VI. The Trilateralists' Road To Power
America's Unknown Enemy: Beyond Conspiracy
Editorial Staff of the
American Institute for Economic Research
The conspiratorial link between the archaic conspiracy of Cecil
Rhodes and the alleged present plot to dominate the world has centered
in most of the related literature on the activities of the Council on
Foreign Relations. Founded in 1919 as the American branch of the "Roundtable
Group" (the successor to the Rhodes Secret society), this
organization gained increasing influence in U.S. power circles from
1920 to 1960. Much evidence supports Gary Allen's assertion in None
Dare Call It Conspiracy that by the 1950's, the CFR had become "the
most influential group in America" in regard to the development
of American foreign policy, even though it hardly proves a conspiracy.
Views circulated by the CFR often became the policy of the State
Department. Every U.S. Secretary of State since 1949 has been a member
of the CFR.
Proponents of conspiracy theory have compiled dozens of lists of
thousands of CFR members (past and present) in positions of authority
in the Executive branch, in Congress, in the U.S. military, in
international banking, in multinational corporations, in academic
professions, and in the media industries. Indeed, with past and
present membership numbering in the thousands, it is a simple matter
to find CFR members in virtually all spheres of public life. By the
early 1970's nearly everybody who was deemed "anybody" in
Washington was invited to join the CER. Active membership in the
organization increased from 1,200 to 1,800 in 1970 alone.
It seems doubtful that membership in the CFR today is restricted to
those who subscribe to a rigid set of narrowly similar views. Rather,
the recent history of the CFR provides a textbook illustration of what
happens when an elite organization exceeds "manageable"
size. That is, the greater the membership, the greater the chance that
the views of the members will diverge. For example, it is likely that
William F. Buckley, Jr. and John Kenneth Galbraith -- both past CER
members -- disagree at least as much as they agree on foreign policy
and economic issues. Equally important, the value that members attach
to their association with an organization (and hence, their
willingness to do its bidding) decreases as membership in the
organization grows and becomes less "exclusive." (Nobody
wants to join a club that lets anyone in.) Over a period of time, the
organization ceases to inspire either "consensus" or "concerted
action." Although the CFR may still exert considerable influence
in government, business, and intellectual circles, its power has
The once-powerful international "Bilderberger" organization
apparently has also suffered a loss of influence in international
political and economic affairs. Often mentioned in works on the
conspiracy as a group of "super-secret internationalists,"
the Bilderbergers -- whose member-ship included leading international
bankers such as David Rockefeller and Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and
political figures such as Sir Alec Douglas-Hume and Helmut Schmidt --
became the focus of media attention in 1976. At that time Bilderberg
Chairman Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands was publicly disgraced by
the disclosure that he had accepted a $1.1 million bribe from the
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation while serving as purchasing agent for
the Dutch government.
For exclusivity and probably influence, both the Bilderbergers and
the Council on Foreign Relations apparently were eclipsed in the
1970's by the "Trilateral Commission." With "commission"
in its name, some may infer the Trilateral commission has some
official status, but it does not. It was first organized at a meeting
held at Pocantico Hills, New York (the location of the Rockefeller
retreat), on July 23-24, 1972. At this organizational meeting, David
Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski outlined a plan for a "high-level
consultative council for global cooperation" such as had been
described by Brzezinski in his 1970 work entitled Between Two Ages
-- America's Role in the Technetronic Era. According to this plan,
"a private organization whose primary objective ... would be to
bring the best brains in the world to bear on the problems of the
future" could manage international affairs more effectively than
could sovereign nations. The resulting Trilateral Commission, which
first convened formally in July 1973, has a membership of some 200
individuals from the three "Trilateral regions": North
American (United States and Canada), Europe, and Japan. From this
group, an Executive Committee of 36 (11 from the United States, 2 from
Canada, 9 from Japan, and 14 from the European community) plans the
Commission's agenda. The full commission meets once every 9 months in
one of the regions to consider reports from its "task forces."
However, the ascendancy of the Trilateral Commission has not left the
Council on Foreign Relations without function. U.S. members for the
more selective Trilateral commission are largely drawn from the
Council on Foreign Relations. Expanded membership in the CFR has
enlarged the "talent pool" from which Trilateralist
leadership can choose new members.
Until a few years ago, the CFR was the Trilateral Commission's
exclusively "American" mouthpiece. Although the CFR claims
not to "represent any consensus of beliefs" and professes "a
broad hospitality to divergent ideas," the published "disputes"
are confined within a narrow range. (The questions debated were not
whether "managed" wealth transfers advance genuine and
lasting progress, but how much, how soon, and in what form such
transfers ought to be made; or not whether increased trade with the
Communist bloc was advised, but how much and when.) Through articles
in the CFR publication Foreign Affairs, Trilateral views (some
of which may conflict with the interests of the United States) can be
packaged especially for the American audience and provide the
seemingly objective intellectual support for the planned changes.
It seems futile to try to ascertain whether or not the Trilateralists
have a "secret Agenda" for promoting world government with
its leadership at the head. Regardless of what secret plans the
Trilateralists may or may not have, enough of their practices and
objectives are known to assess the probable effects of Trilateral
plans. Membership in the Trilateral Commission is not kept secret, and
the Commission's proposals are widely distributed in written reports
(formerly called Triangle Papers). Anyone can purchase these
reports by writing to their publisher: New York University Press,
Washington Square, New York, NY 10003. The Trilateral Commission until
recently published occasional numbers of the journal, Trialogue.
We emphatically do not subscribe to the views proffered in these
publications, but print their addresses simply to dispel the idea that
the Commission's declared work is not accessible to the public. More
recently the Institute for International Economics has served as a
vehicle for disseminating Trilateralist views. Headed by
Trilateralists C. Fred Bergsten and Peter G. Peterson, since 1983 this
organization's publications have to some degree eclipsed the
Trilateral Commission's publications. As with Trilateral Commission
publications, IIE publications are available to the public. The
Institute's address is 11 Dupont Circle, N.W., Washington, DC 20036.
The published objectives of the Trilateral Commission are in
themselves vitally important. Policies implemented or proposed by
Trilateral countries and international organizations such as the IMF
and the World Bank often were presented and argued earlier in
Trilateral Commission publications. In general, these reports advocate
more central planning and control of economic activities as a way to
achieve more stability, equity, and employment.
Who "Commissioned" the Trilateralists?
As mentioned above, the Trilateral Commission has no official
standing, in spite of the appearance of "commission" in its
name. To the contrary, Trilateral Commission membership may breach
U.S. law for some of its members. This is not because, as some assert,
the Trilateral Commission is an "illegal super-secret political
party." But neither is it, as David Rockefeller claimed, merely a
group of "private citizens of Western Europe, Japan, and North
America to foster closer cooperation among these three regions on
The Trilateral Commission is not super-secret; its publications are
publicly available and its membership records are available also. It
is not a "political party" in the conventional sense of that
name; no candidates for office are fielded under the Trilateral
banner. Nevertheless, for some such as Henry Kissinger, Paul Volcker,
and Caspar Weinberger, Trilateral connections unquestionably were a
conduit to official positions, even though many of its members
expressed strong contempt for elective "politics." It
professes to be nonpartisan, with seeming justification Former
Presidents George Bush, a Republican, and Jimmy Carter, a Democrat,
have both served as "Commissioners."
But it is not just agroup of "private citizens" either.
After the inauguration of Jimmy Carter as President of the United
States, numerous articles appeared in newspapers and magazines citing
the new President's former membership in the Trilateral Commission. In
addition to Mr. Carter, the Vice President, the Secretary of State,
the Chairman of the National Security Council, the Deputy Director of
the Central Intelligence Agency, the Under Secretary of State for
Economic Affairs, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the
Treasury, the Chief Arms Negotiator, and the U.S. Ambassador to the
United Nations had all been Trilateral Commission members.
When President Reagan assumed office, Trilateral Commission "representation"
in the Executive branch diminished, but it did not disappear. Vice
(now President) President Bush was a member, as was Secretary of
Defense Caspar Weinberger. William E. Brock, III, the U.S. Trade
Representative was, and so was Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A.
Volcker. The Trilateral Commission's "parent," the Council
on Foreign Relations, was more widely represented. CFR members in the
Reagan Administration included the Vice President, the Secretary of
State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, the
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Trade
Representative, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs,
and the Secretary of the Navy. Of 1984 Democratic Presidential
contenders, Mondale, Glenn, and Cranston were Trilateralists. Members
of the Bush Administration who were members of the Trilateral
Commission or the Council on Foreign Relations included: President
Bush, Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of the
Treasury Nicholas F. Brady, and Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Many
recent appointees to the Clinton State Department, including Secretary
of State Warren Christopher, have been members of the Trilateral
Commission or the Council on Foreign Relations.
The statutory legality in the United States of membership in the
Trilateral Commission is a more serious matter for some members.
Rockefeller's assertion that members of the Trilateral Commission are
all "private Citizens" is false. U.S. Executive appointees
have resigned from the Commission when they entered public office, but
other public officials have retained their membership. Senators
William S. Cohen, William V. Roth, Alan Cranston, John Glenn, and John
C. Culver; Representatives John Brademas, Barber B. Conable, Jr., and
Thomas S. Foley; and Governor James R. Thompson all retained their
Commission memberships while in office.
Crucial to the question of American legality is the membership of
many officials of foreign governments in Europe and Japan. More than
20 European government officials (among them Edward Heath, member of
Parliament and former Prime Minister of Britain, and Gerhard Schroder,
member of the Bundestag and former Foreign Minister of the Federal
Republic of Germany) and several Japanese government officials (Kiichi
Miyazawa, member of the Diet; Euchi Nagasue, member of the Diet; and
Nobuhiko Ushiba, Advisor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs) were on
the Trilateral Commission while they held office. The Logan Act
explicitly prohibits U.S. citizens not in appropriate government
positions from attempting to deal with foreign government officials on
aspects of foreign relations. Yet, this is precisely what the
Trilateral Commission focuses on. Although the private U.S. citizens
on the Trilateral Commission have not been challenged in court, their
activities would appear to be a violation of the basic principle of
the Logan Act (so long as foreign government officials remain on the
An Elitist Bureaucracy
An analysis of North American membership in the Trilateral Commission
confirms that three distinct professional elites dominate its
membership: the international banking establishment, the think-tank
intelligentsia, and the multinational corporate leadership. The
membership of the Commission is constantly changing as its members
move in and out of government and business positions, but a pattern of
representation seems fairly constant. Excluding active political
officeholders, representation on the Commission is divided roughly
Mass media representatives5%
|Bankers and related legal executives
|Multinational corporate executives
|Labor union representatives
The higher percentage of "intellectuals" (think-tank
members) on the Commission may or may not reflect their relative
influence on its positions and recommendations. Just as easily, they
could unwittingly be the pawns of the moneyed interests on the
Commission, doing most of the Commission's intellectual "work."
It is the think-tank members who actually do the "research"
and write the drafts of the Commission's various reports. In these
tasks they are "guided" in varying degrees by other members
as to what avenues of approach seem most fruitful. The studies' "conclusions"
can thereby be molded in advance. The full Commission then purportedly
reviews all work. The Commission itself describes this as the "Trilateral
Process," and for each policy report there is a specific "Schedule
of Task Force Activities."
The "Schedule of Task Force Activities" for a
representative Triangle Paper (see the box on page 46) suggests the
extent to which the Trilateralists pay tribute to the appearance of
objective inquiry and scholarship. It also reveals a bureaucratic
mentality of grandiose scale. Participants fly at Commission expense
to New York, then to Paris, and then to Tokyo an itinerary that must
surely reinforce their own self-esteem. But it is bureaucracy
nonetheless -- a global bureaucratic elite carefully selected from
other sub-elites (such as the CFR) by like-minded bureaucrats.
The Trilateral Commission's selection criteria for banking and
multinational executives are fairly obvious. Generally, these people
are at the very "top" of their professions (or are selected
for their potential to reach the top) and have an obvious interest in
promoting international stability and market expansion. The chairmen
of Lehman Bros.; Brown Bros., Harriman; Chase Manhattan; Coca-Cola;
John Deere; Hewlett-Packard; and Texas Instruments have been or are
Trilateral Commission members. If the thinking of high-ranking
businessmen such as these can be shaped along certain lines, it is but
a short step to influencing much of U.S. international business
practice and -- insofar as such persons also have political clout --
to influencing Government policy toward U.S. international business.
The process of Trilateral selection from the academic professions is
less clear. "Ascent" to Trilateral Commission membership
does not seem to depend on membership in any secret order, such as "Skull
and Bones" at Yale, as some writers assert. Rather, it seems an
offshoot of the academic mentor system, through which promising
students receive special attention and professional sponsorship under
the tutelage of one or more established academic patrons -- who
themselves advance their reputations and spread their viewpoints by
manipulating (guiding) the careers of their proteges. This system,
which often does involve some unannounced quid pro quo, has
functioned in one form or another since the Middle Ages. It is
commonly referred to as the "old boy network," and it is the
way power often has been pursued in many walks of life.
The careers of two of the leading Trilateralists are illustrative.
Phyllis Schlafly and Chester Ward's Kissinger on the Couch
chronicles Henry Kissinger's rise to power through the ranks of
academia. In 1942, Henry Kissinger was a private in the U.S. Army. His
initial introduction to the academic old boy network came when he
caught the attention of Col. Fritz Kraemer, twice a Ph.D., who became
his first mentor. Kraemer interested Kissinger in philosophy,
political theory, and international relations and helped arrange a
scholarship at Harvard for his protege after the war. His second
mentor was William Yandell Elliot, who sponsored his graduate career
and an instructorship at Harvard. In this position Kissinger came to
the attention of Hamilton Fish Armstrong, editor of The Council on
Foreign Relations' publication Foreign Affairs. Armstrong
agreed to publish several of the young Kissinger's articles.
This ought not to seem too surprising, since the senior faculty
members at schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are generally
the "best connected," most faculty members having made the
rounds of many other institutions before receiving "the call"
to one of the Ivies. Senior faculty often promote the careers of their
junior colleagues by introducing them to likely publishers. But as
Schlafly and Ward observe: "A simple article in Foreign
Affairs will not make a career -- but three or four will launch
one off to a good start."
From Harvard, the next step was an invitation to join the CER as "Director
of Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy Studies." Here, Kissinger
met the Rockefellers, Nelson and David. They appointed him director of
the "Special Studies Project" for the Rockefeller fund in
1956, from which position he could direct the flow of financial
support to those who -- like himself -- showed intellectual promise
and espoused a viewpoint consistent with his own and that of leading
CFR thinkers. From there, Kissinger had but a short step to "public
This pattern: university faculty member, to think-tank fellow (any
one of dozens), to CFR-Trilateral membership -- then in and out of
government or quasi-government positions and private positions with
multinational corporations, commercial banks, or investment banks
(Kissinger served on the board of Shearson/American Express) -- is
typical of the careers of Trilateral intellectuals.
Zbigniew Brzezinski's career somewhat paralleled Kissinger's.
Brzezinski received first-class honors at McGill University, went on
to the graduate school at Harvard (Ph.D., 1955), joined the Harvard
faculty (Assistant Professor of Government, 1956-60), became Director
of the Research Institute on International Change (1962-77), joined
the Trilateral Commission as its first Director (1973-76), and then
entered government as Assistant to the President for National Security
For those who want to exercise authority over their fellow men (many
academics seem less interested in accumulating wealth than in leading
others) there is an established path to power. The degree to which
secrecy -- or conspiracy -- plays a part in it cannot be reliably
ascertained. But there is much about it that ought to invite closer
scrutiny. As events have turned, the Trilateral Commission-CFR
alliance between the money brokers and the intellectuals has been and
is a potent persuasive force for global mischief making.
- See Glossary of
Organizations for brief descriptions of a number of
organizations frequently associated with conspiracy theories and
global "management" policies.
- From information in "The
Trilateral Commission," The Freeman Digest, Vol. VI,
No.7, January 15, 1978, published by the Freeman Institute.