by Kelley B. Vlahos
May 08, 2012

Last month in this space we discussed the role of top foreign policy/national security think tanks as standard-bearers for the military establishment and political status quo in Washington.

It’s a dizzy game that is no doubt taken seriously by many scholars who are quite earnest and impassioned about their respective fields of research, but it is also a hive, inhabited, too, by overweening courtiers and navel-gazing elite who shuffle around cyclical cocktail parties and windbag conferences, assuring their place.

It’s these types you see more often than not, quoted in newspapers and magazines and cooling their heels in mainstream media green rooms waiting to get on the air and when they do, they set the tone — they tell people what to think and how to think about the most complicated issues of our time. Like war.

That is what ultimately makes this more than just a harmless menagerie. If, like the Borg, the Beltway hive is wired to support the health and wealth of the national security state as the source of U.S. power projection abroad (whether it be humanitarian interventionism, neoconservatism or plain old corporatism), then the thrust of their output is to support war and the current trajectory of aggressive defense spending.

One need to look no further than the size of the federal deficit and ballooning cost of VA health care and benefits included in the projected $5 trillion price tag for our overseas wars, to see how this think tank heterodoxy is harming us.

To believe in the hive is to see it in action. There’s no better example than when the president spoke to the American people from Kabul last week. In his remarks, Barack Obama announced a “strategic agreement” with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which basically extends the U.S. war in Afghanistan indefinitely. The White House commits an untold number of American troops and civilian employees to that country through at least 2024 — all despite the growing public call for ending the war much sooner than that.

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