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From the Institute for World Order to the World Policy Institute

By Archibald L. Gillies

In the spring of 1982 the board of directors of the Institute for World Order asked me to become its President and to expand the organization’s activities into the contemporary public policy arena. David Hunter, the progressive Director of the Stern Fund, Earl Osborn, a board member, and Harry Hollins, a founder of the Institute, were particularly eager to add a U.S. political focus to the Institute’s international and academic work. Hollins was strongly influenced to consider this new direction by U.S. Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias, a thoughtful “Eisenhower Republican” from Maryland.

The staff of the Institute welcomed this change as a way to invigorate its activities and, potentially, to add substantive and financial resources. Robert Johansen, then President, graciously stepped aside to become Senior Fellow and Saul Mendlovitz, the Institute’s principal academic advisor, introduced me and the new initiative to important contributors.

During the summer and fall of 1982, we developed a plan for the Institute, including a name change “to reflect a new pragmatic approach to building a humane and just world order,” in the words of an announcement made on January 1, 1983. The new name was to be the “World Policy Institute.” During this time I saw that Sherle Schwenninger, the Institute’s Director of Studies, had a keen grasp of the making of U.S. foreign and domestic policy, and, importantly, saw the two arenas as closely connected. In our very first serious conversation, Sherle proposed that we start a quarterly magazine to compete with the Council of Foreign Relation’s “Foreign Affairs” and the Carnegie Endowment’s “Foreign Policy.” This was an audacious idea. I asked Earl Osborn to underwrite the launch of the magazine, which he did with $200,000. The World Policy Journal was founded in 1983 with Sherle as its first Editor. It was an immediate success and continues today as an enduring contributor to the formation of public policy.

Most of the Institute’s work was now organized around the Journal articles. The first issue in the fall of 1983 highlighted three articles on American policy towards NATO and the Soviet Union, reports on regional disputes in Korea and Central America, and a long analysis of the current world economic situation. Major articles were published individually as “World Policy Papers” and sent to key legislators, analysts, and journalists. Op-ed opinion pieces were written, based on Journal articles, and they soon began to appear in leading newspapers and journals.

Mary van Evera, a long-time activist in Minnesota, became the Institute’s new Chairperson, succeeding Franklin Wallin, a former president of Earlham College. Eight new board members were added. The Institute grew rapidly.

In 1984, a five-year comprehensive program, called “The Security Project”, was launched by the Institute. Its opening statement, entitled “Political Choice,” had these prophetic, concluding paragraphs:

“Freedom is inseparable from national security—freedom from costly and dangerous foreign adventures, and freedom to pursue a healthy, productive, and meaningful life at home. The enjoyment of the one is intimately linked to the avoidance of the other. Only when we throw off the fixation with military force as the cornerstone of our security will we have resources sufficient to address longstanding economic and social problems that plague our communities.

It is not coincidental that this nation’s factories, railroads, highways, and social fabric have fallen into a simultaneous state of disrepair. The decay of the public infrastructure and industrial base has taken a high toll in unemployment: lost jobs that would have provided paychecks for family breadwinners. Neither is it coincidental that the American Dream of college education and home ownership has become ever more remote from greater number of citizens at a time when the Pentagon has run up record budgets. Nor that the destitute and disabled have been forced to give up the food programs, health care, and other social services that provided what little personal security they have known. Nor that during the current weapons boom so many within the precarious middle class have lost ground and fallen into the ranks of the working poor.

None of this is the work of an invisible hand looming over the marketplace. Neither can it be attributed to the mysteries of fiscal or monetary theories. These high costs and inequitable consequences are, plain and simple, the outcome of political choice. As such, the devastating effects of recent obsessions and priorities can be reversed through a united determination of vision and will.

The time has come to ask ourselves where we want America to be, next year, five years from now, in the year 2000."

Over the next five years, The Security Project team of analysts published over 50 separate reports and released two major summary reports. These were distributed widely to hundreds of elected officials, policymakers, activists, and the media. Major columnists in the New York Times and the Washington Post reported favorably on the Institute’s work.

National public opinion polls were conducted in 1997 and 1989 by Stanley Greenberg and his associates based on our central themes and policy recommendations, which soon were taken up by candidates for the Presidency of the United States—most famously by Bill Clinton  when he argued successfully in his 1992 campaign that: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

 

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Arch Gillies is a former president of the World Policy Institute.

[Photo via Shutterstock]

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