Monday, 13 September 2010
CASE 079 - Council on foreign relations
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an American nonprofit nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and thinktank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. Founded in 1921 and headquartered at 58 East 68th Street (Park Avenue) in New York City, with an additional office in Washington, D.C., CFR is considered to be the nation's 'most influential foreign-policy think tank.' It publishes a bi-monthly journal Foreign Affairs. The Council on Foreign Relations, a sister organization to the Institute of International Affairs in London, was formed in 1922 as a noncommercial, nonpolitical organization supporting American foreign relations. From its inception the Council was bipartisan, welcoming members of both Democratic and Republican parties. It also welcomed Jews and African Americans, although women were initially barred from membership. Its proceedings were almost universally private and confidential. A study by two critics of the organization, Laurence Shoup and William Minter, found that of 502 government officials surveyed from 1945 to 1972, more than half were members of the Council.
Today it has about 5,000 members (including five-year term members between the ages of 30-41), which over its history have included senior serving politicians, more than a dozen Secretaries of State, former national security officers, bankers, lawyers, professors, former CIA members and senior media figures. As a private institution however, the CFR maintains through its official website that it is not a formal organization engaged in U.S. foreign policy-making, and its reports regularly take issue with U.S. government policy.
In 1962, the group began a program of bringing select Air Force officers to the Harold Pratt House to study alongside its scholars. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps requested they start similar programs for their own officers.
Vietnam created a rift within the organization. When Hamilton Fish Armstrong announced in 1970 that he would be leaving the helm of Foreign Affairs after 45 years, new chairman David Rockefeller approached a family friend, William Bundy, to take over the position. Anti-war advocates within the Council rose in protest against this appointment, claiming that Bundy's hawkish record in the State and Defense Departments and the CIA precluded him from taking over an independent journal. Some considered Bundy a war criminal for his prior actions.
Seven American presidents have addressed the Council, two while still in office – Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
The Council says that it has never sought to serve as a receptacle for government policy papers that cannot be shared with the public, and they do not encourage government officials who are members to do so. The Council says that discussions at its headquarters remain confidential, not because they share or discuss secret information, but because the system allows members to test new ideas with other members.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in his book on the Kennedy presidency, A Thousand Days, wrote that Kennedy was not part of what he called the "New York establishment":
"In particular, he was little acquainted with the New York financial and legal community that arsenal of talent which had so long furnished a steady supply of always orthodox and often able people to Democratic as well as Republican administrations. This community was the heart of the American Establishment. Its household deities were Henry Stimson and Elihu Root; its present leaders, Robert Lovett and John J. McCloy; its front organizations, the Rockefeller, Ford and Carnegie foundations and the Council on Foreign Relations; its organs, the New York Times and Foreign Affairs