Think Tanks and U.S./Middle East Policies
This debate topic should encourage homeschool students to research American and Middle Eastern history, international affairs, geography, and the economics of trade, development, and energy. For over ten years Economic Thinking workshops have helped students learn key economic principles and apply those principles to national debate topics. This year Economic Thinking is offering online workshops and resources for students attending workshops around the country.
Students researching the U.S./Middle East topic will find divergent opinions and analysis among international relations scholars, and among market-oriented think tanks. The Heritage Foundation promotes tax cuts and spending reductions to shrink the size and scope of government, and emphasizes that the U.S. Constitution, though ratified over two centuries ago, still should be the law of the land. Generally though, Heritage Foundation scholars and policy studies oppose reducing military spending. Here is a Heritage Foundation blog post with foreign policy statements from Eisenhower, Goldwater, and Reagan. Here is the Heritage Foundation page on national security and defense policy. This July, 2014 article in the Heritage Foundation Insider calls for a pragmatic approach to foreign affairs (after being critical of domestic economic policies that weaken the economy).
For the United States, the 20th century marked a decided shift from nonintervention to the offensive use of military power. In some instances, such as the defeat of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, the exercise of American strength was necessary, but in many instances, it did little to protect the nation’s vital interests. Too often in the post–World War II period, American policymakers were susceptible to using military power simply because it was there. As Madeleine Albright once asked then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
The Cato Institute is also a pro-market Washington DC think tank calling for tax reductions, reduced government spending, and a return to Constitutional restraints on government. But Cato Institute defense policy analysts oppose current military spending and commitments, and call for large reductions in U.S. military presence overseas and in the Middle East. Cato’s page on Foreign Policy and National Security is here.
Also strongly on the noninterventionist side of this debate are Independent Institute scholars–defense and foreign policy articles are here. The Independent Institute has published books calling for major reforms of U.S. foreign and military policy (listed along with economics and domestic policy books, by publication date). (Also, for the last two summers, I have spoken at and helped direct the Independent Institute’s Challenge of Liberty summer seminars.)
The American Enterprise Institute favors maintaining or increasing military spending and commitments, and the AEI foreign policy page is here. Like the Heritage Foundation, AEI, apart from military spending, favors lower federal spending and less intervention in the economy. The Center for Strategic and International Studies publishes extensively on foreign policy and military strategy issues, and advocates maintaining or increasing military spending and foreign military commitments.
There are other pro-market public policy think tanks that publish studies and books on foreign policy and military spending, but I am most familiar with Heritage, Cato, AEI, CSIS, and Independent. The Hoover Institution is also a valuable resource on foreign policy and here is their National Security page. Here is a recent Hoover Digest article coauthored by Condoleezza Rice “A Matter of National Security” Subtitle: “The defense of the republic begins in the classroom.” The authors claim “education in our country is a challenge to our national security.”
The ongoing debate over foreign policy among traditional conservatives (often opposed to “neoconservatives”) can be found on The Imaginative Conservative, edited by Winston Elliot and Bradley Birzer (of Hillsdale College), and published by the Center for the American Republic. (Some years ago, I directed the Center’s educational programs.) Here is their page with various Foreign Affairs posts.
Economic Thinking workshops for NCFCA students will focus on the economics of U.S. Middle East policy. Debates about U.S. “dependence” on oil from the Middle East is central to many current U.S. policies. Every U.S. President since the Arab oil embargo of the Nixon Administration has called for ending dependence on imported oil. To what extend does the United States, in 2014, depend on oil imports from the Middle East? If these oil supplies were reduced or cut off, what effect would that have on world affairs and U.S. security? I discuss this in an earlier post, Economic Fallacies form Shaky Foundations for U.S./Middle East Policy.
This interesting 2009 Foreign Policy article gives the perspective from Saudi Arabia on the importance of oil interdependence, and the fallacies inherent in calls for energy independence. Here is a John Stossel segment Energy Independence: Fact vs. Fiction. Robert Bryce, author of Gusher of Lies is critical of energy independence and speaks on his book on the Fora.tv segment (substance begins at 5:30). Here is Bryce’sWashington Post article “5 Myths About Breaking Our Foreign Oil Habit.” John Stossel on energy independence at Reason.com. Plus, over the last few years, the shale oil boom has continued along with surging tar sands oil production in Canada.
So if U.S. imports of oil from Saudi Arabia are not a major economic or national security concern, it seems time to change U.S./Middle East policies that were based on 1970s-era fears of oil supply shocks.
1. The Economic of U.S. Foreign Policy study guide (coming soon. Currently being revised.)
2. Two articles by Ernst van der Haar explain the international policy views of classical liberal political economists (Adam Smith, David Hume, Ludwig von Mises, and F.A. Hayek). The shorter article is Classical Liberalism and International Relations (pdf), and his longer and more recent article is here: Hayekian Spontaneous Order and the International Balance of Power (pdf) Economists favor lowering barriers to trade and international investment as was both to increase prosperity and promote peaceful relations between people in different countries.
3. This page has notes and links to articles and video segments from a presentation I gave in 2011 to a SCONA conference at Texas A & M, “The Role of Economics and Ideas in War and Reconstruction.” Of particular interest for debaters are the articles explaining how bad economic policies in Iraq, Egypt, and other countries directly contribute to poverty, violence, and spur terrorism. Megan McArdle’s article in the Atlantic (When Freedom is Bad for Business), focuses on the lack of economic freedom in Iraq.