Since our founding in 2005, the innovative policy thinking and post-partisan approach of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation has posted significant accomplishments, moving the needle on a pragmatic, realist foreign policy vision for the next American grand strategy. Our scholars occupy the space on the cutting edge of foreign policy thinking, often taking risks to propose bold, visionary ideas and then to see them through. Our well-recognized approach of embracing an internationalist approach to foreign engagement while maintaining a savvy, realist understanding of America's core national interests has attracted a broad base of collaborators from both sides of the aisle.
The American Strategy Program (ASP) has expanded our outsized influence in the policy marketplace through a high-volume stream of content and activities calculated for maximum impact on critical issues-in collaboration with a broad array of well-placed allies and friends throughout Washington, Wall Street and across global capitals. As part of The New America Foundation, we lead Washington think tanks in the placement of op-ed articles and feature stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Through a packed calendar of activities, events, lectures, conferences, and VIP salon dinners with current and former senior officials we attract the highest levels of media attention - both in the mainstream press and on the world's most prominent bloggers. ASP events receive frequent CSPAN coverage and attract literally hundreds of attendees per event - on a consistent, sustained basis. In addition, the program's Director, Steven Clemons, maintains a prominent insider blog, The Washington Note on matters related to Washington foreign policy and global affairs.
ASP was launched with an eye toward the great unanswered question of America's role in the world. The first initiative of the program was called the "New Solarium Project on National Security," funded in large part through a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers' Fund. It was at the inaugural event of the Solarium Project, during a luncheon hosted by Steven Clemons in the Senate featuring former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft that Gen. Scowcroft uttered the words that cracked the façade of success in Iraq, saying, "Indeed we may be seeing an incipient civil war at the present time."
The Solarium Project culminated in a two-day mega conference entitled"Terrorism, Security, and America's Purpose" attracted over 1500 attendees and a cast of speakers from across the political spectrum. The high-level presenters included Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Gen. Wesley Clark, Tom Clancy, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Gov. John Huntsman (R-UT), George Soros, and current Deputy National Security Advisor Juan Zurate. At the conference, ASP facilitated a series of expert dialogues that produced five major working group summary papers and an array of white papers on American grand strategy and a range of foreign policy issues including terrorism, homeland security, and democracy promotion. The conference not only generated a swathe of press coverage in major newspapers, newswires, radio and television but had the effect of ending the assumption that the Global War on Terror was the proper frame for viewing America's role in the world.
Building off this conference, ASP set out to reframe the public debate on America's purpose, starting with deconstructing our approach to terrorism, Islam, and national security. Events following up on the major September conference-including a derivative conference entitled "Beyond Bullets: Economic Strategies in the Fight Against Terrorism", a dialogue on Al Qaeda's emerging Shia/Sunni problem with Al Jazeera's London Bureau Chief Yosri Fouda, and an assessment of the Bush National Security Policy by Former State Department Chief of Staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson-all generated considerable media attention. The speech by Col. Wilkerson alone produced over 35 stories in major media outlets within a week. The series brought to the forefront a number of issues that, up to this point, had not been discussed in the public realm such as the economics of terrorism, the intricacies and implications of the Sunni/Shia divide, and the recent discontinuities in and the significant corruption of the interagency process and U.S. national security decision-making.
Having contributed significantly to the re-opening of the debate over the proper role and disposition of U.S. power, ASP chose to engage in a series of specific, high-leverage debates employing our "tipping point strategy" to make a real, substantive difference in the intellectual and policy landscapes. Our involvement in three major international security debates illustrates this well - U.S. strategy towards Iran, the Middle East Peace Process, and U.S.-Cuba policy.
- Iran. ASP has been on the forefront of steering the debate away from the bleak binary choice of appeasement or bombing Iran and creating a viable third option of a "grand strategic bargain" spelled out in detail by ASP Senior Fellow and former Senior Director for the Middle East at the National Security Council, Flynt Leverett. This was orchestrated through a two year process of published papers, op-eds, public debates, lectures, creating the watering hole for debate on the blogosphere to craft alternatives to the neoconservative vision for the Middle East, and hosting four major policy conferences on Capital Hill.
- Middle East Peace Process. ASP has been instrumental to repackaging the argument to move this issue as a central piece of our rebuilding of a national security portfolio, both within the Middle East and globally. This culminated in a letter to the President regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process and the Annapolis conference convened on Nov. 27th, 2007, orchestrated and effectively authored by ASP. The original bipartisan letter, co-authored by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft along with six leading former U.S. officials, was published in the New York Review of Books and has been extensively mentioned in most media commentary leading up to the conference. Since its publication, more than 60 former diplomats, Congressional members, military generals, and national security experts have added their names as signatories and it is frequently cited as the benchmark for the success or failure of the Annapolis process.
- Cuba. A little more than a year ago, ASP launched a 21st Century U.S.-Cuba Policy program, convened and organized an informal steering committee, started a new blog The Havana Note with several contributing editors, and within a few months, raised the salience and profile of the issue to become a central part of foreign policy debate amongst Presidential contenders.
ASP has been able to punctuate these foreign policy and national security debates by hosting a series of high-level Salon dinners featuring former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, former State Department Chief of Staff Col. Larry Wilkerson, Legal Advisor to the Secretary of State John Bellinger, Senator Chuck Hagel, Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, Former Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Turki Al-Faisal, and General James E. Cartwright (now Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs). The Salons have received special attention and lead stories in Salon.com, The Guardian and the New York Times. These gatherings, conducted in the vein of President Eisenhower's solarium exercises, place high-level reporters and writers aside top foreign policy entrepreneurs and experts in a candid discussion with the speakers who challenge the conventional dimensions of establishment foreign policy thinking, and who are then in turn challenged by their audience.
In some arenas, especially among the wide variety of stakeholders in the grand strategy debate, it is essential to change Washington's policy DNA through the careful application of deliberate, high-level consensus building. Our Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative led by Jeffrey Lewis is deploying just this kind of quiet, behind-the-scenes effort. Rooted in the technical details or "inside baseball" that permeate questions of nuclear security, this initiative has used these quieter techniques to forge "a new middle ground," in the words of one Republican member of project's steering committee.
Proficiency in the levers of change in Washington is only one dimension of our capacity. Another dimension is our close collaboration and partnership with the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation. Covering the broad area where these two spheres of policy overlap, the American Strategy Program has created the Global Economic Strategy cluster of initiatives to both explore the economic dimensions of our overseas engagement and, more importantly, to look within the domestic economy of the United States for the drivers of our deepest national interests. This collaboration is what makes the Grand Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation particularly unique among Washington think tanks. Without the ability to think strategically about our economic base, the authors of Containment would not have been able to craft a winning strategy against the Soviet threat. Back then, our power contained Communist expansion while making the Cold War a contest of economic systems. Today, to meet the challenges of energy security, climate change, trade imbalances, and sustainable global growth, we again need our economy to do the strategic heavy lifting.
ASP has grown tremendously in a span of three years -- from a team of two to a team of forty-five including initiative directors, fellows, program staff, and research assistants. And in this time, it has added eight initiatives with different nodes of concentration within the broader national security/foreign policy world focusing on everything from nuclear non-proliferation to the geopolitics of energy and from Middle East policy to U.S.-Cuba policy. During this time, ASP scholars have written seven books on topics ranging from Al Qaeda networks, to the strategic mishaps of Iraq, to evaluations of America's next grand strategy and the remaking of the international order, pioneered by scholars like Michael Lind and Parag Khanna.