Henry Jackson Society
The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) is a trans-Atlantic foreign policy and national security think tank, based in the United Kingdom. While non-partisan, its outlook has been described variously as neoliberal and as neoconservative. The society identifies itself with a "forward strategy" to spread democracy and liberal values globally. It is currently focused primarily on supporting global democracy in the face of threats from China and Russia. The society is also known for its reports related to Islamic and far right extremism. The society is named after the American politician Henry M. Jackson.
|Formation||11 March 2005|
|Type||Foreign policy, defence policy, counter-terrorism|
|Headquarters||Millbank Tower, London|
|Dr Alan Mendoza|
History and political aimsEdit
The society was founded on 11 March 2005 by academics and students at Cambridge, including Brendan Simms, Alan Mendoza, Gideon Mailer, James Rogers and Matthew Jamison. It was named after Henry M. Jackson, a Democratic Senator from Washington state who was a civil rights advocate and anticommunist liberal hawk. Jackson was respected by conservative leaders like Ronald Reagan who praised him for his bipartisanship:
Scoop Jackson was convinced that there's no place for partisanship in foreign and defense policy. He used to say, "In matters of national security, the best politics is no politics." His sense of bipartisanship was not only natural and complete; it was courageous.
It organises meetings with speakers in the House of Commons. The society claims that it advocates an interventionist foreign-policy that promotes human rights and reduces suffering, by both non-military and military methods, when appropriate.
In 2006, the society worked to raise the profile of the Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, who it claimed were being oppressed by the Iranian government. Ten years later, reporting in The Telegraph appears to have confirmed this. Work from this period was later used to commend military interventions for humanitarian reasons in UK Parliament as recently as 2013.
Having been founded at the University of Cambridge, the organisation was later moved to London. In April 2011 the entire staff of another London think-tank, the Centre for Social Cohesion which has since been dissolved joined the Henry Jackson Society.
In 2017, Hannah Stuart, one of the society's Research Fellows, released Islamist Terrorism: Analysis of Offences and Attacks in the UK (1998–2015), which profiled every individual convicted under terrorism legislation in the UK between those dates with an Islamist connection.
In June 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK's Department for International Development is to be merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The plan had first been proposed in a report published by the Henry Jackson Society in 2019, for which Johnson had authored the foreword.
Statement of principlesEdit
According to the Henry Jackson Society itself, the society operates along the following principles:
- Believes that modern liberal democracies set an example to which the rest of the world should aspire.
- Supports a 'forward strategy' – involving diplomatic, economic, cultural, and/or political means – to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so.
- Supports the maintenance of a strong military, by the United States, the countries of the European Union and other democratic powers, armed with expeditionary capabilities with a global reach, that can protect our homelands from strategic threats, forestall terrorist attacks, and prevent genocide or massive ethnic cleansing.
- Supports the necessary furtherance of European military modernisation and integration under British leadership, preferably within NATO.
- Stresses the importance of unity between the world's great democracies, represented by institutions such as NATO, the European Union and the OECD, amongst many others.
- Believes that only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate, and that the political or human rights pronouncements of any international or regional organisation which admits undemocratic states lack the legitimacy to which they would be entitled if all their members were democracies.
- Gives two cheers for capitalism. There are limits to the market, which needs to serve the Democratic Community and should be reconciled to the environment.
- Accepts that we have to set priorities and that sometimes we have to compromise, but insists that we should never lose sight of our fundamental values. This means that alliances with repressive regimes can only be temporary. It also means a strong commitment to individual and civil liberties in democratic states, even and especially when we are under attack.
The society's statement of principles have been changed from those first signed by supporters in Cambridge on 11 March 2005, to de-emphasise military methods and to more recognise the legitimacy of international organisations. The original versions were:
- Supports a 'forward strategy' to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so. This would involve the full spectrum of 'carrot' capacities, be they diplomatic, economic, cultural or political, but also, when necessary, those 'sticks' of the military domain.
- Supports the maintenance of a strong military, by the United States, the countries of the European Union and other democratic powers, armed with expeditionary capabilities with a global reach.
- Believes that only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate, and that any international organisation which admits undemocratic states on an equal basis is fundamentally flawed.
Structure and projectsEdit
The Society has produced a breadth of research reports and papers, with a recent focus on the impact of COVID-19 on civil liberties, critiques of far-right extremism in western democracies and the possible legal response to China's COVID-19 culpability. Other areas of research include Islamic extremism and Islamist terrorism, crackdowns on human rights and democracy and various facets of foreign policy and defence. Its current workstreams include:
- Asia Studies Centre. This Centre seeks to provide "an in-depth understanding of the structural shifts, regional complexities and historic tensions that exist alongside the tremendous economic and social growth that traditionally characterise the 'rise of Asia'". Publications include a paper on the possible outcomes of the negotiations with North Korea, and the need to safeguard critical national infrastructure in the West from vulnerabilities which may be built in by China.
- Global Britain Programme. Focuses on "the need for an open, confident and expansive British geostrategic policy in the twenty-first century – drawing on the United Kingdom’s unique strengths not only as an advocate for liberalism and national democracy, but also as a custodian of both the European and international orders". This centre has published papers on what the European Union 'owes' the United Kingdom, as well as advocated for increased military spending by NATO members.
- Russia & Eurasia Studies Centre. Researches domestic and foreign policy issues in Russia and the former Soviet states. In 2018 the Conservative MP Bob Seely published a paper through this Centre which sought to define 'Contemporary Russian Conflict', and in which he accused the government of Vladimir Putin of pursuing KGB-style tactics.
- Centre for the New Middle East. Established following the Arab Spring, the Society describes this Centre as "dedicated to monitoring political, ideological, and military and security developments across the Middle East and providing informed assessments of their wide-ranging implications". The Centre has released reports highly critical of Iran.
- Centre on Radicalisation & Terrorism. Focuses on the threat to the United Kingdom and elsewhere by Islamist terrorism. Reports have ranged from analyses of the UK charitable sector to the way in which criminals utilise the darknet.
- Student Rights. Created in 2009 "as a reaction to increasing political extremism and marginalisation of vulnerable students on campus". This project has tracked what it describes as "extreme" speakers on British university campuses.
- Centre for Social and Political Risk. In September 2018, the Society announced the creation of a new centre, which will "identify, diagnose and propose solutions to threats to governance in liberal Western democracies", focusing on social cohesion and integration; freedom of speech and political correctness; demographic change; and other issues.
- Henry Jackson Initiative for Inclusive Capitalism. In 2012, the Society started a transatlantic conversation about the growing income inequalities and their threat to the capitalist system.
Recent projects by the think tank include studying the discrepancy between gaol terms in the UK for Islamic extremists and far-right offenders. The Director of the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism found Islamist extremists are sentenced to "an average 73.4 months compared with 24.5 months for far-right offenders, despite the government's ambition to treat both strains of extremism in the same way".
Supporters and criticsEdit
The think tank has been described by The Herald as having right-wing and neoconservative leanings, though it positions itself as non-partisan. It was described in the Australian Financial Review as neoliberal.
Co-founder Matthew Jamison, who now works for YouGov, wrote in 2017 that he was ashamed of his involvement, having never imagined the Henry Jackson Society "would become a far-right, deeply anti-Muslim racist ... propaganda outfit to smear other cultures, religions and ethnic groups", further relating that: "The HJS for many years has relentlessly demonised Muslims and Islam".
Think tank discussions on the Middle East and Islam have led some media organisations to criticise a perceived anti-Muslim agenda. Marko Attila Hoare, a former senior member, cited related reasons for leaving the think tank and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was urged, in 2015, to sever his links with the society.
The Muslim Council of Britain criticised the Henry Jackson Society in 2017 stating that the narrative released by the Society makes "oblique references to the usual slurs levelled at Muslims: that Muslims do not integrate, are not part and parcel of British society, and are therefore likely to be terrorists".
In 2020 the Henry Jackson Society paid damages to a UK Muslim educational channel Huda Television Ltd, having confused it in 2018 with the similarly named Egyptian Station, Huda TV, which it accused of a "radical agenda" and hosting islamic extremist content.
According to the report published in 2015, "a right-wing politics is apparent not only in the ideas that the Henry Jackson Society promotes, but also emerges distinctly on examination of its funders".
Facebook is one multinational who has partnered with Henry Jackson Society, and spoken about it publicly. Their spokesperson has said:
Our work with groups like the Henry Jackson Society is critical to helping the industry understand and make progress on these important issues. It is through collaborations like these and with governments, academics, and others companies, through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, that we improve our collective ability to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms.
The initial signatories of the statement of principles included:
- Members of Parliament Michael Ancram, Michael Gove, Edward Vaizey, David Willetts, Denis MacShane, Fabian Hamilton, Gisela Stuart,
- former MPs David Trimble, Jackie Lawrence, Greg Pope,
- former soldier Tim Collins,
- Sir Richard Dearlove – former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, and formerly Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge – and the American economist Irwin Stelzer.
- Times Journalist Oliver Kamm
The income of the society increased significantly from 2009 to 2014, from £98,000 to £1.6 million per year. It is reported that Edward Atkin, the retired baby care entrepreneur, made donations through his charity totalling £375,000 between 2011 and 2013. Similarly the philanthropist Stanley Kalms has given the think tank £100,000. Nina Rosenwald, an activist who supported Henry M. Jackson's own Democratic Party campaigns in the 1970s, is known to have donated US$10,000 through American Friends of the Henry Jackson Society. In July 2014 Lady de Rothschild claimed that she has financed the Caring Capitalism summit and that HJS and its executive director Alan Mendoza were holding £137,000 of "surplus funds" from the conference that should be returned to the couple's investment company EL Rothschild, and so moved to civil proceedings. In 2017, the Henry Jackson Society was accused of running an anti-China propaganda campaign after the Japanese embassy gave them a monthly fee of £10,000. The campaign was said to be aimed at planting Japan's concerns about China in British newspapers.
In 2009 the society became the secretariat of two all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs), for Transatlantic and International Security, chaired by Gisela Stuart, and for Homeland Security, chaired by Bernard Jenkin. A transparency requirement upon non-profit organisations acting as secretariat at that time was that they must reveal any corporate donors who gave £5,000 or more to the organisation. In 2014, following a query, the society refused to disclose this information and resigned its position, so as to comply with the Rules. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, upheld a complaint against these APPGs, but noted the society had already resigned, and its non-provision of secretariat services therefore "appears to have taken effect" as the Rules intended. The case was closed with no further action taken and the APPGs themselves dissolved with the dissolution of Parliament in March 2015. The APPG Rules were subsequently changed so only non-profit organisations providing services to APPGs of more than £12,500 in value need to declare corporate donors.
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