Shaping a New World Order

The Council on Foreign Relations' Blueprint for World Hegemony

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 afternoon.

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 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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