Bipartisan think tank formed

A new, bipartisan think tank aims to develop national-security policies by harkening back to an era when there was broad consensus on U.S. foreign policy.

A group of 23 foreign-policy luminaries representing both sides of the aisle will launch the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA), dedicated to bridging the deep ideological divide that dominates current foreign-policy making. Jamie Metzl, one of the group’s chairmen, will announce the new think tank today at the National Press Club.

The PSA aims to “reestablish the bipartisan center in American foreign policy and national security,” according to a statement on the group’s website.

“There had been a consensus on national-security issues after World War II that has broken down in recent years,” Metzl said. “We need to work to rebuild by having debates to find the best answers to the problems we face.”

Since the Bush administration launched the war in Iraq, any political consensus governing the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — and policies to prevent future attacks — has evaporated. After the terrorist attacks on London’s subway system, for example, the Senate debated whether to spend more money to prevent terrorist attacks against U.S. mass-transit systems. After a contentious debate, the Senate voted to allocate $31 million to mass-transit security.

Fighting terrorism, however, is just the latest international development to test the country’s ability to present a united foreign-policy front. The Vietnam War divided the Democratic Party in the late 1960s, and in the mid- to late 1970s Republicans split over whether to relinquish control of the Panama Canal. That issue boiled to the surface in the 1976 presidential primary when then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who opposed giving up control, challenged President Gerald Ford. In the 1980s, U.S. intervention in Central America was also a highly charged political issue.

But not since the late 1960s and early 1970s has the country appeared so deeply divided on its top foreign-policy priority, with neoconservatives advocating and engineering the war in Iraq as a way to spread democracy to the Middle East, liberal-leaning groups demanding an end to the war and a specific date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region, and centrist Republican and Democratic politicians and foreign-policy analysts trying to find a way out of Iraq while still achieving the Bush administration’s overarching goals.

In such a rancorous political environment, the creation of the PSA could be viewed as vehicle to confront challenges in foreign and homeland-security policy that Congress and the Bush administration have failed to address sufficiently. But Metzl said the creation of the group should not be viewed as a response to criticism that the administration and congressional leaders have failed to forge a consensus-oriented approach to international relations.

“Our organization is not created to criticize anyone but to develop a better process to get the right answers,” Metzl said.

The 12 Republican board members are former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger; ex-Sens. Warren Rudman (N.H.), Howard Baker (Tenn.), Nancy Kassebaum Baker (Kan.) and Jack Danforth (Mo.), who served as Bush’s U.N. ambassador and envoy to Sudan; former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean; former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld; former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills; former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane; Rita Hauser, chairwoman of the International Peace Academy; and John Whitehead, a former deputy secretary of state.

The 11 Democratic board members are former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher; former Defense Secretary William Perry; former National Security Advisers Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Tony Lake; former Ambassador Richard Holbrook; former Sen. Gary Hart (Colo.); former Rep. Lee Hamilton (Ind.); former U.N. Ambassador Donald McHenry; and lawyer Ted Sorenson.

Metzl, a foreign-policy aide in the Clinton White House who ran an unsuccessful campaign for a House seat in 2004, is leading the group along with Charles Andreae, a former chief of staff to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).

The PSA is a project of the Century Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.