The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) is a foreign policy think tank based in Philadelphia. Founded at the University of Pennsylvania by Austrian-American diplomat Robert Strausz-Hupéin in 1955, FPRI originally aimed to "enlighten political leaders about the nature of the protracted [Cold War] conflict, the historical and geographical realities that shaped it, and how to win it." Today, FPRI's mission is to bring "the insights of scholarship to bear on the development of policies that advance U.S. national interests," especially with respect to China and the Islamic world.
FPRI's president is Alan Luxenberg, a longtime affiliate of the institute. Its board of trustees, as of 2013, drew heavily from Philadelphia's business and philanthropic communities, though a few well-known hawks—including Devon Gaffney Cross and former Mitt Romney advisers Dov Zakheim and John Lehman—were also members. Controversial historian of Islam Bernard Lewis serves on the group's board of advisers alongside other conservative academics and think tank figures, including Michael Doran of the Brookings Institute and the Hoover Institution's Kori Schake, who served as a senior adviser to the McCain/Palin campaign during the 2008 presidential election.
FPRI has a slate of research programs that are devoted to studying U.S. national security, terrorism, "America and the West," Asia, the Middle East, democratic transitions, and the relationship between think tanks and policymaking. FPRI's approximately 85 scholars publish articles and books through a variety of outlets, including two of the institute's own publications: the quarterly journal Orbis, and the online newsletter E-Notes. In addition to its publishing work, FPRI runs a program to "teach the teachers" through its Wachman Center and History Institute.
Although FPRI's scholars skew to the right, their work often leans more towards realism than neoconservatism, eschewing the Manichaeism of many more strident foreign policy hawks. Thus, for instance, in its 2012 annual report, FPRI warns that "It would be an error to predict the behavior of Islamist insurgents and terrorists on the basis of Islamic theology or even Islamist ideology alone," just as it "it would be an error to predict Chinese behavior from communist ideology or even from abstract notions of the Chinese national interest alone."
On the Middle East, then-FPRI president Harvey Sicherman predicted in 2002 that the war on terrorism would "soon make the Bush pragmatists new visionaries." The following year, however, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig—then an FPRI trustee—criticized the administration's neoconservatives for deluding themselves"that [military] strength, allied to American ideals, can overwhelm any foe." In 2012, senior fellow James Kurth concluded that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were both "failure[s] of reinvented conservatism—and particularly of neoconservatism." Another fellow, Walter McDougall, warned that "American exceptionalism" was "more trouble and probably even more danger than it's worth."
Nevertheless, a number of prominent hawks have found a home at FPRI over the years, and FPRI publications often feature works by hardliners, including Sohrab Ahmari, Max Boot, Eliot Cohen, Donald Kagan, Frederick Kagan, Keith Payne, Richard Perle, Henry Sokolski, Arthur Waldron, George Weigel, and James Woolsey. Daniel Pipes, a former FPRI scholar who founded the neoconservative Middle East Forum, proclaimed at a 1991 address to the Heritage Foundation that FPRI has "always advocated an activist U.S. foreign policy; we have shared an abiding suspicion of the Soviet Union and other Communist states; and we have always maintained a strong interest in the promotion of democracy, free enterprise, and the rule of law. Perhaps most controversially, the professional staff is not shy about the use of force; were we members of Congress in January 1991, all of us would not only have voted with President Bush and Operation Desert Storm, we would have led the charge."
FPRI's willingness to house traditional realists alongside hardline hawks occasionally leads to disagreements. In a 2012 column, for example, FPRI advisory board member Frank Hoffman suggested that the U.S. military budget should remain above $500 billion annually, praising then-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his plans to hike the budget and suggesting that such an increase might reasonably come from a reduction in social spending. In contrast, FPRI terrorism specialist Lawrence Husick warned in 2011 that "It appears that we must choose between continuing to fund our military without question—funding programs that no officer wants, but that many in Congress zealously protect—or funding a viable healthcare system." Quipping that "Osama bin Laden could not have done a better job than our investment bankers in bringing the West to its financial knees," Husick concluded that "the United States is faced with the true costs of terrorism and security—not just the erosion of basic freedoms, but the erosion of our way of life, which was, after all, one of the prime targets of bin Laden and al Qaeda."
In recent years, FPRI scholars have generally been wary about U.S. interventions in the Middle East. Several have endorsed the idea of using a "credible" threat of force to get Iran to the negotiating table, but few—aside from American Foreign Policy Council chairman Ilan Berman, a contributor to FPRI publications—have dismissed the usefulness of negotiations. And while some FPRI writers criticized the Obama administration's initial reluctance to intervene in Syria's civil war, few advocated intervention as the fighting escalated. One FPRI board member, Adam Garfinkle, echoing the likes of Daniel Pipes and Dennis Prager, argued that Washington should "stand aside for a little longer so that some hateful, armed and dangerous people can get killed."
Some FPRI writers have expressed alarmist views regarding Islam. "The American nation was, and still is, not rallied to action with a clear explanation of who the Islamists really are and why the American culture is better than theirs," wrote senior fellow Edward A. Turzanski in 2011, who also complained about both Barack Obama's and George Bush's reluctance to describe the "war on terror" as a crusade against Islamists. "There is greater hostility in many elite circles," he concluded, "towards those who water-boarded the ring leaders who destroyed the [World Trade Center] towers than to the terrorists themselves."
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has also been targeted by FPRI writers. E-Notes contributor Raymond Stock has called the Brotherhood "an implacably anti-Western, anti-secular, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-female, Muslim-supremacist" organization that is "directly influenced by the Nazis." Stock celebrated the 2013 military coup that brought down Egypt's elected Muslim Brotherhood government, even praising the civil unrest that followed, which saw several hundred supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi killed by security forces. "It would be better to have that civil conflict now then to wait until the Islamists are better armed and prepared," he wrote.
In its 2011 tax filings, FPRI reported over $3 million in contributions. Major supporters listed in the group's 2012 annual report include Boeing, Piasecki Aircraft, J.F. Lehman & Company, and several legal and financial firms.
Historically, FPRI has also benefited from the largesse of conservative foundations. Between 1985 and 2005, FPRI received nearly $5 million from the Lynde and Harry Bradley, John M. Olin, Earhart, Smith Richardson, and Sarah Scaife Foundations, among others.