Updated: Apr 22

The term “think tank” in the US has its roots back in the 1870s when Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie established a think tank in order to explore ways of ending the World War. During the days of Second World War, the term “think tank” was used for the highly confidential and secure places where the war strategies used to be formulated. The era has changed, and the influence has changed. Now such a term holds an open and influential definition in the modern world. Think tanks are considered as the independent non-profit organizations which conduct thorough analyses and research on the state and global issues that can prove to be beneficial for devising the foreign policy.

While talking about the media, nobody can disregard the influence of media in the modern era. Media holds a strong following of masses of people and is regarded as a corridor of power. Many media professionals and spokespersons also tend to be members of think tank organizations where they are trained to develop their mindset for such a platform. Scholars of such think tank organizations are hired by the government and media officials. Think tanks and media together play a pivotal role in devising the foreign policy of the state.

Media and Foreign Policy

The international entities are heavily influenced by the coverage that media provides and the image of events that media portrays. The people within the state are well-aware of the circumstances around and yet, their attention and thought process is influenced by media. The world gets a perspective of the nation through the media. The relations, deals, current affairs, economic conditions, each and every matter of a state can be easily followed through media. If the media presents more of a positive image of the state, then the world outside will develop a good perception about the state. The same goes for the negative image. Media offers a deep insight of the internal matters of the state. This helps the policy makers to take various factors into consideration before formulating the policy.

The attacks of 9/11 and its media coverage seen around the world had caused a substantial impact on the minds of people as well as the foreign policy afterwards. The decision of US government for starting the Afghan war had a lot of influence of media. The alliances and the oppositions at that time had used media as a source of defining their foreign policies as well. US has always been looking for possibilities of getting rid of terrorist entities in South Asia. Making that happen requires a foreign policy that can root out terrorism while assuring good relations with all the countries in South Asia. When it comes to the relations of US and South Asian countries, all eyes have always been on the media platforms and channels. All the stakeholders seek the insight of the affairs through media.

Economic growth is also a major part of the foreign policy. No state ever builds the relations on unstable economic grounds. Media brings the economic picture in front of the world. Foreign investors follow the media sources to explore the possibilities of investing in the international market. Media presents the facts and figures related to the economic state of a country.

Think Tanks and Foreign Policy

As stated earlier, think tanks prove to be the forefronts of the policy-making process. The research they conduct, the insight they provide, the predictions they make, each and every factor plays its role in formulating the foreign policy of the state. The relationship between US foreign policy and think tanks is hidden to none. CIA, Defense department, and other such highly functional departments give a serious consideration to the researches and insights offered by the think tank organizations. The research and report publications of think tanks are not meant for ordinary officials. They are intended to be looked upon by the policy makers, the same people who turn out to be the forefronts of US foreign policy.

There are about 1800 think tank organizations operating in USA. 400 of them are currently functional in Washington alone. This shows the significance of think tanks in the US political culture. But these think tanks have not always been given the same importance all the time. During the Bush Administration, think tanks were of supreme importance. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were from the Washington think tanks. This was the influence of think tanks during that time. Obama Administration also gave a huge amount of attention to the research of think tanks in devising the foreign policy of the state. Each report issued by these think tanks caused a great impact on foreign policy.

Trump Administration has been quite different in this regard. This administration has never shown keen interest in the research conducted by think tanks. The current US government holds a sense of doubt and distrust for these researches. The current US foreign policy has very less to do with the contributions of think tanks. In the present time, Trump Administration has taken a step to end the Afghan war while ensuring that all the conflicts are removed between Afghan people and US government. All this is done to discard the chances of any instability in the region of South Asia due to Afghanistan.


The emphatic influence of media and think tanks over US foreign policy is ever increasing. Although, nobody can measure the level of influence, but surely the contributions of media presentations and researches of think tanks have increased as compared to the era of 90s and before. South Asia has always been one of the core areas of interest for US. Devising a sound foreign policy for such a region requires proper insight of each and every matter. Media and think tanks turn out to be the source of providing this insight, thus playing a vital role in the entire policy-making process.