How ‘Think Tanks’ Generate Endless War

U.S. “think tanks” rile up the American public against an ever-shifting roster of foreign “enemies” to justify wars which line the pockets of military contractors who kick back some profits to the “think tanks,” explains retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce.

By Todd E. Pierce

The New York Times took notice recently of the role that so-called “think tanks” play in corrupting U.S. government policy. Their review of think tanks “identified dozens of examples of scholars conducting research at think tanks while corporations were paying them to help shape government policy.”

Unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, while the Times investigation demonstrates well that the U.S. is even more corrupt – albeit the corruption is better disguised – than the many foreign countries which we routinely accuse of corruption, the Times failed to identify the most egregious form of corruption in our system. That is, those think tanks are constantly engaged in the sort of activities which the Defense Department identifies as “Information War” when conducted by foreign countries that are designated by the U.S. as an enemy at any given moment.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 23, 2015 Tehran. (Photo from:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 23, 2015, in Tehran. (Photo from:

Information warfare uses disinformation and propaganda to condition a population to hate a foreign nation or population with the intent to foment a war, which is the routine “business” of the best known U.S. think tanks.

There are two levels to this information war. The first level is by the primary provocateur, such as the Rand Corporation, the American Enterprise Institute and the smaller war instigators found wherever a Kagan family member lurks. They use psychological “suggestiveness” to create a false narrative of danger from some foreign entity with the objective being to create paranoia within the U.S. population that it is under imminent threat of attack or takeover.

Once that fear and paranoia is instilled in much of the population, it can then be manipulated to foment a readiness or eagerness for war, in the manner that Joseph Goebbels understood well.

The measure of success from such a disinformation and propaganda effort can be seen when the narrative is adopted by secondary communicators who are perhaps the most important target audience. That is because they are “key communicators” in PsyOp terms, who in turn become provocateurs in propagating the false narrative even more broadly and to its own audiences, and becoming “combat multipliers” in military terms.

It is readily apparent now that Russia has taken its place as the primary target within U.S. sights. One doesn’t have to see the U.S. military buildup on Russia’s borders to understand that but only see the propaganda themes of our “think tanks.”

The Role of Rand

A prime example of an act of waging information war to incite actual military attack is the Rand Corporation, which, incidentally, published a guide to information war and the need to condition the U.S. population for war back in the 1990s.

A scene from "Dr. Strangelove," in which the bomber pilot (played by actor Slim Pickens) rides a nuclear bomb to its target in the Soviet Union.

A scene from “Dr. Strangelove,” in which the bomber pilot (played by actor Slim Pickens) rides a nuclear bomb to its target in the Soviet Union.

Rand was founded by, among others, the war enthusiast, Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who was the model for the character of Gen. Buck Turgidson in the movie “Dr. Strangelove.” LeMay once stated that he would not be afraid to start a nuclear war with Russia and that spirit would seem to be alive and well at Rand today as they project on to Vladimir Putin our own eagerness for inciting a war.

The particular act of information warfare by Rand is shown in a recent Rand article: “How to Counter Putin’s Subversive War on the West.” The title suggests by its presupposition that Putin is acting in the offensive form of war rather than the defensive form of war. But it is plain to see he is in the defensive form of war when one looks at the numerous provocations and acts of aggression carried out by American officials, such as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and General Philip Breedlove, and the U.S. and NATO military buildup on Russia’s borders.

Within this Rand article however can be found no better example of psychological projection than this propagandistic pablum that too many commentators, some witless, some not, will predictably repeat:

“Moscow’s provocative active measures cause foreign investors and international lenders to see higher risks in doing business with Russia. Iran is learning a similar, painful lesson as it persists with harsh anti-Western policies even as nuclear-related sanctions fade. Russia will decide its own priorities. But it should not be surprised if disregard for others’ interests diminishes the international regard it seeks as an influential great power.”

In fact, an objective, dispassionate observation of U.S./Russian policies would show it has been the U.S. carrying out these “provocative active measures” as the instigator, not Russia.

Nevertheless, showing the success that our primary war provocateurs have had in fomenting hostility and possibly war is that less militaristic and bellicose Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), ostensibly working for “peace,” have adopted this false propaganda theme uncritically.

The Carnegie Moscow Center Foundation, which includes Russians on its staff, is a prime example. Lately, it has routinely echoed the more provocative and facially false accusations made against Russia by the outright militaristic and war instigating U.S. think tanks. An example is in a recent article of Carnegie, entitled: “Russia and NATO Must Communicate Better.

It begins: “The risk of outright conflict in Europe is higher than it has been for years and the confrontation between Russia and the West shows no sign of ending. To prevent misunderstandings and dangerous incidents, the two sides must improve their methods of communication.”

Unfortunately, that is now true. But the article’s author suggests throughout that each party, Russia and the U.S./NATO, had an equal hand in the deterioration of relations. He wrote: “The West needs to acknowledge that the standoff with Russia is not merely the result of Russia turning authoritarian, nationalistic, and assertive,” as if Western officials don’t already know that that accusation was only a propaganda theme for their own populations to cover up the West’s aggressiveness.

Blaming Russia

So Americans, such as myself, must acknowledge and confront that the standoff with Russia is not only not “merely the result of Russia turning authoritarian, nationalistic, and assertive,” but it is rather, that the U.S. is “turning authoritarian, nationalistic,” and even more “assertive,” i.e., aggressive, toward the world.

Former NATO Commander Philip M. Breedlove.

Former NATO Commander Philip M. Breedlove.

Suz Tzu wrote that a “sovereign” must know oneself and the enemy. In the case of the U.S. sovereign, the people and their elected, so-called representatives, there is probably no “sovereign” in human history more lacking in self-awareness of their own nation’s behavior toward other nations.

So fanatics like the U.S. Generals whom we’ve seen at the recent political conventions and even worse, General Breedlove, are encouraged to be ever more threatening to the world’s populations.

When that then generates a response from some nation with a tin-pot military relative to our own, with ours paid for by the privileged financial position we’ve put ourselves into post-WWII, our politicians urgently call for even more military spending from the American people to support even more aggression, all in the guise of “national defense.”

Recognizing that must then be coupled with recognition of a U.S. law passed in 2012 providing for military detention of journalists and social activists as the Justice Department conceded in Hedges v. Obama. Add to that what the ACLU recently compelled the U.S. government to reveal in the “Presidential Policy Guidance” and it is plain to see which nation has become most “authoritarian, nationalistic, and assertive.” It is the United States.

The Presidential Policy Guidance “establishes the standard operating procedures for when the United States takes direct action, which refers to lethal and non-lethal uses of force, including capture operations against terrorist targets outside the United States and areas of active hostilities.”

What other nation, besides Israel probably, has a governmental “Regulation” providing for assassinations outside “areas of active hostilities?”

It should readily be evident that it is the U.S. now carrying out the vast majority of provocative active measures and has the disregard for others complained of here. At least for the moment, however, the U.S. can still hide much of its aggression using the vast financial resources provided by the American people to the Defense Department to produce sophisticated propaganda and to bribe foreign officials with foreign aid to look the other way from U.S. provocations.

It is ironic that today, one can learn more about the U.S. military and foreign policy from the Rand Corporation only by reading at least one of its historical documents, “The Operational Code of the Politburo.” This is described as “part of a major effort at RAND to provide insight into the political leadership and foreign policy in the Soviet Union and other communist states; the development of Soviet military strategy and doctrine.”

As this was when the Politburo was allegedly at its height in subverting and subjugating foreign countries as foreign policy, it should be exactly on point in describing current U.S. foreign policy.

That U.S. think tanks, such as Rand and the American Enterprise Institute, put so much effort into promoting war should not come as a surprise when it is considered their funding is provided by the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) which President Eisenhower warned us about. That this U.S. MIC would turn against its own people, the American public, by waging perpetual information war against this domestic target just to enrich their investors, might have been even more than Eisenhower could imagine however.

Todd E. Pierce retired as a Major in the US Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in November 2012. His most recent assignment was defense counsel in the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions. [This article first appeared at]

16 comments for “How ‘Think Tanks’ Generate Endless War

  1. August 22, 2016 at 02:35

    Let me thank you for your well written and cited article.

    It is shameful that the public is subjected to the constant barrage of disinformation and slanted “academic” pieces coming out of Think Tanks so regularly.
    It is more shameful however, that we so easily fall for such tactics and are not better equipped to defend ourselves from the ideas poured out upon us by these so-called experts. I plan to cite this article as mechanism to do just that.
    Once again, thank you, Major Pierce.

  2. Cosmo Wonderly Myers
    August 20, 2016 at 10:53

    Think “Tank”; is that like septic tank?

  3. Cerberus 79
    August 20, 2016 at 10:44

    Neocons Kristol and Kagan endorse Clinton. What more need be said.

  4. Ivan
    August 19, 2016 at 09:09

    “Good. War. That means more food for my family.” – Cockroach, Men in Black (film)

  5. Greg Bacon
    August 19, 2016 at 05:59

    The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history. Two of them, journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, say it’s possible.

    This is a war of an elite. [Tom] Friedman laughs: I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.

    Defense contractors aren’t the only ones running think tanks.

  6. JayGoldenBeach
    August 18, 2016 at 00:43

    We Americans are showing little, if any, gag reflex for an anti-Russian Cold War 2.0.

    Heck, we would probably fall for Duck and Cover 2.0. LoL

  7. Kim
    August 17, 2016 at 16:38

    Thank you Todd! And this is the reason that “think-tanks” which are composed of absolutely no “thinkers” whatsoever should go!

    We do not need “think-tanks” – we need people working in our government that know how to think. In today’s world, that cannot be because nobody with an actual brain wants to work for the US government – it is a quagmire of sophistry.

  8. Drew Hunkins
    August 17, 2016 at 16:12

    There are two primary reasons why these prominent establishment think [sic] tanks are incessantly demonizing the Russian people and vilifying Putin:

    1.) Putin stepped in at the last minute and talked Obama down from bombing Damascus to destroy the Assad administration in 2013. It was an impending bombing campaign the Zionist power configuration in America desperately championed. It was a stroke of brilliant and morally courageous diplomacy by Putin to persuade Obama to rebuff the cajoling of the beltway’s neocon warmongers which thwarted an almost certain ISIL take over of Syria’s capital.

    2.) For roughly the last 12 years or so Putin has been cutting off certain sectors of Russia’s vital resources and national wealth from Western pillage and plunder. Putin reversed some (much?) of the oligarchic exploitation that went on during Yeltsin’s 1990s kleptocracy which was wedded to Western corporate, London market and Wall Street power centers.

    These are the two unforgivable sins for which Putin is being pilloried by the entire spectrum of mass media, Washington blowhards, and “respectable” intellectual opinion.

    The U.S. public must start paying heed to and perusing the books and essays by independent intellectuals and writers who are by and large outside the realm of the corporate owned paradigm; scholars, writers and thinkers such as James Petras, Consortium’s own Robert Parry, John Pilger, Michael Parenti, Paul Craig Roberts and Diana Johnstone.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    August 17, 2016 at 16:06

    What our Pentagon calls Think Tanks, the Mafia refers to them as Consultazione, and there is no difference. The Think Tanks make it possible for our going to war not a Stupid Thing. It’s because of these Think Tankers that we are the Exceptional creatures we have come to be.

    • Realist
      August 18, 2016 at 02:54

      Basically, America is a predatory culture, like the old Roman Empire, the Huns, the Mongols, the Vikings or, yea, the Mafia. Others call what we do crimes, we call it business. Others call it oppression, we call it democracy. In any case, we are quite exceptional at it.

      • John
        August 18, 2016 at 11:45

        The Bolshevik revolution consisted of over 80% Jewish organizers. Their mode of operation is tear it down and rebuild according to their philosophy ……The new neocon agenda which is organized and funded mostly by Jewish led think tanks is the same agenda as the Russian revolution…..old agenda….new name……

        • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
          August 23, 2016 at 12:44

          Why mention Jews? No one was talking about Jews. Also, “80%”? You pulled that out of your ass. And neocons are EX-Communists. They HATE communists. Be bigoted somewhere else, pig.

  10. Jim Hannan
    August 17, 2016 at 16:00

    President Obama was very critical of the think tank Washington mentality in his Atlantic interview with Jeff Goldberg. Unfortunately, these folks are always the source of op-eds, PBS interviews, and NPR guests on the Diane Rehm show. We in America have a very limited palette of opinion.

  11. Erik
    August 17, 2016 at 15:59

    The debate of foreign policy must be insulated from interest groups such as big business, the military, and foreign powers. They may have a voice but their merit is not proportioned to their money. Publications on these matters by organizations should be required to include a prominent statement of influence compiled by a federal agency.

    I have proposed a federal College of Policy Analysis, mandated to protect and represent all viewpoints, to conduct textual debates via internet among thousands of experts at universities, in each discipline and geographic area. If eventually made a branch of federal government with independent funding and checks and balances over the other branches, it would represent the knowledge of the people, and even if seldom conclusive on policies, would substantially displace the propaganda operations of these commercial think tanks.

  12. August 17, 2016 at 15:53

    Interesting article.
    I believe some of these “think tanks” are paid propagandists for, “The War Arsonists” See links below:

  13. Exiled off mainstreet
    August 17, 2016 at 15:00

    The “think tanks” are the realization of Orwell’s “1984” when we are always at war with eastasia, except that the yankee imperium is never allied with anybody, but only has satellite states and enemies.

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