Michael Ledeen gives his viewpoint on the end of the think tank era:
Buried in a plethora of websites, internet links and tweets.
The era of powerful think tanks is pretty much over. Their glory days—when Brookings, AEI, the Institute for Policy Studies, Cato, along with Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim ones, blossomed all over the country—have been buried in a plethora of websites, internet links, and tweets.
To be sure, the scores of think tanks publish a lot, hold important meetings and seminars, and attract generous donors and consummate intellectuals and scholars. But it’s different now. When I first came to Washington in the late seventies, I started a new foreign policy magazine at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, then the hardcore of the Republican establishment. Most of you are too young to remember names like David Abshire, Ray Cline and Anne Armstrong; they mattered a lot, and CSIS, along with the American Enterprise Institute, served as a counterbalance to the liberal think tanks, especially Brookings.
During the twenty years I spent at AEI, the scholars there would have made a brilliant faculty at any top university, but the schools weren’t interested. Like the think tanks, the university world was divvied up among political parties and factions. FDD, where I currently toil, boasts the most variegated staff, and is training a new generation of researchers centered on the key questions of terrorism, Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela. As in the past, these men and women would add a lot to our higher education, but it’s not happening. Instead, political players and institutions fund those inclined to pursue narrowly defined missions.
The think tanks were a key part of the policy universe, but we don’t need them like we used to. There are so many outlets, so much internet, that anyone with plenty of cash can create a new vehicle, even when the old political categories disappear.
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