The Hudson Institute is a conservative foreign policy and defense-focused think thank established during the height of the Cold War as a “nonpartisan futurist organization” focused on nuclear policy and strategy. During the decades-long standoff with the Soviet Union, the institute won large government contracts to study the consequences of nuclear war, as well as to advocate for larger defense budgets. Since the 9/11, the institute has been a vocal champion of the global war on terrorism and strongly advocated for the Iraq War.
The Hudson Institute was founded in 1961 by physicist Herman Kahn and his colleagues at the Rand Corporation, a think tank connected to the Air Force. Kahn’s notable contribution was his book, “”On Thermonuclear War,” published in 1960, about the consequences of a thermonuclear war. According to the New York Times, “an editor at Scientific American magazine denounced [the book] as ‘a moral tract on mass murder: how to plan it, how to commit it, how to get away with it, how to justify it.’” The character Dr. Strangelove, according to the New Yorker, is “an only slightly parodic version of Kahn.”
In 1984, a year after Kuhn’s death, and due to financial difficulty, the think tank moved from New York to Indianapolis where it remained until 2004, when it moved to Washington, D.C. in order to “return to its roots of national security and foreign policy.”
In 2002, Hudson cofounder and fellow Max Singer wrote an op-ed in the New York Sun arguing that “America has an embarrassment of riches” in reasons to attack Iraq, including Saddam Hussein’s “connection to the terrorists who have been attacking America, especially al Qaeda.” Singer went on to argue that “The safety of Americans requires that his regime be removed and Iraq be turned over to its people.” Years later, the group’s longtime president, Kenneth Weinstein, criticized the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation that the U.S. engage with Syria and Iran in order to stabilize Iraq, claiming that such diplomacy could only bring about “a perception of American weakness.” Weinstein and many other scholars at Hudson continue to oppose nuclear negotiations with Iran.
In 2008, Doug Feith, a former undersecretary of defense in the Bush administration, and one of the architects of the Iraq War, joined the institute as a fellow. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the disgraced former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is now a senior vice president. Other notable fellows include Weekly Standard editor Lee Smith, a vocal advocate of war with Iran, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S., and Nina Shea, a former commissioner on the troubled U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Hudson’s funders include the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation (contributed $13,055,560 since 1987), DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund (a combined $8,932,000 since 2002), the Smith Richardson Foundation ($6,709,860 since 1996), the Sarah Scaife Foundation ($4,173,000 since 1991), and the now-defunct John M. Olin Foundation ($3,034,840 between 1989 and 2003). Hudson also has many corporate funders, including Monsanto and Exxon Mobil. The Conservative Transparency database includes grants totaling $43,276,018 to the Hudson Institute.
- The group’s early contract work for the government was criticized by federal auditors for, in one case, “adding nothing to the state of the art” and in another case, being a “rehash of old, if not tired ideas.”
- Robert Bork, the controversial Supreme Court nominee, was a Hudson Institute fellow.
- Former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels was president of the Hudson Institute from 1987 to 1990.