I just wrote this piece for TPM Cafe and invite any debate about what I’m suggesting.
I have recently received some friendly criticism for focusing on things that are “too inside DC.” I think my writing and commentary are pretty diverse — but I’ll think about broadening the subject matter in coming months.
But this article on Brookings’ personnel decisions is very much an ‘insider’ type of commentary. I think that those thinking about what it takes to build a healthy foreign policy debate in Washington need to think about the institutions that are involved. Brookings has generally been the home anchor of centrist/progressive foreign policy work, even when Richard Haass headed its foreign policy team.
For various reasons, Brookings was missing in action during the build up to the Iraq War in 2002 and early 2003, and Brookings being AWOL contributed, in my view, to the pathetic, inchoate response by Democrats to Bush’s foreign policy vision.
I recently got the list of candidates that were being considered to succeed Brookings VP and Foreign Policy Director James Steinberg who is off in two weeks to become the new Dean at the LBJ School of Public Policy at the University of Texas Austin. The list included Ivo Daalder, Richard Falkenrath, Philip Gordon, Charles Lutes (I think this is right — I just got the last name Lutes and am speculating that Col. Lutes of the National Defense University INSS program is the person), Paul Stares, and Carlos Pasqual.
Strobe Talbott should have selected Ivo Daalder in my view because he’s the foreign policy guy with vision, publications, and a tenacity to be the kind of warrior our current foreign policy debates need. I don’t agree with Daalder on everything — but do in a significant number of areas.
But my objection is not based on whether I agree with Daalder or not, it’s based on my view that Talbott has selected a candidate who will keep Brookings AWOL — rather than get it deeply enmeshed in the foreign policy scramble that is going on.
The piece at TPM Cafe is long, very insider-DC. Just wanted to give fair warning.
— Steve Clemons