Influenced by Zbigniew Brzezinski's concept, David Rockefeller
pushed to set up the Trilateral Commission to win the advanced
capitalist nations over to his liberal internationalist vision.
THE LEGACY OF DAVID ROCKEFELLER
One of David Rockefeller's more infamous and enduring
achievements in service of the New World Order is his
creation of the
Trilateral Commission. According to David's somewhat
sparse account in
he embraced the trilateral idea in the early 1970s when he realized
"that power relationships in the world had fundamentally changed".
Although the USA was still the dominant superpower, its economic
leadership was being eroded by a newly resurgent Japan and Western
Europe. More worryingly, the previously friendly post-war
relationship between the three regions had "deteriorated
alarmingly", therefore, David observed, "something had to be done".
His solution was, of course, to set up a "trilateral organization" -
the Trilateral Commission - that would "bridge national differences
and bring Japan into the international community".1
There is, of course, far more to David's support for trilateralism
and the foundation of
the Trilateral Commission than
his tale of intellectual self-discovery acknowledges. Besides
downplaying his heavy reliance on
original trilateral concept, David fails to mention his key goals in
forming the Commission.
establishing a new
elite policy-planning organization to supplement if not replace
a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which David
considered too fractured by the Vietnam War to be effective
reining in the
which had taken advantage of Establishment divisions to
reject the liberal internationalist program
encouraging unity among the industrialized powers as a temporary
alternative to a United Nations (UN) increasingly
dominated by radicalized Third World states, so that together
they could achieve his goal of a "more integrated global
political and economic structure"
It was Brzezinski, then a young upcoming professor at
Columbia University, who had conceived the trilateral idea - first
in the pages of the CIA-funded journal, Encounter,
and subsequently in his book,
Between Two Ages - America's
Role in the Technetronic Era (1970).
Brzezinski had warned of a looming "serious crisis", as rapid
technological change in the First World - which was creating a
global "technetronic society" - widened the economic gap between it
and the Third World. To prevent this inevitable "global
fragmentation" from causing chaos, Brzezinski had called for
the formation of a "community of developed nations" comprising "the
Atlantic states, the more advanced European communist states and
Arranged as a "council for global cooperation", this
"community" would develop a "long-range strategy for international
development based on the emerging global consciousness".2
This approach was necessary, according to Brzezinski, because
of the obvious decline in America's superpower status. The United
States "cannot shape the world single-handed", he argued; instead,
America had to collaborate with other advanced countries in a "joint
response" to ensure global stability.
He advocated a two-stage
program, with the US, Western Europe and Japan linking up in the
first phase and the "advanced communist states" being included in
the second. Displaying his liberal internationalist credentials,
presented his envisaged "community of developed nations" as a
"step toward greater unity" and a "realistic expression of our
emerging global consciousness".
Although "more ambitious than the
concept of an Atlantic community", it would be "less ambitious than
the goal of world government, [but] more attainable".3
Between Two Ages proved influential from the outset. It
received numerous positive reviews, and the Brookings
Institution funded a program of "Tripartite Studies" to
explore the feasibility of the idea. Brzezinski also pushed
his trilateral concept in a number of articles in the CFR's journal,
Foreign Affairs, and the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace's new periodical, Foreign Policy.
These articles, which
focused on building the first phase of his
trilateral plan, were also noteworthy in that
Brzezinski explicitly justified trilateralism as the correct
response to the Nixon Administration's numerous excesses.
Brzezinski's criticisms of Nixon's foreign policy were
Firstly, by "turning its back" on the Third World,
Nixon was failing to deal with the "contagious threat of global
anarchy", increasing the risk of "social and political
Secondly, Nixon's recognition of China and détente with the USSR was
having "a negative effect on American - European and American -
Japanese relations", as well as creating splits among the capitalist
countries which the Communist states might exploit.
And thirdly, the
"balance of power" approach favored by Nixon was an
"unrealistic and fundamentally untenable" strategy that offered
"little leadership and historical direction".4
In fact, claimed
with international stability being challenged by "global anarchy",
the Nixon Administration: fails to seize the opportunity to postulate a larger community of
the developed nations, spanning Japan, Western Europe and the United
States, as the historically relevant response to that challenge.5
There can be little doubt that Brzezinski's attack on
Nixon was attractive to David Rockefeller; for the
plutocrat was already fast losing patience with the Nixon
Administration, especially on economic matters.
"New Economic Policy"
(NEP) of 1971, which had imposed wage and price controls
and increased tariffs, had incensed David along with most of the Establishment. As David admits in Memoirs, he
regarded the NEP as a "futile effort" to fight
inflation, one that conflicted with his own inclination "to allow
markets to have a freer rein".6
Consequently, he had sought an audience with Nixon to discuss
the "international monetary and trade picture", presumably to set
the wayward President on the correct course, but Nixon's Chief of
Staff, H. R. Haldeman, blocked him.
Eventually, David secured
a meeting with Nixon's aide, John Ehrlichman, but his
démarche was a failure; his views were dismissed by one of
the officials at the meeting as "not especially innovative".7
This calculated rebuff made it all the more easy for Brzezinski
to sell his trilateral concept directly to David. Both spent
their summer holidays at Seal Harbor in the US State of Maine, and
Brzezinski used the opportunity to discuss his scheme with
The impact of these discussions was evident in David's
Nixon's foreign policy, expressed in a private meeting
in 1972 with presidential aspirant Jimmy Carter.
in Roland Perry's book, The Programming of the President
(1990), David hinted at having some reservations about the Nixon Administration, noting that despite Nixon
"proving to be a good President" and he and Nelson having "a lot of
time for Henry [Kissinger]", unfortunately "neither of them
is a businessman, a banker" David was concerned that their lack of
economic sense was leaving the US vulnerable to Third World attempts
to control the supply of key commodities, especially oil.
Furthermore, according to Perry, he was also worried that the
Soviets and Chinese "might use détente as a front for expansion and
the ultimate weakening of the capitalist nations".9
These arguments were pure Brzezinski.
David's other motivation in creating the Trilateral Commission
was the declining effectiveness of the Council on Foreign
much of it caused by an incendiary public debate over the Vietnam
War. Although the Establishment's position had shifted
to backing an immediate withdrawal - now that the war had been
deemed too financially costly to continue
- the Council itself remained divided between supporters and
opponents of the war.
These divisions came to a head in 1970 when
David, as the new CFR Chairman, attempted to appoint William Bundy, one of the
architects of the conflict, as editor of Foreign Affairs. The
appointment provoked outrage among those new CFR
members, mostly academics, who opposed the war on moral grounds,
some of them publicly branding Bundy
a "war criminal".
This upset Rockefeller, who considered
Bundy to be a "man of quality and culture", but it was also
clear to him that the war had "poisoned the atmosphere" at the
The impact on Rockefeller of the battle over Bundy's
appointment was profound.
According to journalist John B. Judis,
"lost confidence that high-level policy discussions could be
carried on at the Council on Foreign Relations", and
to remedy this he "began to cast about for a new organization".
Inspired by Brzezinski's call for "more informal three-way
contacts" between the "social elites" of the three regions,
David decided to establish a new policy-planning clique that would
bring together the power-elites of the advanced capitalist
Founding the Trilateral Commission
David launched his crusade in 1972. In March of that year, in
speeches at Chase International Financial Forums, David
proposed creating an "International Commission for Peace and
comprising "leading private citizens" from Europe, North America and
Japan who would devise solutions to the world's problems.
"problems of the future" which David identified reveal much about
his broader global agenda:
international trade and investment
crime and drugs
to developing nations
David also took
Brzezinski with him to that year's
Bilderberg meeting in Knokke, Belgium, where he
proposed including Japanese representatives at Bilderberg
rather than forming a new organization. His proposal received
enthusiastic support from the conveniently present Brzezinski,
but it was "shot down in flames", David claimed, by British MP
Undaunted, David moved to a more congenial environment, summoning
various notables from the US, Western Europe and Japan to the
Rockefeller family estate at Pocantico Hills in August 1972.
Those at the meeting agreed with David that "something should be
done"; and thus the Trilateral Commission was born,
nominated as its director.
The Commission was publicly launched
in July 1973 - along with its magazine, Trialogue - as an
organization that would "formulate and propose policies" to achieve
the Commission's goal of "closer cooperation among the three
advanced regions". This event conveniently coincided with a
particularly strident Foreign Affairs article by Brzezinski,
which insisted that "the active promotion of such trilateral
cooperation must now become the central priority of US policy".14
With his new policy-planning organization in hand, David paid a
visit to Nixon's newly appointed Secretary of State, Henry
Kissinger, to inform him of the good news.
No mention of this
encounter can be found in Kissinger's massive three-volume
memoirs; but at the Trilateral Commission's 25th
anniversary dinner in 1998, he revealed what had transpired:
In 1973, when I served
as Secretary of State,
showed up in my office one day to tell me that he thought I needed a
little help. I must confess, the thought was not self-evident to me
at the moment. He proposed to form a group of Americans, Europeans
and Japanese to look ahead into the future.
And I asked him, "Who's
going to run this for you, David?" He said, "Zbigniew
Brzezinski". I knew that Rockefeller meant it. He picked something
that was important. When I thought about it there actually was a
If we pause to consider
this encounter further, it tells us much about David's enormous
power in the US political system.
There are arguably few people
in this world, especially those outside of government, who can
stride into the US State Department and inform the incumbent
Secretary of State that as their Administration's foreign policy has
been found wanting, an organization has been set up - to be headed
by Brzezinski, one of the harshest critics of
Nixon's foreign policy and long-time bitter rival of
Kissinger - to "help" them take a proper course.
could expect to secure the immediate and unquestioning acquiescence
of the Secretary of State, especially one with Kissinger's
ego, who had earlier brazenly rejected demands from two
Establishment delegations that US forces be withdrawn from Vietnam
Unless, of course, one is
Nevertheless, not being one to lose face willingly, especially
before such a distinguished audience, Kissinger embellished
his account, suggesting the purpose of David's visit was to seek his
blessing for the trilateral venture - a blessing that he naturally,
and modestly, gave:
"And so I encouraged
David to go ahead, though I deserve no credit whatever for the
But history does not quite
bear Kissinger out, for he did not become Secretary of State
until September 1973, by which time the Trilateral Commission
was publicly up and running, rendering his blessing
And even if we assume that the (then septuagenarian)
manipulator's memory was faulty in his 1998 address, and that the
meeting with David actually took place earlier in 1973 when he was
still only Nixon's National Security Advisor, Kissinger's
reputation fares no better.
If David's visit was indeed earlier in the year, it might explain
Kissinger's "Year of Europe" speech, given in April 1973,
which curiously drew heavily on the trilateralist concept.
Identifying the need for "new types of cooperative action" to deal
with a range of global problems, Kissinger called for a "new
Atlantic Charter" involving Western Europe, the US, Canada and
But Kissinger's "Year of Europe" was a defective version of
trilateralism as it put Europe in a subordinate role to the US,
sparking much anger in Europe. Consequently, many Trilateralists
airily dismissed Kissinger's proposal, suggesting that it had
"surface[ed] without any real prior consultation", "lack[ed]
substance" (Brzezinski), and amounted to "an Administration
attack on the European Community"
Irrespective of when the plutocrat's visit to
Kissinger occurred, there can be no doubt that Kissinger's
incompetent attempts to launch trilateralism would only have
reinforced David Rockefeller's belief that the Nixon
"needed a little help".
That was 1973. By 1974, Nixon had resigned in disgrace and
many of his key aides, including Haldeman and Ehrlichman,
had been either dismissed or imprisoned. Only Kissinger, ever
the opportunist and perhaps more acutely aware of the costs of
defiance, remained in place, above the fray.
Commission, meanwhile, went from strength to strength,
holding the founding session of its Executive Committee in Tokyo in
October 1973. In May 1975, the first plenary meeting of all of the
Commission's regional groups - North America, Europe and Japan,
comprising some 300 members - took place in Kyoto.
In its Third
Annual Report, released in mid-1976, the Commission triumphantly
noted that in the US "there was noticeably increased emphasis on
trilateral ties as the cornerstone of American foreign policy".19
The "Broad Consensus"
The creation of the Trilateral Commission was an
important triumph for David Rockefeller; for almost
single-handedly he had established a new elite policy-planning
organization, one that expanded the boundaries of the existing elite
political network to include Japan.
But of immeasurably greater
significance was the fact that the Trilateral Commission
was exclusively dedicated to David's vision of world order and to
overcoming the divisions which afflicted the
However, as he was to increasingly complain, David was dogged by
allegations that the Commission was a "great conspiratorial body"
which controlled the world and had "all sorts of evil designs for
the rest of the planet", with him identified as the
Naturally, he dismissed these accusations as
"foolish attacks on false issues", "absurd" and the product of "pure
and simple ignorance". In truth, David insisted, the Commission was
merely "a group of concerned citizens" interested in "fostering
greater understanding and cooperation among international allies",
and whose membership, he asserted in 1980, actually reflected a
"broad range of political views".20
Yet David's ridicule and claims of a "broad range of political
views" flatly contradicted earlier statements by himself and other
Trilateralists confirming the Trilateral Commission's
ideological uniformity, especially its commitment to liberal
For example, the foreword to a collection of the
Commission's Task Force reports, published in 1978, observed that
despite some differences the,
"uniting element" in the
was the "broad consensus" that "the cooperation of the three
regions is necessary to assure smooth management of global
The foreword was co-signed by the European
Chairman Georges Berthoin,
by the Japanese Chairman Takeshi Watanabe, and by the North
American Chairman David Rockefeller.
Other members were more
direct in identifying the globalist core of the Trilateral
Commission's ideology. C. Fred Bergsten, for example,
one of a number of officials who defected from the Nixon
Administration to join the Commission, left no doubt,
declaring that "Liberal internationalism is our creed".21
This "broad consensus" was that the US had no choice but to embrace
trilateralism. With its economic power waning, David claimed,
America was a superpower in decline and therefore unable to fulfill
its global security commitments; however, growing global economic
interdependence meant that it could not retreat into isolationism.
David made this clear to the World Affairs Council in
Today, whether we like
it or not, the world including the United States has become truly
interdependent. Gone are the days when America could be the military
policeman of the world, the moral preacher of the world, the sole
arsenal of democracy, or a patch of prosperity on the globe.22
However, as David had
observed in 1975, the urgent task of managing an "interdependent
world" could not be entrusted to the UN, as
nationalist and anti-capitalist forces had captured it.
on the profusion of UN committees established to
examine the activities of multinational corporations, David detected
an alarming "distrust of free enterprise and the free market
Noting the failure of this radicalized UN to
create "a unified world polity", he concluded harshly that,
United Nations has largely reduced itself to a forum for the
expression and promotion of narrow national or bloc interests rather
than the broad human interests its charter proclaims".
human interests", he claimed, could only be served when "free market
forces are able to transcend national boundaries".23
The solution to these contrasting trends was obvious. In a speech to
the Japan - America Society in 1979, David asserted that it was
imperative that the US collaborate with the other capitalist powers
to manage global affairs:
Economically as well as
politically, the US must exercise constructive leadership,
recognizing that, today, we can neither dominate nor escape the
global marketplace. Only in concert with other nations can we hope
to achieve a freer, safer and more prosperous world that should be
the goal of all nations and all people.24
It should come as no
surprise that, contrary to David's claims of a "broad range of
political views" but in tune with the "broad consensus", his logic
was echoed by other leading figures in the organization.
member and former Japanese Foreign Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, for example, explained at the Commission's
1980 meeting in London that since America had,
"lost its once
dominant position", the only solution was for the trilateral
countries to "cooperate amongst themselves to share the
responsibility for maintaining a stable political order and for
undertaking sound economic management..."
While the Commission's
North American Chairman Gerard C. Smith told the CFR
in 1974 that since it was now "obvious" the UN "was
not going to fulfill its promise as a universal organization around
which a universal structure could be formed", other approaches were
Although "less ambitious" than the
UN, he explained, the "trilateral community, could
well be a major factor in building a new world order."25
The "broad consensus" was also reflected in the Commission's Task
Force reports, the so-called "Triangle Papers", most
of which seemed to recommend as a response to growing
interdependence what we now call "global governance". For example,
Triangle Paper No. 14,
"Towards a Renovated International System", described the
"world of separate nations" as "a mental universe which no longer
exists", given that social, economic and political interdependence
had "grown to an unprecedented scale".
Its strategy for the
"management of interdependence" involved "piecemeal functionalism",
in which global solutions to international problems would be reached
by approaching each one separately; and the decentralized management
of the international system, with local administrations enforcing
rules made at the global level.26
Triangle Paper No. 11, "The Reform of International
Institutions", recommended - to achieve the,
"overriding goal" of
making "the world safe for interdependence" - the "checking of the
intrusion of national governments into the international exchange of
both economic and non-economic goods".27
By the mid-1970s, the Trilateral Commission's approach
to world order had become, according to the Director of the CFR's "1980s Project", "the consensus position on foreign
policy" in the USA (Ullman).
Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, made great efforts to
conform to this consensus, appointing two Trilateral
Commissioners to his cabinet: Secretary of Commerce Elliot
Richardson and Secretary of Transportation William Coleman.
Consultations between the Commission and the administration were
also encouraged: in late 1975, the Commission's Executive Committee
met with Ford; and in May 1976, Commission members also met
with Kissinger, Richardson and
Coleman.28 David Rockefeller, however, found Ford's efforts
wanting and he actively cultivated a replacement regime from within
the ranks of the Democrats.
The alternative President soon emerged in the form of Jimmy
Governor of Georgia. Carter seemed to be the ideal
trilateralist candidate; he had been an enthusiastic member of the Trilateral Commission ever since David had personally
invited him to join in 1973, attending all of its meetings. During
the election campaign,
Carter had publicly thanked the Commission for giving him a
"splendid learning opportunity" and endorsed its basic precepts,
pointedly rejecting Nixon's balance-of-power strategy.
running theme in Carter's campaign speeches was that "the
time had come" to replace "balance-of-power politics with world
order politics" and to "seek a partnership between North America,
Western Europe and Japan"
Assisted by Ford's politically self-destructive decisions to
Nelson Rockefeller as his running mate and pardon Nixon
over Watergate (annoying voters and the Establishment),
Carter sailed into the White House in January 1977, ready to
start a new era. Although confident of Carter's commitment to
trilateralism, David Rockefeller did not let his new protégé in the White
House completely off the leash and continued to provide direction.
While only two meetings between Carter and Rockefeller
at the White House are recorded in Carter's official diary,30
according to historian
Robert Wood, "Carter's White House files are peppered
with correspondence from David Rockefeller".31
Moreover, Carter had appointed 20 trilateralists to senior
positions in his administration (Brzezinski became his
National Security Advisor), effectively surrendering his
administration to adherents of David's trilateralist ideology. With
so many trilateralists in the White House as well as heading the
Defense and State Departments and the Federal Reserve, David
undoubtedly felt certain that there would be no repeat of Nixon's
Yet, despite its seemingly impeccable trilateralist pedigree, the
Carter Administration did not remain in favor for
long. In 1978, a new member of the Trilateral Commission
took issue with
Carter's new "human rights" policy of pressuring America's
Third World allies to stop human rights violations. Speaking to the
editor of Trialogue,
this new trilateralist warned of "great dangers" in Carter's
approach, including "producing revolutions in friendly countries".
Instead, the US needed to practice "selectivity" in its
international human rights policy and be more lenient towards
"authoritarian regimes" (i.e., US client states), as they were more
likely to evolve into democracies than were "totalitarian regimes"
(i.e., Communist states). America's human rights policy, he said,
"must maintain this crucial distinction".32
The new member was Henry Kissinger, and his arguments struck
a chord with David - who already had demonstrated a curious
indifference to the atrocities carried out by the many dictators he
had dealt with over the years.
"I do believe," David said in 1979,
"that repeated lecturing and public condemnation of regimes that we
find repressive are not likely to produce the desired results."33
Carter, he told the World Affairs Council,
"vital interests" had been "subordinated to worthy but
fuzzily defined moral issues - such as human rights and the
proliferation of nuclear technologies".
David insisted that while it
was "only proper" for the US to press the cause of human rights,
should be prudent since our interference may be capable of toppling
regimes whose substitutes are unknown".34
To be sure, Carter's actual record in promoting human rights
was barely groundbreaking; in fact, it was marked by some major
omissions, especially in the case of Cambodia - where his
administration opted to support indirectly the genocidal Khmer
David Rockefeller could publicly urge the Carter
Administration to overlook human rights abuses by US allies
and then be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill
Clinton in 1998 for "fighting for human rights" is yet another
of the many cruel hypocrisies of our times. (Kissinger
received the same award from Gerald Ford in 1977.)
Clinton's description of David as "a genuine humanitarian of
the likes our nation has rarely seen" also demonstrates the truth of
Noam Chomsky's contention that a "culture of terrorism"
pervades the US power-elite.36
It is, after all, usually only the powerful that can celebrate and
reward such blatant double standards.37
There was more to David's growing impatience with the Carter
Administration: its foreign policy was also failing to meet
his expectations, which was evident in the plutocrat's alarm at the
"slippage of America's strength and leadership on the global scene".38
The bitter disputes within the hapless President's foreign policy
team, especially between fellow trilateralists Brzezinski
and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, seemed to be
producing an incoherent foreign policy.
Administration, David claimed, had "often fallen short" in
its explanation and execution of its foreign policy. In fact, he
policy has been confusing because policies have been
conflicting"; and that Washington was "sending out signals that
merely read zigzag, switch and somersault, but don't tell
anybody what we're up to or what we may do next. Friends and
foes alike find us unpredictable and undependable".39
Another concern of David's
was America's declining economic fortunes.
The failure of Carter,
"to put our economic house in order" was proving damaging: "the
international monetary system has been shaken and America's global
leadership has been weakened".
David also complained of a
"regulatory rampage" emanating from Washington, that was reducing
corporate profits and productivity.40
Reagan and Beyond
David Rockefeller's wish for regime change was soon realized
in 1980, when the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan secured
a sizeable victory over Carter.
The role of the plutocrat in Carter's defeat is already well
known. David, in collaboration with Henry Kissinger and
former CFR Chairman John J. McCloy, had pressured Carter to admit the
recently deposed Shah of Iran into the United States for medical
treatment. This act precipitated the hostage crisis at the US
Embassy in Tehran that was immensely damaging to Carter,
although whether David anticipated that outcome is unknown.
Memoirs, David makes no secret of his motives, arguing that the
Shah "deserved more honorable treatment from the most powerful
nation on earth".41
Not surprisingly, David's name has come up in connection with the
so-called "October Surprise" conspiracy, in which it
is alleged that elements in the Reagan campaign - notably
future CIA Director
William Casey - conspired to disrupt the Carter
Administration's attempts to negotiate the pre-election release
of the hostages, in the knowledge that an "October Surprise" would
be a sure vote-winner for Carter.
There is little evidence of David Rockefeller's direct
involvement, but one of his aides at Chase Manhattan
is alleged to have spoken of such disruption plans in a meeting with
Casey, and a "Rockefeller-connected lawyer" is said to have been
involved in some dubious money transactions that facilitated the
The Reagan Administration soon resolved many of the
problems David had identified under Carter, even though many
of its key members were suspicious of the Trilateral
Commission. Reagan embraced
Kissinger's "crucial distinction", giving strong support to
anti-Communist dictatorships, especially in Central America, while
adopting a belligerent posture against the Communist states.
Economically, as David happily acknowledged in 1985, the Reagan Administration performed to his expectations:
It is heartening that
the current administration in Washington is dedicated to encouraging
the private sector and lessening the role of government.43
Through a combination of
aggressive rhetoric and a defense build-up,
Reagan also restored some sense of America's superpower
status while still sidelining the United Nations.
The only problem
according to David, was that his electoral campaign had been
critical of the Trilateral Commission.
But this soon
"Reagan ultimately came to understand
Trilateral's value and invited the entire membership to a reception
at the White House in April 1984".44
The limits of the Trilateral Commission's influence
became more apparent during the first Bush Administration.
There were relatively few trilateralists in the administration,
especially at cabinet level - no more than six, according to some
sources. George H. W. Bush had resigned from both the
Commission and the CFR in 1978 on the grounds they were "too
David Korten, however, suggests that Bush's
commitment to the trilateralist agenda was evident in his support
for global free trade and NAFTA - goals also supported
by David Rockefeller. As for his foreign policy record,
however, despite his Gulf War rhetoric about creating a "new world
Bush arguably fell short of the liberal internationalist
vision championed by the Commission and its founder.
As one trilateralist later complained, contrary to Bush's,
"distinctly Wilsonian note of idealistic internationalism", Desert
Storm was actually "dedicated to preserving the sanctity of
international boundaries and the notion of national sovereignty".
Also, by failing to live up to his rhetoric, Bush had given
"the forces of isolationism an even greater opening" (Talbott).45
The Clinton Administration, in contrast, which had a
much higher trilateralist membership, showed considerably greater
the Trilateral Commission's goals. Indeed, Clinton
seemed to adopt the recommendations of Triangle Paper No. 41,
"Global Cooperation After The Cold War" (1991) - co-authored by
Joseph Nye, later Clinton's Assistant Secretary for Defense - as
its foreign policy agenda.
Arguing that in the post - Cold War world
"the need for Trilateral cooperation in a wider global context is as
great, perhaps greater than ever", the report proposed a 10-point
agenda for "broad multilateral cooperation" to prevent the break-up
of the world economy into "separate blocs". This agenda was
subsequently reflected in Clinton's "enlargement" strategy,
announced by his National Security Advisor, the trilateralist Anthony Lake, in 1993.
Lake argued that the "major market democracies" must "act
together" to prevent "economic disaster" by "updating international
economic institutions" and "striking hard" for global free trade.
Such pronouncements would have been music to the ears of David
Rockefeller, and combined with Clinton's other globalist
policies would explain David's reported efforts to protect
Clinton from impeachment over the Lewinsky scandal
Now, however, some 30 years after its foundation, with relations
between the US and Europe dramatically eroded by the aggressive
imperialist agenda of US President George W. Bush, the Trilateral Commission's effectiveness in promoting a
coordinated policy by the three regions appears in doubt. Splits
have appeared; Trilateral Commission meetings in
Washington and Prague in 2002 were reportedly marred by angry
debates between US supporters and mostly European opponents of
Bush's plans to invade Iraq.47
With Bush seemingly prepared to sacrifice the trilateral
relationship, David's modest assessment in Memoirs of the Trilateral
Commission as an "invaluable forum for dialogue" and a "vigorous and
effective collaborator on the world scene" now seems unduly
It would be premature, however, to declare the Trilateral
to be finished.
With the United States clearly overextended and
losing control in Iraq, the opportunities for Bush's
trilateralist opponents to retake the White House in 2004 have not
completely disappeared - although, even if Bush is ousted, his
administration's unilateralist course has set back the David
Rockefeller trilateralist agenda of building a more unified
global community for some years yet.
Under David Rockefeller's Shadow
In October 2002, after nearly 10 years of work, David Rockefeller
finally released his autobiography, Memoirs. It was
not a true autobiography in the sense of David personally writing
it, but a group effort befitting a billionaire plutocrat.
project, overseen by the Rockefeller family historian
Peter J. Johnson,
employed during that period at least 15 other people who
assisted in researching archives, transcribing interviews and
constructing a chronology of David's life. According to a New York
Times report, David "talked his memoirs out" and then edited the
transcripts and subsequent drafts in a time-consuming process that
"tested the patience and diplomacy of all involved".49
Reactions to Memoirs were wide-ranging. Many reviewers were
impressed by David's account, praising the plutocrat as a "charming,
low-key gentleman" (Frank), a "discreet and diplomatic
and a "decent, hardworking man" (Auchinloss).
There were a
few dissenting opinions, with some reviewers expressing alarm at his
"tone deafness - even eagerness - to do business with unsavory
regimes" (Stern), and observing that David seemed "coldly
aloof from the horrors that his friends and contacts perpetrated",
having spent "much of his career at Chase doing business with
One reviewer blasted Memoirs as "completely unrevealing",
"soporific and self-important" and "not worth reading", noting that
although an important figure warranting a book, David
Rockefeller, a man of "mediocre intellect", was "obviously not
the one to write it"
However, with most reviewers of Memoirs indifferent to some of the
more questionable aspects of David Rockefeller's life, this
venture has been a public relations success for the now 87-year-old
plutocrat. An image of David as a genial and well-intentioned
globetrotting philanthropist and banker has been successfully
cultivated; we are even encouraged to find some humor in his
apparent obliviousness to his great wealth and remarkable access to
(and influence over) world leaders.
researchers, however, although Memoirs provides some valuable clues
and admissions, it is hardly a comprehensive source of information
on David's lifetime of effort in building the New World Order.
Indeed, as the preceding analysis of David's New World Order
vision - drawing on other sources - has revealed, a different,
less-benevolent assessment is warranted.
The differences between David's vision and that of Nelson are also
instructive. While Nelson's vision was meandering and subject to the
immediate counsel of his bevy of advisers and his overwhelming
desire to reach the White House, David held fast to some core
strategies - US leadership, trilateralism, economic integration and
free trade - adjusting them as circumstances dictated.
He also put
to the most effective use the Rockefeller philanthropic
empire, setting up a number of policy-planning cliques while taking
leading roles in existing groups, giving him an unrivalled position
to influence those in government.
David's strategy also reveals something fundamental about wealth and
power: it does not matter how much money one has; unless it is
employed to capture and control those organizations which produce
the ideas and the policies that guide governments and the people who
eventually serve in them, the real power of a great fortune will
never be realized.
It can be safely said that, in contrast to the marginal role of his
brother Nelson, David's contribution to the New World Order
has been substantial, even pivotal. He has not only been its Chief
Architect, but also acted as its Chief Builder. While Nelson could
only talk about the New World Order and that he would
build it if he were President, David actually used his unelected,
unaccountable yet powerful position to turn his words into
It is therefore fitting to conclude this examination of David
Rockefeller's globalist vision with one of the unintentionally
sinister attempts to celebrate the plutocrat's achievements.
was given by Carla Hills, who claimed at a panel discussion
Memoirs at Johns Hopkins University in late 2002 that the
"richness and breadth" of David's "many contributions" to causes
"that benefit all of us"
51 was best
captured in this famous quotation by 19th-century clergyman Edwin
H. Chapin (1814 -1880):
Not armies, not
nations, have advanced the race; but here and there, in the
course of ages, an individual has stood up and cast his shadow
over the world.
David Rockefeller, Memoirs, (Random House, 2002), pp.415-416.
Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technetronic
Era, (The Viking Press, 1970), pp.293, 295-297, 308. See also
Brzezinski, "America in the Technetronic Age", Encounter, January
1968 and Brzezinski, "Peace and Power", Encounter, November 1968.
Between Two Ages, pp.296-297, 304, 308.
Brzezinski, "Half-Past Nixon", Foreign Policy, Summer 1971, p.10,
12, 13; and Brzezinski, "The Balance of Power Delusion", Foreign
Policy, Summer 1972, p.59.
Brzezinski, "The Balance of Power Delusion", p.59.
Rockefeller, Memoirs, p.486; and John B. Judis, "Twilight of the
Gods", The Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 1991, p.47.
7. Joan Hoff,
Nixon Reconsidered, (BasicBooks, 1994), pp.168, 396n (including
"Twilight of the Gods", p.48.
Perry, The Programming of the President, (Australian Large Print,
1990), pp.52-53 (including Rockefeller quotes).
10. See Robert
Buzzanco, "What Happened to the New Left? Toward a Radical Reading
of American Foreign Relations", Diplomatic History, Fall 1999,
pp.593-595. According to Buzzanco, by 1968 most of America's
financial elite most had concluded that the Vietnam War was
"damaging the economy" and causing "economic instability on an
international scale." Under the guise of calling for reduced
expenditure on the war, the bankers effectively endorsed US military
withdrawal from Vietnam. This argument is also made in Kirkpatrick
Sale, Power Shift: The Rise of the Southern Rim and Its Challenge to
the Eastern Establishment, (Random House, 1975), pp.266-267.
Rockefeller, Memoirs, p.408; and Judis, "Twilight of the Gods",
"Twilight of the Gods", p.48; and Zbigniew Brzezinski, "Japan's
Global Engagement", Foreign Affairs, January 1972, p.281.
"Twilight of the Gods", pp.48-49; David Rockefeller, The Genesis of
the Trilateral Commission, On the occasion of the US Group's 25th
Anniversary Evening, December 1, 1998, at
Rockefeller, The Genesis of the Trilateral Commission; Trilateral
Commission documents quoted in Holly Sklar, ed., Trilateralism: The
Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management,
(South End Press, 1980), pp.83-83; Zbigniew Brezinski, "US Foreign
Policy: The Search for Focus", Foreign Affairs, July 1973, p.723.
Kissinger, Toasts to the Trilateral Commission Founder. On the
occasion of the US Group's 25th Anniversary Evening, December 1,
Godfrey Hodgson, "The Establishment", Foreign Policy, Spring 1973,
pp.26-27. The first Establishment delegation, led by future
Trilateralist Cyrus Vance, had been formed at the CFR, while the
second group comprised thirteen professors from Harvard. Kissinger
met both delegations, but refused to repudiate or deviate from
Nixon's approach, and would later condemn the Establishment for
"cowering" in the face of popular pressure. See Henry Kissinger,
Years of Renewal, (Simon & Schuster, 1999), pp.50-52.
17 Henry A.
Kissinger, "The Year of Europe", in Henry A. Kissinger, American
Foreign Policy, Expanded Edition, (W.W.Norton & Company Inc, 1974),
Zbigniew Brzezinski, "The Trilateral Relationship", SAIS Review,
Vol. 18, no.4. (1974), p.10; Brzezinski, "US Foreign Policy", p.723;
and J. Robert Schaetzel, "Some European Questions for Dr.
Kissinger", Foreign Policy, Fall 1973, p.67.
Annual Report quoted in Sklar, Trilateralism, p.81.
Rockefeller, "In Pursuit of a Consistent Foreign Policy: The
Trilateral Commission", Vital Speeches of the Day, June 15, 1980,
pp.519-520; and David Rockefeller, "Trilateral '80", Trialogue,
Winter 1980, p.44.
Georges Berthoin, David Rockefeller and Takeshi Watanbe, "Foreword"
in The Trilateral Commission, Trilateral Commission Task Force
Reports: 9-14, A Compilation of Reports to the Trilateral Commission
Completed in 1976 and 1977, (New York University Press, 1978),
pp.viii-ix (emphasis added); and Bergsten quoted in Jeremy Novak,
"The Trilateral Connection", The Atlantic Monthly, July 1977, p.57.
Rockefeller, "The Trilateral Commission", p.517.
Rockefeller, "Multinationals Under Siege: A Threat to the World
Economy", The Atlantic Community Quarterly, Fall 1975, pp.315-316.
Rockefeller, "America's Future", The Atlantic Community Quarterly,
Spring 1979, p.19 (emphasis added).
Miyazawa, "To Meet the Challenge", Asian Survey, July 1980,
pp.678-79; and Gerard C. Smith, "The vital triangle", The World
Today, April 1974, p.150 (emphasis added).
26. Richard N.
Cooper, Karl Kaiser and Mastaka Kosaka, Towards a Renovated
International System, (Triangle Paper No.14) in Trilateral
Commission Task Force Reports: 9-14, pp.187, 193, 214-219.
27. C. Fred
Bergsten, Georges Berthoin and Kinhide Mushakoji, The Reform of
International Institutions, (Triangle Paper No.11) in Trilateral
Commission Task Force Reports: 9-14, p.90.
Ullman, "Trilateralism: "'Partnership' For What?", Foreign Affairs,
October 1976, p.9; Trialogue, Winter 1975-1976, p.1.; "Washington
Consultations", Trialogue, Summer 1976, p.12.
quotes in Laurence H. Shoup, The Carter Presidency and Beyond: Power
and Politics in the 1980s, (Ramparts Press, 1980), pp.50-51; and
Jimmy Carter, The Presidential Campaign, Volume One, Part One, (US
Government Printing Office, 1978), pp.268, 683.
30. See The
Daily Diary of President Jimmy Carter, 2 February 1977, p.2 and 20
April 1978, p.3, at Jimmy Carter Presidential Library website.
Wood, Whatever Possessed the President? Academic Experts and
Presidential Policy, 1960-1988, (The University of Massachusetts
Press, 1993), p.120.
"Henry Kissinger", Trialogue, Fall 1978, p.3.
Rockefeller, "America's Future", p.15.
Rockefeller, "The Trilateral Commission", p.518.
35. See Kenton
Clymer, "Jimmy Carter, Human Rights and Cambodia", Diplomatic
History, April 2003; and Samantha Power, "A Problem From Hell"
America and the Age of Genocide, (Flamingo, 2002), Chapter 6.
by the President at the Medals of Freedom Presentation", White House
Press Release, Office of the Press Secretary, 15 January 1998.
A double standard David Rockefeller has not abandoned, especially
over the issue of the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1978. "My main
regret", David told radio talk-show host Charlie Rose in late 2002,
was that the Carter Administration had "forced [the Shah] out of
office." Although admitting that the Shah had committed human rights
abuses, David felt the Shah had done "much good" for Iran, and that
US opponents of the Shah had put "too much emphasis on democracy
right away." Regarding Carter himself, David's mask of geniality
momentarily faltered as he said, with barely disguised contempt,
that he thought Carter was a "fine man" and claimed to be "very
pleased" with Carter's Nobel Peace Prize. Though David could not
resist one dig at Carter, saying that he believed the ex-Presidents'
work through the Carter Centre had been "more impressive than what
he did in office." Interview with David Rockefeller, Charlie Rose
Show, 21 October 2002.
Rockefeller, "America's Future", p.14.
Rockefeller, "The Trilateral Commission", p.518.
Rockefeller, "America's Future", pp.15-18.
Rockefeller, Memoirs, p.374.
42. See Robert
Parry, "October Surprise X-Files (Part 4): The Money Trail" at The
Consortium News website.
Rockefeller, "Giving: America's Greatest National Resource", Vital
Speeches of the Day, 15 March 1985, p.328.
Rockefeller, Memoirs, p.418.
quoted in Michael Beschloss and Strobe Talbott, At The Highest
Levels (Warner Books, 1993), p.5; David Korten, When Corporations
Rule the World, (Kumarian Press, 1995); Strobe Talbott,
"Post-Victory Blues", Foreign Affairs, (America and the World
Joseph S. Nye Jr, Kurt Biedenkopf and Motoo Shina, Global
Cooperation After The Cold War: A Reassessment of Trilateralism,
Triangle Paper No.41, (Trilateral Commission, 1991), pp.xi-xii, 56;
Anthony Lake, "From Containment to Enlargement", Vital Speeches of
the Day, 15 October 1993, pp.15-16; and "David Rockefeller to the
Rescue", NewsMax.com, 16 October 1998.
47. See James
P. Tucker Jr., "Trilats Hold War Rally", American Free Press, 16
April 2003. For an example of these debates see Christopher Patten
and Richard Perle, "Patten vs Perle: Is the US a Unilateralist
Hegemon?", Transatlantic Relations, Winter 2003.
Rockefeller, Memoirs, p.418.
49. Diana B.
Henriques, "Untypically, a Rockefeller Tells the Story of His Life",
New York Times, 23 October 2002.
Frank, "Giuliani and Rockefeller: a tale of striking contrasts",
OregonLive.com, 8 November 2002; Robert Lenzer, "An Old-Fashioned
Forbes.com, 21 October 2002;
Kenneth Auchincloss, "Poor Little Rich Man", Newsweek Online, 21
October 2002; Diane Bock Stern, "David's Rockefeller's Memoirs", The
Journal News.com, 25 November 2002; David Brooks, "David
Rockefeller's 'Memoirs': Born to Be Mild", New York Times, 20
October 2002; and Benjamin Schwarz, "New & Noteworthy", The Atlantic
Monthly, April 2003.
Hills, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Riordan Roett, and David Rockefeller,
Memoirs: The Rockefeller Family in International Affairs, Panel
discussion on David Rockefeller's new book at the School of Advanced
International Studies, John Hopkins University, 31 October 2002.
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