The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is surely one of the more bizarre pro-Israel think tanks doing business in Washington. Its sage advice pops up here and there, most recently in The Wall Street Journal, where it advocated giving Israel tanker aircraft so its warplanes can fly to Iran, bomb the hell out of that country’s nuclear facilities, and make it safely back. The BPC’s National Security Project is headed by Charles Robb, a former senator and governor from Virginia and living proof that you can fool most people more than once. Robb argues that enabling a devastating Israeli attack on Iran would create a credible deterrent to Tehran’s misbehavior and maintains that his judgment is derived from a “fact-driven consensus.”
But perhaps more interesting than the center itself is the reaction to the horse manure that it was trying to sell in the Journal. It is worth looking at the comments on the op-ed, which are generally hostile to the idea of a new war on behalf of Israel. It is refreshing to think that maybe Americans, even readers of The Wall Street Journal, are actually wising up to the con job they have been subjected to, even if it is a bit late to do anything about it.
The BPC claims to be bipartisan because it includes both Democrats and Republicans, but that does not mean that it is objective. More than three years ago it produced a “task force” report on the Iranian threat called “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development.” It concluded that Iran has no right to enrich nuclear fuel for any purpose and predicted that Tehran would have sufficient highly enriched uranium in a year’s time to build a bomb. It advocated talking to Tehran to give it a chance to surrender on all key issues before attacking it, and it urged newly elected but not yet inaugurated President Barack Obama to build up forces for the assault. The task force recommended that the U.S. military should, after bombing Iran into submission, remain in the area, vigilant and ready to react to any attempt at retaliation by Tehran.
Now, long after the alarming report, Iran still has neither a nuclear device nor any weapons-grade fuel, and there is no actual evidence that it has a program to produce a bomb, meaning that a war would have been another case of “preemption” of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, reminiscent of the deceptions that led to the invasion of Iraq. And call for a U.S. attack could hardly have been otherwise based on the makeup of the Bipartisan Policy Center task force that produced it. It included Dennis Ross, who has been described as the State Department’s “lawyer for Israel”; Steve Rademaker, husband of Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI); Michael Rubin of AEI; Kenneth Weinstein of the Hudson Institute; and Kenneth Katzmann of the Congressional Research Service. Rubin drafted the report with project director Michael Makovsky, brother of David Makovsky, the senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank that was founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. No one on the task force was an independent expert on Iran who might have been willing or able to express Iran’s concerns or point of view. Indeed, apart from Rubin, no one on the task force knew anything about Iran at all, except possibly that it was supposed to be part of the axis of evil.
The BPC followed up on its brilliant analysis of developments in Iran with another blockbuster a year later. Its National Security Project’s September 2010 report, “Assessing the Terrorist Threat,” concluded that there is a growing danger to the United States derived from the radicalization of some American Muslims, a number of whom allegedly had joined extremist groups abroad. The report and its conclusions received wide distribution in the United States mainstream media, including The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the Associated Press. But the alarm appears to have been sounded a bit too early and too stridently. Since 2010, there has been a notable lack of homegrown terrorist plots. In fact, The Christian Science Monitor reported two weeks ago that “homegrown terrorists have become less numerous, less organized, and less lethal in the past few years.” There were only 20 domestic terror cases leading to arrests in all of 2011, and of the 14,000 murders in the United States that year, none were terrorism-related.
The current effort by the BPC team on Iran is derived from a much longer piece called “Meeting the Challenge: Stopping the Clock,” which the Center describes as its “fourth report on the most immediate national security challenge facing our nation: Iran’s continued progress toward nuclear-weapons capability.” Robb and his stalwart cohorts seem unaware that there are at least 50 countries that have “nuclear-weapons capability,” including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey. They also appear to be uninterested in explaining exactly why Iran poses more of an immediate national security challenge than already nuclear armed North Korea or the deteriorating relationships with China and Russia. The 13 “experts” convened to deliberate over the report included Robb, Rademaker, Eric Edelman (who replaced Doug Feith at the Pentagon), and Mortimer Zuckerman. There is not a single actual expert on Iran among the names. It should be presumed that well-known neocon Michael Makovsky actually wrote the report.
The BPC has plush offices on Eye Street in Washington, a sizable staff, and a number of important people on its masthead. It might be churlish to ask where its money comes from, but I would hate to embarrass someone as self-important as former senator and governor Charles Robb. The fact is that groups like BPC do a major disservice to the people of the United States because they promote themselves as nonpartisan and free of any particular political agenda when they are anything but. Their claimed objectivity is clearly a fiction, as they have been calling for military action against Iran for years, citing nonexistent threats and even speculating on the state of a nuclear program that does not exist. Their failure to include anyone who actually knows anything about Iran on their team and their choice to exclude anyone who might oppose a new war or be disinclined to think that all Muslims are potential traitors should tell us everything we need to know. It is a sad commentary on the state of the United States that ignorant, blowhard warmongers such as the BPC receive money, political support, and press coverage while groups that want to restore sanity and balance to American foreign policy are forced to scramble to raise nickels and dimes.