Most Powerful Groups in the World - Council on Foreign Relations Part 2

About the history of the organization known as the Council on Foreign Relations which plays an important role in American politics.



After controlling American foreign policy development for over four decades, the council's influence started to slip in the late 1960s as the Vietnam War shattered consensus among the elite. By 1968 most of the establishment was against escalation of the war, with the resulting effect that the council had little decision-making power within the Nixon administration. The council's position was further weakened by a proliferation of other international relations organizations such as the Brookings Institution. The CFR came to be viewed by some as a stuffy eastern men's club. "I regard it as a nostalgic convocation of people who are trying to recapture their days of greatness," said economist John Kenneth Galbraith, a 24-year member until he resigned "out of boredom." In 1977 Zbigniew Brzezinski was quoted as saying, "If you were a member of the council 15 years ago ... you knew damn well that the conversation either was policy or would be policy. Today it is just interesting talk." To fight such growing lethargy and regain its place of power, the council began a massive recruitment drive in the 1970s, opening up its doors to more radical academics and non-Easterners and admitting women for the first time. Membership leaped from 1,200 in 1970 to more than 2,030 in 1980, and the council recently announced new plans to reach an even larger audience, by allowing occasional CFR speakers to be quoted "on the record," by permitting outsiders to attend certain meetings, and by developing council programs for public television.

Exploits: Since its inception, the Council on Foreign Relations has aimed at creating a worldwide cooperative system controlled by multinational corporations and financiers. That charge is backed up by the council's overriding policy of "liberal internationalism" and its influence in establishing global organizations. The idea of forming international economic institutions originated within the council, and it provided much of the input on decisions about the creation of the U.N., the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. The council also played a key role in the decision to use the atomic bomb in W.W. II, since a presidential committee established in 1945 to make recommendations on the bomb was heavily dominated by CFR members. The council also wielded a good deal of power during the post-W.W. II era. A special-studies project by the council, which recommended "moderate" peace terms for Germany and Germany's reintegration into the world economy, was adopted almost part and parcel by the Truman administration. A special conference on training for foreign service held by the CFR in 1945 for the State Dept. resulted in the creation of the Foreign Service Institute. So many council members were tapped by the executive branch for policy-making positions that insiders called the council the "real" state department. "Whenever we needed a new man, we just thumbed through the roll of council members and put through a call to New York," said John McCloy, foreign policy adviser to six presidents and former CFR chairman. The council embarked on its most extensive research and publishing project in 1973. More than 300 people were involved in the "1980s project," which was recently completed. The ambitious undertaking outlined what a desirable international environment would consist of in the 1980s and offered conclusions about changes that are needed in national policy to deal with projected food and energy shortages.

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