Friday, August 22, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#140)

  • Should think tanks be concerned about abusing donor intent?
  • Just want to network at think tank events? Why not just do some lobby-conning
  • Ludwig van Mises: Inspiring think tanks across the globe, via Alejandro Chafuen.
  • David Ignatius on the think tanker abundant, off-the-record discussions at Aspen Strategy Group.
  • Flashback: Tim Groseclose & Jeffrey Milyo's study on news outlets and which think tanks they favor.
  • Cato Institute encourages Congressional staffers to edit Wikipedia.
  • Who has better job security: A Washington pollster or a Washington think tanker?
  • Ken Silverstein's e-book "Pay to Play Think Tanks: Institutional Corruption and the Industry of Ideas."
  • Council on Foreign Relations' (CFR) YouTube channel nearing 15,000 followers.
  • President of Center for the National Interest (CNI) Dimitri Simes and Richard Burt, members of CNI's board of directors, join Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) foreign policy advisory team.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dangers of Think Tanking Revealed With New App

Besides getting a paper cut from a foreign policy white paper, accidentally stabbing yourself with a pen, or being gently shoved while in line to grab a sandwich before a policy speech, attending think tank events is fairly safe.

But a new app may make you think otherwise.  Enter SketchFactor, a new crowdsourced app that lets people identify "sketchy" places so they can be warned of any potential hazards.

Think Tank Watch visits scores of think tank events each year and decided to give SketchFactor a test drive to see how safe the neighborhoods of think tank land really are.  Here are some results:

  • Brookings (Dupont Circle): Reports of "homeless people calling you out for anything you're wearing," as well as "propositions for sex and harassing you for money."  One user also noted that a Starbucks near Brookings has really slow service.  Another user notes the "super loud and annoying" construction going on south of Brookings.
  • American Enterprise Institute (South Dupont): One user complains of loud construction nearby, as well as people hanging out in a nearby cigar shop with "apparently nothing better to do."
  • Center for American Progress (McPherson Square): Users note a few murders nearby.  Another user highlights the "high corruption area" near the White House.  One user mentions that a "gang of prostitutes" propositioned him nearby and that the area "gets sketchy" after 6pm.
  • Heritage Foundation (Union Station): One user was approached for money at a bus station nearby and threatened.  Another user had his/her car broken into nearby.
  • Cato Institute (Mass. Ave.): One user complained of homeless people "panhandling all day."  Another user noted a "really cute bulldog" in the neighborhood.

No one ever said that think tanking was easy, but somebody has do it...

Texas Gov. Rick Perry to Give Major Speech at Heritage Foundation

Today (August 21) Texas Governor Rick Perry will give a speech at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation at an event titled "The Border Crisis and the New Politics of Immigration."

Here is more from the Heritage Foundation's blog, The Daily Signal:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, under indictment on two felony counts, is in the nation’s capital today to deliver a speech at The Heritage Foundation about the border crisis plaguing his state.
Perry, who has been active and outspoken about immigration, will deliver his remarks at noon (available via live webcast). He’ll also no doubt face questions on the felony charges against him alleging that he abused his power by threatening to veto funding for a Democratic district attorney.
The potential Republican presidential candidate was indicted by a grand jury Friday on charges he abused his office and tried to coerce an elected official to resign.

ABC News says that the think tank speech will give Gov. Perry the opportunity to test his messaging after being indicted on abuse-of-power charges.  The National Interest suggests that Perry is going to Heritage to help his potential presidential bid.

The Heritage Foundation is a popular stop for conservative leaders, politicians, and presidential candidates both inside and outside of Washington.

This year, Heritage Foundation was ranked as the 17th best think tank in the world by the University of Pennsylvania's think tank rankings.  It was rated as the 8th best think tank in the United States.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#139)

  • Should think tankers be foxes or hedgehogs?
  • If Hillary Clinton had been No. 44, by Wilson Center's Aaron David Miller.
  • Think tanks in China and their role in shaping Chinese policy.
  • Is it correct to label Cato Institute and Atlas Network as neo-liberal?
  • Do think tanks make us stupid?
  • New think tank launched in Turkey; Grover Norquist meets with free-market think tanks in Turkey.
  • India's Narendra Modi backed five-member think tank to replace Planning Commission.
  • How to get ahead in think tanking; Mike Moffat attacks Fraser Institute jobs study.
  • Wilson Center panel: Do friends spy on friends?; Wilson Center's Jane Harman asks: Why do women turn into suicide bombers.
  • New America Foundation's (NAF) International Security Program launches ISIS tracking map; NAF's X-Lab announces inaugural class of fellows to analyze near-future tech breakthroughs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Renowned Economist Justin Wolfers Joins PIIE

It was announced today that renowned Australian economist Justin Wolfers will join the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) as a Resident Senior Fellow effective September 1, 2014.  Here is more from PIIE about his planned research:
Wolfers' planned research includes a new assessment of the world income distribution, and also how inequality and economic growth affect subjective personal views of happiness and life satisfaction. His research will contribute to the Institute's ongoing set of projects on inequality and inclusive capitalism which are partially supported by a major grant from the ERANDA Foundation.

After his 2014-2015 term at the think tank, Wolfers will receive the title of nonresident senior fellow at PIIE.  After the stint at PIIE, Wolfers plans to return to the University of Michigan where he is a professor of public policy and economics.

Wolfers is currently a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.  He is also an editor of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (BPEA).

Even outside of Brookings and PIIE, Wolfers is a prolific think tanker.  According to his Brookings biography, Wolfers is also a Research Associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research; a Research Fellow with the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn; a Research Affiliate with the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London; an International Research Fellow with the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, and a Fellow of the CESifo, in Munich.

In response to a Think Tank Watch post on the top economics think tanks in the world, Wolfers pointed out that he is affiliated with five of the top 10.

Here is what Justin Wolfers had to tell the Washington Post about think tank land when he left Brookings after finishing a stint there as a visiting fellow from 2010-2011.  He rejoined Brookings in 2013.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria Now Accused on Plagiarizing From Think Tanks

CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who in 2012 was accused of plagiarism, is now being accused of even more plagiarism, including from think tanks.  Here is more from Mediaite.
Our Bad Media uncovered no less than twelve instances of plagiarism in CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria's extensive body of work, dated before he was accused of plagiarism back in 2012. Back then, he admitted to lifting sentences from a New Yorker article on gun control, but after suspending him and reviewing his work, his employers at the Washington Post, CNN, and TIME decided to write it off as an “isolated, one-time mistake,” as OurBadMedia characterized it, and continue to publish him to this day.
But according to Our Bad Media’s research, they didn’t actually review Zakaria’s work, and pointed out multiple incidents where he blatantly lifted passages from copy published by major news outlets, think tanks, and even Wikipedia.

More specifically, Our Bad Media says that Zakaria plagiarized from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP).  Here is more from Politico.

Plagiarism involving think tanks is alive and well.  Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on a BuzzFeed reporter caught plagiarizing from the Heritage Foundation.  Also, it was recently revealed that Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) plagiarized from various think tanks.

Tweet Forces Apology from Top Defense Think Tank

Who says that nothing exciting happens in August in Washington.  Yes, Congress is in summer recess, the president is on vacation, and think tank reports slow to a trickle.  But the usually quiet August in DC got a bit of excitement early this morning due to a provocative tweet from one of Washington's top think tanks.

Here is how Mashable tells the story:
The Twitter account of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an influential Washington-based think tank, told Amnesty International to "suck it" in response to a tweet arguing that the U.S. needs to "clean up" its human rights record in light of what's happening in Ferguson, according to screenshots taken by multiple people on Tuesday morning.
It's unclear if the tweet was a classic multi-account snafu, in which the operator of the CSIS Twitter feed intended to post with his own personal one but forgot to switch accounts, or if it was intentional. But CSIS seemed to acknowledge the tweet a little bit over an hour later.

This morning, Andrew Schwartz, CSIS's Senior Vice President for External Relations, said it was an intern who sent the tweet.  Here is more from Mashable:
"This tweet was sent by a CSIS intern who had access to our Twitter account," Schwartz said in an email to Mashable. "This intern is not authorized to speak for CSIS and I condemn his words. Apparently, he had meant to send the tweet from his personal account and got confused in the process. The tweet in no way reflects CSIS's views or any views of the scholars at CSIS. I personally apologize to Amnesty and am taking action internally at CSIS to address this incident."

Here is the Twitter apology from CSIS.  Even The Guardian picked up on the story.  Here is what The Raw Story had to say.  Here is what PR Week had to say.  And here is analysis from Muckety.  Here is more from Huffington Post.  And of course, the Twittersphere has had a field day with this tweet.  Some suggest that CSIS's brand has been damaged (doubtful).  Some think that the intern will be fired (possibly).  Others called the situation awkward (definitely).

Thank you interns, for making this Washington summer so much more interesting...By the way, is this the intern who caused all the outrage?  There are a variety of examples of interns being fired for tweets.  And for those who aren't sure about the latest Twitter etiquette, you may want to check out Mashable's "Complete Guide to Twitter Etiquette."

Think Tank Watch should also point out CSIS's joint collaboration with Amnesty.  For example, the think tank hosted a joint event with Amnesty International USA and Women In International Security (WIIS) in 2012 at CSIS's old office.  CSIS has also held events with various people from Amnesty International, such as this one on Syria.

CSIS was ranked as the 4th best think tank in the world by the University of Pennsylvania rankings released earlier this year.  It was also ranked as world's top defense and national security think tank.

Update: CSIS tells BuzzFeed that is has reached out on email to Amnesty and is following up with a phone call of apology.  When asked whether the intern would be fired, CSIS said it was "handling the matter internally."

Huffington Post is now reporting that Dawn Rennie, an Amnesty spokesperson, has said that CSIS has apologized and "no offense has been taken."

Also, the Washington Post has now weighed in, saying that CSIS's Twitter faux pas was worse than an incident in 2011 when a person managing the American Red Cross Twitter account tweeted about a plan to get "slizzerd" (i.e., drunk) on Dogfish Head beer.

Here is more from the Washington Post:
Obviously, there are some limits to the parallels: The Red Cross accidentally tweeted about some off-hour fun. CSIS, on the other hand, accidentally insulted a well respected human rights organization while endorsing a specific (and sometimes controversial) foreign policy tactic as protesters were literally running from tear gas on the streets of Ferguson. So a somber apology probably was the best way for CSIS to handle the situation.
But perhaps what's most damning about the think tank's slip-up is that readers might believe there was a grain of truth in the rogue tweet as far as policy strategy, if not the profane suggestion: While not the most hawkish of think tanks, some CSIS experts do seem to be in favor of an interventionist approach to foreign policy. In fact, the group's Internet home page is currently promoting commentary from Anthony Cordesman, the Burke Chair in Strategy at the institution and a former director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, titled "Iraq: A Time to Act."

Time magazine has just weighed in, saying: "technically, it's the intern's human right to tell people to suck it, so maybe we should cut him some slack."  And New York Magazine has some interesting commentary...

CSIS is trying to move on from the whole incident, saying that they have kissed and made up with Amnesty.

Michael Doran, a scholar at Brookings Institution, poked fun of the incident with this tweet.

Ironically, RAND Corporation just announced it is looking for a Social Media Manager.  This could be the perfect time to jump ship...They are looking for someone "passionate about social media" (check), with a "desire to share that passion" (check), with a "working knowledge of principles of reputation management" (check?).

By the way, here is a CSIS job announcement for an External Relations intern, dated July 24, 2014.  It notes that the intern will update Twitter and Facebook.

Here is a press statement from CSIS, calling it an "unconscionable" tweet directed to Amnesty.  It also notes that CSIS is "embarrassed" by the incident.  A tweet by CSIS calls the intern's tweet "abhorrent."

Even Mia Farrow tweeted about the incident.

The Washington Post's In the Loop has now weight in with some entertaining commentary, and so has MTV.

Should CSIS Fire its Intern?
make a poll

Monday, August 18, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#138)

  • On Norway's women-led think tanks.
  • Former Reagan Transportation Secretary James Burnley joins DC "think tank" (Eno Center for Transportation, which advocates for increased infrastructure spending)
  • New think tank launched to help churches.
  • Groups rally around think tank being sued for global warming views. 
  • Cool map from RUSI on Russia's reliance on Ukraine to design/produce military supplies. 
  • US spies missed urgency of ISIS/ISIL in Iraq threat, but did think tanks?
  • Tweets on Israel cost professor a new job; think tankers take heed.
  • House Liberty Caucus serves as a de facto competitor to the House's conservative think tank, the Republican Study Committee (RSC).
  • Former RAND Corp. scholar Renny McPherson co-founds RedOwl Analytics, which aims to analyze employee communications to identify top performers, flight risks.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry addresses East West Center to talk US vision for Asia-Pacific engagement.

Friday, August 15, 2014

On How Libertarian Think Tanks Party

The New York Times Magazine recently had a piece on the rise of libertarianism and mentions two libertarian think tank grandaddies: Cato Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).  Here is what it had to say about CEI's annual dinner:
She [Fox Business Network host and former MTV host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery] was the M.C. for the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner, which, as [Reason magazine editor in chief Matt] Welch put it to me, “in the tallest-dwarf category is considered to be one of D.C.'s best annual galas.” The C.E.I. is a 30-year-old organization that routinely sues federal agencies, often when new and onerous regulations are posted in the Federal Register. Tonight’s banquet had advertised itself as having an ‘80s theme, and so several of the 800 attendees arrived dressed as pop icons of that decade. After being introduced by Kennedy, the institute’s president, Lawson Bader, strode to the stage wearing the decidedly pre-1980s Scottish formal attire of black jacket and kilt. Announcing pending lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act and the N.S.A., Bader thundered, to righteous applause, “C.E.I. will continue to push back!
Between dinner courses, Kennedy informed the audience that there was to be a contest, with a prize awarded to the attendee who had recently flouted the most egregious law or regulation. My tablemates — among them Welch; a longtime member of the libertarian Cato Institute; a French academic; and a woman dressed as Cyndi Lauper — each scribbled their infraction on a piece of paper. One had smoked a joint on the sidewalk with a stranger, while another had traveled to Cuba without authorization.
At the night’s conclusion, Kennedy announced the winner. It was a woman who, despite her lack of veterinary certification, had illegally massaged a pug.

Think Tank Watch should also point out that although CEI likes to sue, it is also being sued.

And, talking of libertarian parties, the Cato Institute will be holding a Cato Congressional Staff Happy Hour on its Ken & Frayda Levy Liberty Garden rooftop on August 20.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

AEI President Interviewed on Think Tanks

Dick Meyer, Chief Washington Correspondent for Scripps News, has just interviewed American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks.  Think Tank Watch has listened to the nearly 15-minute broadcast and has picked out its favorite think tank comments:

Quotes from Dick Meyers:
  • Think tanks are "heaven on Earth" for policy wonks.
  • The influence of think tanks is behind-the-scenes but pervasive.
  • Think tanks are quiet places that carry a big stick.
  • Think tanks mostly try to influence Congress.
  • Think tanks feed the need that news media has for instant access to experts.
  • I always thought the phrase "think tanks" was kind of a science-fiction movie where super-thinking brains were suspended in neuro-ooze.
  • There is a nasty nickname for think tank experts: "rentallectuals."
  • AEI PresidentArthur Brooks has become a superstar in the world of Washington brainiacs in the five years he's been running AEI.
  • At 49, Arthur Brooks has already written six books and edited even more.  He is lean and fit with a well-groomed stubble and an aura of intensity.  He wears power suits but they're cut in a skinny, hip style.  He's not exactly what you'd expect as a booster of AEI's conservative philosophy.

Quotes from Arthur Brooks:
  • AEI has 200 full-time scholars and staff; around 60 are full-time scholars.
  • Most of the think tanks in and around Washington, DC have taken public subsidies, but AEI has never taken a dime from the government.
  • Had it not been for conservative think tanks, welfare reform would not have happened under Bill Clinton in 1996...[Brooks then called Clinton a "courageous president"] and said that the welfare idea came from scholars at AEI.  [Mr. Myers noted that Bill Clinton may disagree with that idea.]
  • AEI has a "firewall" between its funding and research.

Can't get enough of Arthur Brooks?  Check out this recent Bill Moyers interview with Brooks.  And of course, check out the multiple posts that Think Tank Watch has done on AEI and Arthur Brooks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#137)

  • Sino-Japanese ties "at 40 year low" says researchers from China's best-known think tanks.
  • OpenSecrets' Andrew Mayersohn on Ken Silverstein's e-book on think tanks and corruption; says we are in a "drunkard's search" in terms of think tank funding transparency.
  • Experts from the world's leading think tanks will moderate this year's Security Jam 2014, sponsored by Security & Defense Agenda (SDA) and IBM.
  • ASEAN welcomes the First Country Coordinators Meeting of the Network of ASEAN-China Think Tanks (NACT CCM).
  • Chinese think tank hires US talent.
  • What Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer says on the think tank circuit.
  • Premio PODER and On Think Tanks launch second edition of think tank awards for Peru.
  • China-Pakistan think tank seminar concludes in Islamabad.
  • Photos from Atlantic Council Leadership Awards held at the Ritz-Carlton featured in Washington Life Magazine's Summer 2014 edition (includes Chuck Hagel, Colin Powell, and the Huntsman clan).
  • Absence of think tanks "deeply felt" during Indian PM Narendra Modi's visit to Nepal.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Should You Be Able to Sue Think Tanks You Disagree With?

Ilya Shapiro, a Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief of Cato Supreme Court Review,  has just penned a piece titled "People Shouldn't Be Able to Sue Think Tanks When They Disagree with US," which bashes climatologist and geophysicist Michael Mann for suing the think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) due to some climate change-related disagreements.

Here is more:
What’s worse than a public policy debate that turns bitter and impolite? Well, for one, having the courts step into the marketplace of ideas to judge which side of a debate has the best “facts.”
Yet that’s what Michael Mann has invited the D.C. court system to do. In response to some scathing criticism of his methodologies and an allegation of scientific misconduct, the author of the infamous “hockey stick” models of global warming – because they resemble the shape of a hockey stick, with temperatures rising drastically beginning in the 1900s – has taken the global climate change debate to a record low by suing the Competitive Enterprise Institute, National Review, and two individual commentators. The good Dr. Mann claims that some blogposts alleging his work to be “fraudulent” and “intellectually bogus” were libelous.

The post goes on to say that Cato has filed a brief, joined by three other think tanks, urging the court to "stay out of the business of refereeing scientific debates."  [Those three other think tanks are Reason Foundation, Individual Rights Foundation, and Goldwater Institute.]

Suing a think tank is not unprecedented.  In fact, the libertarian Cato Institute was sued in 2012 by the Koch Brothers.  And suing think tanks is not simply a US phenomenon.  Just last month, philanthropist Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild said she is suing the British think tank The Henry Jackson Society over funds from a summit it held.  More specifically, the summit was the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism, which took place in May and included speeches by Prince Charles, Bill Clinton, and Christine Lagarde.

To be sure, think tanks also sue.  For example, the Institute for Policy Integrity sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an attempt to force cap-and-trade rules.  The think tank CEI has also sued the US Treasury Department for withholding internal carbon tax documents.  CEI recently announced it is suing the National Security Agency (NSA) in order to obtain EPA records they believe are in violation of federal recordkeeping laws.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Best Think Tank Fellowship on Planet Earth?

There are think tank fellowships and there are think tank FELLOWSHIPS.  And one of the most generous fellowships is Council on Foreign Relations' (CFR) International Affairs Fellowship (IAF).

IAF, launched in 1967, is targeted toward mid-career scholars and professionals between the ages of 27 and 35.  CFR awards around 10 IAF fellowships annually.

One can apply online between July 1 and October 31 on an annual basis, and finalists are notified between December and January.

Most importantly, the 12-month fellowships awards of stipend of $85,000.  Let me say that again.  A stipend of $85,000!  But don't get too excited, because fellows are considered independent contractors and are not eligible for employment benefits, including health care.

But that is not all that CFR offers.  Even more generous is the Stanton Foundation-sponsored International Affairs Fellowship in Nuclear Security (IAF-NS), which pays $125,000 for 12 months.  But CFR awards only around two of those annually.

CFR also has the International Affairs Fellowship in Japan (sponsored by Hitachi, Ltd.), the National Intelligence Fellowship, the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship (with a $65,000 stipend and a "modest" travel grant), Military Fellowships, and the Stanton Nuclear Security Fellowship (which ranges from $50,000 to $100,000),

A list of the 2014-2015 IAF fellows can be found here.  And a historical roster of IAF fellows can be found here.

A list of former CFR fellowships can be found here.

Can't seem to snag a CFR fellowship?  Don't fret.  Plenty of other think tanks offer fellowships.  Third Way says it offers a "competitive" stipend for its 12-month fellowship program.  The US-China Exchange Fellowship at Brookings offers a stipend of $36,000 for its nine-month program.  Among others, Brookings also has a joint visiting fellowship at the Brookings Doha Center and Qatar University.

US Institute of Peace's (USIP) Jennings Randolph Senior Fellowship is being redesigned.  RAND Corp. has a Transatlantic Post-Doctoral Fellowship for International Relations and Security (TAPIR), which pays a monthly stipend of 1,800 Euros, a 200 Euro per month health insurance allowance, and a one-time travel allowance of 3,500 Euros.

The Heritage Foundation is another think tank that offers a variety of fellowships, as is the Wilson Center, which offers 9-month residential fellowships (and round-trip travel is provided).  The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) offers a Junior Fellows Program for graduating seniors and individuals who have graduated during the past academic year.  Each year CEIP offers approximately 10-12 of those one-year fellowships.

The Atlantic Council has the Young Atlanticist Program, and recently announced the Arctic Climate Change Emerging Leaders (ACCEL) Fellowship.  The German Marshall Fund (GMF) offers a variety of fellowships, and although not called a fellowship, the Center for American Progress (CAP) has a Leadership Institute that one can apply to.  New America Foundation (NAF) also offers fellowships, and NAF's X-Lab just announced its inaugural class of fellows..

The Stimson Center has the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship, offering six and nine-month stints at the think tank focusing on arms control, peace, and international security issues.  And the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has the AILA International Fellowship (AIF) through the think tank's Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy.

Happy fellowship hunting.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Iran Wants New Think Tank to Counter "Enemy" Plots

Here is what the Tehran Times is reporting:
Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is currently the chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, has said that it is essential to establish a regional think tank to counter “complicated plots” in the Middle East region in particular and the entire Islamic world.
Rafsanjani made the remarks during a meeting of the Expediency Council on Saturday.
In the think tank, all the experts in international relations should cooperate with each other to find a way to resolve the current regional crises, he stated. 
He went on to say that all Muslims, both Shias and Sunnis, should find appropriate solutions to the crises in the region created by the Zionist regime and extremist and terrorist groups.

Here is more from the Tasnim News Agency.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and his long relationship with the think tank world.

Back in 2007, US News and World Report put together a guide to think tanks and Iran (Think Tank Watch plans to put together a much more thorough and updated guide).  The Weekly Standard has a piece titled "Iran's 'Think Tank' Outreach."

According to the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, Iran has 34 think tanks.  By comparison, Israel has 55 think tanks.  The UPenn rankings list one Iranian think tank - the Institut Francais de Recherches en l'Iran (IFRI) - as in the category of best think tanks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  It is ranked 43rd on that list.

The only other mention of an Iranian think tank on the UPenn rankings is the Center for Sustainable Development and Environment, which is ranked as the 35th best environmental think tank in the world.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#136)

  • Wall Street economists vs. Brookings.
  • Think tanks on the agenda in India, via On Think Tanks.
  • CIA Director John Brennan lied about spying on the US Senate at a speech he gave at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
  • Why the obsessive doodler next you at at the think tank event may be retaining more information than you (hat tip to Andrew Selee of Wilson Center).
  • Think tank parody: The Ukraine crisis explained in GIFs.
  • CEI on the "Red Tapeworm" - federal agencies that issue the most rules.
  • AEI on why corporations shouldn't pay any taxes - zero, zilch, nada.
  • Joseph Chinyong Liow named Lee Kuan Yew Chair in Southeast Asia Studies at Brookings.
  • CAP says not so fast on LNG exports.
  • Former State Department Senior Advisor Mary Beth Goodman joins CAP as Senior Fellow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

China's Think Tanks Love Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be getting love from Washington and its think tanks, but it sure is getting some love from Chinese think tanks.  Here is more from The Diplomat:

But it is in Chinese foreign policy circles where observers should be most worried about Beijing’s portrayal of Putin and the admiration he receives. Government-affiliated academics have notably praised Russia’s leader for his willingness to challenge the West head-on across a wide range of issues. Inside the first cover story of the year in Global People, a magazine run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece People’s Daily, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) researcher Wu Wei praised Putin for usurping America’s traditional role as the defender of democracy by welcoming NSA defector Edward Snowden into the open arms of Russia’s intelligence service. It is worth noting that CASS is directly subordinate to the PRC’s State Council.
Putin has admirers at other major Chinese think tanks as well. Liu Guiling, an analyst at the Ministry of State Security’s China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), writes that Putin has earned his constituents’ support through the pursuit of Russia’s own “Great Power Dream.” Liu asserts this “dream” includes advancing Russia’s national rejuvenation, creating a stronger military, and standing up to foreign interference — themes reminiscent of President Xi Jinping’s own “China Dream.” Likewise, deputy director of CICIR’s Institute of World Political Studies Chen Xiangyang describes Putin’s foreign policies in the context of a “new international situation” and an increasingly multi-polar world. Chen argues that in 2013, Putin’s pressure on Obama over Syria’s civil war and the Iran nuclear issue helped further Moscow’s interests at America’s expense. Chen went so far as to call Putin an “international strategy chess master” for his defense of Russian strategic interests in this year’s Ukraine crisis.
In their admiration of Putin, some Chinese analysts see a blueprint for more assertive Chinese foreign policy. Guo Jinyue from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) writes that in comparison with Beijing’s own relatively “mild and moderated” tactics for managing western interference, Putin’s unyielding stance has raised the spirits of China’s hawk faction. Given that CASS, CICIR, and CIIS are all government think tanks affiliated with different organs of state power, these views likely represent a broad segment of the CCP’s own thinking regarding their northern neighbor’s strongman.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about the crackdown at one of China's top think tanks.  Here is another recent Think Tank Watch piece about Chinese hackers targeted powerful US think tanks.  Here is another piece about a recent think tank summit in China.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Revelations About Nixon's Planned Attack on Brookings

A plot to firebomb and burglarize a well-known think tank in Dupont Circle?  Yes, those were the wild days of the 1970s.

It is the 40th anniversary of  President Richard Nixon's resignation stemming from Watergate, and a variety of new books are coming out about the scandal as well as other Nixon plans and plots, including one against the venerable think tank Brookings Institution.  Here is more from a recent article about three new Nixon books:

Ken Hughes, who helps run the Miller Center's Presidential Recording Program at the University of Virginia, said that a year before the Watergate break-in, Nixon's aides drew up plans to cover up a crime Nixon committed during his 1968 campaign.
Hughes, who also has researched the White House tapes of Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy, said the president had ordered the men to break into the Brookings Institution to steal documents about Vietnam.
Hughes said he uncovered evidence suggesting Nixon wanted the documents because they prove he manipulated South Vietnamese policy in 1968 to boost his popularity.
"He asked the South Vietnamese to sabotage the 1968 peace talks until after the election," said Hughes.
"Liddy and [coconspirator E. Howard] Hunt came up with a plan to firebomb the Brookings and send in burglars dressed as firemen," said Hughes.
The plan was abandoned. "The White House told them it would be too expensive to get a fire truck," said Hughes.

Here is more about the plans Nixon had for Brookings.  Yes, there is actual recorded proof of this.

Men Dominate "Thinking" Roles at Think Tanks

A new piece published this week for Roosevelt Institute's "Next New Deal" blog has some interesting comments and facts about women in think tanks.  Here is more:
Women are taking on leadership roles in think tank management, but men still dominate the thinking roles, making up the majority of scholars and “Senior Fellows” who influence policy. According to their public rosters, only a quarter of CAP fellows, 19 of 59 Brookings Institution experts, 20 out of 65 fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations, and seven of 33 Heritage Foundation fellows are women. In academia, an incubator of think tank experts, women hold only 24 percent of tenured positions at doctoral-granting institutions, and merely 19 percent of tenured full professor positions.

Possible reasons given for a lack of women representation in think tanks include family obligations, self-selecting against policy areas such as defense/finance, systematic bias, and difficulty in securing mentorships early in their careers.

Another possibility is a lack of women in political positions, according to the post:
A related problem is the lack of women in political positions, since many policy wonks rise from the ranks of former politicians and government officials. Less than 20 percent of federal and state legislators are women. They occupy only six of 23 cabinet and cabinet-level positions. If fewer women enter politics, fewer women join think tanks after serving their term.

The full blog post can be read here.  More about the Roosevelt Institute can be read here.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post about women in think tanks.  Here is another post on how 42 of the top 50 think tanks are run by men.  Who is the most powerful woman think tanker?  Is there a trend of women running think tanks?  Is the average think tank event just five guys in suits?

Top Think Tanks in Africa

With all the activities in Washington, DC relating to Africa this week, Think Tank Watch has poured through University of Pennsylvania's think tank rankings to put together the top African think tanks.  UPenn breaks Africa down into Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa (including the Middle East):

Top Think Tanks in Sub-Saharan Africa
  1. South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) (South Africa)
  2. Institute for Security Studies (ISS) (South Africa)
  3. African Economic Research Consortium (Kenya)
  4. IMANI Center for Policy and Education (Ghana)
  5. Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) (Senegal)
  6. Center for Development and Enterprise (South Africa)
  7. African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) (South Africa)
  8. Africa Institute of South Africa (South Africa)
  9. Centre for Conflict Resolution (South Africa)
  10. Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) (Botswana)

Top Think Tanks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA):
  1. Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (Egypt)
  2. Brookings Doha Center (Qatar)
  3. Center for Economics and Policy Studies (EDAM) (Turkey)
  4. Carnegie Middle East Center (Lebanon)
  5. Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) FNA Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (Israel)
  6. Al Jazeera Centre for Studies (Qatar)
  7. Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) (Turkey)
  8. Gulf Research Center (GRC) (Saudi Arabia)
  9. Arab Thought Forum (Jordan)
  10. Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (Israel)

Here is a Think Tank Watch post from this week on the various think tank activities in Washington, DC related to the US-Africa Leaders Summit.

Russia's Most Powerful Think Tank?

Small does not necessarily mean weak in the think tank world.  For a perfect example of this, we can turn to the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), which the Moscow Times has just profiled.  Here is more.

The chances are that any company gunning for a piece of that market will at some point come into contact with the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, or CAST, a for-profit think tank.
CAST is best known for its bimonthly magazines Eksport Vooruzheniy (Arms Exports), which is published in Russian, the English-language Moscow Defense Brief, and Periscope, a Russian-language media digest. But CAST also does market analysis and "miscellaneous defense crap that brings in money," according to its founder, Ruslan Pukhov.
CAST has been around for 17 years — an impressive stint for any Russian company, let alone in the defense industry, which is dominated by the state and plagued by occasional bouts of spy mania.
It does not exist in isolation — Russia has plenty of military analysts and people studying its arms industry — but CAST stands out among its competitors like a pirate at a forex trader convention.
This is partly due to its founder's personality: In a field dominated by heavy-jowled, ponderous men and soft-spoken military nerds, Pukhov is known for his rapier wit and, unofficially, the ability to deliver analysis using expletives.
An ironic message is displayed on CAST's website: "We don't sell weapons :) (although we have been asked to, on occasion)." You would hardly expect to see this on the website of the Institute of Global Security Problems in Moscow or even SIPRI.
But more importantly, CAST is a rare example of a privately owned — and thriving — company in a field populated by state institutes and think tanks affiliated with various governmental agencies and state-run corporations.

An English version of the CAST website can be found here.

According to the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, Russia has 122 think tanks.  Russia's top rated think tank is the Carnegie Moscow Center, which is rated as the 18th best non-US think tank in the world.

After that comes the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, which was ranked as the 46th best non-US think tank in the world.  Ranked as the third best think tank in Russia is the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, ranked as 82nd best non-US think tank in the world.  Ranked as the fourth best think tank in Russia is Moscow State Institute of International Relations, ranked as 85th best non-US think tank in the world.

Here is an article on the rise and fall of Russia's economic think tanks.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Think Tanks Heavily Involved in Obama's US-Africa Summit

Think tanks in and around Washington, DC are cranking out papers on Africa at an enormous pace as the US-Africa Leaders Summit comes to town for three days.  Several are also hosting heads of state from various African nations.  Here are some examples of think tank activity on Africa:

  • Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host the President of Mali on August 7.
  • Wilson Center on the opportunities at the US-Africa Leaders Summit.
  • Brookings holds major Africa Summit event at the Willard Hotel on August 4; to host President of Somalia on August 8; Brookings blog posts and interviews about US-Africa summit.
  • Atlantic Council hosts President of Tunisia on August 5; and August 6 event on doing business in the Sub-Sahara.
  • The Heritage Foundation says that the Obama Administration needs to stop ignoring Africa.
  • Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) on what to expect at the US-Africa summit.
  • Cato Institute on sustaining the economic rise of Africa.
  • US Institute of Peace (USIP) hosted UN Ambassador Susan Rice on July 30 to discuss the US-Africa Leaders Summit; USIP's summit resources on Africa; USIP closed to the public August 4-7 because of the summit.
  • Center for Global Development's (CGD) US-Africa Summit watch list.
  • Center for American Progress (CAP): Africa 2.0 - Looking to the future.
  • UK's Chatham House says that the US-Africa Summit feels like a speed dating exercise.

In a related topic, according to the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, Africa has 612 think tanks.

Think Tank Quickies (#135)

  • How CGD led the way to a $1.5 billion vaccine program.
  • Center for American Progress hosts Secretary of State John Kerry; launches "India: 2020" program to deepen partnership with India.
  • C-SPAN Q&A with CNAS head Michele Flournoy.
  • At Netroots Nations session titled "Stink Tanks in Your State," speakers denounce State Policy Network, which wants to build a 50-state network of free-market think tanks.
  • What music do you listen to when you enter a think tank event?
  • Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is on the market, but will a think tank gig pay enough?
  • Will Brookings raise more money than Obama's presidential library?
  • On New Organizing Institute, the Democrats' "think tank for campaign know-how."
  • Neal Urwitz, formerly of CSIS, named director of external relations at CNAS.
  • UPenn's think tank program visits Washington's think tank land. 
  • Heather Conley and Jon Alterman promoted to Senior Vice Presidents at CSIS.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Crackdown at One of China's Top Think Tanks

Discontent is sweeping through the ranks at one of China's most powerful think tanks - the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) - as powerful forces fight over whether CASS should be a propaganda tool or a real think tank.  Here is more from the South China Morning Post:
Government officials lodged accusations in June that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) - widely regarded as the nation's top think tank - lacks party loyalty and has been "infiltrated by foreign forces."
The academy has long been seen as a stronghold of the mainland's Marxist-Leninist ideologues and a propaganda tool of the Communist Party. But it's also well respected. It is considered one of the world's largest research institutes for social sciences in terms of personnel and physical resources.
More than 4,000 resident scholars - many of them China's best and brightest - work at the academy's 39 research institutes, 180 research centres and one graduate school.
In June the party criticised CASS scholars for not hewing to the party's ideological or political beliefs.
Zhang Yingwei, head of the party's discipline inspection office at CASS, said the academy had been "infiltrated by foreign forces" and "was conducting illegal collusion at politically sensitive times". He also said it had been using academic research as a guise for other purposes and using the internet to promote theories that played into the hands of foreign powers.
Last month, Zhao Shengxuan, vice-president and deputy party chief of CASS, was quoted in the People's Daily as saying the academy would "treat political discipline as a criterion of the utmost importance in the assessment of academics."
Party leaders fear the spread of liberal ideas, which run counter to communist orthodoxy, will undermine the party's rule. Analysts said the latest criticism showed the leadership's unease with the increasing openmindedness of academics.

The article says that in private, some CASS scholars said that recent developments have "sent a psychological chill" through intellectual circles.  It also says that some scholars have publicly expressed concerns that the tightening of ideological controls would distract from their academic research.

Analysts reportedly are saying that the development was part of President Xi Jinping's sweeping ideological campaign to target liberal intellectuals.

In the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, CASS was rated as the fourth best think tank in China, India, Japan, and Korea.  It was also ranked as the third best government-affiliated think tank in the world, only after the World Bank Institute (WBI) and United States Institute of Peace (USIP).  CASS was also ranked as the 9th best non-US think tank in the world.