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Council on Foreign Relations

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The Council on Foreign Relations is the American sister institute of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (now Chatham House). While it proclaims to be a private organization with a non-partisan foreign policy, the policies debated and proposed by the CFR have reflected and shaped US foreign policy.

Most members of federal US administrations are either members of, or have been director of the Council on Foreign Relations. Notable examples include Dick Cheney[1].

Organizations involved in the funding of the institute include the Rockefeller Foundation[citation needed], Carnegie Foundation[citation needed] and Ford Foundation[citation needed].

Periodicals Edit

The Council on Foreign Relations has a magazine that it publishes once in every two months entitled 'Foreign Affairs'[2]. Editorial contributors (to name but a few) include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wesley Clark, Philip Zelikow and other establishment figures.

CFR in their own words Edit

Some extracts from 'Continuing the Inquiry - the CFR from 1921 to 1996' by Peter Grose

"The Inquiry," to the select few who knew, this was the name of the fellowship of scholars, tasked to brief Woodrow Wilson about options for the postwar world. Through the winter of 1917-18, this band gathered in a discrete hideaway at 155th Street and Broadway in New York City, to assemble the data to make the world safe for democracy. The Notion of the Inquiry had been pressed upon President Wilson by Edward M. House, his trusted aide.

Walter Lippmann recruited the scholars and managed the Inquiry - "What we are on the lookout for is genius-sheer, startling genius and nothing else will do. We are skimming the cream of the younger more imaginative scholars." Colonel House set off for Europe shortly before the November 1918 armistice, his mission, to arrange the U.S presence at the peace conference. Wilson followed a month later, his presidential cruiser could only accommodate 23 Inquiry scholars. They were treated with suspicion by State department diplomats and assigned to the lower decks. At the peace conference, Whitney H Shepardson, Colonel Houses aide, wrote "to their surprise, the scholars found themselves assigned to work on multinational committees-not to study problems but to come up with practical solutions"

The historical record of the Paris Peace Conference focuses on the major powers. To the Inquiry scholars, however, these plenary sessions mattered little. They helped draw the borders of Post WW1 central Europe over tea at Quai d'Orsay, a more congenial venue than the Versailles' Hall of Mirrors. They floated ideas in the noncommittal style of an Oxford Common Room. In these unrecorded discussions the frontiers of central Europe were redrawn. Once the statesmen had gone, a little group of diplomats and scholars from Britain and the US convened at the Hotel Majestic on May 30, 1919, to discuss how their fellowship could be sustained. They proposed an Anglo-American Institute of International Affairs, with one branch in London, the other in New York. In June 1918 a discreet dining club had organised which called itself the Council on Foreign Relations. Headed by Elihu Root, it began with 108 members from banking, manufacturing, trading and finance together with many lawyers. Its purpose was to dine foreign visitors. As Shepardson put it, they "were concerned primarily with the effect that the war and treaty of peace might have on postwar business." However, for whatever reasons, by April 1919, members interest had dwindled and the Council went dormant. Inquiry scholars, returning from Paris, saw an opportunity.

The synergy of diplomatic expertise and high level contacts of Inquiry scholars and the untold resources of men of banking and law, produced the modern Council. The preliminary encounter between the different groups was February 3, 1921 and negotiations continued for five months. The Council rented 25 West 43rd Street and became a businessman's club of "a number of carefully chosen individuals." On July 29, 1921 a New York certificate of incorporation was prepared and the CFR came into being.

Many Council members called the Century Association 'their social club in New York'. Like the Inquiry, the Council determined not to publish its proceedings. "The Council never takes part in affairs for the general public" declared Walter Mallory. Council member Otto Kahn rented the Metroploitan Opera House for a grand lecture by Georges Clemenceau, wartime premier of France. For the rest of his visit to New York, the Council controlled all his appointments "lest special interest groups or political factions" attempt to use the visit to promote their own causes. Council founing fathers apppreciated that democracy involved public opinion, but wee uncertain about how such opinion was to be formed. They established a program of study groups (formal and discussion groups (informal) aimed at producing policy conclusions.

Links Edit

Council on Foreign Relations - Homepage

References Edit

  1. "And it's good to be back at the Council on Foreign Relations. As Pete mentioned, I've been a member for a long time, and was actually a director for some period of time. I never mentioned that when I was campaigning for reelection back home in Wyoming -- (laughter) -- but it stood me in good stead." - Remarks by Vice President Dick Cheney Before the Council on Foreign Relations, New York Times, 16 February 2002"
  2. Foreign Affairs website

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