On a Tuesday evening in March, veterans of America’s war in Afghanistan are sitting at an outdoor patio bar in Washington, DC. The presence on the menu of steak tartare, lobster ceviche and truffled chips is the only clue that this is a rarefied hotel in Georgetown, one of the capital’s most expensive neighbourhoods. The atmosphere otherwise is a fug of “fucks” and spent hopes.
One of the vets says he was shot in the hamstring (“the ass”, his friends correct him with glee). Another lost his leg to an improvised explosive device in Kandahar in 2012. He recovered in the nearby Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
One day during treatment, he snuck out of the facility to a bar. He was just knocking back his first drink when a young couple he didn’t know asked him about his injury. “I lost my leg in Afghanistan five weeks ago,” he answered.
They were shocked: “Do we still have troops in Afghanistan?”
There aren’t many causes that can unite the liberal hedge-funder George Soros and one of the conservative Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists who built a network of Republican donors. But in 2019, both Soros’s Open Society Foundations and the Charles Koch Foundation gave $500,000 apiece for the founding of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Events at the institute have questioned, among other things, whether exceptionalism should still be seen as “an untouchable third rail in US politics”.
It is named after John Quincy Adams, the sixth US president, who warned as secretary of state in 1821 that America risked becoming “dictatress of the world” if it chose force over liberty. America, Quincy argued, “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy” and should be a “well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all”.
Lora Lumpe, an expert on what she calls US “hyper-militarisation”, was working for the Open Society Foundations when she reached out to the Charles Koch Institute to collaborate in a bid to challenge the militarisation of US foreign policy. “We both came at it from our corners, which had kind of demonised the other,” she says. She has since joined the Quincy Institute as chief executive.
Read the full article in the Financial Times.