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Richard J. Barnet Dies; Founder Of Institute for Policy Studies

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 24, 2004; Page B06

Richard J. Barnet, 75, co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning think tank, and the author of numerous books and articles on globalization, the environment, security issues and other matters of public policy, died of kidney failure Dec. 23 at his home in Washington.

Mr. Barnet was 33 when he and Marcus Raskin, then 30, founded the institute in 1963. Both had recently departed from the Kennedy administration.

Barnet wrote numerous books on globalization and foreign affairs.

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Raskin recalled that they met when they were in a State Department meeting chaired by John J. McCloy, an assistant secretary of war during World War II. Also at the meeting were an assortment of generals and prominent representatives of the military-industrial complex. The topic was disarmament.

"If this group cannot bring about disarmament, then no one can," McCloy said. The two young men both laughed, spontaneously, at the incongruity of the remark, and a friendship was struck.

Deciding that they preferred "speaking truth to power" from outside the citadels of authority, they left the government and founded the think tank at a time when such institutions were relatively rare.

"We both believed that the major questions of government are not administrative but moral questions," Raskin said.

The institute immediately plunged into the movement that opposed the Vietnam War and tackled civil rights, education and environmental issues. The Johnson administration responded to the organization's implacable opposition to the war by dispatching FBI informers into its ranks and putting wiretaps on its phones. Later, Mr. Barnet ended up on President Richard M. Nixon's "enemies list."

Through the years, with Republican administrations increasingly in the ascendancy, the Institute for Policy Studies became -- in the words of Sidney Blumenthal, then a Washington Post staff writer, in 1986 -- "the Pluto of think tanks, the one farthest from the Reagan sun."

Today, the institute considers itself a key participant in efforts to oppose the Iraq war.

Richard Jackson Barnet was born in Boston and received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1951 and his law degree, also from Harvard, in 1954. After two years in the U.S. Army, he practiced law in Boston. In 1959, he became a fellow at Harvard's Russian Research Center. He joined the State Department in 1961.

He was co-director of the think tank from 1963 to 1978, then a senior fellow and a distinguished fellow from 1978 until his retirement in 1998. The institute's director, John Cavanagh, said that during that time, Barnet produced 15 books -- about one every four years.

In 1983, Peter Osnos of The Post described him as "a blend of political scientist, historian, reporter and essayist who takes on major subjects, reads the literature copiously, travels a bit and then writes readable, often provocative surveys that are usually serialized in the New Yorker."

His books include "Global Reach" (1974); "The Giants" (1977), an assessment of Soviet-American relations; a book on the environmental movement called "Lean Years" (1980); and, with Cavanagh, "Global Dreams" (1994), a portrait of five "imperial corporations" and their influence over world affairs.

In addition to his frequent contributions to the New Yorker, he wrote for Harper's Magazine, the Nation, Sojourners and numerous other publications.

Mr. Barnet also was a violinist, and in retirement taught music to children from disadvantaged neighborhoods.

He also co-authored a book entitled "The Youngest Minds" (1998) with his wife Ann B. Barnet, a child neurologist.

Religious belief was a powerful impetus for Mr. Barnet. Associated for many years with the Church of the Savior and its affiliate, Church of the Servant Jesus, Mr. Barnet said his faith informed his views on war and peace, civil rights, national security and other issues.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, who lives in Washington; three children, Juliana Barnet of Mount Rainier, Beth Barnet of Baltimore and Michael Barnet of Silver Spring; a foster son, Arthurnell Banks of Washington; two brothers; and four grandchildren.

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