The Council on the Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War

The Council on the Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War

The Council on the Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War

The Council on the Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War

Synopsis

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is still active today; in fact, the interest in its activities is growing. However, to date little is known about the major aspects of the organization. We are pleased to offer the first comprehensive evaluation of its impact on the decision-making process of American foreign policy, particularly in the immediate postwar period. Was the CFR, as richist critics claimed, "the nexus of the organized subversive effort in America"; or was it, as leftists claimed, "a central link binding American foreign policy to the corporate upper class"; or did it fall somewhere in between these rather extreme characterizations? Based on extensive analysis of primary sources, this book clearly delineates the Council's activities - its study and discussion groups and its publications - and the developing internation political, military, and economic situations. This ground-breaking study was highly acclaimed when it first appeared in German, and its availability in translation will be most welcome.

Michael Wala is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences of the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg. He previously edited Allen Dulles's The Marshall Plan (1993).

Excerpt

One of the major concerns in the analysis of American foreign relations is the decision-making process of United States foreign policy. Historians and other scholars try to determine why particular decisions have been arrived at by policy-makers. A number of different -- and often sharply differing -- models are advanced, suggesting that a variety of factors and prerequisites influence this process. In an attempt to determine the most critical of these influences on the policy-making process, scholars have assigned dominant roles to the American president, Congress, the bureaucracy, the public, public interest groups, elites, and even the "establishment." One of the reasons that such studies often have more to do with educated guessing than with a systematic and analytical approach is the lack of evidence in the form of documents, the historian's main tool to support any interpretations.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has been singled out in the context of U.S. foreign policy as one of the most influential organizations. Despite the increased attention the Council has received during the last few years, however, little is known about the major aspects of its activities, and a conclusive evaluation of the Council's impact on the decision-making process of American foreign policy is still lacking.

To provide readers with a firm understanding of the Councils role during the crucial years following World War II, this study delineates the Council's activities -- its study and discussion groups and its publications -- and the activities of Council members in correlation with developing international political, military, and economic situations. Not all relevant events that today, with the wisdom of hindsight, may be regarded as important, received significant attention by the Council. I have tried to depict (without concentrating merely on the more interesting issues) a spectrum of Council activities in order to provide an authentic picture of its mode of operation. This entails developments within the Council as well as differences among (Council member. My main emphasis, however, is on the Council's responses to events and developments unfolding in the international arena and its affiliations with the Truman administration.

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