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Influencing Policy From the Outside

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CONVINCED of the need for a dramatic response to the crisis in the Soviet Union, a team of American and Soviet scholars joined to propose a "Grand Bargain" to resurrect the Soviet economy through Western help. The response of the Bush administration to the Harvard-Moscow concept was cool. The incident illustrates the difficulty of inserting ideas on a major issue into the foreign policy process from the outside. Scholars who work on international issues in universities and public-policy institutes across the country hope that the results of their scholarship will influence policy. Seeing what they believe to be unrealized opportunities, they are frustrated by the apparent lack of official action. Their yearning for influence is further encouraged by the individuals and foundations who fund private research and who insist that the publications, conferences, and seminars that result will produce policy recommenda t

ions. Yet rarely have such recommendations been adopted by an administration and converted directly into policy.

Exceptions do exist. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington was instrumental in fostering legislation that effectively reorganized the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Yet CSIS in this instance worked on this issue in cooperation with key members of Congress, where members and their staffs are more open to ideas from the outside.

US scholars have also had influence in advising other governments. Jeffrey Sachs, a Harvard economist, has played a major role in implementing economic reforms in Poland. But efforts to influence US policy by direct uninvited approaches to the executive branch encounter several obstacles. Outsiders do not have access to the same flow of information as those within the government. This is especially true in the Bush administration, where sensitive information - and policy decisions - are confined to a sm a

ll circle.

Those within government, conscious of the need to coordinate different positions in the executive and to deal effectively with Congress, are apprehensive toward external initiatives that will threaten their control over the process.


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