Elite ‘Democratic’ Planning at the Council on Foreign Relations (Part 1 of 2)
February, 27 2008
By Michael Barker
Michael Barker’s ZSpace Page
Who are they and how did it start?
“The… Council [on Foreign Relations] was conceived, in the words of its incorporating charter, ‘to afford a continuous conference on international questions affecting the United States.’ By its first annual report, November 1922, it had assurance of financial support for the startup years and close to 300 ‘carefully chosen’ members, including [Elihu] Root from the old Council, but also new and promising figures like Herbert H. Lehman, W. Averell Harriman, and John Foster Dulles.” Peter Grose, (1996) – Official Council historian 
As with many elite planning groups the Council on Foreign Relations (the Council) proudly refers to itself as a “nonpartisan and independent membership organization”. However, like other democracy manipulating organizations (e.g. the two bipartisan groups the National Endowment for Democracy and its partner the US Institute of Peace) little critical commentary surrounds their work. The Council’s activities are nonetheless decidedly antidemocratic: that is, it promotes an elite form of democracy, often referred to as plutocracy or polyarchy, as opposed to its more participatory variants. Yet, considering the influential role the Council has exerted over the development of ‘democracy’ in the United States and beyond, it is strange that political scientists the world over tend to overlook this powerful agency of US hegemony.
Remarkably, until power elite researcher G. William Domhoff briefly wrote about the activities of the Council in his book, Who Rules America? (1967, pp.71-3), it appears that no one on the Left had critically analysed their work.  Furthermore, for many years, the only critical book-length study of the Council’s work was Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter’s excellent Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy (Monthly Review Press, 1977).  In a recent article Laurence H. Shoup, (2004) states:
“One of the prime characteristics of the U.S. upper class is its high level of organization. One of the central organizations, accurately called ‘the citadel of America’s establishment,’ is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Founded in 1921, the CFR is the most influential of all private policy planning groups. Its great strength is mainly exercised behind the scenes and stems from its unique position among policy groups: it is simultaneously both a think tank for foreign and economic policy and also has a large membership comprising some of the most important individuals in U.S. economic, intellectual, and political life. The Council has a yearly budget of about $30 million and a staff of over 200.” 
Official Council historian, Peter Grose, corroborates the secretive nature of their work when he observed that: “From its inception, the activities of the Council on Foreign Relations were private and confidential.” Yet despite making this point, in the following paragraph Grose acknowledges that the “Council’s founding fathers appreciated that democracy involved the factor of public opinion, but they were uncertain at first about how such opinion was to be formed and expressed.”  There is no real contradiction here as the publics’ role in democratic policy making, as considered by ruling elites, was perhaps best expressed by former Council board member (1932-7) Walter Lippmann, in 1922 wrote “the common interests very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality.”  Perhaps with thoughts of the Council in mind Lippmann (1922, p.31-2) wrote:
“[R]epresentative democracy… cannot be worked successfully, no matter what the basis of election, unless there is an independent, expert organization for making the unseen facts intelligible to those who have to make the decisions… [P]ublic opinions must be organized for the press if they are to be sound, not by the press as is the case today.” 
Inderjeet Parmar (2005, p.17) writes that in the early 1940s members of the Council and the State Department “were absolutely terrified of public opinion which, in the main, was isolationist, pacifist and, still, largely anticolonialist”.  So it is entirely consistent with the Council thinking that in 1947 the globalist Council created a ‘Propaganda and Foreign Policy’ group – shortly thereafter renamed as the ‘Public Opinion and Foreign Policy’ group – that aimed to “research possible ideas to influence and educate the American public on foreign policy issues”. 
Following in Lippmann elitist footsteps, Edward Bernays, one of the founding fathers of Public Relations (rather: propaganda), later helped refine the tools for “engineering consent”.  Moreover, the Rockefeller Foundation (which at the time was one of the most influential liberal foundations’), sponsored and organized a number of Communications Seminars between 1939 and 1940 that “acknowledged the need to develop ways in which to manufacture public consent for desired policy changes”.  Research undertaken by Parmar concerning the critical period of 1939 to 1945, demonstrates the key role played by liberal foundations in engineering consent to “build a new globalist consensus”. 
The work of liberal foundations’ was not limited to developing the means to manufacture public consent for elite profit; they have also played an important role in supporting many progressive causes. Yet, as Nicolas Guilhot (2007, p.449) writes, by no means does this mean that their charitable work is a disinterested apolitical aid, because as in the case of the funding they provided for higher education, liberal “philanthropists sought to ensure that social reform would be congruent with their own Interests”. Moreover:
“By investing in the universities, philanthropists pursued two specific objectives. In the first place, they obviously sought to foster the teaching of practical knowledge and skills serving the development of commerce and industry, against the prevailing academic traditions. But these educational and scientific investments were also a way of diagnosing the social upheavals caused by the accelerated shift from a still largely agrarian society to an industrial mass society characterized by the emergence of a polyglot and riotous urban proletariat… Aware that social reform was unavoidable, they chose to invest in the definition and scientific treatment of the ‘social questions’ of their time: urbanization, education, housing, public hygiene, the ‘Negro problem,’ etc. Far from being resistant to social change, the philanthropists promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order but constituted a “private alternative to socialism”. (Guilhot, 2007, pp.451-2)
Liberal foundations’ interests were not limited to education, but as Roelofs (2007, p.480) notes, “[t]heir influence is exerted in many ways” and also includes “creating ideology and the common wisdom; …controlling access to resources for universities, social services, and arts organizations; compensating for market failures; steering protest movements into safe channels; and supporting those institutions by which policies are initiated and implemented.”  As I have written about the anti-democratic practices at length elsewhere I will direct interested readers to my recent article Do Capitalists Fund Revolutions? (Part 1; Part 2).
Liberal Philanthropy and US Foreign Policy
Liberal foundations’ and their associated philanthropoids have always played a key role in the work of the Council. According to Shoup and Minter (1977, pp.94-5) the two foundations that provided the most support for the Council were the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York; indeed total foundation grants before 1936 averaged about $20,000 a year, although from 1936 to 1946, this increased to about $90,000 a year. In later years, the Ford Foundation also acted as a key Council funder, and in 1954 they gave the Council a $1,500,000 ten-year grant. 
As an example of liberal foundation largesse, Grose writes: “Supported by a $50,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the Council launched a major initiative in December 1937 to spread its activities and role across the United States, to replicate the New York Council in eight American cities.” Crucially, as Shoup and Minter (1977, p.30) observe, the establishment of these Council committees served two purposes, (1) they “influenc[ed] the thinking of local leaders”, and (2) “they provid[ed] the Council and the United States government with information about trends of thought on political affairs throughout the country”.
Given the Rockefeller Foundation’s involvement with the aforementioned Communications Seminars (1939-40) it is particularly interesting that Grose notes that in 1939 the Foundation funded (to the sum of $350,000 a secret Council project that was launched in collaboration with the US State Department.  This Rockefeller-funded project was later known as the War and Peace Studies Group – a project that aimed to development a concrete plan for US domination in the post-war world.  Grose continues:
“Over the coming five years, almost 100 men participated in the War and Peace Studies [Group], divided into four functional topic groups: economic and financial, security and armaments, territorial, and political. These groups met more than 250 times, usually in New York, over dinner and late into the night. They produced 682 memoranda for the State Department, which marked them classified and circulated them among the appropriate government departments.”
Writing from a (far more) critical perspective, F. William Engdahl (2008) offers more details of their work:
“The core of the War & Peace Studies, which were designed for and implemented by the US State Department after 1944, was to be the creation of a United Nations organization to replace the British-dominated League of Nations. A central part of that new UN organization, which would serve as the preserver of the US-friendly postwar status quo,  was creation of what were originally referred to as the Bretton Woods institutions—the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or World Bank. The GATT multinational trade agreements were later added.
“The US negotiators in Bretton Woods New Hampshire, led by US Treasury deputy Secretary Harry Dexter White, imposed a design on the IMF and World Bank which insured the two would remain essentially instruments of an “informal” US empire, an empire, initially based on credit, and later, after about 1973, on debt.” 
Subsequently, Grose observes that, during the 1950’s, liberal foundations continued to provide massive support to the work of the Council: “from the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation came $500,000 each, topped by $1.5 million from the new Ford Foundation in 1954.” Between 1940 and 1970 David Rockefeller also served as “an active Council member”, and from 1950 to 1970 he was the vice-president of the Council. In 1970, Rockefeller then became chairman of the Council’s board (a position he maintained until 1985), “succeeding [former chair of the Ford foundation] John J. McCloy, who had served for 17 years.” In his autobiography, David Rockefeller (2002, p.407) recalls:
“After World War II the Council played an important role in alerting Americans to the new threat posed by the Soviet Union and in crafting a bipartisan consensus on how to deal with the worldwide expansion of Communism. In 1947, Foreign Affairs, the Council’s distinguished journal, published the famous ‘X’ article, ‘The Sources of Soviet Conduct’ (written anonymously because George Kennan was serving in the State Department at the time). It outlined the doctrine of containment… [This] article became the defining document of U.S. Cold War policy.”
At around the same time that Rockefeller became chair of the Council’s board, former CIA analyst, William Bundy, amidst much controversy, became the new head of Foreign Affairs:  it is noteworthy to point out that William’s brother, McGeorge Bundy, was well linked to liberal philanthropy’s inner circles as he served as the president of the Ford Foundation from 1966 to 1979. Moreover, it is vital to note that the activities of the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford Foundations’ – a grouping often referred to as the big three – were closely enmeshed with the CIA and US foreign policy elites during this period. Unsurprisingly, Victor Marchetti and John Marks’ (1980, p.237) in their book The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence noted that the CFR “has long been the CIA’s principal ‘constituency’ in the American public. When the agency has need prominent citizens to front for its proprietary companies or other special interests, it has often turned to the Council [on Foreign Relations] members.” In 1977, Shoup and Minter also wrote that since its founding, the “directorship of the CIA has been in the hands of a Council leader or member more often than not”. 
Part 2 to follow…
Michael Barker is a doctoral candidate at Griffith University, Australia. He can be reached at Michael. J. Barker [at] griffith.edu.au. Most of his other articles can be found here.
 The CFR’s website provides links to the following books detailing their history: Robert D. Schulzinger, The Wise Men of Foreign Affairs (Columbia University Press, 1984); Michael Wala, The Council on Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War (Berghann Books: 1994); Peter Grose, Continuing the Inquiry: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921 to 1996 (Council on Foreign Relations: 1996).
 The Council’s work had however been examined by the conservative writer, Emanuel M. Josephson in his book Rockefeller, ‘Internationalist’: The Man Who Misrules the World (Chedney Press, 1952). The Council also get a brief mention (on one page) in Horace Coon’s groundbreaking Money to Burn: Great American Foundations and Their Money (Transaction, 1938).
 In the past few years Laurence H. Shoup has continued to draw attention to the antidemocratic nature of the Council within the pages of Z Magazine, e.g. Election 2008: Ruling Class Conducts its Hidden Primary (2008), and The CFR Debates Torture, Part 1 & Part 2 (2006). Another useful treatment of the Council is provided in G. William Domhoff’s The Power Elite and the State: How Policy is Made in America (Walter de Gruyter, Inc., 1990), pp.113-151. Although the Council is bipartisan, here bipartisan can be left, right, or neither, a profile of their work has been compiled by Right Web (although it requires updating).
More recently Inderjeet Parmar has written about the Council, see Liberal-Imperial Brain Trust: The Political Significance of the Princeton Project on National Security (Paper prepared for presentation at the International Studies Association annual convention, Chicago, 2007); Think Tanks and Power in Foreign Policy: A Comparative Study of the Role and Influence of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1939-1945 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). The Council’s Archive is based at Harold Pratt House, 58 East 68th Street, New York City.
Michael Wala (1994, p.xii) observes: “That the Council is without outside control and has refrained from publicity, remaining by choice in the background, has helped to foster the development of conspiratorial theories about its influence and function over the last three decades.”
 Indedjeet Parmar, Catalysing Events, Think Tanks and American Foreign Policy Shifts: A Comparative Analysis of the Impacts of Pearl Harbor 1941 and 11 September 2001, Government and Opposition 40 (1), 2000, pp.1-25.
 Indedjeet Parmar, `To Relate Knowledge and Action’: the Impact of the Rockefeller Foundation on Foreign Policy Thinking during America’s Rise to Globalism 1939-1945, Minerva,40 (3), 2002, pp.235-263; The Carnegie Corporation and the Mobilisation of Opinion During the United States’ Rise to Globalism, 1939–1945, Minerva, 37 (4), 1999, pp.355-378; Engineering Consent: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Mobilisation of American Public Opinion, 1939–1945, Review of International Studies, 26 (1), 2000, pp.35-48.
 Roelofs (2007, p.502) concludes that “the pluralist model of civil society obscures the extensive collaboration among the resource-providing elites and the dependent state of most grassroots organizations. While the latter may negotiate with foundations over details, and even win some concessions, capitalist hegemony (including its imperial perquisites) cannot be questioned without severe organizational penalties. By and large, it is the funders who are calling the tune. This would be more obvious if there were sufficient publicized investigations of this vast and important domain. That the subject is ‘off-limits’ for both academics and journalists is compelling evidence of enormous power.”
Liberal foundations also played a key role in ‘supporting’ the development of modern day medicine, see Richard E. Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America (University of California Press, 1979).
 Shoup and Minter, 1977, pp.95-6. Liberal foundations continue to support the Council’s work, e.g. the Ford Foundation’s 2006 Annual Report (p.62) notes that they gave the Council a $200,000 grant for “research, seminars and publications on the role of women in conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction and state building”.
 Michael Wala (1994, p.33) notes, that in May 1943, the Council established a Peace Aims Group that “was financed through a special fund from the Rockefeller Foundation”. This Group “organized meetings attended by representatives of occupied European countries and by the Allies. At these meetings, they could express their peace and reparations proposals, thus providing the State Department with important information for the coordination of its foreign policy aims” (pp.33-4). After the war, the Rockefeller Foundation then provided the Council with $55,000 to establish a group known as the Economic Co-operation Administration (ECA) that was administered by Paul G. Hoffman (who went on to become the first president of the Ford Foundation). “Dwight D. Eisnehower became the chairman of that study group on ‘Aid to Europe,’ and ‘whatever General Eisenhower knows about economics,’ journalist Joseph Kraft quoted a member of the group as stating, ‘he has learned at the study group meetings.’ The Rockefeller Foundation went even further and suggested that the study group ‘served as a sort of education in foreign affairs for the future president of the United States.’” (Wala, 1994, pp.125-6)
 Also of interest, James Martin (1981) pointed out that the influential liberal historian, Charles A. Beard, “had opened up another sore while writing his book with a famed article in the Saturday Evening Post for October 4, 1947, ‘Who’s to Write the History of the War?,’ in which he revealed that the Rockefeller Foundation, working with its alter ego, the Council on Foreign Relations, had provided $139,000 for the latter to spend in underwriting an official-line history of how the war had come about, in an effort to defeat at the start the same kind of ‘debunking’ historical campaign which had immediately followed the end of World War I.” Also see Shoup and Minter (1977, pp.118-125) for more details on the work of the War and Peace Studies Group.
 For a brief account of the integral role played by the Council in the creation of the United Nations, see Shoup and Minter (1977, pp.169-72).
 F. William Engdahl (2008) adds that “State Department planning head, George F. Kennan wrote in a confidential internal memo in 1948, ‘We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population…Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.’” Engdahl also notes: “Maintaining the role of the US dollar as world reserve currency has been the foremost pillar of the American Century since 1945, related to but more strategic even than US military superiority. How that dollar primacy has been maintained to now encompassed the history of countless postwar wars, financial warfare, debt crises, and threats of nuclear war to the present.” In addition, Joan Roelofs (2003, p.74) writes: “The new international monetary institutions, created in 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, were not to be jeopardized by U.S. economic instability. Consequently, after War II, the ‘Managerial Presidency’ was enlarged to include a Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). The CEA’s role was in institutionalize Keynesian economic planning for economic stability and to implement the Employment Act of 1946.”
After the successful War and Peace Studies, the next time that the Council would convene a group to study the entire international system was in 1973, when the 1980’s Project was initiated “to plan for and create the current neoliberal world system we now have.” See Laurence H. Shoup, Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War: The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, Z Magazine, March 1, 2003. For a detailed examination of the 1980s Project, see Shoup and Minter, 1977, pp.254-84.
 David Rockefeller (2002, p.408) writes he “strongly supported” the selection of William Bundy as the new head of Foreign Affairs, even though this “angered many Council members”, who “considered Bill a war criminal” owing to his former employment as assistance secretary of defense in the mid-1960s (a period during which the murderous scale of the Vietnam ‘War’ was escalating). David’s ability to overlook Bundy’s blood soaked past is entirely consistent. (Incidentally, the protests against William Bundy’s promotion were headed by Richard Falk, but the three others individuals joining Falk in the initial protest were Richard Barnet, Richard H. Ullman, and Ronald Steel, see Shoup and Minter (1977, p.46).) As Peter Collier and David Horowitz note in their excellent book The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976), pp.416-7: “If the new military regimes that began appearing on the already bleak political landscape of Latin America dealt harshly with their opposition, they also brought a certain stability. It was for this reason that David welcomed the new conservatism of Washington’s alliance with the Latin republics. Writing in Foreign Affairs… in 1966, David observed that the revised and scaled-down version of the Alliance for Progress was better than ‘the overly ambitious concepts of revolutionary change of the program’s early years, because it created a climate more attractive to U.S. business.’” Following this line of reasoning it is not surprising that in 1979 David Rockefeller, the banker of the deposed (formerly US-backed) Shah of Iran, worked with Henry Kissinger to “put public and private pressure on the Carter administraton to allowed the deposed Shah of Iran into the country [US], assertedly for both humanitarian reasons and reason of state”. They succeeded in convincing the President to allow the Shah to come to the United States, an event that “precipitated the seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran and the taking of fifty-three hostages”. See Leonard Silk and Mark Silk, The American Establishment (New York: Basic Books, 1980), pp.224-5. For a full account of David Rockefeller’s involvement in the Iran hostage crisis, see Robert Parry, Original October Surprise, Consortium News, October 29, 2006. For details of how the Trilateral Commission initially succeed in getting Carter elected president, see Shoup, The Carter Presidency and Beyond: Power and Politics in the 1980s (Ramparts Press, 1980).
Given David Rockefeller’s involvement in the fall of the Carter Presidency, it is interesting to note that the Rockefeller-created Trilateral Commissionbrought Carter to power in the first place. Stephen Lendman’s (2008) review of F. William Engdahl’s new book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation (Global Research, 2007), titled Agribusiness Giants seek to gain Worldwide Control over our Food Supply, which provides a useful summary of David Rockefeller’s decidedly antidemocratic history. David’s brother Nelson Rockefeller, another influential member of the Council, has a similarly antidemocratic background, see Gerald Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil (HarperPerennial, 1995) – see their interview on Democracy Now. has been attributed as being the group that
 Shoup and Minter, 1977, p.61.