Joseph Kraft


Most Americans have never heard of "the best club in New York" ... which quietly incubates a surprising share of both the men and the ideas which make policy for the United States.


HE whole world complains that Americans are bored by foreign policy and regard peace as the condition of being left alone. But it is no secret either that on the highest levels of foreign affairs this country has been served by a crop of Public Men-the Stimsons, Lovetts, and McCloys-remarkable for knowledge, dedication, and breadth of outlook. How did this crop spring from such stony soil? A part of the answer lies in the Council on Foreign Relations, a private and professedly nonpartisan New York organization which most Americans have never heard of. It has been the seat of some basic government decisions, has set the context for many more. and has repeatedly served as a recruiting ground for ranking officials. It has been called, among other things, "the best club in New York," "the government in exile," and, by a former Assistant Secretary of State, "a place where nice men meet and talk to themselves." Nicc or not, the men who meet at the Council are indisputably important. The membership (about 1,200, by invitation only, with women and foreigners barred) includes the President, the Secretary of State, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Director of the

Central Intelligence Agency, the board chairmen of three of the country's five largest industrial corporations, two of the four richest insurance companies, and two of the three biggest banks, plus the senior partners of two of the three leading Wall Street law firms, the publishers of the two biggest news mag-azines and of the country's most influential newspaper, and the presidents of the Big Three in both universities and foundations, as well as a score of other college presidents and a scattering of top scientists and journalists. The splendor of the company they keep is not lost upon at least some of the members. John Nason, the President of the Foreign Policy Association, once defined the difference between his organization and the Council as "the difference between the House and the Senate." "You mean," he was told, "the difference between the New York phone book and Who's Who in Amel'ica.'· . More prosaically, the difference is that where the Council is a meeting place for the exchange of information among experts, the Foreign Policy Association disseminates information to thousands of people, and to other organizations, in over two hundred cities. Only slightly less impressive than the Council's roster is the obscurity in which it has dwelt. The files at Time Inc. disclose five entries in the past five years. The New YOl'h Times has men· tioned the Council scores of times, but, with two exceptions, only as a site of speeches or sponsor of publications. On one occasion the Times announced the Council would begin publication of a magazine which, in fact, it had already been putting out for two years. W HAT prompts the absence of attention is in part the Council's indifference to publicity, and in part a rule-unbroken to this day-that all speeches are off-the-record. But in addition the Council has been obscured by its similarity to the vast multitude of other membership organizations scattered across the country. More than most it has thrived. Without turning a hair, the Council, not long ago, spent $6,000 on a private dinner for Secretary Dulles. Its annual budget averages about $750,000, and its staff about seventy-five people; its home is a handsome town house on 68th Street at Park Avenue; and it maintains one of the best and most accessible specialized libraries in New York. But like most of the other private associations, the Council proclaims a benevolent purpose, sponsors meetings, and contributes, through publications, to that mightiest of American rivers,

rare-feature." IS IT A CLUB? KRAFT 65 structure that remains the heart of Council activi ties. More important." By itself. "to create an AngloAmerican Institute of Foreign Relations. Professor Archibald Coolidge. Foreign Affai1's emerged as the pre-eminent publication in its field ("the best thing of its kind. parties. Like them too. an annual listing of foreign countries. a meetings program-talks to the members by American and foreign guests enga~ed. or Chatham House-a separate institution with no American ties. Elihu Root. with royal patronage and a home in the house of Pitt. with the conspicuous W . Davis and Paul Cravath. a fifteenman Board of Directors. and wondered "if they can keep it up. Probably no other single article in any American periodical has had such far-reaching impact as George Kennan's exposition of the "containment policy. "is a really first-rate journal with the best contributions available in the U. their governments. and." the Times wrote on its twenty-fifth anniversary)." another of the Britons. a former U. merged with a New York gentlemen's club which had been set up during the war to give dinners to distinguished foreigners.S. was incorporated as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. the former Secretary of State and dean of the bar. House." the directors wrote to the first editor. and press. As an expression of the academic interest." Since 1928. The general pattern was apparent in the very first number. "There is no single person in this room." "We decided. who succeeded him in 1928. the Council has followed from the beginning a policy of "publish or perish. sought after by statesmen and scholars as a vehicle for their thoughts." POLICY BY "x" HE Anglo Institute. and the President-Emeritus of Harvard. S. "What we want. Secretary of State. noted in his diary. and. "who is not disappointed with the terms we have drafted. and General Tasker Bliss-a reader of Vergil and rorerunner of today's "in tellectual ~enerals"made con tart with their British opposite numbers and discovered a common denominator. expressed in a three-fold T HAT they got far outran the prospectus. the bankers Otto Kahn and Paul 'Warburg. fresh out. In quality the talks vary widely: fur every good one. it has brought out an annual survey of American foreign policy -now entitled The U." So. Wilson's experts-Colonel Edward M. Clive Day of Yale." published under the pseudonym X in the July 1947 issue. and repeatedly cited in the press of all nations. The fusion was formalized on September 21. Our disappointmen t is an excellent thing.S. it owes its start to happy accident. the Foreign Minister of France. The same holds true of the questions that follow. underscoring his copy with special emphasis on some lines wriuen by ~ contributor who was identified as "John Foster Dulles. In ws-u Affairs-and since J927 The Political Handbook. It included articles by the Premier of Czechoslovakia. the Council has retained. another former Secretary of State read it. and abroad. usually on an official basis. Professors . Isaiah Bowman. ofPrinceton and service as a military attache in Belgrade. and a single permanent official-Hamilton Fish Armstrong. on the . 1921. Harold Nicolson.BY JOSEPH the flow of information. but all members paid dues and contributed according to their means. Robert Lansing. in some current aspect of foreign policy work. read in the chancelleries of the world. The principal aim was "to create and stimulate international thought among the people of the United States. and much expanded. with the incorporation of the Council on Foreign Relations. The roots of the Council stretch clear back to the group of technical advisers who accompanied Woodrow Wilson to Paris in 1918 to write the peace that would make the world safe for democracy. The American Institute. there is probably one that is dull and another that is superficial. the Council began in 1922 the quarterly magazine Foreign Affail's. as honorary chairman. other side of the world. Let us perpetuate it. The program was a joint product. comprising 209 members. the merger of the two groups stamped upon the Council one indelible-and in America. Finances came mainly in large donations from the men of affairs. did Lenin. the geographer. the Wall Street lawyers John VV. The first board included four professors. Under Coolidge and Hamilton Fish Armstrong." one of the Britons declared at a joint meeting. as a legacy from the social dub." On the other hand. after floundering to the ver~e of extinction. Still the program has brought to the Council every Secretary of State since Hughes but one (General Marshall). Archibald Coolidge of Harvard.James Shotwell of Columbia. It has at all times been common ground for men of affairs and intellectuals. financial expert.

S. they very early exerted their influence for a policy of resistance to the dictators. When he left. a best seller which has been closely read in the highest Administration circles and foreign offices abroad.66 S C H 0 0 L FOR S TAT E S MEN group in a memorandum by Professor Arnold Wolfers of Yale. put through to Armstrong. and government officials. Kissinger's Study Group included two former chairmen of the Atomic Energy Commission. from Clemenceau to Nehru." says a Republican member of the Council who participated with Eisenhower in a 1949 Council study on European recovery. the Council was making its mark on America as an incubator of men and ideas. the Council is genuinely an open forum. a Nobel Prize winner in physics. Herbert Elliston. original with the Council though widely copied elsewhere. and representatives just below the highest level from the State Department. Foreign A !fairs in its first issue emphasized that "Russia is too large a part of the world to be ignored with impunity. Lieutenant General James Gavin. whose golfing and baseball antics must have struck most Americans as slightly comic." General Gavin says." THE POOL OF TALENT exception of Churchill. as the Times wrote in an editorial. and so did Charles Merz. Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. "Archbishop Makarios." a member said recently of the Cypriot national leader. then moved on to become editor of the Washington Post. Another. Since then. every important foreign statesman to visit the U. the personal impression often provides special insights. Finletter. Almost always there is a genuine exchange of views and a broadening of horizons for all the study group members. and then in 1930 went to Washington to begin a fifteen-year tenure as Economic Adviser to the Secretary of State. then assembles a group of about twenty-five experts from the Council membership." and suggested the possibility of a German-Soviet alliance. and the universities. a China hand out of Yorkshire. came to this country under Council auspices to work on the surveys. a telephone call that began the public career of Thomas K. Even where there is no news in Council appearances. the Army man in the Kissinger group. "I read more about the Middle East doing homework for Kissinger than I'd read in years. a substantial body of expert opinion is in all cases brought together. It began back in 1923 when members started meeting informally in Armstrong's office to discuss current foreign problems. worked on the surveys. "he learned at the study group meetings. under the Council imprimatur. Herbert Feis published his first book. On the level of ideas. One of the first books published by the Council was The Far Eastern Crisis. at the Council. one recent product being Henry Kissinger's study of Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. attests that the best method for limiting war in Europe that he ever heard was presented to the ON G before the three-fold operation was in full swing. searching for a lawyer experienced in foreign matters to do strategic buying for State. he will emerge with a book. Working within the framework of the Council." "Whatever General Eisenhower knows about economics. Europe. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg unveiled before the Council what subsequently became the Kellogg Peace Pact. "was interesting to me only for the impression he made: it couldn't have been worse. "For myself. the government. on his way to the editor's chair at the New York. the World's Banker. Not infrequently." Another participant in the same group recalls that "Eisenhower came with a vague predilection in favor of building up Europe. The writer submits papers to monthly meetings of the group which supplies criticism and comment. the meetings have developed into a highly organiied Study Group system for subjecting various central problems to detailed examination by teams of scholars. As the system works today. Secretary Stimson first expounded at the Council his doctrine of not recognizing the fruits of Japanese aggression. Times. a plea by Henry Stimson for a stop to ] apanese penetration in Manchuria. argued for flexible neutrality regulations in the interest of aiding the Western democracies against Nazi aggression. European aid was a ruling conviction. and the three armed : services. A decade later." Midway between meetings and publications is a third program. And at all times. Feis. two former civilian secretaries in the defense establishment. it has "a uniform direction. showed at the Council as a rough customer. even in the late L . the bulk of the members inevitably opposed isolation. Book or not. Is Neutrality Possible? by Armstrong and Allen Dulles." Concerned about foreign affairs. the Central Intelligence Agency. But. Walter Lippmann worked on the annual surveys. businessmen. the Council's Committee on Studies picks a subject and a scholar writing in the field. decisive about what he wanted and as hard-boiled in his politics as any ward boss.

1940. Accordingly.RY 'twenties and early 'thirties. the Council's Territorial group issued a study. Less than a fortnight after the guns began pounding in Europe. It appears that Council studies played a considerable part in shaping the Charter of the United Nations. "Whenever we needed a man.Japan's former island bases were at least temporarily acquired as U. postwar planning might be out of the hands of State. in December 1939. the Council's assembled pool of talent and information came into sudden and dramatic play. On March 17. Walter Mallory. Territorial-comprising about a dozen men each including research secretaries of the highest caliber (Jacob Viner of Princeton and Alvin Hansen of Harvard in the economic group.S." At least as important. warning that Germany might acquire Greenland through occupation of Denmark and pointing out that the U. let the Council begin the work. was blocked out on the basis of the Council's study of the problem. given the amorphous quality of decision-making in the U. A fifth group was added in 1941 to consider the prohlems of the exiled governments of the occupied European countries which the State Department." General Frank McCoy told a meeting of political scientists that year that the Council seemed to be "the only academic institution fully alive to the dangers of U. n? peer~-recognized Elmer Davis as the greatest journalist of hIS generatIOn. S. journeyed to Washington with a proposition. many unknown then. had to treat gingerly. if it finally did get going with a sudden jolt. who were to found this country's modern defense establishment. 1940. magazine writers. and broadcasters have been trying to live up to ever since. Political. Armstrong and the Council's executive director. Economic and Financial. taken at the Moscow Foreign Ministers Conference in 1943. government the first organized framework for postwar planning. the present Council chairman who served Stimson as personnel chief. taking with him the small nucleus of men. and a full two years before Pearl Harbor." Germany. State lacked the appropriations to set up a planning division. and common sense helped guide the country through one of the most troubled periods of its history. established four separate planning groups-Security and Armaments. Why not. the Council. "we thumbed through the roll of Council members and put through a call to New York. there was a danger that. S. could safeguard Greenland by defining it as an area "within which the Monroe Doctrine is presumed to apply. privately.-The Editors . the Council kept in touch with the Admirals and Generals. Congress was bearish about any official move that hinted at U. intervention. involvement in the war. S. the five groups had pro· duced a total of 150 planning studies. the American decision not to remove the Japanese Emperor." FINDING THE MAN J 0 S E P H K R AFT 67 IT H the coming of hostilities. including some of the most memorable we have ever had the privilege of publishing. and he set a standard which the best of American newspapermen. bases. when the military estate was low. with financial aid from the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1942. President ELMER DAVIS 1890-1958 H IS c?lleagues--:-hehad. recalls. S. because the United States was neutral. Up to that point. HIS integrity. occupied Denmark on April 9. The study program for 1939 included an investigation of "Mobilization of America's Resources in Time of War. courage. Their impact. the Council provided for the U. He will be especially remembered by Harpers readers as the man who contributed more articles to the magazine than any other free-lance writer-sixty-seven of them. Stimson went to Washington as Secretary of War. government. the whole apparatus with most of the personnel was taken into the State Department as the nub of its Advisory Committee on Postwar Planning Problems. S. with the understanding that its apparatus would be turned over to State as soon as feasible? W Secretary Hull was in favor. in fact. And one major action is beyond cavil. is difficult to measure. they asked. Three days later. and the means by which . for example). The relatively mild American position on German reparations." John \1cCloy.

the business of managing national affairs is becoming daily more massive and complex. In 1947." Since the war. the government has maintained ami expanded its permanent bureaucracy in the foreign field. the Council can hardly be called a representative body. recalls that his first exchange with the current Administration on Soviet problems took place at the Council in a conversation wirh Robert Bowie. it would not in Voltaire's phrase have to be invented. its active membership is. But it is undeniable that the Council. in John McCloy's wry phrase. not impossibly. and.68 S C H 0 0 L FOR S TAT E S MEN to being an organ of what C. diminished. and. richness of opportunity preoccupies many men with their own private pursuits and "better living. similar in interest and outlook. Set against the total public. affording unofficially a measure of continuity when the guard changes in Washington. "Our aim. Robert A. When John McCloy went to Bonn as U. perforce." And. can profess to more than a rudimentary grasp of the budget? On the other hand. Moreover. foreign policy problems. the Council plays a special part in helping to bridge the gap between the two parties.000 grant supplied by the Ford. of course. Eastern. it has never accepted government financial support. the Council has become the most important single private agency conducting research in foreign affairs. "with the firm conviction that it would be our principal task at State to awaken the nation to the dangers of Communist aggression. exemplified at its best by Henry Stimson." The size and mobility of our population break up the deep fellowship and sense of collective purpose that imbues leadership in such countries as Britain. On the one hand.S." At bottom what the Council does is to reestablish the connection. But Voltaire also asked. and gives them-for even stuffiness has its virtuea style. by force of circumstance. and. if the Council did not now exist. in fact. holding the Council memorandum in his hand. For example. by any reckoning. subjects them to the serious study of international problems. and Carnegie Foundations. "I came away from the session. the Council comes close . Indeed.500. just before taking over as Under Secretary of State to George Marshall. either rich or successful. even that cock will not fight. and a $2." Lovett recalls. Its transaclions are remote from public scrutiny. The Council has assumed semi-official duties only in emergencies. shaping events from invulnerable positions behind the scenes. acting as a corporate body. It draws persons who. High Commissioner. Charges that the Council is the "Rockefeller Foreign Office" (by a Baltimore McCarthyite) or an "outpost of the British Colonial Office" (by a prewar isolationist) may be dismissed out of hand. for example. Lovett asked the Council staff to arrange for him a briefing session on U. in theory at least. "come to seem very nearly remote to the career of the individual. such recommendations as it has made have subsequently all stood test at the polls or in Congress. announced the extension of our protection to Greenland "which has been recognized as being within the area of the Monroe Doctrine." Mosely says. formerly Mr. it has helped to produce a type of American Public Man. Governor Averell Harriman of New York. But increasingly the Council has tended to place major emphasis on the study groups. refractory to any detailed examination." IS IT UNDEMOCRATIC? T HE more unofficial role being assumed by the Council tends to neutralize one area of criticism. In the last few years. if its membership shares the fellowship of success. it may be claimed that something like the Council appears to be required by the peculiar problem of American leadership. In practice. has influenced American policy with wide-ranging effects upon the average citizen. Rockefeller." as Walter Lippmann once wrote. are "more than salesrnen. Perhaps. July 1958 Roosevelt. with the appointment of a new Director of Studies. "The duties of the citizen. in this country. Thus. a former Ambassador to the Soviet Union.S. Wright Mills has called the Power Elite-a group of men. and the Council's semi-official role has. Special projects continue. in another connection: "What have you got that's better?" Harper's Magazine. Who. Council members continue to drift in and out of the government. a future Secretary of State. it is at least broad enough to include divergent views on every current foreign-policy issue. "is to study the problems before they become issues. To its great credit. Dulles' Director of Policy Planning. he took with him a staff composed almost exclusively of men who had interested themselves in Gennan affairs at the Council. Professor Philip Mosely.' affords them the stimulation of a broad sampling of expert views.

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