In a column titled “Ruling Class Journalists”, former Washington Post senior editor and ombudsman Richard Harwood once described the Council and its members as “the nearest thing we have to a ruling establishment in the United States”.
“The membership of these journalists in the Council, however they may think of themselves, is an acknowledgment of their active and important role in public affairs and of their ascension into the American ruling class. They do not merely analyze and interpret foreign policy for the United States; they help make it. () They are part of that establishment whether they like it or not, sharing most of its values and world views.”
However, media personalities constitute only a small part of the comprehensive CFR network. As the following illustration shows, key members of the Council on Foreign Relations have included:
- several U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents of both parties;
- almost all Secretaries of State, Defense, and the Treasury;
- many high-ranking commanders of the military and NATO;
- almost all National Security Advisors, CIA Directors, Ambassadors to the U.N., Chairs of the Federal Reserve, Presidents of the World Bank, and Directors of the National Economic Council;
- some of the most influential Members of Congress (notably in foreign & security policy matters);
- several media and entertainment executives, top journalists, and Hollywood actors;
- many prominent academics, especially in key fields such as Economics, International Relations, Political Science, History and Journalism;
- many top executives of Wall Street, policy think tanks, universities, and NGOs;
as well as the key members of both the 9/11 Commission and the Warren Commission (JFK)
In an article titled “The American Establishment”, political columnist Richard H. Rovere once wrote:
“The directors of the CFR make up a sort of Presidium for that part of the Establishment that guides our destiny as a nation. () [I]t rarely fails to get one of its members, or at least one of its allies, into the White House. In fact, it generally is able to see to it that both nominees are men acceptable to it.”
Indeed, until recently this assessment seems to have been largely justified. Thus, in 1993 former CFR director George H.W. Bush was followed by CFR member Bill Clinton, who in turn was followed by CFR “family member” George W. Bush. In 2008, CFR member John McCain lost against CFR candidate of choice, Barack Obama, who received the names of his entire Cabinet already one month prior to his election by CFR Senior Fellow (and Citigroup banker) Michael Froman. Froman later negotiated the TTP and TTIP free trade agreements, before returning to the CFR as a Distinguished Fellow.
It was not until the 2016 election that the Council couldn’t, apparently, prevail. At any rate, not yet.
1. Council on Foreign Relations:
4. Laurence H. Shoup (2015): Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014, Monthly Review Press
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