Several investigations by the New York Times have revealed that the think tank industry has grown immensely over the past decades and has corrupted politics with a business model that sells access and influence. The US military-industrial complex has used think tanks to hijack EU policymaking.
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Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga has warned that the European Union has become a stumbling bystander of history and is increasingly unable to resolve the challenges of its citizens. Varga blames the malaise partly on the absence of political leadership. She believes that the bloc is run by think tanks and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which dictate how it should be led. Meanwhile, Clare Daly – an Irish MEP – similarly stated recently in the EU Parliament that “the paranoid imaginations of the security sector think tanks that parade here day after day” are able to dictate policies based on the “flimsiest of evidence.”
NGOs have long been used as an instrument to gain influence in the civil society of various nation states. The US has been an innovator in developing cutouts which it funds and ensures are often also staffed by people linked to official Washington. Eventually, the EU adopted the same practice, albeit in a different way, mainly focused on Europe itself. As a result, state-funded NGOs are now increasingly manipulating Western policies.
As think tanks and NGOs increase their influence over EU policymaking, it begs the question: What are the consequences of outsourcing political leadership to these entities?
Adopting the Anglo-American model of privatizing policymaking
Think tanks – when they work in the classic sense – can play an important role in policymaking processes by providing expertise, representing diverse interests, and advocating for specific causes. As the world becomes increasingly complex, politicians must make decisions on a wide variety of complicated topics on which they often have limited knowledge. It is simply unrealistic to expect that elected leaders would have sufficient expertise and in-depth understanding in all areas of policymaking.
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However, by relying increasingly on the expertise of think tanks and NGOs, power shifts from elected officials to what can be considered lobbyists and advocacy groups. As the EU emulates the Anglo-American model of think tank governance, it is also necessary to explore its weaknesses and consequences.
In the US, think tanks have acquired an immense influence over policymakers and the public. They provide research reports and analysis for politicians which they base their decisions on. The think tanks also function as a waiting room for politicians who are out of government in a revolving door system, enabling the groups to put their own “fellows” into the highest positions in Washington. Think tanks also provide analysis for Congressional hearings and dominate in the media as a source of expert opinions. As a result, they have become an important center of political power.
Three Israeli soldiers, who served in the mixed-gender light infantry Bardelas and Caracal battalions tasked with guarding the border, were killed by an Egyptian policeman.