I first met Alan Luxenberg in June 1991 at a restaurant on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. It was for lunch, and he was in the company of Adam Garfinkle. I will never forget that moment because I had never heard of either of them before, even as they were to remain guideposts regarding my thinking for decades to come. That lunch also cemented a relationship I would maintain with the Foreign Policy Research Institute for the next 28 years, and still counting. Every book I have published since 1991 would be presented at an event in Philadelphia, generously hosted by FPRI. That is 15 books so far.
Alan has been a form of bedrock: kind, completely dependable, and most importantly, a wellspring of wise, solid, foreign policy sense. Because of his silent hand and not-so-silent hand over the years, FPRI has been one think tank that has remained precisely true to its original vision, first articulated by its founder, Robert Strausz-Hupé, one of the great mid-century realists in the United States, a man who brought wisdom from the old world to the sometimes naïve new world. Alan, first working with Daniel Pipes, then—far more importantly—for many years with Harvey Sicherman, and finally completely on his own, has kept FPRI “straight,” as the late A. M. Rosenthal once did for the New York Times. The New York Times is no longer as straight as it was, and neither are quite a few think tanks in Washington, caught up as they are in the latest fads of the current era. But FPRI is different. It occupies the same philosophical space that it has occupied since I initially became familiar with it in the first days of the post-Cold War world. That has taken firmness and courage, and Alan has been its anchor.
What is that philosophical space that FPRI inhabits, largely thanks to Alan?
It is old-fashioned center/center-right, with an emphasis on the word “center,” where liberal democracy is always at its healthiest. Put another way: FPRI is associated with the sensibility of George Shultz and James Baker III, if you will. It constitutes realist internationalism: believing in a vigorous, active engagement of the United States in the world, but of a kind without illusions. This is more remarkable than it sounds. During the Cold War, realism and internationalism went hand-in-hand. In the post-Cold War era, however, without a global ideological enemy to confront and after disappointments in the Middle East, realism has been veering into the isolationist camp. FPRI, in large part due to Alan, resisted this temptation. It also resisted the temptation of reducing complex international problems into black-and-white moral absolutes, and thus avoided the pitfalls of untethered interventionism. As I’ve said, FPRI has, in Alan’s hands, remained true to Strausz-Hupé’s classical vision. FPRI has certainly never been trendy; rather, it has been wise. It has not been susceptible to the passions of the moment, since passion is the enemy of analysis.
This miracle, and it is a miracle, given what has happened to much of our media and policy community, has a human, that is, a Shakespearean element—Alan Luxenberg.
Alan is warm, generous, and a great “solace” regarding personal issues that this or that person may have. Because of him, in a strictly philosophical sense, I have always felt closer to FPRI than to almost any other organization. And thus coming to Philadelphia has always been the high-water mark of every one of my book tours: warm friendships in intimate, convivial settings, all quietly orchestrated by Alan. Alan doesn’t do charisma; neither is he a transparent operator. That is all to his credit. He is someone from any earlier, more polite era almost, even as he has done wonders for FPRI’s digital profile. He has the attributes of a seasoned editor: someone who accepts different points of view, and attempts to help you make them better.
I will greatly miss Alan’s leadership, even as I am confident that FPRI will continue to remain true to its original vision: a vision that this nation needs now more than ever. Given the rise of the extremes in American politics, FPRI, serving as a corrective to the current malaise, may have its best days ahead.