Think Tank Stereotypes

Brookings: Classic Harvard—they're the top dog, and they know it. Foundations beg to give them money. Government officials plead to join their workshops.

CSIS: King of defense studies. But annoyed at Brookings for winning in every other category. 25% salary cut across junior staff in exchange for a fancy glass building.

Carnegie: Mr. Worldwide. Area-studies wonks with big money and functional expertise. Storied history with plans to retake their place at the top.

AEI: Old-school conservatives. Surf & Turf luncheons. George W. Bush wasn't that bad. NATO flag draped across intern bedrooms. #UkraineWillWin

Stimson: Area-studies hippies. Wholesome. Quarterly trips to Asia for Track 2 dialogues that don't help anyone but are fun and somehow keep getting funded.

CSBA: Classic nerds. Love making/playing board games. Memorize Janes and IISS Military Balance reports. Squeamish when asked about their funding.

CNAS: Research Marines—young, small, strong, and fast. Mix of CSIS-style writers and CSBA-style wargaming, with a sprinkle of unnecessary AI obsession.

Heritage: Hard-core Republicans. Start with decent research skills, which quickly atrophy as they repeatedly rewrite their report on why DoD needs more money.

Hudson: Heritage - money - influence + IQ. Several hard hitters but the crazies make the org look bad. Old, white, male, and patriotic as hell.

FDD: Heritage - money - influence - IQ. The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is not 42, but bombing Iran.

CAP: Establishment Democrats. Died in 2016 along with the Clinton campaign. Still mad at Bernie. RBJ did nothing wrong.

ISW: Overworked mapmakers. Constantly scrolling OSINT Twitter. Conduct weekly bloodletting ritual for the Kagans to stay influential.

C4ADS: Cocky linguists. Mysterious, with lots of alums in the IC and Palantir.

CFR: The Old Guard. Foreign Affairs magazine remains its crown jewel, but like a wanning hegemon, it clings to its history of power and influence.