"Dangerous Circumstances" the Council on Foreign Relations Proposes a New Grand Strategy towards China

By Shoup, Laurence H. | Monthly Review, September 2015 | Go to article overview

"Dangerous Circumstances" the Council on Foreign Relations Proposes a New Grand Strategy towards China


Shoup, Laurence H., Monthly Review


Background: The CFR and its Grand Strategy China Report

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is the think tank of monopolyfinance capital, Wall Street's think tank. It is also a membership organization: the ultimate networking, socializing, strategic-planning, and consensus-forming institution of the dominant sector of the U.S. capitalist class. The CFR's activities help unite the capitalist class to become not just a class in itself, but also a class for itself. It is the world's most powerful private organization, the "high command" body of the U.S. plutocracy. The Council has an almost century-long history of forming study groups to plan the United States' overall "grand" strategic policies. It sets the agenda for debate, builds consensus among both the powerful and attentive publics, and then inserts its own network of people into public office to implement its favored doctrines in the real world.2 One of its latest efforts, a study group on U.S. grand strategy toward China, completed its work and issued a report in March 2015-approved by the CFR board of directors-entitled Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China. This report used the term "dangerous circumstances" to describe the growing tensions between the world's most powerful two nations.3

A key reason to follow the CFR and its activities is that it represents a unique window into the debates within the capitalist ruling class of the United States about both what represents a crisis, and how to handle one, especially regarding strategic and economic questions. Knowing about the policy debates within ruling circles allows the possibility of popular forces intervening and influencing the outcome of such debates.

The study group that produced recommendations for a new U.S. policy toward China had forty-three members: thirty-six men and seven women. Two study group members, Robert D. Blackwill of the CFR and Ashley J. Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote the report. Blackwill, a CFR member and Trilateral Commissioner, is currently the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council. He was U.S. Ambassador to India (2001-2003) and served in the George W. Bush administration as a strategic planner at the National Security Council and presidential envoy to Iraq. He is the co-author of a forthcoming book on geoeconomics and statecraft. Tellis, who was educated at the University of Bombay and the University of Chicago, is also a Council member whose career has alternated between the private policyplanning sector of capitalist class institutions like RAND, the National Bureau of Asian Research, and Carnegie, along with government advisory work at the National Security Council and the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, India. He is a co-author of a book on interpreting China's grand strategy.4

Thirty-two of the forty-three members of this study group (74.4 percent) are members of the CFR. Other prominent U.S. think tanks also had representation, including the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for New American Security, Hudson Institute, RAND, Woodrow Wilson School, Brookings, Heritage Foundation, Atlantic Council, American Enterprise Institute, Hoover Institution, and Manhattan Institute. Most of these other think tank members are also members of the Council, however, as are a number of former senior U.S. government officials serving on the study group. Besides Blackwill and Tellis, these include Paul D. Wolfowitz, Douglas J. Feith, and Graham T. Allison (Defense Department): James B. Steinberg, Philip D. Zelikow, and Richard N. Cooper (State Department): John Deutch and John E. McLaughlin (CIA); and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (Office of the Vice President). Wolfowitz and Steinberg appear to be especially important, because both served as deputy secretaries in their government service, Wolfowitz to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Steinberg to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Wolfowitz is also a key adviser to current presidential candidate Jeb Bush. …

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