On February 1, 2012, I was asked to serve as President of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, having served as Acting President during the prior year, and having played many different roles at FPRI since February 1976. The scenery was the same but suddenly everything felt completely different.
The Institute has an extraordinary history of accomplishment since its founding in 1955, despite its financial ups and downs. What could I do, I asked myself, to add something new to the mix? After nine months on the job, I realized that I could accomplish little – without the active support and know-how, financial and otherwise, of our Board of Trustees, without the lean staff of eight employees who have my back and give 110 percent, without the 80-something affiliated scholars for whose intellectual contributions I have the greatest admiration, and without all the friends FPRI has made over the years who provide all kinds of assistance and advice to the organization and to me.
At the instigation of the Board, we carried out a strategic planning process that confirmed the continuing relevance – and singularity – of our founder’s approach to the study of international relations, emphasizing the study of history, geography, and culture to illuminate contemporary international affairs and inform our policy recommendation. As Senior Fellow James Kurth notes, Strausz-Hupé would have added a fourth area were he alive today – technology. We were delighted to receive independent confirmation of this approach from the writer Robert Kaplan, whose new book, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts, was dedicated to FPRI’s late president, Dr. Harvey Sicherman.
The strategic planning process culminated in a three-year plan with specific goals for both financial and organizational growth, for building greater diversity in funding streams, increasing membership both locally and elsewhere, and in expanding our Wachman Center for Civic and International Literacy, along with its associated Madeleine and W. W. Keen Butcher History Institute. The History Institute is our nationally recognized professional development program, which enjoys participation by faculty from more than 600 high schools in 46 states.
Thanks to all of those parties named above (and below), the Institute has a new energy, reflected in –
the affiliation with FPRI of young, rising stars from UPenn, Swarthmore, Haverford, Princeton, and elsewhere;
our monthly salons in Manhattan, chaired by Devon Cross and Vanessa Neumann, and a complementary new series being launched in November in cooperation with the New York Historical Society;
a new monthly program in Princeton, NJ, with the Princeton Committee of FPRI, directed by John R. Haines;
the upgrade of our website, offering both a new look and greater functionality, and featuring the new FPRI blog, Geopoliticus;
the launch of the Stanley and Arlene Ginsburg Lecture Series;
the plan to launch in 2013 a regular monthly briefing, the second Tuesday of every month, on the very latest world developments, plus a series in West Conshohocken for our friends in the suburbs and a more informal set of get-togethers for young professionals, to be known as “The Drink Tank.”
We could not organize all this without the talents of our administrative staff—Eli Gilman, Megan Hannan, Ann Hart, Peter Nettl, and Harry Richlin.
And we greatly value the long-standing partnerships we have with the First Division Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton, IL, and the Reserve Officers Association in Washington, DC as well as the new partnerships with the National Liberty Museum, the Senator John Heinz History Center, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, the Independence Seaport Museum, and the Global Philadelphia Association. [Read more about FPRI’s network of institutional partnerships]
Based on the seven conferences on American military history we’ve held at the First Division Museum, we are releasing this season a new E-Book, American Military History: A Resource for Teachers and Students, edited by Paul Herbert and Michael Noonan.
Our scholars continue to work on cutting edge issues, from Lawrence Husick’s work on cyberwar to Vanessa Neumann’s research on crime-terror pipelines to Jacques deLisle’s analysis of China’s claims in the South China Sea. Michael Noonan, the director of our Program on National Security, now writes a weekly blog on military issues for US News and World Report while Edward Turzanski appears with increasing regularity on radio news programs throughout the country. We congratulate Mike on the impending defense of his doctoral dissertation on “The Micropolitics of American Civil-Military Relations in Small Wars, 1945-Present.” It would have been completed sooner were it not for a tour of duty in Iraq, where he experienced civil-military relations firsthand.
We welcome to our team Ronald J. Granieri as head of our Center for the Study of America and the West, an undertaking supported by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; he will also direct the monthly briefing. At a time when the modern Middle East, which came into being after World War I, is being entirely redefined, it is our good fortune to have Tally Helfont directing our Middle East Program and responding to those events with innovative programming (including our October History Institute on Iran and the Geopolitics of the Middle East); we are indebted to Bob and Penny Fox for supporting these efforts. At the same time, there is new energy in our Project on Democratic Transitions, ably directed by Ambassador Adrian Basora, with support from Michael Cecire and Maia Otarashvili. Jim McGann’s work on Think Tanks and Civil Society continues to attract international attention, including his now famous annual ranking of think tanks worldwide.
In the meantime, our Pulitzer Prize-winning historian (and Vietnam veteran) Walter McDougall is plugging away at the sequel to his 1997 critically acclaimed book Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776. This was the book that Walter Russell Mead described as having “changed the way the history of American foreign policy is taught at America’s leading universities.” That’s at least one of the things we live to do.
With your support, FPRI will continue to make a difference.
With very best wishes,
Alan H. Luxenberg President Foreign Policy Research Institute