The Rise of Restraint Is Shaking Up Washington

The Rise of Restraint Is Shaking Up Washington
U.S. soldiers walk toward an American military plane as they leave Afghanistan, at the U.S. base in Bagram, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 14, 2011 (AP photo by Musadeq Sadeq).

“The general view at the Atlantic Council is to send them back to the Cato Institute where they came from.”

The quote, from an anonymous but “prominent” staffer at the Atlantic Council, purported to sum up the reaction at the establishment Washington think tank to the recent arrival of two analysts from Cato, an iconoclastic libertarian shop that often finds itself at the margins of U.S. foreign policy debates. It followed a high-profile controversy—by the standards of Washington’s think tank circles, in any case—in which members of the Atlantic Council publicly disavowed the work of one of those analysts and her co-author.

If D.C. were a high school, the popular kids of the foreign policy establishment were sick of being forced to make nice with the newcomers, who called themselves “restrainers” or “realists.” Suddenly flush with cash, they kept crashing the kinds of cool and exclusive parties they would have been shut out of years ago: panels, op-ed pages, quotes in prestige newspapers—even think tanks, like the Atlantic Council, founded on the premise of promoting an active U.S. role in the world.

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