'hyperpussiance" -- the hyperpower -- and he didn't mean it as a compliment. In fact, Vedrine elaborated on this theme at a conference here at Brookings. The comment was directed at the Clinton administration. As for the Bush administration, there's no question that transatlantic relations have gone through a bad patch, but that was at least in part because of the way President Chirac of France made it hard if not impossible for the Bush administration to keep the UN involved in the endgame on Iraq. I think there's a real effort underway, on both sides of the Atlantic, to smooth things over.

IRmep:  As Strobe correctly states, since there was an "endgame" as opposed to any actual consultation, high level negotiation or debate between the administration and key U.S. allies, the U.S. was unable to put together a coalition in the rush to war.  To American Enterprise Institute and Brookings, the lack of ally malleability means either that new allies are necessary, that NGOs are obsolete, or that new ways of coercing traditional allies are needed.   Most legitimate observers understand that treatment of longtime allies that are globally sophisticated does not involve a predetermined "endgame" but rather strategic cooperation through honest debate.

New York, N.Y.: What issues do you see driving the 2004 election?

Strobe Talbott: Brookings has just published an important book called "Agenda for the Nation," which provides very useful, thoughtful readable analysis on many of the big issues for next year: the budget (including tax policy), homeland security and the direction of national defense post-9/11, welfare reform, international trade in an era of globalization.... Economics, as you may know, was the original franchise of Brookings back nearly a century ago, and it's remained a key part of what we do, but we also now have full programs on the state of our cities, on foreign policy and on ways to improve our governing institutions. You can be sure that Brookings will, starting in about two weeks, have a full array of programs that are intended to help citizens understand the issues of the presidential campaign.

Alexandria, Va.: One of the objections raised against Bush nominee Daniel Pipes is that he runs a Web site called Campus Watch that in the past has criticized professors for what those professors taught and said.

Do you have any problem with anyone criticizing Brookings Institution staff for what those staff members have taught or said? (Assuming, of course, that the criticisms are not libelous.)

Strobe Talbott: In general, my colleagues are not against criticism. It's a component of a healthy national debate. We engage in criticism ourselves, although we try hard (and I think successfully) to keep it from being ad hominem or partisan -- i.e., we try to make it constructive. I do have strong reservations about what I'd call "attack research" and any sort of criticism that labels as unpatriotic questions raised about ANY administration's policies.

IRmep:  The Campus Watch website is a relevant metaphor for the larger battle between think tanks and academia.  While Campus Watch is overt in discrediting political views it disagrees with, and then attempting to derail university funding (such as title VI funds) in Congress, other think tanks are doing essentially the same thing.  

By employing powerful PR agencies to dominate highly limited prime time slots on national television, think tanks have edged academics out of many key discussions.  By replacing real scholars with ideologues, the national debate has suffered greatly.  No better example exists than the broadcast punditry and one sided analysis during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Brookings and other think tanks generally fear deep analysis of the background of their analysts (ad hominem).  The ties to special interest lobbies, foreign governments, and well established political movements clearly influences policy output to a level that most strive to focus on any issue but authorship.

Harrisburg, Pa.: What is your analysis of how the Russian government is doing? Is the economy improving any? Have the possibilities of communists regaining power diminished significantly?

Strobe Talbott: Russia has made extraordinary strides in the last decade and a half. As someone who has spent most of his career studying that place, I never expected to see the day when Russia would be developing a parliamentary democracy and a multi-party political system. That said, there are a lot of problems, including in the economy. The Russian economy was beginning to turn around and even take off, but the recent showdown between some powers-that-be in the Kremlin and the so-called oligarchs has had a chilling effect on Russia's ability to attract and retain foreign capital, which is crucial if the economy is going to continue to modernize.

My other big concern about Russia is Chechnya, which is festering in a way that threatens to poison the democratization of the country as a whole.

Washington, D.C.: How would you characterize the differences between think tanks and university research/institutes/centers? For think tanks, other than providing a convenient base for career political/policy people and intellectuals in between jobs/administrations, isn't there a great deal of overlap, and don't academic enterprises hold out prospect of even greater objectivity because most academicians are not looking for government/party jobs after the next election cycle?

Strobe Talbott: I respect the work done in universities, and spent a year at Yale between my stint in gov't and coming here to Brookings. Many of our scholars have been university professors and quite a few still teach at universities in the DC area (Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, U of Maryland, George Mason, etc.) But one difference between a think tank and a university is that we do not go in much for "pure" research -- which is to say, we emphasize research that is relevant and useful to policymakers. I don't think our objectivity is jeopardized by our policy-orientation. Quite the contrary, we make a real effort to keep our policy objective in the sense that we let chips fall where they may as we identify the big questions and seek the big answers -- rather than letting our product be skewed in any fashion by ideological or partisan preferences.

IRmep: Academia may be the last bastion of free thinking and honest debate about public policy.  Since the role of think tank pundits is ultimately to advocate, rather than find the truth, America is replacing diamonds forged in the crucible of debate, with spin produced in self referential and deeply compromised "black boxes."

Washington, D.C.: Brookings is fair and balanced. That's the problem. There's nothing in the center/left that takes as aggressive an approach to changing the national debate and influencing policymakers the way the Right-wing think tanks do. Why doesn't the left have similar institutions?

Strobe Talbott: I don't think what you've identified is entirely accurate, nor is it necessarily a problem. There are think tanks that affirmatively identify themselves with liberal (or "progressive") positions. As you know, there's an effort underway right now to set up a new one -- quite explicitly as a counterbalance to those on the conservative end of the spectrum. My own view is that there is now more than ever -- in a supercharged atmosphere where there is a lot of political polarization -- the need for an outfit like Brookings that seeks "fair and balanced" answers to questions that should not be oversimplified or hijacked by one side or the other.

Dallas, Tex.: Please comment on this administrations policy towards Africa.


Strobe Talbott: It's good that President Bush went to Africa, but it's too bad that that continent so often falls off the radar screen of American foreign policy. That's been a historic problem, not just a current one. We have, among our senior fellows, Susan Rice, who's doing some important work on corporate social responsibility and globalization, but who is expert and experienced in Africa, having been assistant secretary of state for that region, and we have a growing program on global governance issues that is focusing a lot of on Africa. We also have, thanks to a generous grant from Richard Blum of San Francisco, a "global poverty reduction initiative" that has already come up with ideas on how best to spend the administration's "Millennium Challenge Account" for foreign aid -- and Africa is clearly one of the target beneficiaries of administration policy and the Brookings effort to suggest ways that policy can be most effective.

Virginia: I looked over your staff roster, and most have PhDs. What about the retired military man with only a high school degree but with 20 years of war and operational experiences? Can they work there too?

Strobe Talbott: Great question! And you're addressing to someone who does NOT have a Ph.D. One of the advantages of being an institution with more than 50 resident scholars and nearly a 100 if you count non-resident affiliates is that we can have many kinds of diversity, including in credentials and background. That way we can have "true" academics, with their doctorates and university backgrounds, working with "policy practitioners." As for military people, we have an Federal Executive Fellows program that brings up-and-coming military and intelligence officers to Brookings for year. They make a big contribution to our thinking and our writing, and they feel it benefits them as they go back to the Pentagon or the intelligence community.

Somewhere, USA: If my figures are correct, you have been president of The Brookings Institution for roughly a year now. How do you like your job? What is your day to day routine?

Strobe Talbott: I love my job. One of the things I love about it is that there's nothing routine about it. I have a chance to work with the scholars on substance (I'm writing a book about India, Pakistan and nuclear weapons which brings me into contact with our world-class South Asia expert, Steve Cohen), and it also gives me a chance to work with the program directors and scholars on making sure that Brookings, when it enters its second century in 2016 is as strong and as relevant as ever.

Arlington, Va.: What is the history of think tanks in the United States? How did they start? Are there similar groups in countries overseas?

Strobe Talbott: Think tanks are in some ways not just an American invention -- they're really still a uniquely American institution. There are approximations of think tanks in other countries, but they tend by and large to be sponsored by governments, by political parties, or offshoots of universities. My colleagues and I here are looking into the possibility of helping partner-institutions in other countries "clone" the Brookings model, which I see as a major opportunity and responsibility for Brookings as the originator of that model.

IRmep: Brookings receives significant funding from the US government.  In 2000, Brookings received $1,169,524 million directly from the U.S. government.  This is 7% of the combined support given directly by the government and individual contributors able to support their own policy agendas through a tax deductible charitable contribution.

However, the idea of a "Brookings" model in a smaller, or undeveloped country is curious.  The 1980's and 1990's saw the formation of many developed country institutions, such as stock markets, in regions that were significantly different than the U.S. or Europe. Most failed.  Since few developing countries actually need to "sell" and promote policy initiatives, the utility of a think tank is questionable while their absence is understandable.

Iowa: Any thoughts on the breaking news out of Baghdad? What are your thoughts on the administration's policies in Iraq?

Strobe Talbott: The continuing violence, including today's and the earlier bombing of the pipeline, shows that while Saddam is down (and let's hope out) and Iraqis are vastly freer than they've been for decades, there is a nasty guerrilla war of attrition underway. I refer you to the day-in-and-day-out good work being done by our Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which has really dominated the think tank world's commentary and analysis on Iraq. You'll see in the Center's work some big-picture explanations of why the post-war has been in some ways more difficult than the war itself. A crucial question is whether the Bush administration, having gone into Iraq without the UN, will now be able to bring the UN -- and key regional countries like India -- into the stabilization and reconstruction phase now underway.

IRmep: The Saban Center for Middle East Policy is a microcosm for everything that is wrong with most U.S. Middle East policy think tanks. The Center was created by a $13 million dollar contribution from a single donor, Fox television executive Haim Saban to "promote effective US policies in the Middle East".  Saban also funded a center for the study of the American political system in Israel.

The Saban Center would not even qualify for non-profit status were it not connected with the larger Brookings Institution. The center is directed by Martin Indyk, a former AIPAC lobbyist who both obtained U.S. citizenship and was later stripped of security clearances under highly questionable circumstances. If the fate of American influence in the Middle East depends on thinking from centers like Saban, we are in very deep trouble.

Germany: Mr. Talbott, in your opinion, what should the governments of Europe (old or new) do to help the U.S. forces in Iraq? By the way, my impression (my view from Germany) is that between Europe and the White House there is no discussion about this important issue. In the media Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says that Germany will not take part in any action in Iraq under any circumstances. What do you think when you read about this?

Strobe Talbott: The distinction between "old" and "new" Europe is somewhat misleading, but there's some truth to the perception that the countries emerging from the old Soviet empire are more supportive of US policy than our traditional allies in Western Europe. We have a Center on the US and France, which is increasingly broadening its scope to include Europe as a whole, and if you check that part of our Website, you'll see that the Center has conducted some conferences on the issue you raise. Bottom-line, insofar as the Bush administration is prepared to involve the UN in Iraq, the Europeans (old and new) will do more to help.

Bowie, Md.: Since conservatism is more amenable to people with money than is liberalism, what kind of barrier is it to the promotion of liberal ideas that conservatives can raise more money?

Strobe Talbott: My impression is that there is a lot of "liberal" money that is, or will be, going to self-avowedly liberal think tanks. Brookings is not in that category. Fortunately, there are a lot of donors who value what Brookings does, which is independent and nonpartisan. We think that research and outreach of that kind are in fact the best antidote to excessive partisanship.

IRmep: "Liberal" money tends to gravitate toward relief oriented charities and more prestigious thought factories called "colleges" and "universities".  It is unlikely that any progressive think tank will ever emerge given the structural limitations of think tanks.

Somewhere, USA: The earlier poster led me to another question: what is the history of the Brookings? Have the institution's positions changed from one president to another?

Strobe Talbott: Brookings was founded in 1916 by a wealthy industrialist from St Louis named Robert S. Brookings. He came to Washington to help Woodrow Wilson in the World War I effort and to inject what were then modern management and account techniques into the running of the US government. Over time, Brookings expanded its agenda to foreign policy and what we now call "governance studies." I've been reading over the weekend a new book by Steven Schlesinger on the origins of the UN. A Brookings economist, Leo Pasvolsky, was instrumental in that process. My predecessors as president have seen it as their principal job to uphold the Institution's independence and nonpartisanship, along with the highest standards of scholarship. That's my job too, along with making sure that Brookings does change with the times and remains on the cutting edge of thinking about the 21st century challenges for the US.

Gullsgate, Minn.: Strobe Talbott: I would assume that all successful think tanks need considerable funds to maintain their institutions -- and corporate funds that support those think tanks -- often define the interests of those corporations. Or at least among the ultra conservative foundations. Or if not, how else does an honorable or well intentioned think tank survive?

Strobe Talbott: You ask an important question. While we seek and are grateful for corporate funding, we are assiduous about NOT letting our funders influence the scholarly process whereby we come up with answers to the questions of the day. Our corporate sponsors understand and support that principle. In that respect, there are similarities to universities. Intellectual freedom is a key part of what makes Brookings able to attract and retain the best talent -- and it's key to preserving our reputation for producing objective, constructive, independent analysis.

IRmep:  Brookings hasn't actually erected a so-called "glass wall" between funders and researchers, any more than other research institutions.   A quick analysis of Saban center policy, and the background of its funder and director, reveals little in the way of objectivity.  

Wall Street's recent crisis of stock analyst credibility demonstrated the costs inflicted upon the public of this type of highly compromised research.  During the telecom boom, analysts from Jack Grubman to dot-com experts newly minted from Forrester and Jupiter Research filled the airwaves with insight and analysis the news media couldn't get enough of.

And them came the big crash.

Iraq, for many think tanks, is now the equivalent of the dot-com blowout.   What is slowly being revealed about US foreign policy authors, quite frankly, doesn't look any better.

New York, N.Y.: Today we learn that the UN in Iraq was bombed. The fight on terrorism is a tough one. Please comment on the importance for the CIA, the FBI and the Defense Department to work as a team rather than "leak" information to reporters anxious to cover news stories that ultimately embarrasses employees and agency heads. Doesn't this hurt the fight on terrorism?

Strobe Talbott: Leaks of the kind you describe are of course harmful. Having been in government myself, I can remember the damage they did to the national interest. As for Brookings's contribution on the subject of terrorism, we produced a series of publications, including two books, on short order, but with a lot of thought behind them, on homeland security in the wake of 9/11. Some of the ideas we proposed had an influence on the way the Congress and the Executive Branch addressed the challenge over the past two years.

Washington, D.C.: The Right has developed so many unabashedly ideological (and partisan) think tanks at both the federal and state level that are aggressive about translating ideas into policy. Why hasn't the Left done the same? Where are our Cato, Heritage, AEI, etc.? I know Brookings thinks of itself as centrist, but why doesn't it work harder at trying to influence policymakers the way the Right does?

Strobe Talbott: We really do work hard at influencing policymakers -- we just do so in a different way than other outfits do. They push answers that are rooted in doctrine. We believe -- and find -- that many policymakers, regardless of their own party affiliation, are more likely to absorb and be influenced by Brookings analysis precisely because we have no partisan or ideological ax to grind.

New York, N.Y.: Does Brookings give policy advice to other governments or does it confine itself to advice for U.S. policy?

Strobe Talbott: It doesn't happen too often that foreign governments as such ask us for advice, but we frequently have visitors here from other governments who ask us to help them better understand American policy. Washington-based diplomats -- that is from Embassy Row -- are frequent and numerous participants in our public events. Quite a few ambassadors come in regularly to consult with our scholars, sometimes one on one, sometimes at roundtable lunches put on by our Foreign Policy Studies department. We also have a number of programs in partnership with research organizations in other countries. Our Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies does collaborative work in South Korea, Japan, Russia and China. We do a great deal in Germany, the UK and France, and we're beginning to develop some partnerships in India as well.

IRmep: Brookings is being modest.  As most now know, the Israeli policy paper, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" was prepared by U.S. think tank luminaries Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Meyrav Wurmser, David Wurmser, and a number of other leading U.S. pundits.  Many Americans are now questioning whether the U.S. is now implementing what is truly a "foreign" Middle East policy.

Long Beach, Calif.: Considering the number of think tanks, is there a way to "rate" them, or mention their sponsors, so that people can get a read on who exactly is paying the bills? How can we know, otherwise?

Strobe Talbott: Here at Brookings, we believe in "transparency" -- both as a principle of American democracy (and in other countries as well), and as a principle for the way we operate. You can find everything you need to know about our funders on our Website (under "About Brookings"), or you can get us to send you a copy of our annual report. The IRS form 990 is also available at your request.

IRmep:  Brookings is anything but transparent.  It has followed the same lead of most other think tanks in blacking out the names of contributors that fund more than 2% of total contributions.  Brookings and others are very careful about hiding this information, because if brought to the light of day, it would reveal unique insights about the interests that shape US policy.

What is public is the level of individual contributor concentration.   Between 1996 and 1999, a handful of donors, five in all, contributed 25% of  the $46 million in gifts, grants and contributions to Brookings.  Who were they?   What did they want?  What caveats and focus did they wish to see in the policy research funded by their generous contributions?  Few outsiders know.

Washington, D.C.: A good book -- 'Think Tanks and Civil Societies' by James G. McGann & R. Kent Weaver, one who works at Brookings.

Strobe Talbott: Thanks for the plug. I'll pass it along to Kent, who's a good friend and colleague and helping us think about the future of Brookings in what is, as your fellow-questioners have pointed out, a constantly changing and very competitive environment. But it's also, increasingly, a collaborative environment. The issues facing our country are so numerous and complex and daunting that all of us on Think Tank Row, whatever our differences, need to find ways of double- and triple-teaming the tough issues. That's why we partner with AEI and the Urban Institute, just as two of many examples.

IRmep:  The ability to collaborate, and even physically connect their buildings, also reveals something about America's top tier think tanks: they have much more in common with each other than they do with multiplicity of interests across the U.S.  The self referential book is a clear example that think tanks, working alone or in coalition, are largely closed feedback loops.

Strobe Talbott: To everyone who's participated, my thanks for excellent questions. And to those I didn't get to, my apologies. But keep in touch through our Website!

IRmep:  Most policy research institutes today do not actually engage in real research, their main function is policy promotion.  Brookings, AEI, WINEP, Hudson, and others have many predefined ideas about where they'd like to take America, from ideas on environmental issues, to places like Iraq. 

However, Americans can become more informed on policy by seeking out experts with few vested interests: American academics.  We invite you to consider funding IRmep's Network of Targeted Academics for that reason: think tanks like Brookings are a problem while IRmep is the cure.


Become a Member

Subscribe to the IRMEP
Mailing List

 |  home | search | site info | privacy policy  | contact us! | MEASURE | CPLE

spacer.gif (905 bytes)
Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy, Inc. (IRmep)
Telephone: (202) 342-7325 E-mail: IRMEP Info Comments about this Site

Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy, Inc.
Copyright 2002-2016 IRmep. All Rights Reserved.
Content may not be reprinted or retransmitted in whole

or part without the expressed written consent and
citation of IRmep unless otherwise directed.

This site is optimized for Internet Explorer 5 or higher and a

screen resolution of 800 x 600 and above