- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

The World Policy Institute has released a “roundtable” of articles on what the Democrats should do about national security now that they control Congress. It appears in the new issue of the group’s quarterly journal World Policy. Like previous WPI blue prints, it is a call for America’s unilateral disarmament and global retreat.

The WPI is located at the New School which styles itself as a “progressive university.” Its Greenwich Village campus in Manhattan prepares students “to bring actual, positive change to the world.” Among such self-styled progressives, this mission is identified with embracing radical foreign regimes while restraining American power. One of the WPI’s top projects is to foster “engagement” with Fidel Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba and drop the “unilateral embargo” on trade and investment in the Marxist state. It has held “summits” to promote “national reconciliation” in Cuba. The 2003 summit featured former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as the keynote speaker.

While the WPI is suspicious of Washington’s push for democracy in foreign lands, it has a very uninhibited idea of how democracy should evolve in the United States. Its Immigrant Voting Project “promotes research and discussion about reinstating voting rights in local elections for all community residents, regardless of their citizenship.” Foreign voters can thus decide American elections.

The WPI’s post-September 11, 2001, strategic outlook argues that “America’s post-Cold War obsession with dominance is counterproductive. … The main goal of American foreign policy should therefore be to encourage the development of other responsible centers of power and authority.” It has a Privatization of Foreign Policy project linked to “limitations on state power.”

WPI has an Arms Trade Project led by senior fellow William Hartung, “promoting restraint in the international arms trade. The center performs research on the U.S. weapons trade and U.S. arms sales policy” with no mention made of weapons proliferation to rogue states by Russia or China. Mr. Hartung writes frequently for the Nation and has long been a critic of U.S. weapons programs. In the 1990s, he opposed offering NATO membership to Eastern European states.

Mr. Hartung authors the lead “agenda” piece in the roundtable, arguing, “In an ideal world, the Democratic-led Congress would move from rhetorical opposition to the Bush administration’s Iraq policy to forceful action that includes defunding key aspects of the war. Whether or not this happens, there are other areas — from curbing the arms trade to blocking development of a new generation of nuclear weapons — where Congress can promote policy shifts that can head off future conflicts.” It is hard not to conclude from this framework that Mr. Hartung, and the WPI, believe a strong America is the primary threat to world peace.

Among specific acts to curb the arms trade, Mr. Hartung feels “Congress should hold hearings on the role of U.S.-supplied cluster bombs in recent and ongoing conflicts in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.” The long-term WPI goal is an international ban on cluster bombs.

Not only should the United States not upgrade its nuclear arsenal, it should abandon its “unworkable and unnecessary” missile defense program and refrain from placing any weapons in space. Mr. Hartung blames America for China’s test of an anti-satellite weapon last January, saying the “test was carried out only after years of U.S. opposition to Chinese proposals for a treaty banning weapons in space.” Mr. Hartung cannot be ignorant of Beijing’s very transparent motives for making such treaty proposals. The effect of most arms control initiative over the last century, particularly those entered into before the two world wars, has been to constrain those in the lead while others catch up. It seems clear the WPI shares China’s disdain for American pre-eminence.

Mr. Hartung favors tighter congressional oversight of supplemental spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, but not to avoid loading up such bills with pork as the new Congress has done. He wants to prevent funds going to military projects. Oversight “would allow Congress to strip out billions or tens of billions of non-Iraq spending … [which] could well be used to float new weapons programs, expand old and unnecessary ones, increase the size of the armed forces,” he says.

It would be nice if the WPI could be dismissed as just another gaggle of perfidious leftists. But the WPI has a record of influencing the Democrats. It should be remembered that in 1988, when the Democrats hoped to capture the White House, a WPI task force called for massive force level cuts, with the aim of “precluding U.S. intervention in regional conflicts except for humanitarian purposes and U.N.-sanctioned peacekeeping efforts.” Several of these task forces members went into the Clinton administration four years later.

The deep cuts in troop strength in the 1990s are why forces are stretched so thin today. The WPI does not want U.S. forces rebuilt, only further degraded. Its aim is still to render America incapable of defending its interests and values in a dangerous world. Is this what the Democrats want too?

William R. Hawkins is senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council Educational Foundation.

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