In its 70-year history, the quarterly journal Foreign Affairs has had but five editors. The fifth, recently appointed, is James Hoge, former publisher of the New York Daily News and before that editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. The quarterly is published by the Council on Foreign Relations, whose members are the nearest thing we have to a ruling establishment in the United States.
The president is a member. So is his secretary of state, the deputy secretary of state, all five of the undersecretaries, several of the assistant secretaries and the department’s legal adviser. The president’s national security adviser and his deputy are members. The director of Central Intelligence (like all previous directors) and the chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board are members. The secretary of defense, three undersecretaries and at least four assistant secretaries are members. The secretaries of the departments of housing and urban development, interior, health and human services and the chief White House public relations man, David Gergen, are members, along with the speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate.
This is not a retinue of people who “look like America,” as the president once put it, but they very definitely look like the people who, for more than half a century, have managed our international affairs and our military-industrial complex. John W. Davis, a Wall Street lawyer, was chosen as the council’s first president in 1921 and three years later was the Democratic candidate for president against Calvin Coolidge. His successors at the council were from the same mold — financiers, corporate lawyers and industrialists. John J. McCloy, described by Richard Rovere years ago as the patriarch of the American establishment, served as council chairman from 1953 until 1970. Allen Dulles, first head of the CIA, was a council director for 42 years and was its president from 1946 until 1950. David Rockefeller succeeded McCloy, serving as chairman from 1970 until 1985. His successor is Peter Peterson.
Is there something unethical in these new relationships, some great danger that conflicts of interest are bound to arise when journalists get cheek and jowl with the establishment? Probably not. They are part of that establishment whether they like it or not, sharing most of its values and world views. In any case, they must deal with it daily in their professional lives, even to learning which forks to use.