AEI Fellow: Mature Think Tanks Criticize Their Friends
In the course of a puffy Politico profile of Nate Fick, the CEO of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank with close ties to the White House, comes the snipe from the American Enterprise Institute:
“Think tanks develop into a more mature institution when they are willing to say unpleasant things about their friends. But CNAS hasn’t done that yet, and they haven’t really had the opportunity to,” said American Enterprise Institute defense studies head Tom Donnelly. “That’s a benchmark of whether they can withstand the test of time.”
Yeah, like the time Donnelly said the surge didn’t achieve its objectives with regard to Iraqi politics; or denounced Dick Cheney’s conceptions of national security; or called out John McCain’s presidential campaign for, I don’t know, saying McCain wouldn’t meet with the Spanish prime minister. There’s a good point to be made about the Center for a New American Security having yet to critique, for instance, the counterinsurgents in the Obama administration, many of whom matriculated from the think tank. But there’s an unfortunate tendency in Washington to measure intellectual honesty by the willingness to attack your friends, rather than, say, the merits of a particular critique.