Foreign Policy magazine recently published an article penned by the Cato Institute’s Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Justin Logan. Logan pointed out fundamental truths that make the Koch brothers’ attempted takeover of Cato seem odder than ever. Logan focused on his area of expertise—foreign policy—and pointed out the diametrically opposing views of the Cato Institute and the directors the Koch brothers have attempted to appoint. Logan writes:
Here’s the quick and dirty on what’s happening. The Kochs are suing Cato to obtain total control of the institute. They recently began forcing out Cato’s libertarian board members and replacing them with Koch operatives who are financially dependent on and/or otherwise entangled with the Kochs. Two of the people they tried but failed to force onto our board were John Hinderaker, a self-described “neocon” who writes for the hawkish and partisan Powerline blog, and Tony Woodlief, who declared that libertarian foreign-policy scholars “sound like absolute fools” or, alternatively, like “naive sophomores,” and went on to egregiously mischaracterize some of the things libertarians have said about foreign policy in recent decades. He’s within his rights to do so, but those stated views make him an odd pick to sit on Cato’s board.
Beyond their hawkish, anti-libertarian board nominees, the Kochs recently funded a project that could fairly be labeled Neoconpalooza, as my colleague Chris Preble documents here. (Quick summary: The Charles G. Koch Foundation gave money to AEI to host a seminar series featuring six speakers, all of whom were strong supporters of the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration.)
More broadly, they’ve made clear that they want Cato to be more responsive to research requests from their partisan activist groups like Americans for Prosperity. Do those groups really want to hear detached scholarship arguing that security threats are overblown, that immigration is a net plus for the country, that the war on drugs has pointlessly killed tens of thousands of Mexicans, and that the United States should dramatically scale back its global military ambitions? Probably not.
The Kochs are often powerful defenders of freedom. But the appointment of neocons to the Cato board is beyond the pale. There is no place for foreign policy hawks on the board of the Cato Institute. To preserve its credibility, Cato must remain independent.