"Think tanks function as the intellectual engines of empire: they establish consensus among elites, provide policy prescriptions, strategic recommendations, and the personnel required to implement imperial policies through government agencies. "
~~ Andrew Gavin Marshall in his acclaimed essay "Engineering Empire," 5/24/2013
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This concise summary below of Andrew Gavin Marshall's landmark Hampton Institute report "Engineering Empire" serves as a primer on the connections between money, think tanks, and political office. Marshall reveals the tight interconnectedness of the power elite and its revolving-door strategy between think tanks, major corporations, and top government officials. He states that "regardless of which president or political party is in office, this highly integrated network remains in power."
The report presents a fascinating geopolitical history focused on the United States from the end of the Cold War to the "soft power" of the Obama administration. Certain key individuals like Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski and dynastic families like the Rockefellers are shown to have inordinate amounts of power and influence in the strategic world of geopolitics. Read this educational essay and spread the word, so that ever more caring citizens might come together to expose the Machiavellian manipulations of the elite and build a brighter future for all.
With best wishes for a transformed world,
Fred Burks for PEERS and WantToKnow.info
Former language interpreter for Presidents Bush and Clinton
A Guide to the Institutions of Imperialism
By Andrew Gavin Marshal
Educating yourself about empire can be a challenging endeavor, especially since so much of the educational system is dedicated to avoiding the topic or justifying the actions of imperialism in the modern era. It is made more difficult by the fact that we exist in a society where institutions and individuals of power speak in coded language, using deceptive rhetoric with abstract meaning.
This report is to serve as a reference point for future discussion and analysis of 'geopolitics' and foreign policy issues. As an introduction to the institutions and individuals of empire, it can provide a framework for people to interpret foreign policy differently, to question those quoted and interviewed in the media as 'experts,' to integrate their understanding of think tanks into contemporary politics and society, and to bring to the surface the names, organizations and ideas of society's ruling class.
Think tanks bring together prominent academics, former top government officials, corporate executives, bankers, media representatives, foundation officials and other elites in an effort to establish consensus on issues of policy and strategy. They produce reports and recommendations for policy-makers, functioning as recruitment centers for those who are selected to key government positions where they have the ability to implement policies.
Thus, think tanks function as the intellectual engines of empire: they establish consensus among elites, provide policy prescriptions, strategic recommendations, and the personnel required to implement imperial policies through government agencies.
Among the most prominent American and international think tanks are the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Bilderberg meetings, the Trilateral Commission, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Atlantic Council. These institutions tend to rely upon funding from major foundations (such as Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, etc.) as well as corporations and financial institutions, and even various government agencies. There is an extensive crossover in leadership and membership between these institutions.
Meet the Engineers of Empire
Within the U.S. government, the National Security Council (NSC) functions as the main planning group, devising strategy and policies for the operation of American power in the world.
The NSC coordinates multiple other government agencies, bringing together the secretaries of the State and Defense Departments, the CIA, NSA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and various other government bodies, with meetings directed by the National Security Adviser, who is generally one of the president's most trusted and influential advisers. In several administrations, the National Security Adviser became the most influential voice and policy-maker to do with foreign policy, such as during the Nixon administration (Henry Kissinger) and the Carter administration (Zbigniew Brzezinski).
Roughly focusing on the period from the early 1970s until today, what emerges from this research is a highly integrated network of foreign policy elites. Individuals like Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Joseph Nye figure prominently in sitting at the center of the American imperial establishment over the course of decades, with powerful corporate and financial patrons such as the Rockefeller family existing in the background of American power structures.
While both Kissinger and Brzezinski were top government officials in the 1970s, their influence has not declined in the decades since they held such positions. In fact, it could be argued that both of their influence has increased with their time outside of government.
David Rothkopf has written the official history of the National Security Council (NSC) in his book, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power. In this 2005 book, Rothkopf noted that, "[e]very single national security advisor since Kissinger is, in fact, within two degrees of Kissinger," referring to the fact that they have all "worked with him as aides, on his staff, or directly with him in some capacity," or worked for someone in those categories. 
In a 1980 survey of a sample of officials in the State Department, CIA, Department of Defense and the National Security Council (the four government agencies primarily tasked with managing foreign policy), Henry Kissinger was listed as the most influential to the thinking of those who took the survey, followed by Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Stanley Hoffmann." 
Arguably, both Kissinger and Brzezinski are two of the most influential individuals within the foreign policy elite networks. Certainly of no detriment to their careers was the fact that both cultivated close working and personal relationships with what can be said to be America's most powerful dynasty, the Rockefeller family.
The Rockefeller family – largely acting through various family foundations – were also pivotal in the founding and funding of several prominent think tanks, notably the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society, Trilateral Commission [founded by Brzezinski and David Rockefeller], the Group of Thirty, and the Bilderberg Group, among many others. The power of a corporate-financial dynasty like that of the Rockefellers is not a given: it must be maintained, nurtured, and strengthened, otherwise it will be overcome or made obsolete.
Today's main dynasties are born of corporate or banking power, maintained through family lines and extended through family ties to individuals, institutions, and policy-makers. The Rockefellers are arguably the most influential dynasty in the United States, but comparable to the Rothschilds in France and the UK, the Wallenbergs in Sweden, the Agnellis in Italy, or the Desmarais family in Canada. These families are themselves connected through institutions such as the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, among others.
Strategies For Empire
The American imperial community of intellectuals and think tanks has long been engaged in a process of outlining a geostrategic vision for America's domination of the world. In decades past, the Cold War provided the cover for the American extension of hegemony around the world under the premise of 'containing' the Soviet Union and the spread of 'Communism.' Yet all the talk of protecting the world from communism and the Soviet Union was little more than rhetorical deception to justify American hegemony.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was quite blunt in his assessment of the Cold War: "The policy of liberation was a strategic sham, designed to a significant degree for domestic political reasons. The policy was basically rhetorical, at most tactical."  In other words, it was a lie, carefully constructed to deceive the American population into accepting the actions of a powerful state in its attempts to dominate the world.
With the end of the Cold War came the end of the 'containment' policy of foreign policy. It was then the task of 'experts' and 'policy-oriented intellectuals' to assess the present circumstances of American power in the world and to construct new strategic concepts for the extension and preservation of that power. Reagan's U.S. National Security Council–Defense Department Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy issued a report, Discriminate Deterrence, in 1988 which noted that over the following decade, "the United States will need to be better prepared to deal with conflicts in the Third World" which would "require new kinds of planning." 
In 1992, the New York Times leaked a classified document compiled by top Pentagon officials (including Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney) devising a strategy for America in the post-Cold War world. As the Times summarized, the Defense Policy Guidance document "asserts that America's political and military mission in the post-cold-war era will be to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union."
The document "makes the case for a world dominated by one superpower whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behavior and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy." 
In 1997, Brzezinski published a book outlining his strategic vision for America's role in the world, entitled The Grand Chessboard. In it, he wrote: "To put it in a terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together." 
The 2002 U.S. National Security Strategy announced by the Bush administration, thereafter referred to as the "Bush doctrine," included the usual rhetoric about democracy and freedom, and then established the principle of "preemptive war" and unilateral intervention for America's War of Terror: "In an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world's most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather." 
The doctrine announced that the U.S. "will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, [but] we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against terrorists." 
CSIS: The 'Brain' of the Obama Administration
While serving as national security advisor, Thomas Donilon spoke at the prestigious think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in November of 2012. He began his speech by stating that for roughly half a century, CSIS has been "the intellectual capital that has informed so many of our national security policies, including during the Obama administration. We've shared ideas and we've shared staff." 
Indeed, CSIS has been an exceptionally influential presence within the Obama administration. CSIS launched a Commission on 'Smart Power' in 2006, co-chaired by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. and Richard Armitage, with the final report delivered in 2008, designed to influence the next president of the United States on implementing "a smart power strategy."
Joseph Nye is known for – among other things – developing the concept of what he calls "soft power" to describe gaining support through "attraction" rather than force. In the lead-up to the 2008 presidential elections, Nye stated that if Obama became president, it "would do more for America's soft power around the world than anything else we could do." 
In the Commission's final report, "A Smarter, More Secure America," the term 'smart power' was defined as "complementing U.S. military and economic might with greater investments in soft power." The report recommended that the United States "reinvigorate the alliances, partnerships, and institutions that serve our interests," as well as increasing the role of "development in U.S. foreign policy" which would allow the United States to "align its own interests with the aspirations of people around the world."
Another major area of concern was that of "[b]ringing foreign populations to our side," which depended upon "building long-term, people-to-people relationships, particularly among youth." Further, the report noted that "the benefits of free trade must be expanded," and that it was America's responsibility to "establish global consensus and develop innovative solutions" for issues such as energy security and climate change. 
In their summary of the report, Nye and Armitage wrote that the ultimate "goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to prolong and preserve American preeminence as an agent for good." The goal, of course, was to 'prolong and preserve American preeminence,' whereas the notion of being 'an agent for good' was little more than a rhetorical add-on. For policy-oriented intellectuals like those at CSIS, American preeminence is inherently a 'good' thing, and therefore preserving American hegemony is – it is presumed – by definition, being 'an agent for good.'
Nye and Armitage suggested that the U.S. "should have higher ambitions than being popular," though acknowledging, "foreign opinion matters to U.S. decision-making," so long as it aligns with U.S. decisions, presumably. A "good reputation," they suggested, "brings acceptance for unpopular ventures." This was not to mark a turn away from using military force, as was explicitly acknowledged: "We will always have our enemies, and we cannot abandon our coercive tools." Using "soft power," however, was simply to add to America's arsenal of military and economic imperialism: "bolstering soft power makes America stronger." 
Empires don't just happen; they are constructed. They can also be deconstructed and dismantled, but that doesn't just happen either. Opposing empire is not a passive act: it requires dedication and information, action and reaction. As relatively privileged individuals in western state-capitalist societies, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to understand and oppose what our governments do abroad, how they treat the people of the world, how they engage with the world.
It is our responsibility to do something, precisely because we have the opportunity to do so, unlike the majority of the world's population who live in abject poverty, under ruthless dictators that we arm and maintain in countries we bomb and regions we dominate. We exist in the epicenter of empire, and thus: we are the only ones capable of ending empire.
Note: To read the full, fascinating report (20 pages) which clearly shows the inordinate power of a small number of individuals, families, and groups in our world, click here. For other quality articles by Andrew Gavin Marshall on geopolitics, click here. For ideas and suggestions on what you can do, see the box below the footnotes.
 David Rothkopf, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power (Public Affairs, New York: 2005), page 19. Order here.
 Sallie M. Hicks, Theodore A. Couloumbis and Eloise M. Forgette, "Influencing the Prince: A Role for Academicians?" Polity (Vol. 15, No. 2, Winter 1982), pages 288-289.
 Zbigniew Brzezinski, "The Cold War and its Aftermath," Foreign Affairs (Vol. 71, No. 4, Fall 1992), page 37. Article available here.
 Fred Iklé and Albert Wohlstetter, Discriminate Deterrence (Report of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy), January 1988, page 14. Report available here.
 Tyler, Patrick E. "U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop: A One Superpower World." The New York Times: March 8, 1992. Article available here.
 Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (Basic Books, 1997), page 40. Key excerpts of the book are available here.
 U.S. NSS, "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America," The White House, September 2002, page 15. Report available here.
 U.S. NSS, "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America," The White House, September 2002, page 6. Report available here.
 Tom Donilon, "Remarks by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon -- As Prepared for Delivery," White House Office of the Press Secretary, 15 November 2012. Text available here.
 James Traub, "Is (His) Biography (Our) Destiny?," The New York Times, 4 November 2007. Article available here.
 Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, Jr., "CSIS Commission on Smart Power: A Smarter, More Secure America," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007: page 1. Report available here.
 Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, Jr., "CSIS Commission on Smart Power: A Smarter, More Secure America," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007: pages 5-6. Report available here.