In “one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history,” the left’s favorite enemy, Charles Koch, and the right’s favorite enemy, George Soros, are combining forces and finances to fund a new think tank, in Washington: The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft that aims to end the American “forever wars” that have defined the first two decades of this millennium, and move past the foreign policy that led to them.
The Institute is named in honor of John Quincy Adams, who when Secretary of State, wrote on July 4, 1821, an admonition to his fellow Americans to try not to spread American power abroad:
[America] goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own…
She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force… She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
This advice was revived by revisionist socialist historian William Appleman Williams in the late 1950s, and became a credo for anti-imperialist activists on the left. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who while serving in the White House under John F. Kennedy, had been hostile to Williams, later began to reference Adams’ advice himself during the Vietnam War era. And in our current era, it is often referred to by writers in the pages of The American Conservative.
Following Quincy’s approach, the Institute promises to work on “ending endless war,” “democratizing foreign policy,” and favoring diplomacy. The use of armed force,” its principles assert, “does not represent American engagement in the world.”
Their attempt to build a bi-partisan think tank composed of opponents of the exercise of U.S. power abroad and of any military intervention, especially war, is not a new phenomenon. But it is a new attempt—this time with real money behind it in a $3.5 million first-year budget, including $500,000 each from Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation. Founding member and anti-interventionist scholar of the U.S. military and foreign policy Andrew Bacevich notes the group will invite “both progressives and anti-interventionist conservatives to consider a new, less militarized approach to policy” instead of “endless, counterproductive war.”