The Cable

New progressive foreign policy alliance backs Hagel

Two major left-leaning foreign policy organizations have merged and they are both throwing their weight behind the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense.

The Truman National Security Project, a left-leaning national security group that focuses on leadership development and grassroots political messaging, has joined forces with the Center for National Policy, a more traditionally styled national security think tank, both organizations announced Wednesday.

"This partnership is going to combine values based national security policy and politics into a single organization will the tools of both and we hope that organization will help define what leadership means in a changing world," said Michael Breen, who will be the executive director of the new combined organization. "We're creating what we believe will be a preeminent national security organization that combines political power, community building and the leadership strengths of the Truman Project with the policy heft and the heritage that the Center for National Policy brings."

Truman and CNP will retain their names and keep separate boards of directors, but they will merge their staffs, which total about 30 people, and their budgets, which total about $5 million. Rachel Kleinfeld remains president of the Truman Project and Scott Bates remains president of the Center for National Policy; both serve as senior advisors to the other partner organization.

On a conference call Wednesday, the leaders all endorsed the Hagel nomination, noting that the former Nebraska's senator's national security vision and policies, especially as espoused in his 2004 essay in Foreign Affairs named "A Republican Foreign Policy," match the longstanding views of both organizations.

"Hagel certainly shares with us that all of the tools of national power and statecraft are required to address our challenges. Military power is essential but also are a host of other tools," said Breen.

"Chuck Hagel put his life on the line for his country. The president has asked him to serve. I think it's the president's prerogative to get the people that he wants if they are qualified and he seems well qualified," Bates said.

Although it clearly leans to the left, the Truman National Security Project does not self-identify with either political party. The group's mantra is "Training a new generation of progressives to lead on national security." Its board of advisors includes Clinton era Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Carter era official and CFR President Emeritus Leslie Gelb, former Democratic Senator Gary Hart, Clinton era Defense Secretary Bill Perry, Former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, and former Policy Planning Director Anne-Marie Slaughter.

The Center for National Policy also does not outright identify with either party. Its leadership has included senior Democrats including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretaries of State Madeline Albright, Cyrus Vance, Ed Muskie and former 9/11 Commissioner Timothy Roemer.

"With a national footprint and deep reach in Washington, and a set of values-driven policies, we think we can help this administration and help future administrations and congresses put their values and the security platform together and lead a whole new generational march on what our policy should be for America," Kleinfeld said. "We hope to make big waves."

The Cable

Scowcroft weighs in on the Hagel nomination

Republican foreign-policy realists haven't changed their tune over the years, but some in the GOP have moved away from the realists, such as defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, according to former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft.

"We haven't moved; the Republican party has moved," Scowcroft told The Cable in an interview. "I have been a lifelong Republican and I hold to what I are my own beliefs, which happen to be core Republican beliefs, but many in the party have taken a different course."

Scowcroft is one of several senior former GOP officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, to back the Hagel nomination in the face of opposition from half a dozen GOP senators and groups associated with the neoconservative and hawkish sides of the Republican foreign policy community. Scowcroft said the GOP is rooted in the realist principles he still espouses.

"The neocons go clear back to the 1970s. They were Democrats, then became sort of Republicans," he said. "I'm who I am. Whether the party wants to desert me, that's their privilege."

Hagel's controversial comments from years past, such as when he once referred to the "Jewish lobby" or his longstanding opposition to unilateral sanctions, shouldn't bar him from serving as defense secretary, according to Scowcroft.

"He is first and foremost an American and he takes an American perspective on everything he discusses," he said. "I'm frankly surprised [by the controversy], because he says what he believes at the time and there is a core in what he has said that makes some sense. Would you rather have someone who has never said anything?"

Scowcroft joined with several other former officials in both parties to sign a letter in support of Hagel las month on the letterhead of the "Bipartisan Group," a loose association of former officials that includes Hagel. The Cable reported that horse racing gambler Bill Benter paid to have that letter advertised in Politico's Playbook newsletter.

But the Bipartisan Group has no further plans to act on behalf of Hagel and is not working directly with the Obama administration on the Hagel defense effort.

"This is a group that got together to write a letter to the president in 2008 about the Palestinian peace process and then got together again to write this letter," said Scowcroft. "There's no organization, there's no strategy, there's no nothing as far as I am concerned. It was a one-off thing. That's the whole story as far as I know."

Scowcroft said it was "strong and brave" of President Barack Obama to choose a Republican such as Hagel, but he does not think this necessarily means Obama is cementing a foreign policy legacy that tracks with the Republican realist view of the world.

"The president on foreign policy is fairly eclectic,' he said. "It's a promising move. Whether it represents anything broader than that, I'm not prepared to say."

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