The Henry Jackson Society is a British think tank. It is named after the American politician Henry M. Jackson, the late Democratic Senator and anticommunist liberal hawk.
The society was founded on 11 March 2005 by academics and students at Cambridge (many of whom were affiliated with the Centre for International Studies), including Brendan Simms, Alan Mendoza, Gideon Mailer, James Rogers and Matthew Jamison. It organizes meetings with speakers in the House of Commons. The society claims that it advocates an interventionist foreign-policy that promotes human rights and reduces suffering, by both non-military and military methods, when appropriate.
In 2006, the society worked to raise the profile of the Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, who it claims are currently being oppressed by the Iranian government.
After originating within the University of Cambridge, the organisation is now based in London. In April 2011 the entire staff of another London think-tank, the Centre for Social Cohesion (which has since been dissolved), joined the Henry Jackson Society.
The organization is a registered charity in England and Wales and earns financial backing from private donations and grant-making organisations which support its work. The income of the society increased significantly from 2009 to 2014, from £98,000 to £1.6 million per year.
In 2009 the society became the secretariat of two all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs), for Transatlantic and International Security, chaired by Gisela Stuart, and for Homeland Security, chaired by Bernard Jenkin. A transparency requirement upon non-profit organisations acting as secretariat at that time was that they must reveal, on request, any corporate donors who gave £5,000 or more to the organisation over the past year or cease acting as a secretariat organisation. In 2014, following a query, the society refused to disclose this information and resigned its position as secretariat of the APPGs concerned in order to comply with the Rules. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, upheld a complaint against these APPGs on the grounds data had not been provided, but noted the society had already resigned its position and that the consequence of this non-provision therefore "appears to have taken effect" as the Rules intended. The case was therefore closed with no further action taken and the APPGs themselves dissolved with the dissolution of Parliament in March 2015. The APPG Rules were subsequently changed in March 2015 so that only those non-profit organisations providing services to APPGs of more than £12,500 in value needed to declare their corporate donors.
Statement of its principles, according to the Henry Jackson Society itself:
- Believes that modern liberal democracies set an example to which the rest of the world should aspire.
- Supports a ‘forward strategy’ – involving diplomatic, economic, cultural, and/or political means—to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so.
- Supports the maintenance of a strong military, by the United States, the countries of the European Union and other democratic powers, armed with expeditionary capabilities with a global reach, that can protect our homelands from strategic threats, forestall terrorist attacks, and prevent genocide or massive ethnic cleansing.
- Supports the necessary furtherance of European military modernisation and integration under British leadership, preferably within NATO.
- Stresses the importance of unity between the world’s great democracies, represented by institutions such as NATO, the European Union and the OECD, amongst many others.
- Believes that only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate, and that the political or human rights pronouncements of any international or regional organisation which admits undemocratic states lack the legitimacy to which they would be entitled if all their members were democracies.
- Gives two cheers for capitalism. There are limits to the market, which needs to serve the Democratic Community and should be reconciled to the environment.
- Accepts that we have to set priorities and that sometimes we have to compromise, but insists that we should never lose sight of our fundamental values. This means that alliances with repressive regimes can only be temporary. It also means a strong commitment to individual and civil liberties in democratic states, even and especially when we are under attack.
The society's statement of principles have been changed from those first signed by supporters in Cambridge on 11 March 2005, to de-emphasise military methods and to more recognise the legitimacy of international organisations. The original versions were:
The think tank has been described by the media as having right-wing and neoconservative leanings, though positions itself as non-partisan. During its early years, the society called for maintaining "a strong military… armed with expeditionary capabilities with a global reach".
In 2014, it was the opinion of Nafeez Ahmed, an executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, that the Henry Jackson Society courts corporate, political power to advance a distinctly illiberal oil and gas agenda in the Middle East.
Think tank discussions on the Middle East and Islam has led some media organisations criticising a perceived anti-Muslim agenda. Marko Attila Hoare, a former senior member, cited related reasons for leaving the think tank and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was urged, in 2015, to sever his links with the society.
An anti-China propaganda war was being waged on the Henry Jackson Society after the Japanese embassy gave them a monthly fee of 10,000 British pounds in money.China and UK relations were targeted for attack by the Henry Jackson Society.
The initial signatories of the statement of principles included:Members of Parliament Michael Ancram, Michael Gove, Edward Vaizey, David Willetts, Denis MacShane, Fabian Hamilton, Gisela Stuart,
former MPs David Trimble, Jackie Lawrence, Greg Pope,
former soldier Tim Collins,
Sir Richard Dearlove — former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, and formerly Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge - and the American economist Irwin Stelzer.
International patrons included Richard Perle, William Kristol, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey Jr., and former President of Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis.