In a drive reminiscent of efforts after World War II, a new bipartisan group tries to chart a centrist course in a more divisive time.

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There was a distinct air of nostalgia in the room last week when organizers launched a group dedicated to promoting bipartisan consensus on foreign policy.

Partly that was because the two Washington veterans headlining the effort -- former Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.) and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) -- were last seen together playing key roles in the congressional investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal in 1988.

But the mood owed more to the example both men raised as the alternative to the partisan clashes over foreign policy that are common today. Each pointed to the years immediately after World War II, when patricians who have become known as the "Wise Men" shuttled between Wall Street and the inner circles of government, and internationalists in both parties locked arms to construct the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Marshall Plan.

Despite substantial disagreements between Democrats and Republicans, "both sides understood that there had to be a policy to take the world from where it was ... to where it would be as we sit here today," Rudman said at the news conference announcing the Partnership for a Secure America. "I would just say to you: It has been done before, and it can be done again."

But can it?

Most historians agree that the period after World War II represented the high point for a foreign policy establishment in both parties that steered a centrist course, despite resistance from each side's most ideological elements.

That tradition is still evident in the membership of the Partnership for a Secure America. Its advisory board includes a prominent array of moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats, including former secretaries of State, national security advisors and U.N. ambassadors from both parties.

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