The Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute is part of a closely-knit group of neoconservative policy institutes that champion aggressive, Israel-centric U.S. foreign policies. Founded in 1961 by several dyed-in-the-wool Cold Warriors, including Herman Kahn—a one-time RAND nuclear war theorist notorious for his efforts to develop "winnable" nuclear war strategies—Hudson describes itself as "a nonpartisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom."
Hudson complements its foreign policy work with research on social and economic issues, claiming to "challenge conventional thinking and help manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary and collaborative studies in defense, international relations, economics, culture, science, technology, and law."
Although the institute calls itself a "non-partisan" organization, its scholars and work tend to reflect a deep ideological affiliation with militaristic security policies, as well as an anti-Islamic and right-wing "pro-Israel" posture with respect to the Middle East. For instance, in March 2015, Hudson hosted hawkish Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who used the Hudson perch to allege that President Obama has a "tendency" to give terrorists "a hand and help them off the mat."
"War on Terror" and Middle East Politics
Hudson scholars write on a variety of purported threats to U.S. security—including a rising China, leftists in Latin America, and border politics. However, the institute devotes much of its work to issues related to the Middle East and Islam, often promoting hawkish policies vis-à-vis Mideast countries like Syria and Iran.
With the rise of the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria in 2014, Hudson Institute fellows have warned against the United States allying with Iran to fight the group and have urged sending in U.S. ground troops. In a September 2014 article for PJ Media, adjunct fellow Ronald Radosh claimed that "in today's world, to ennoble one terrorist regime to help gain its goals in order to defeat a non-state terrorist group simply makes no sense whatsoever." He added that "the West might eventually have to use combat forces in some areas to make air strikes work."
Hudson's Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World is a case in point. Directed by Hillel Fradkin, a Leo Strauss adept who has worked for a number of neoconservative groups, the center's "About" page contends that Muslims are inclined toward religious extremism: "For the past thirty years or more, Islamism and radical Islam has dominated the realm of ideas in the Muslim world. It has met with little ideological opposition, though it has been opposed politically by authoritarian regimes throughout the Muslim world. It has served, not coincidentally, as the background out of which contemporary Islamic terrorism has emerged."
Like many of his Hudson colleagues, Fradkin is keen on regime change in Iran. In a September 2012 op-ed coauthored with Hudson vice president Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fradkin linked uprisings in Syria and Libya to the purported necessity of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. "We have no reason to expect that the radical rulers of Iran will go gently if and when revolution comes," they wrote. "Muammar Gaddafi and Assad fought back, and the Iranian mullahs hold even stronger ambitions and hatreds of the West." Claiming that Iran's leaders are unlikely to abandon "the proclaimed religious obligation to create an Islamic new world order," Fradkin and Libby predicted that "if Iranian hard-liners succeed in obtaining nuclear weapons, those weapons will most likely be kept in the hands of military leaders—the Revolutionary Guard—closest to the hard-liners. In short, the weapons will be where we would least want them in turbulent times."
Hudson Institute fellows were also been outspoken in their opposition to the Obama administration's nuclear negotiations with Iran. Radosh, for instance, has claimed that Iran stands "firm in its goal of building a nuclear weapon, confident that its ability to play the United States will continue." Senior fellow Lee Smith has also accused the Obama White House of pursuing "détente with Iran and a cold war with Israel." Writing in the Weekly Standard, Smith opined: "The White House is openly boasting that it bought the Iranians enough time to get across the finish line. … The way Obama sees it, an Iranian bomb may not be desirable, but it's clearly preferable to an Israeli attack." After a nuclear deal was reached between Iran and six world powers in July 2015, Smith claimed the deal was "about Obama picking sides, and he is choosing Iran."
Hudson also hosts a Center on Middle East Policy, which is led by Meyrav Wurmser, cofounder of the controversial Middle East Media Research Institute and spouse of neoconservative ideologue and George W. Bush administration official David Wurmser. An ardent backer of right-wing, "pro-Israel" security policies, Meyrav is a proponent of the notion—which as of 2014 both U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies disagreed with—that Iran is building nuclear weapons and intends to use them against Israel. In a May 2012 blog post for the New York Times rejecting the idea of a non-proliferation treaty in the Middle East—a proposal that would entail Israel disarming its own undeclared nuclear arsenal—Wursmer claimed that "Since Iran's [nuclear] program existentially threatens Israel, Israel must possess the means to deter or defeat the realization of that threat." She added that any regional agreement "would reward Iran's aggression, confirm its strategy of threats, and encourage it to accelerate."
A number of other Hudson scholars have also been leading voices in the effort to push the United States to attack Iran, including adjunct fellow Norman Podhoretz, an early neoconservative trailblazer and former editor of Commentary magazine. In a widely noted June 2007 article for Commentary titled "The Case for Bombing Iran," Podhoretz wrote: "The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences. The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." He concluded pointing to European weakness, a familiar Podhoretz theme: "In fact, it could almost be said of the Europeans that they have been more upset by Ahmadinejad's denial that a Holocaust took place 60 years ago than by his determination to set off one of his own as soon as he acquires the means to do so. In a number of European countries, Holocaust denial is a crime, and the European Union only recently endorsed that position. Yet for all their retrospective remorse over the wholesale slaughter of Jews back then, the Europeans seem no readier to lift a finger to prevent a second Holocaust than they were the first time around. Not so George W. Bush, a man who knows evil when he sees it and who has demonstrated an unfailingly courageous willingness to endure vilification and contumely in setting his face against it."
Funding Right-Wing Israeli Politics
In mid-2010, Israeli bloggers uncovered the Hudson Institute's funding of a right-wing Israeli group that was founded by a settler leader named Israel Harel. According to authors Didi Remez and Shira Beery, writing in the blog Coteret, U.S. tax forms and official Israeli registration documents show that Hudson has been a principal financial backer of the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), providing no less than 50 percent of this group's budget over several years, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
IZS—together with another right-wing group called Im Tirzu that has received significant funding from U.S. Pastor John Hagee's Christian Zionist group Christian's United for Israel (CUFI)—has been at the forefront of a controversial effort to attack sociology and political science departments they deem "left-wing" and "post-Zionist."
Despite efforts by some of the groups' leaders to disavow any connection between their work, Israel's Haaretz reported in August 2010: "Im Tirtzu chairman Ronen Shoval and the organization's spokesperson, Erez Tadmor, took part in a Young Leadership program run by the Institute for Zionist Strategies several years ago, seemingly contradicting the two men's earlier assertion that they were not acting in concert with the institute in their public campaign against the 'anti-Zionist bias' in Israeli universities. … The IZS report on sociology departments is reminiscent of Im Tirtzu's report on political science departments. Not only is the methodology of the two reports identical (an examination of syllabi and a classification of lecturers into categories such as 'Zionist' and 'anti-Zionist'), but the conclusions they reached about the state of Israeli academia are similar."
Didi Remez, in a separate blog entry, highlighted additional connections between Hudson and IZS: "Max Singer, co-founder of the Hudson Institute, its former President and current Senior Fellow, is also the IZS's Research Director. At least according to his bio on the Hudson website: The IZS site only identifies him as a member of the Advisory Committee. Its 2006 brochure (page 8), however, states that he is a member of the International Board of Governors and is one of the ex-officio members of the Projects Committee, which "as such, are invited to all deliberative sessions and events." According to the IZS's verbal report to the Israeli Registrar of Associations for 2008 (the last one filed), Singer's wife, Suzanne, is one of three members of the NGO's "Council", the sovereign decision-making body under Israeli law.
The bloggers criticized both Hudson and IZS for not being open about their ties, writing: "The Hudson Institute's involvement in controversial and partisan battles in the Israeli public sphere is legitimate. What is not is the fact that it is hidden from the public eye. The organizations share information on their financial relationship with their respective regulators but not with the general public. Both the IZS and the Hudson websites do not mention the organizations' connection. In Hebrew, the IZS site simply states that its funding is "private." In English, it refers potential donors to a newly established (it has registered but not yet filed with the IRS) US charity, "Friends of the Institute for Zionist Strategies."
The writers also noted that Hudson's "opaque involvement in Israeli affairs is not limited to 'democracy' issues and encompasses high-level geopolitics as well. Its form 990 for 2007 (last page) reports on the transfer of $600,000 to the 'Atlantic Forum of Israel' in the previous tax year. Trying to understand what this organization does is no easy task. Its website is 'under construction.'"
Scholars and Leadership
Hudson's current and former scholars and associates include many widely recognized neoconservative figures. Several Hudson associates have supported the work of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the advocacy outfit that played an important role in pushing for the invasion of Iraq in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, as well as its various successor groups. The overlap between Hudson and the now-defunct PNAC has included many who signed PNAC's 1997 "Statement of Principles," including Elliott Abrams, the pardoned Iran-Contra convict who served as a Mideast adviser to the Bush administration and is a former Hudson scholar; Francis Fukuyama, the erstwhile neoconservative fellow traveler and author of the "end of history" thesis who in recent years has rejected many of the faction's policy ideas; and trustee emeritus Donald Kagan, a conservative classicist.
The Hudson institute also has multiple connections to the Center for Security Policy, a hardline advocacy outfit founded by former Reagan administration defense official Frank Gaffney, through members like Charles Horner, George Keyworth, Richard Perle, and William Schneider.
Kenneth R. Weinstein is Hudson's president and CEO. He joined the institute in 1999 and is a former research fellow. He previously worked at the Heritage Foundation, the New Citizenship Project, the Israel-based Shalem Center (home to the Sheldon Adelson-funded Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies), Claremont McKenna College, and Georgetown University.
Herbert London, Hudson's president emeritus, has been affiliated with the institute for more than three decades, either as a trustee or senior fellow, founding Hudson's Center for Employment Policy during his tenure. London is also a former Olin Professor of Humanities at New York University. London has sat on the boards of numerous private sector businesses and organizations, including Merrill Lynch Assets Management. He previously served as board member to the Center for Naval Analyses.
I. Lewis Libby, the former assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted as part of the federal investigation into the PlameGate affair, serves as Hudson's senior vice president. According to his bio page on the Hudson website, which fails to mention his conviction on charges of lying to government investigators, Libby "guides the Institute's program on national security and defense issues, devoting particular attention to U.S. national security strategy, strategic planning, the future of Asia, the Middle East, and the war against Islamic radicalism."
Walter P. Stern, who has also served a vice president of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is the chairman emeritus of Hudson's Board of Trustees, which has strong ties to the corporate world, including defense industries. Current and former Hudson trustees have include Conrad Black, Donald Kagan, Emmanuel Kampouris, Dan Quayle, Richard Perle, Nina Rosenwald, and Lawrence Kadish.
Hudson cofounder Max Singer, who remains a senior fellow, is associated with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, which is part of Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He writes frequently for the Jerusalem Post and other major newspapers, routinely advocating hardline views about Saudi Arabia and supporting Israel's actions toward the Palestinians. He was also a fervent supporter of Ahmed Chalabi, the discredited former Iraqi exile who has been tied to Iranian figures.
Hillel Fradkin, who joined Hudson as a senior fellow in summer 2004 and runs its Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World, has been a longtime member of the network of rightist and neoconservative institutions, serving as head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a fellow at AEI, and an officer at the Bradley and Olin foundations. In 2004 article for the Irving Kristol-founded Public Interest, Fradkin argued, "It is hard to overstate the collective psychological effect of the decline of Islamic power, coincidental with the rise of Christian power and its modern political organization."
Another outspoken Hudson scholar is Irwin Stelzer, who has directed economic policy studies at the institute. Stelzer is the editor of the 2004 volume The Neocon Reader (Grove Press, New York), a compendium of writings from different political figures and authors that describes aspects of neoconservatism.
Other notable Hudson scholars past and present have included Carol Adelman (spouse of Ken Adelman), Anne Bayefsky, Robert Bork, Douglas Feith, Laurent Murawiec, Nina Shea, Lee Smith, and Ben Wattenberg.
After the institute was founded in 1961 by Herman Kahn, Max Singer, and Oscar Ruebhausen in New York's Westchester County, it moved to Indianapolis in 1984, and then finally settled in Washington, DC in 2004. During its more than 40 years of operation, the institute claims to have helped shift "the world away from the no-growth policies of the Club of Rome," enabling the former Soviet republics to become "booming market economies." It also claims to have pioneered "Wisconsin welfare reform" that was later applied nationally. More recently, however, the institute has focused much of its work on security issues, declaring that its move to Washington was made "in an effort to focus its research on foreign policy and national security issues."
One of Hudson's founders, Kahn, was one of the more infamous products of the RAND Corporation, where, beginning in 1947, he developed nuclear strategies that downplayed the impact of a thermonuclear war and was supposedly the inspiration for the character of Dr. Strangelove. In a discussion of Kahn's ideas in the New Yorker, Louis Menand quoted Kahn's 1960 book, On Thermonuclear War: "Despite a widespread belief to the contrary, objective studies indicate that even though the amount of human tragedy would be greatly increased in the postwar [i.e. nuclear] world, the increase would not preclude normal and happy lives for the majority of survivors and their descendants."
Menand commented: "The reason [Kahn's] scenarios are fantastic to the point, almost, of risibility is that they deliberately ignore all the elements—beliefs, customs, ideas, politics—that actual wars are fought about, and that operate as a drag on decision making at every point."
The Hudson Institute received close to $25 million between 1987 and 2003 in foundation, corporate, and government grants, according to Media Transparency and the Capital Research Center. In 2005, the Sarah Scaife Foundation gave Hudson $150,000 for projects, and the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation gave $75,000 "toward general support for the U.S., China, Russia, and Iran Diplomacy and Security project, and the work of Russian scholar and writer Dr. Andrei Piontkowski," according to Media Transparency. In 2004, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation gave Hudson hundreds of thousands for various projects. Other top Hudson funders have included Olin, Smith Richardson, Pew, the Donner Foundation, and the Department of Justice.
In its annual report for 2012, Hudson reported that some 56 percent of its revenues came from foundations, 10 percent from individuals, 12 percent from corporations, 8 percent from government grants, and less than 1 percent from investments. In 2013, Hudson reported nearly $13.3 million in revenues, over $1 million of which went to Weinstein, Smyth, Libby, and COO John Walters.