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Harvard’s Kennedy School: Key Part Of The Military-Industrial Complex


Harvard’s Kennedy School’s denial of a fellowship to Kenneth Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch, because of his criticism of Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza is only the latest example of the corporate role played by Harvard’s most prestigious think tank on public policy.  Roth, who has spent the last three decades at HRW defending human rights around the world, was offered a senior fellowship at the School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.  It was quickly withdrawn.

The school’s dean, Douglas Elmendorf, blocked the appointment following pressure from donors and supporters of Israel and its apartheid policies.  Hundreds of Harvard affiliates have now called on Elmendorf to resign as Dean.  The critics of Elmendorf include former Harvard president Lawrence Summers.

As America’s leading human rights defender, Roth has criticized numerous governments that violated human rights, including Israel’s.  No one has been more aggressive in this area than Kenneth Roth, who has challenged all those who have abused their power and authority.  No one has ever suggested that Roth’s criticisms of Israel were based on racial or religious animus.

In view of the fact that there are so few defenders of human rights and that the new Israeli government is poised to further suppress the human rights of its minority Palestinian population as well as those Palestinians in the occupied territory, the Harvard decision becomes more shocking.  The fact that Roth’s parents were refugees from Hitler’s Germany, and that the Roth family lost members in the Holocaust makes Harvard’s decision even more ironic and unconscionable.  From both the standpoint of human rights and academic freedom, Harvard and its Kennedy School mark themselves as failures.

Six years ago, Elmendorf withdrew a fellowship offer to Chelsea Manning immediately following CIA director Mike Pompeo’s criticism of the offer and former deputy director Mike Morell’s resignation as a senior fellow at the Kennedy School.  Elmendorf’s pathetic statement explaining his decision at the time emphasized that it was not meant as a “compromise between competing interest groups.”  Manning was responsible for the greatest leak of U.S. military and diplomatic documents in history, including evidence of war crimes.  She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2016.

The credibility of the Kennedy School has always been questionable on policy grounds because of its one-sided support for U.S. security initiatives, particularly in the Middle East.  The school receives significant funding from Israel and Saudi Arabia, and supports close U.S.ties to both countries.  The school is home to the Wexner Foundation, which sponsors the attendance of high-ranking Israeli generals and national security experts in a Master’s Degree program in public administration at Harvard.  Kennedy School students are taken on trips to both Israel and Saudi Arabia on a regular basis.

The Kennedy School curriculum closely follows the outlines of U.S. national security and foreign policies.  For example, when the Obama administration announced the policy of the “Pivot” to the Asian Pacific region as part of the policy of containment of China, the Kennedy School immediately sponsored a workshop on the “Pivot.”  Typically these workshops are led by supporters of U.S. policy and don’t allow for the participation of critics of U.S. policy.  The School is particularly beholden to the interests of the Pentagon and the CIA, which generously support Harvard’s projects.

I have my own personal experience with the Kennedy School as a result of my last senior position at the Central Intelligence Agency in 1990-1991, when I was the director of the Center for the Study of Intelligence.  In that role, I was the coordinator of all dealings and contracts with the Kennedy School and immediately questioned the ethics of our relationship with the School.  My concerns became more personnel after I left the CIA and received a bootlegged copy of a case study from a senior CIA official who was shocked by a Kennedy School case study that boldly proclaimed that the CIA “got it right” in anticipating the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The study was titled “The CIA and the Fall of the Soviet Empire: The Politics of ‘Getting It Right’.”

Of course, the CIA didn’t “get it right” regarding the Soviet collapse, and such senior policymakers as George Shultz, Colin Powell, and Stansfield Turner as well as such senior members of the Senate intelligence committee as Bill Bradley and Daniel Moynihan stressed that the CIA “got it wrong.”  Turner, a former CIA director, called it a “corporate failure,” which it was.  The Kennedy School’s case study was ethically questionable from the start because it was funded by the CIA, based on a small number of documents selected by the CIA, and made no attempt to include testimony from critics of the CIA’s analysis.

The study referred to CIA critics as “disgruntled” and “unhappy analysts who were “young” and “vent[ed] their anger against Gates.”  Actually, three leading critics of CIA’s politicization of intelligence testified to the Senate intelligence committee in 1991 to block the confirmation of Robert Gates as CIA director.  These three critics had more than 70 years of experience at the CIA, and were able to cite rhyme and verse of Gates’ leading role in politicizing intelligence and, in the process, making sure that the CIA “got it wrong.”

The directors of Harvard’s intelligence project, Philip Zelikow and Ernest May, were also the co-directors of the official report of the 9/11 Commission, which was flawed and also suffered from politicization.  Zelikow and May invited members of the various national security agencies to take part in the drafting of the report that led to fulsome praise for the various agencies that contributed to the intelligence failure, such as the CIA.  Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme-chose.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His most recent books are “American Carnage: The Wars of Donald Trump” (Opus Publishing, 2019) and “Containing the National Security State” (Opus Publishing, 2021). Goodman is the national security columnist for

Harvard’s Kennedy School: Key Part Of The Military-Industrial Complex –