Most Powerful Groups in the World - Council on Foreign Relations Part 3

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



Famous Members: A survey of its membership roster for the past 50 years amply demonstrates that the council has been a fertile training and selection ground for the State Dept. Beginning with John Foster Dulles, all of the secretaries of state except one have belonged to the council, including Dean Rusk, Cyrus Vance, Edmund Muskie, Henry Kissinger, and Alexander Haig. Indeed, Kissinger started on his route to global diplomatic stardom through his association with the council. A young, unknown scholar at the time, Kissinger took a job as study director in 1955 for a council panel set up to explore methods short of war for coping with the Soviets in a nuclear age. Besides providing background material and funding for his best-seller, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, the council enabled Kissinger to meet a number of powerful individuals he wouldn't otherwise have met, including David Rockefeller. Rockefeller himself has been a prominent member of the CFR, both as a director and as chairman.

Another government body that has always had strong ties to the council is the CIA. Forty-year CFR director Allen W. Dulles helped establish the CIA and subsequently became its director. Nearly all CIA chiefs since then have been former council members, including Richard Helms, William Colby, George Bush, and William Casey. A number of presidential candidates and presidents have belonged to the council, including Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and John Anderson. Vice-Presidents Nelson Rockefeller and Walter Mondale were also members. Although Ronald Reagan was not a member, he appointed many people to his administration who were. Besides Haig, and Casey, and Donald Regan, Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige and special trade representative William Brock belonged to the CFR.

Many of the council's members have a personal financial interest in foreign relations, principally because it is their property and investments that are guarded by the State Dept. and the military. There is a heavy predominance of corporate leaders, bankers, and top corporate lawyers from such firms as ITT, IBM, and Standard Oil on the council's roster. In addition, almost all of the major media in the country have connections with the council. Former New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger was a member; so are journalists James Reston and Bill Moyers, former Time magazine editor in chief Hedley Donovan, Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, CBS chairman William S. Paley, and NBC newscaster John Chancellor.

How Much Power: The CFR's audience, one council member contends, is "the most influential in the world." The interests of its members are inextricably woven with the vital interests of the U.S. because their own personal financial ventures overseas often hinge on the direction of American foreign policy. In spite of its relatively low public profile, it is a high-impact organization. In fact, in the 1952, 1956, 1968, and 1972 U.S. presidential elections, both major parties nominated candidates who had been members of the CFR.

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