Council on Foreign Relations

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an American foreign policy think tank based in New York City. It describes itself as being "dedicated to increasing America's understanding of the world and contributing ideas to U.S. foreign policy," and accomplishes this mainly by promoting constructive, closed debates and discussions, clarifying world issues through research and analysis, and publishing the noted journal Foreign Affairs and related content online.


The earliest origin of the Council stemmed from a working fellowship of about 150 scholars, called "The Inquiry", tasked to brief President Woodrow Wilson about options for the postwar world following Germany's defeat.[1] Through 1917–1918, this group, including Wilson's closest adviser and long-time friend "Colonel" Edward M. House, as well as Walter Lippmann, gathered at 155th Street and Broadway at the Harold Pratt House in New York City, to assemble a strategy for the postwar world. The team produced more than 2,000 documents detailing and analyzing the political, economic, and social facts globally that would be helpful for Wilson in the peace negotiations. Their reports formed the basis for the Fourteen Points, which outlined Wilson's strategy for peace after war's end.[2]

Members of the group accompanied Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. The Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, came about as a result of a meeting on May 30 1919, at the Hotel Majestic in Paris. Some of the fifty participants were Edward M. House, Harold Temperley, Lionel Curtis, Lord Eustace Percy, Herbert Hoover, Christian Herter, Paul Warburg, and American academic historians James Thomson Shotwell of Columbia University, Archibald Coolidge of Harvard and Charles Seymour of Yale.

Formally established in 1921, it is one of the most powerful private organizations with influence on U.S. foreign policy. It has about 4,000 members, including former national security officers, professors, former CIA members, elected politicians, and media figures. The CFR is not a formal institution within U.S. policy making.

In 1944, Harold I. Pratt's widow donated the family's four-storey mansion on the corner of 68th Street and Park Avenue and this became the CFR's new headquarters, Harold Pratt House, where it has remained to the present.

Elite foreign policy think tank

Fostering elite consent for the invasion of Iraq

Laurence Shoup identified connections between the Council on Foreign relations and arguments supporting the invasion of Iraq:

"The "Next Stop Baghdad?" article by Kenneth M. Pollack appeared in the March/April 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs. At the time of writing the article Pollack was the Council on Foreign Relations' Olin Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies. An expanded version of the "Next Stop Baghdad?" article was published in October 2002 by Random House as a Council on Foreign Relations book entitled "The Threatening Storm". A review of the book in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs called it "...exceptionally thoughtful. If any book can shape the current thinking on Iraq, this one will assuredly be it." Pollack's blunt conclusion in both the article and book is, "The United States should invade Iraq, eliminate the present regime, and pave the way for a successor..."[3].

In a December 2002 interview, Council member Rachel Bronson, who is the CFR's Director of Middle East Studies and an Olin Senior Fellow, made the following pro-war comments:

" my mind, in a war of our choosing, we should choose the most advantageous period for fighting and the summer is not that. I am more optimistic now than I was earlier because the inspectors got in early. That completely changes the calculus.... The chances for a military action are probably about 75 percent. There's about a ten percent chance of a coup, and a fifteen percent chance that Washington still doesn't get the diplomacy right and an attack gets pushed off to the fall".
"Q. That's been your view all along? Not only that war is inevitable, but that we should launch it?"
"A. Yes. It is strategically sound and morally just. The Middle East is a strategic region for us. It is where oil does play into all this.... It is about stability in the region. Saddam has been very destabilizing.... Strategically trying to get rid of one of the most destabilizing forces in the Middle East is a good idea. But the moral aspect doesn't get as much play as it should.... When Secretary Albright said it was not us causing the suffering of the Iraqi people, but Saddam, technically she was right. And everyone in the region agreed; but what they couldn't understand was why we pursued a policy knowing that Saddam would use it to his advantage to torture his people. We were complicit. We have to get rid of this monster. He is our Frankenstein."[4].

Another prominent CFR member who spoke out in favour of the war was Lawrence J. Korb. Korb made the following comments in an interview.

"Q. Everyone remembers the allied land invasion in 1991 to liberate Kuwait that lasted three days. What kind of military action will we have this time? Will it also be a quick one?
"A. I think if there is a military action and it occurs during the winter and you get support from countries in the region it will be over in less than a month. What you will have this time is simultaneous air and ground operations....
"Q. Can the United States afford this? How much will this cost?
"A. If you talk about cost, you have the incremental cost of the operation. We have a $400 billion annual defense budget. You won't have to buy much new equipment. For a one month war, counting the buildup underway, you are talking about an incremental cost of about $50 billion.... The Persian Gulf campaign in today's dollars cost $80 billion.
"Q. That was essentially paid by the Saudis, right?
"A. The last war was actually paid for by the Saudis, the Germans, and the Japanese. We actually made a profit on that war.... What we did after the war was over was make the books come out even... we actually collected more than we actually spent"[5].

2002 Planning for Iraq's Oil

According to Laurence H. Shoup:

"In mid-2002 the CFR, together with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University, established a 23 member planning group to formulate the U.S. war aims and the political and economic rules for a post-war Iraq. One of the project directors was Rachel Bronson and members included Kenneth Pollack, as well as corporate leaders (Boeing, PFC Energy), university professors (Princeton, Yale, Vermont) a Naval War College professor, a Senate on Foreign Relations staffer, and representatives from the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, the Brookings Institution, the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy, and nine staffers from the CFR. A report, Guiding Principles for U.S. Post -Conflict Policy in Iraq, was produced by the Council in late 2002"[6].
"The body of the report has a section called "The Lure of Oil: Realities and Constraints," as well as an addendum called "Oil and Iraq: Opportunities and Challenges," which is almost as long as all of the rest of the report text. In the sections focusing on oil, lip service is given to Iraq's control of its own oil, while, in fact, the report argues that national control of Iraqi oil must be scrapped and an "economy based on free market principles" and a "level playing field for all international players to participate" be created. The report goes on to point out: "Paragraph 30 of UNSCR 1284 already authorizes the UN secretary-general to investigate ways that oil companies could be allowed to invest in Iraq. Thus, the legal basis for the UN to authorize and oversee foreign investment...already exists."
"The report also makes clear that the Iraqi oil contracts that French and Russian companies now have will be challenged: "Finally, the legality of post- sanctions contracts awarded in recent years will have to be evaluated. Prolonged legal conflicts over contracts could delay the development of important fields in Iraq.... It may be advisable to pre-establish a legitimate (preferably UN mandated) legal framework for vetting pre-hostility exploration agreements."[7]

CFR and the US 'ruling class'

CFR and US Neoconservatives

The CFR is closely connected to the US neoconservative movement. According to Laurence Bloom "One of the key neo-con groups, Project for the New American Century, established in 1997 and identified by many as being the central organization behind the Bush administration, is heavily connected to the CFR. Fully 17 of the 25 founders of the Project for the New American Century are Council members"[8].

War of Neccesity or War of Choice?

According to IPS:

"In August 2009 Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, who served in the administrations of both George H.W. and George W. Bush, suggested in the New York Times that Afghanistan is a "war of choice" rather than a war of necessity. Haass suggested that the Obama administration consider alternate policies up to and including full withdrawal from Afghanistan, although he stopped short of endorsing them outright".[9]

Haas introduced the concept of a distinction between the two types of war in a book published in May 2009. His book entitled War of Necessity, War of choice argues that:

"The first Iraq war, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait, was a war of necessity. It was limited in ambition, well executed, and carried out with unprecedented international support".
"By contrast, the second Iraq war was one of choice, the most significant discretionary war undertaken by the United States since Vietnam. Haass argues that it was unwarranted, as the United States had other viable policy options. Making matters worse was the fact that this ambitious undertaking was poorly implemented and fought with considerably more international opposition than backing"[10].


Board of Directors and Membership

The table below right, showing the Board of Directors, is taken from the Council on Foreign Relations website, accessed September 10 2009.[11]

The table below left, showing the Board of Directors, is taken from the Council on Foreign Relations website, version current as of September 2006.[12]

Co-Chairman of the Board Carla A. Hills
Co-Chairman of the Board Robert E. Rubin
Vice Chairman Richard E. Salomon
President Richard N. Haass
Board of Directors
Director Peter Ackerman
Director Fouad Ajami
Director Madeleine Albright
Director Charlene Barshefsky
Director Henry Bienen
Director Alan Blinder
Director Stephen W. Bosworth
Director Tom Brokaw
Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Director Frank J. Caufield
Director Kenneth Duberstein
Director Richard N. Foster
Director Stephen Friedman
Director Ann M. Fudge
Director Maurice R. Greenberg
Director J. Tomilson Hill
Director Richard Holbrooke
Director Alberto Ibargüen
Director Shirley Ann Jackson
Director Henry Kravis
Director Jami Miscik
Director Joseph Nye
Director Ronald L. Olson
Director James W. Owens
Director Colin Powell
Director David Rubenstein
Director George E. Rupp
Director Anne-Marie Slaughter
Director Joan E. Spero
Director Vin Weber
Director Christine Todd Whitman
Director Fareed Zakaria
Chairman Peter G. Peterson
Vice Chairman Carla A. Hills
Vice Chairman Robert E. Rubin
President Richard N. Haass
Board Member Peter Ackerman
Board Member Fouad Ajami
Board Member Madeleine K. Albright
Board Member Charlene Barshefsky
Board Member Henry S. Bienen
Board Member Stephen W. Bosworth
Board Member Tom Brokaw
Board Member Kenneth M. Duberstein
Board Member Martin S. Feldstein
Board Member Richard N. Foster
Board Member Helene D. Gayle
Board Member Maurice R. Greenberg
Board Member Richard C. Holbrooke
Board Member Karen Elliott House
Board Member Michael H. Moscow
Board Member Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
Board Member Ronald L. Olson
Board Member Thomas R. Pickering
Board Member Colin L. Powell
Board Member David M. Rubenstein
Board Member Richard E. Salomon
Board Member Anne-Marie Slaughter
Board Member Joan E. Spero
Board Member Laura D'Andrea Tyson
Board Member Vin Weber
Board Member Christine Todd Whitman
Board Member Fareed Zakaria

The Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations is composed of thirty-six members.

There are two types of membership - term membership (which lasts for 5 years and is available to those between 30 and 36) and regular membership. Only US citizens (native born or naturalised) and permanent residents who have applied for U.S. citizenship are eligible for membership. Proposed members must be nominated by current members. A candidate for life membership must be nominated in writing by one Council member and seconded by a minimum of three others.[13]

Corporate membership (250 in total) is divided into "Basic", "Premium" ($25,000+) and "President's Circle" ($50,000+). All corporate executive members have opportunities to hear distinguished speakers, such as overseas presidents and prime ministers, chairmen and CEOs of multinational corporations, and U.S. officials and Congressmen. President and premium members are also entitled to other benefits, including attendance at small, private dinners or receptions with senior American officials and world leaders.[14]

Peter G. Peterson and David Rockefeller are Directors Emeriti (Chairman Emeritus and Honorary Chairman, respectively). It also has an International Advisory Board consisting of thirty-five distinguished individuals from across the world.[15]

Board member biographies

Weber served in the United States House of Representatives from 1981 to 1993 and according to his biography,

'Vin is one of the most prominent and successful strategists in the Republican Party and enjoys strong bipartisan relationships across the Legislative and Executive branches of government. He serves as a trusted advisor to senior officials in the Administration and on Capitol Hill, and has counseled numerous Presidential campaigns'.

Weber previously co-chaired a major 'independent' task force on U.S. Policy Toward Reform in the Arab World with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Prior to 1994, Vin was president and co-director of Empower America a public policy advocacy group alongside other co-directors Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Bill Bennett. He was a member of the Appropriations Committee and an elected member of the House Republican Leadership and prior to this was campaign manager and chief Minnesota aide to Senator Rudy Boschwitz (1978-1980)

Weber is a contributing columnist to The Hill newspaper and was the publisher of The Murray County Herald from 1976-1978. He has featured in numerous national publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, National Journal and The New Republic. He has also appeared on NBC’s Nightly News, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, ABC’s This Week, the CBS Early Show, Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC.

Corporate Members

Notable current council members

Notable historical members

Source: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921 to 1996:Historical Roster of Directors and Officers[24]

List of chairmen and chairwomen

List of presidents

Source: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921 to 1996: Historical Roster of Directors and Officers[25]

Resources, Further Reading, Links, Criticism, Notes

Powerbase Resources

Further reading

  • de Villemarest, Pierre, Facts & Chronicles Denied to the Public, Vol. 1, Aquilion, 2004, ISBN 1-904997-00-7
  • Grose, Peter, Continuing the Inquiry: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921 to 1996, New York, N.Y.: Council on Foreign Relations: 1996. ISBN 0-87609-192-3
  • Perloff, James, The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline, Western Islands, 1988. ISBN 0-88279-134-6
  • Schulzinger, Robert D., The Wise Men of Foreign Affairs, New York: Columbia University Press, 1984. ISBN 0-231-05528-5
  • Shoup, Laurence H., and William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy, New York: Authors Choice Press, Reprint, 2004.
  • Laurence H. Shoup Bush, Kerry, and The Council on Foreign Relations Z Magazine, October 2004
  • Laurence H. Shoup Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War: The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq Z Magazine, March 2003
  • Wala, Michael, The Council on Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War, Providence, R.I.: Berghann Books: 1994. ISBN 1-57181-003-X

External links



Finding Aid: Council on Foreign Relations Meetings Records, 1920-1995.


  1. The Inquiry.  History of CFR. Council on Foreign Relations.  Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  2. President Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points (1918).  Our Documents.
  3. Laurence H. Shoup, Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, Z Magazine, March 2003, Accessed 10-September-2009
  4. Cited in Laurence H. Shoup, Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, Z Magazine, March 2003, Accessed 10-September-2009
  5. Cited in Laurence H. Shoup, Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, Z Magazine, March 2003, Accessed 10-September-2009
  6. Laurence H. Shoup, [ Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq], Z Magazine, March 2003, Accessed 10-September-2009
  7. Laurence H. Shoup, Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, Z Magazine, March 2003, Accessed 10-September-2009
  8. Laurence H. Shoup, Bush, Kerry, and The Council on Foreign Relations, Third World Traveller, October 2004, Accessed 09-September-2009
  9. Daniel Luban, Prominent Conservative Calls for Afghanistan Pullout, IPS, 01-September-2009
  10. Richard N. Haass, War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars, Council on Foreign Relations, Accessed 10-September-2009
  11. Board of Directors, CFR website, accessed September 10 2009
  12. Board of Directors, CFR website, version placed in web archive 27 Sept 2006, accessed in web archive September 10 2009
  13. "Membership".
  14. "Corporate Program".
  15. "Leadership and Staff". Accessed February 24, 2007.
  16. Coca Cola Company James D Robinson Accessed 21st January 2008
  17. Eli Lilly and Company Martin S Feldstein Accessed 31st January 2008
  18. Clark & Weinstock Vin Weber Accessed 20th March 2008
  19. Corporate Membership.
  20. CNBC TV Profiles Erin Burnett CNBC, Inc
  21. Special Olympics: Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics accessed 2009-03-25
  22. Schudel, Matt. "Pentagon Spokesman Became an Advocate for Refugees", The Washington Post, August 16, 2009. Accessed August 17, 2009.
  23. John Bowyer Bell The Daily Telegraph 14 October 2003, accessed 2008-02-12
  24. Continuing the Inquiry: Historical Roster of Directors and Officers
  25. CFR Continuing the Inquiry: Historical Roster of Directors and Officers, accessed 9 September 2009