Two American billionaires have put their money together to take on America’s war industry and help bring an end to “forever wars”.
The recently-launched “Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft” is aiming to promote peace and the use of diplomacy over military force in a town where few institutions challenge the status quo.
The progressive Soros and the libertarian Koch belong to opposite ends of the political spectrum. But they seem to agree on this one issue; changing the decades-long direction of America’s foreign policy.
Trita Parsi, one of the founders of Quincy Institute and its Executive Vice President says endless military domination begets endless war, adding “if we don’t want endless war, we need to fundamentally rethink the first principles of American foreign policy.”
“A foreign policy doctrine that asserts that the United States needs a global military hegemony to keep itself safe and keep the planet stable will inevitably bring about an approach to the world that is centred on the use of the military rather than diplomacy,” Mr Parsi told The Independent.
American leaders have deployed the US military in a costly and at times counterproductive way across the world for years, although that practice seems to increasingly lose support among the public.
Opinion polls have continuously suggested that Americans are tired of wars.
To bring an end to “endless wars” however, there needs to be a recognition of the existing paradigm in order to shift it.
The anti-war message of the past three presidential elections, in 2016, won by Donald Trump, as well as 2012, and 2008, which were both victories for Barack Obama, showed that politicians recognise this frustration and employ the language of ending wars.
Until now, campaign slogans of presidential candidates have not exactly matched their actual policies. Once they enter office, there seems to be too much pressure to maintain the status quo.
“Changing this requires a multi-pronged effort that ranges from mobilising the public to producing the proposals to transition away from the current foreign policy to electing new leaders committed to these goals. A critical missing piece in all of this has been a think tank in DC that helps chart the intellectual path for this much-needed shift,” Mr Parsi added.
America’s foreign policy establishment has been quiet hawkish for decades. The two major parties, Democratic and Republican, have supported most wars and military interventions.
Various government agencies, most members of Congress, political pundits and the think tank community in Washington have been fairly supportive of the current grand strategy and rarely push back against it.
There has been a long reliance on hard power and military force, and less on soft power and diplomacy. And while Democrats and Republicans may have diverged on certain aspects of this world-view, their differences have not resulted in a major shift in goals but more in strategies.
But American leadership in the world should not necessarily constitute an American military hegemony, critics argue.
Eli Clifton, one of the founders of Quincy Institute says the new think tank is a response to a failed a foreign policy experiment, conducted since the end of the Cold War and accelerated after 9/11, in which the US has pursued endless wars and global military primacy with little regard for the human sacrifices and financial costs.
“Quincy hopes to expand the debate about what a US grand strategy should entail and advocate for advancing American interests and values via diplomatic engagement with military force being the option of last resort,” Mr Clifton told The Independent.
American foreign policy seems to have become detached from an inclusive national discussion about interests and values and Mr Clifton argued that the “War on Terror” allowed for an expansive military campaign that has no borders, time-frame or measures of success.
There has also been a lack of accountability for the failed war policies in Washington and for those who advocate and pursued them.
The newly launched Quincy Institute has already faced backlash from the foreign policy establishment, namely an opinion piece published in the Washington Post by a fellow at the prominent Brookings Institution, asking “Why are George Soros and Charles Koch collaborating on a US-bashing think tank?” and suggesting that the two billionaires' collaboration on foreign policy may be a "harbinger of a new left-right consensus favouring isolationism".
Soros, a long-time supporter of progressive policies, and Koch, a major Republican donor, have each contributed $500,000 (£385,000) to the launch of the Quincy Institute, together with a few other donors.