Shaping a New World Order
The Council on Foreign Relations' Blueprint for
by Laurence H. Shoup & William Minter
excerpted from the book
edited Holly Sklar
South End Press, 1980
Near the end of the Second World War, two of its senior directors
wrote that the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR or Council) had
"served an increasingly useful function in the period of
the twenties and thirties; but it was only on the outbreak of
World War 11 that it has proved to come of age. They were referring
to the Council's successful efforts, through its special War and
Peace Studies Project, to plan out a new global order for the
postwar world, an order in which the United States would be the
dominant power. The War and Peace Studies groups, in collaboration
with the U.S. government, worked out an imperialistic conception
of the national interest and war aims of the United States. The
imperialism involved a conscious attempt to organize and control
a global empire. The ultimate success of this attempt made the
United States for a time the number one world power, exercising
domination over a large section of the world-the American empire.
The process of planning a new international system was decision
making of the most important kind. Such blue-printing was by its
very nature determining the national interest of the United States.
Those having this crucial function were the most powerful of the
society. The Council and government planners began with certain
assumptions, excluding other alternatives. These assumptions became
intentions and were ultimately implemented by government actions..
The main issue for consideration was whether the U.S. could
be self-sufficient and do without the markets and raw materials
of the British Empire, Western Hemisphere, and Asia. The Council
thought that the answer was no and that, therefore, the United
States had to enter the war and organize a new world order satisfactory
to the United States....
The Council and the Origins of the United Nations
Council leaders recognized that in an age of rising nationalism
around the world, the United States had to avoid the onus of big-power
imperialism in its implementation of the Grand Area and creation
of one open door world. Isaiah Bowman first suggested a way to
solve the problem of maintaining effective control over weaker
territories while avoiding overt imperial conquest. At a Council
meeting in May 1942, he stated that the United States had to exercise
the strength needed to assure "security," and at the
same time "avoid conventional forms of imperialism."
The way to do this, he argued, was to make the exercise of that
power international in character through a United Nations body.
The planning of the United Nations can be traced to the secret
steering committee established by Secretary Hull in January 1943.
This informal Agenda Group, as it was later called, was composed
of Hull, Davis, Taylor, Bowman, Pasvolsky, and, until he left
the government in August 1943, Welles. All of them, with the exception
of Hull, were members of the Council on Foreign Relations. They
saw Hull regularly to plan, select, and guide the labors of the
Department's Advisory Committee. It was, in effect, the coordinating
agency for all the State Department postwar planning...
In late 1943, the Agenda Group began to draft the U.S. proposal
for a United Nations organization to maintain international peace
and security. The position eventually taken at the Dumbarton Oaks
Conference was prepared during the seven-month period from December
1943 to July 1944. Once the group had produced a draft for the
United Nations and Hull had approved it, the Secretary requested
three distinguished lawyers to rule on its constitutionality.
Myron C. Taylor, now on the Council's board of directors, was
Hull's intermediary to Charles Evans Hughes, retired chief justice
of the Supreme Court, John W. Davis, Democratic presidential candidate
in 1924, and Nathan L. Miller, former Republican governor of New
York. Hughes and Davis were both Council members and John W. Davis
had served as president of the Council from 1921 to 1933 and a
director since 1921. The three approved the plan, and on 15 June
1944, Hull, Stettinius, Davis, Bowman, and Pasvolsky discussed
the draft with President Roosevelt. The chief executive gave his
consent and issued a statement to the American people that very
Although the Charter of the United Nations underwent some
modification in negotiations with other nations at the Dumbarton
Oaks and San Francisco conferences during 1944 and 1945, one historian
concluded that "the substance of the provisions finally written
into the Charter in many cases reflected conclusions reached at
much earlier stages by the United States government." The
Department of State was clearly in charge of these propositions
within the U.S. government, and the role of the Council on Foreign
Relations within the Department of State was, in turn, very great
indeed. The Council's power was unrivaled. It had more information,
representation, and decision making power on postwar questions
than the Congress, any executive bureaucracy except the Department
of State, or other private group. It had a very large input into
decisions on the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank,
and the United Nations. The formulators of the Grand Area had
indeed been able to gain positions of strength and put their plans
for United States hegemony into effect.
The CFR-Ruling Class Conception of the "National Interest"
Leaders of the United States have always declared that the
foremost objective of their policies has been the promotion of
the country's collective interest-the "national interest."
As Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes put it in the 1920s,
"foreign policies are not built upon abstractions. They are
the result of practical conceptions of national interest. The
national interest is rarely an objective fact, however, as is
indicated by the truism that in every country it is always redefined
after a revolution.... Since those in power define the national
interest as the preservation of the existing set of economic,
social, and political relationships and of their own rule, the
national interest in a capitalist society is little more than
the interest of the upper class the Council, as a key organization
of this class, was in the lead in defining its class interest.
One has to transcend its values, assumptions, and goals in order
question its formulation of the national interest.
The U.S. capitalist class, through the Council, had proposed
to preserve and extend U.S. capitalism by a policy of empire-building-
overseas expansion of United States power....lt. was clear, however,
that there was an alternative...The fact was that the need for
such export markets could be largely obviated by public ownership
of the chief means of production, and democratic planning to assure
all in the country both employment and adequate consumption.
The United States was the most self-sufficient nation in the
world during the 1930s and 1940s. Council theorists recognized
this fact during the depression. l n 1937 Eugene Staley wrote
a book called Raw Materials in Peace and War under the auspices
of the Council-dominated American Coordinating Committee for International
Studies.... Staley concluded that in regard to raw materials the
"United States is more nearly capable than any other great
power (unless it be the Soviet Union) of meeting its normal demands
from resources within its boundaries."...
The ruling class, through the Council, had successfully put
forward a particular conception of the United States national
interest. This perspective did not in reality uphold the general
interest of the people of the nation, but rather the special interests
of a capitalist economic system controlled by and benefiting the
upper class. Simply stated, the Council theoreticians argued that
the United States needed living space to maintain the existing
system without fundamental changes in the direction of socialism
and planning Council member Henry R. Luce put the issue more bluntly
when he stated in his famous February 1941 Life article that "tyrannies
may require a large amount of living space. But Freedom requires
and will require far greater living space than Tyranny.
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