Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Mark Dallas




think, tanks, policy, states, terrorism


United States think tanks work in a “marketplace of ideas” where they compete to spread their views and influence policy-makers. Although think tanks often claim to be independent organizations free of politicization, they are political bodies. Analysts in think tanks share common assumptions about international relations and think tanks have clear political orientations, which guide their members while researching and promoting policies to decision makers. To what extent can global events alter or transform these underlying assumptions? Are global events interpreted anew or are they absorbed into the particular core values and basic principles mirrored in think tank mission statements? This thesis examines three United States think tanks across a wide political spectrum. It seeks to determine if think tanks are capable of amending their worldviews when major global events contradict their underlying principles, or if they simply justify preferred ideas in the policy realm. Specifically, the issue of terrorism will be the focus using 9/11 and the emergence of transnational terrorism as the case study. 9/11 was an unpredictable and unprecedented attack. The United States had rarely faced an enemy like transnational terrorism. This thesis ultimately argues that United States think tanks do not generate the abundance of new thinking they advocate. By examining how each think tank reacted to September 11th and by comparing dozens of policy briefs before and after the attacks in regards to terrorism, it becomes clear that principles will always formulate policy preferences.