Watch Live: The Washington Ideas Forum 2014

Very Serious Indeed

Coming soon to an American Enterprise Institute near you, Brookings Institution scholar Michael O'Hanlon will be sharing a stage with such luminaries as Frederick Kagan, Jack Keane, Danielle Pletka, Thomas Donnelly, and Gary Schmitt.

This provides, I think, an opportunity to get a little more specific about blogger critiques of Very Serious People and clerisies and so forth. The crux of the matter is that we have here in Washington, DC a certain number of institutions working in the national security sphere that are essentially crackpot operations -- AEI, The Weekly Standard, the Project for a New American Century, and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies come to mind. Now one can argue 'till the cows come home whether or not it should have been clear in August 2002 that these were crackpot operations, but over the past five years they've demonstrated themselves to indubitably be crackpot institutions.

Meanwhile, a couple of ticks over to the left you have a series of basically establishmentarian organizations and individuals that, instead of doing what establishmentarian organizations are supposed to do and marginalize these crackpots, are mainstreaming them. The Saban Center at Brookings, CNN, and the opinion pages of The Washington Post are probably the biggest offenders here, but the rot has spread and to some extent afflicted other organizations as well. It's a problem. It's by no means something every single CFR member or center-left think tanker has contributed to, but too many have contributed to it, and until very recently too many others have done little to try to seize the mantle of authority from the people who keep mainstreaming crackpots whose theories have been tested and failed, over and over again, at a cost of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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