Meet the hawkish liberal think tank powering the Kamala Harris campaign


Kamala Harris has stacked her campaign with alumi of the Center for a New American Security. PHOTO/Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Center for a New American Security has long pushed Democrats to embrace war and militarism—and it’s poised to play an influential role in a future Democratic administration.

If you liked Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, you can keep it.  

That’s the message many Democratic voters are receiving this election, as they prepare to pick a contender from the gradually winnowing field of candidates to take on Donald Trump in 2020. And the reason is the continuing influence of a think-tank called the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

The influence of CNAS on the 2020 election, at this point, is being channeled through the campaign of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who has drawn heavily from its ranks to fill her line-up of foreign policy advisors. But given its status as the go-to fountainhead of Democratic foreign policy ideas, there is every chance its alumni could be part of another future Democratic administration.

Founded on the eve of what was thought to almost certainly be a coming Clinton presidency over a decade ago, CNAS has left its fingerprints all over the past ten years of Democratic foreign policy. With its bipartisan make-up and centrist approach, the think tank has served as a crucial wellspring for conventional foreign policy thinking that has shaped the actions and ideas of both the Obama administration and Clinton’s 2016 run.

Even as the American public has slowly turned against endless war, CNAS’ prescriptions have stayed soothingly familiar: Stay the course in ongoing wars, step up efforts to counter Russia, China and other adversaries, and dig deeper into the conflicts the United States has so far only dipped a toe into.

Though Clinton’s loss meant CNAS hasn’t had the influence over the halls of power it expected, a wide-open Democratic contest means a second opportunity. And it seems California Sen. Kamala Harris is its favored candidate, as her foreign policy advisory team is stocked with the think tank’s alumni and its co-founder.

The creation of CNAS

CNAS was born during the Bush years as the foreign policy equivalent to the Center for American Progress (CAP): a liberal-to-centrist think tank that would double as a policy house for an eventual Democratic president. Established in 2007, CNAS came onto the scene as the Bush presidency was coming to a close and the Democrats battled it out to see who would replace him. The timing was symbolic, suggesting the eclipse of neoconservative foreign policy by a new, liberal era.

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