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Council on Foreign Relations

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Published on Sep 14, 2008

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an American nonpartisan foreign policy membership organization founded in 1921.


Beginning in 1939 and lasting for five years, the Council achieved much greater prominence with government and the State Department when it established the strictly confidential War and Peace Studies, funded entirely by the Rockefeller Foundation.


The Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations is composed in total of thirty-six officers. Peter G. Peterson and David Rockefeller are Directors Emeriti (Chairman Emeritus and Honorary Chairman, respectively). It also has an International Advisory Board consisting of thirty-five distinguished individuals from across the world.


David Rockefeller joined the council as its youngest-ever director in 1949 and subsequently became chairman of the board from 1970 to 1985; today he serves as honorary chairman. The major philanthropic organization he founded with his brothers in 1940, the "Rockefeller Brothers Fund", has also provided funding to the Council, from 1953 to at least 1980

A study by two critics of the organization, Laurence Shoup and William Minter, found that of 502 government officials surveyed from 1945 to 1972, more than half were members of the Council. As a private institution however, the CFR maintains through its official website that it is not a formal organization engaged in U.S. foreign policy-making. Seven American presidents have addressed the Council, two while still in office †Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Journalist Joseph Kraft, a former member of both the CFR and the Trilateral Commission, said the Council "comes close to being an organ of what C. Wright Mills has called the Power Elite †a group of men, similar in interest and outlook, shaping events from invulnerable positions behind the scenes."

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