Commentary

Pragmatic Steps Toward Ideal Objectives

in Program

This year, Stimson celebrates its 25th anniversary.  We’re proud of our record of innovative analysis and action to fulfill our original motto “pragmatic steps toward ideal objectives.”

Today we launch a series of short essays that capture our history, our current research focus, and our hopes for a future of continued policy impact on global security.  We will be sharing our thoughts about Stimson’s record and our approach to the challenges of international security over the coming months.  We’ll tell you about some of our distinct methods of convening diverse groups of thinkers and doers to generate new policy ideas, and of crossing traditional boundaries in the security field, linking development, environment, and security.  In that way, one of Stimson’s core missions is to enhance policymakers’ and the public’s understanding of the changing global security agenda. 

Stimson was created at an earlier moment when the security paradigm was shifting: in 1989, co-founders Barry Blechman and Michael Krepon saw the public and official discourse locked in stale Cold War debates, and creating a new think tank was one way to refresh the conversation and create space for some new thinking and policy ideas.  They were looking for something that, in their words, “synthesized pragmatism and idealism.”  From its early days, Stimson was committed to avoiding the predictably political solutions to problems, and looked instead for smart solutions to enduring problems, without a political agenda.  We have also focused on how institutions function, and how they could be improved for better policy outcomes.  These approaches continues to animate our work.

One of Stimson’s other traits is our convening powers.  We work to bring together diverse stakeholders to facilitate finding the areas of agreement, often across political and institutional boundaries.  Examples include bringing together lawyers, military officers and human rights activists on genocide prevention, and local environmental activists with government officials and regional water management organizations in Southeast Asia.  This approach has proven effective in generating policy recommendations – to the US government, to the United Nations, to various governments in donor capitals and countries of the Global South – and is part of Stimson’s impact far beyond the Washington beltway.

In the coming weeks, you will read about our work on diverse topics, from water management in the great river basins of Asia (The Mekong, the Indus), new approaches to wildlife crime in East Africa, the geopolitics of East Asia, and work in the peacekeeping world to strengthen ways to protect civilians in conflict zones.  Our scholars travel to dangerous places, and give high priority to hearing the views of others. 

We begin the series with several essays on the nuclear challenges, from nuclear deterrence in South Asia, the global search for ways to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, and creative approaches to nonproliferation in the global south. 

I will welcome your comments on these essays, and hope you will continue to find Stimson’s work useful.  We look forward to your interest and support as we begin our second 25 years!

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