Power-hungry Nelson Rockefeller, second son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr, had a plan for a New World Order that would make nation-states redundant.
Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 10, Number
4 (June-July 2003)
© by Will Banyan © 2002, 2003
THE PUBLICIST: NELSON A. ROCKEFELLER (1908-1979)
In the 1940s and 1950s, the American power-elite held great expectations for the five sons of John D. Rockefeller, Junior. (Reflecting the prejudices of the time, Junior's daughter Abby was excluded from these deliberations.) Books such as Alex Morris's fawning effort, Those Rockefeller Brothers: An Informal Biography of Five Extraordinary Young Men (1953), for example, openly speculated on how Junior's progeny would advance the Rockefeller philanthropic agenda. Some of these expectations were met. John D. III and Laurance both seemed content to assume a patrician lifestyle steeped in philanthropy, while attempting to influence government from behind the scenes. David, of course, took this to a much higher level, combining it with a banking career; while Winthrop took the opposite route, dabbling in business and serving as Governor of Arkansas--then a relatively obscure position on the US political landscape.
It was Nelson, Junior's second-eldest son, who decisively broke the mould. In contrast to his more reserved brothers and at odds with family expectations, Nelson aggressively pursued a career in the highest levels of the US government, first as an official and later as a politician. That he would do so was inevitable, for he was the dominant personality in the new generation. He was an extrovert and was seemingly immune from Junior's pious strictures and prohibitions. Nelson also possessed a vast appetite for power, but, in a deviation from the family tradition of trying to dampen popular fears about Rockefeller power by maintaining a low public profile, he also sought to be widely known as a powerful individual.
Thus it was Nelson who had shunted aside the eldest son, John D. III, to take centre stage in family affairs, determined to control the philanthropic network. And then, after an erratic and unfulfilling career in government, he clumsily attempted to seize the ultimate political prize: the White House. And yet, for Nelson, the rewards would be mixed with frustration, and ultimately the toll would be high for him and the family name. Even David eventually came to see Nelson not as "the hero who could do no wrong but as a man who was willing to sacrifice almost everything in the service of his enormous ambition".24
From Technocrat to Politician
Having no reservations about trading on the family name, Nelson used the doors it opened to pursue a wide-ranging career in the US government, in foreign policy positions in the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower administrations, although his path was hardly smooth.
Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nelson served as Coordinator of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (1940-44), Chairman of the Inter-American Development Commission (1940-47) and Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America (1944-45). His fortunes fell under Harry Truman, who dismissed Nelson from the State Department, apparently at the insistence of new Secretary of State Dean Acheson who resented Nelson's successful effort to have Axis-sympathetic Argentina included in the United Nations. A chastened Nelson retreated into philanthropy, pausing only to accept the token appointment as Chairman of the International Development Board (1950-51).
Under Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson's star briefly rose again. He served as the President's Special Assistant on Foreign Policy (1954-55) and as head of the secret "Forty Committee" charged with overseeing the CIA's covert operations. Nelson had been on the verge of securing a senior position in the Department of Defense; however, concerted opposition from other Cabinet members, who had convinced Eisenhower--correctly--that Nelson was intent on massively expanding the Defense budget, ensured that his career as a public official came to an abrupt end.
These experiences were salutary for the ambitious Nelson. His bruising encounters with Establishment technocrats--who clearly resented his intrusion into their realm--instilled in him a yearning for greater political power. Nelson was not content to operate behind the scenes like his brothers, nor willing to endure more humiliation as a mere functionary.
According to author Stewart Alsop, Nelson eventually realised that "there was only one way for a very rich man like him to achieve what he had always wanted--real political power and authority. That way was to run for office".25 And for Nelson, the ultimate political office he desired was President of the United States.
In 1958, drawing on his vast inheritance, Nelson launched his political career, defeating W. Averell Harriman in the "battle of the millionaires" to become Governor of New York, a position he would hold until 1973. Expecting the New York governorship to be a stepping-stone to the Presidency, Nelson campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in 1960, 1964 and 1968 but failed every time, losing twice to his nemesis, Richard Nixon.
Ironically, it was in the wake of Nixon's resignation in 1974 over the Watergate scandal that Nelson finally entered the White House, but as an appointed Vice-President to an appointed President, Gerald Ford. Ford's survival of two blundered assassination attempts meant that Nelson remained only a famed "heartbeat away" from the Presidency, never achieving his goal.26 So near, yet so far, it was no wonder that when Nelson was asked, close to the end of his life, what he wished most to have done, his reply was curt: "Been President".27
Internationalist or Imperialist?
There are two competing interpretations of Nelson's foreign policy vision during his political career. The first is of a diehard anti-Communist, dubbed by some journalists as the "Coldest Warrior of Them All", and a militarist-imperialist who believed the US should "act aggressively whenever events abroad threatened its own interests" (Chapman). Proponents of this view point to Nelson's "necrophiliac ambition" (Fitch) of providing each American family with its own nuclear fallout shelter, his calls in 1960 for a 10 per cent boost in Defense spending, his attacks on Eisenhower for letting the US fall behind the Soviet Union in the famed (but illusory) "missile gap", and his apparent eagerness to use tactical nuclear weapons against Communist insurgents.28
The second interpretation, in contrast, presents Nelson as "a leader in the campaign to submerge American sovereignty in a World Superstate".29 "I think Nelson Rockefeller is definitely committed to trying to make the United States part of a one world socialist government," declared John Birch Society founder Robert Welch in 1958.30 Far from being the ultimate Cold Warrior, Nelson is portrayed as a covert supporter of the alleged plot by the super-rich to use Communism to subvert the sovereignty of the US and of other "free nations" worldwide.
Yet these mutually inconsistent caricatures fail to capture the true essence of Nelson's world order strategy, which in the short term sought to assert America's full military power to defeat Soviet Communism, and in the long term envisaged the United States using its superpower status to create a "new world order" based on world federalism, regional blocs and international free trade. The influences on Nelson's foreign policy thinking were numerous, ranging from his father and Fosdick through to the plethora of political and specialist foreign policy advisers he employed. But it is important to realise the different sources for each approach.
Starting with Nelson's stridently anti-Communist short-term outlook, we find a surprising source. Since his uninspiring departure from the Eisenhower Administration in 1955, Nelson had employed as his foreign policy adviser Dr Henry Kissinger, then a leading proponent of Realpolitik and a rising star in the Establishment. Kissinger is widely regarded as a proponent of world government, but this assumption stems primarily from the crude analytical tool of guilt by association, in which Kissinger's CFR membership is cited as the primary evidence of this alleged tendency. There can be no doubt that Kissinger is a particularly loathsome creature of the Eastern Establishment and an egotistical, deceitful and opportunistic character at best,31 but a world government proponent he is not. For instance, in his first CFR book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, Kissinger explicitly rejected the option of world government as "hardly realistic", adding that there was "no escaping from the responsibilities of the thermonuclear age into a supranational authority".32
Despite this, Kissinger was still of value to Nelson, providing support to his more belligerent anti-Communist fantasies. According to Joseph Persico, Nelson's speechwriter of some 11 years, "Kissinger's hard-eyed vision of a world maintained by counter-balancing powers suited Nelson perfectly".33 But Kissinger's influence should not be overstated. For one, Nelson's balance-of-power thinking stemmed from his reflexive anti-Communism, which characterised the Soviet bloc as America's greatest threat. That was the balance of power in the world at that time, and thus Kissinger's unsentimental views suited Nelson.
However, in his longer-term outlook, Nelson was undeniably a Wilsonian liberal internationalist--something he had already demonstrated intermittently since the 1940s. For example, Nelson was instrumental, through the controversy generated over his push to have Argentina included in the United Nations, with ensuring that Article 51--which allows for groups of states to form alliances to repel aggression--was included in the final UN Charter.34 But at the same time, not content with the UN system that included the Soviets, and determined to "purify" Central and South America of "alien commercial influence", Nelson was a strong supporter of regionalism, particularly the goal of a Western hemisphere "united under US leadership".35 During the Eisenhower Administration, Nelson had been one of the strongest supporters of the Atlantic Union concept, despite Secretary of State John Foster Dulles's patronising dismissal of his views as "premature".36
It was also during the late 1940s and early 1950s that Nelson, in support of his goal of encouraging Western hemispheric unity--or, more precisely, establishing US economic dominance over Latin America--had established the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) and the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC). The AIA was ostensibly intended to promote development in Latin America and combat "poverty, disease and illiteracy", while IBEC was supposed to encourage capital investment. The founding president of both institutions, Nelson naturally painted AIA and IBEC as being designed to achieve the desirable goal of development. Yet, in truth, Nelson was driven by a baser aim of breaking down national barriers to penetration by American companies in line with the shift in Rockefeller wealth from oil to international banking and Third World investment.37
In describing the activities of AIA and IBEC, Nelson employed language that is often employed by contemporary advocates of globalisation. "Today," Nelson stated in the late 1940s, "capital must go to where it can produce the most goods, render the greatest service, meet the most pressing needs of the people." Discussing IBEC operations in Latin America, Nelson noted that because of the "big problems" confronting "our way of life", it was essential that they demonstrate "that American enterprise can ... help to solve these problems that are vital to our everyday life and to our position in world affairs". He said the US needed to "master such problems if our system is going to survive".38 For all his rhetoric on helping people, ultimately it was protecting and extending "our system" that was paramount for Nelson.
Three Sources of Inspiration
For the most definitive expressions of Nelson's liberal-internationalist vision, we must look to his political career as presidential aspirant from the mid-1950s through to 1973. And we can see that, just as Fosdick influenced Junior, at least three sources of inspiration drove Nelson's vision during that period.
Prospect for America's policy advice reinforced the Establishment's Wilsonian liberal-internationalist consensus, recommending that America's goal should be to establish "a world at peace, based on separate political entities acting as a community", as it was now America's "opportunity ... to shape a new world order". This would consist of "regional institutions under an international body of growing authority--combined so as to be able to deal with those problems that increasingly the separate nations will not be able to solve alone". To advance the free trade agenda, the report argued that the US should encourage the formation of "regional trading systems" in "all areas of the free world", including a "Western Hemisphere Common Market" incorporating North, South and Central America. The report had also lauded the United Nations as "proof of our conviction that problems which are of world-wide impact must be dealt with through institutions global in their scope".39
He also provided input to the Prospect for America project, devising the guidelines for the panels and stressing the need to develop "an accepted political philosophy" for US foreign policy. In addition, Berle collaborated with Kissinger in writing the final report, and his stamp can be seen in those sections which are the most forthright in arguing for supranational institutions and international economic integration.42
Nelson's "New World Order"
The culmination of these influences was
effectively a slightly updated version of the Wilson-Fosdick world
order model that comprised free trade, regionalism, supranational
institutions, American leadership and the defeat of Communism. Nelson
willingly and repeatedly endorsed this policy package in his drive
for the White House. Central to Nelson's platform was the contention
that global change, specifically economic interdependence, was making
the nation-state redundant. As far back as 1951, Nelson had used the
word "interdependence" to describe the economic relationship between
the Western countries and the developing world.43 But it was in
a 1960 essay in Foreign
Affairs that Nelson asserted that "the
central fact of our time is the disintegration of the
nineteenth-century political system ... [t]he great opportunity of
our time is not the idea of competition but of world
cooperation".44 Similarly, in his lectures on federalism at Harvard
University in 1962, Nelson claimed:
Nelson argued that as the nation-state was becoming "less and less competent to perform its international political tasks", the prevailing structures of international order had disintegrated, leaving "an historical political vacuum".46 The old world order based on the 19th-century balance of power was no more, now that "international relations have become truly global"--a factor which demanded a "new concept of relations between nations" in the form of a "framework of order in which the aspirations of humanity can be peacefully realized ... "47
At the same time, Nelson was critical of the role of the United Nations, arguing that it "has not been able--nor can it be able--to shape a new world order as events now so compellingly command". He charged that the Soviet Union and its allies had weakened the UN. The Communist bloc, Nelson claimed, had dedicated itself to "the manipulation of the UN's democratic processes, so astutely and determinedly, as largely to frustrate its power and role". But the threat posed by the Communist bloc extended beyond damaging the UN, to attempting to realise its own "cruel design ... for world order". The Communists had "taken our words, our forms, our very symbols of man's hopes and aspirations and ... corrupted them to mislead and to deceive in their quest for world domination".48
During the 1968 presidential primaries, however, Nelson was less pessimistic about the UN, maintaining that the international organisation was not a failure. "On balance," Rockefeller stated at a Republican Party fundraising dinner in California, "the record shows that the United Nations' strength has grown..." The question for Americans, however, was twofold: "How well can the United Nations serve the United States' national interest, and how effectively can it promote a more stable world order ... ?" Nelson's answer was that both were possible. Although the US could not hope to control the UN completely, it could still act in America's "national interest" (usually a code for business interests) by maintaining world order using the resources of other member-states. UN peace-keeping operations (PKOs) he said "have made a vital contribution toward the building of a more stable world order" and had done "multilaterally what the United States might have had to do itself at much greater cost". Actions through the UN were "often the best way of controlling dangerous crises", as "unilateral actions" such as Vietnam "frequently tend to boomerang". It was "perfectly clear", insisted Nelson, that UN PKOs "have strengthened world order and ... also advanced United States policy objectives".49
It was therefore in America's interest, according to Nelson, to "take the initiative in strengthening the role of the UN as mediator and peace-maker", as the UN "can and must be utilised as a primary instrument" in the quest for a "better world". In support of this goal, Nelson advocated that the US take the lead in "bringing disputes to the UN before they 'go critical'" and "encourage strong leadership" by the UN Secretary-General, including greater emphasis on "preventive diplomacy ... quiet diplomacy, and less reliance on voting per se for the achievement of our national objectives". Insisting that the UN's peace-keeping functions needed to be strengthened, Nelson advocated encouraging "small countries" to set aside troops for UN PKOs, developing new sources of revenue for PKOs, and a greater focus on "peace-making".50
If Nelson's proposals seem strangely familiar now, it is because many of them were endorsed in UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's 1992 report, "An Agenda for Peace". In fact, Boutros-Ghali seemed to echo Nelson with his recommendations for "preventive diplomacy" and "peacemaking" and for countries to have personnel and equipment on "stand-by" for peace-keeping operations. Yet, in spite of a brief flurry of activity during the 1990s, such proposals are as far from being realised now--especially given the Bush Administration's suspicion of UN peace-keeping--as they were in Nelson's time.
The "better world" that Nelson had in mind to replace the existing system of nation-states was essentially a limited world federation that united all the non-Communist states. In his 1968 book, Unity, Freedom & Peace, Rockefeller argued that if the federal idea--as applied by the "Founding Fathers ... in their historic act of political creation in the eighteenth century"--could be applied "in the larger context of the world of free nations", it would "serve to guard freedom and promote order in the free world".51
In his Harvard lecture, Nelson revealed that he had "long felt that the road toward the unity of free nations lay through regional confederations in the Western Hemisphere and in the Atlantic, perhaps eventually in Africa, Middle East, and Asia".52
To achieve this goal, Nelson endorsed the extension of the European Economic Community (EEC) to embrace "the North Atlantic Community as a whole".53 "European political unity would be an important first step" in forming an "Atlantic Community", he claimed.54
Furthermore, by encouraging similar developments in the Americas, the US could take the lead in the formation of a "Pan American Economic Union", which would result in "the creation of the greatest free-trading area in the world".55
But Nelson was equally clear that regional arrangements were a means to an end; that because of the Communist threat and global problems, "our advances toward unity must now extend to action between regions as well as within them".56
Thus, the new regional arrangements should be seen
as steps towards global integration:
Earlier at Harvard, he had argued that the peril
of not unifying on such lines was more dramatic:
Nelson Rockefeller also advocated the long-time
liberal-internationalist argument that the US should promote global
free trade to strengthen the free enterprise system and thus link
together the other non-Communist parts of the world. He said there
should be a "continuation and expansion of a liberal US trade policy"
on the grounds that it not only helped developing countries but it
benefited the US economy.59 And in an
argument that continues to be heard today as "open regionalism",
Nelson argued that the formation of regional free trade groupings
could be a means to establish global free trade:
Taking this argument further, in a speech to the Executive Club in Chicago in 1964, Nelson recommended that Washington should use its political influence to "establish rules under GATT, assuring that regional economic accords will move toward progressive trade liberalisation rather than further partitioning of world trade into compartments sealed off by preferences and discrimination".61
Nelson also endorsed the formation of a "world central bank" that would "preclude crises and contribute to world-wide economic advance", suggesting that the role of the International Monetary Fund be "broadened in that direction".62
Above all, the most consistent theme in Nelson's internationalist ideology was the importance of US leadership. The United States, he argued in numerous forums, should take the lead in the building of a worldwide federation, as the US had come into existence "for the sake of an idea" that "man should be free to fulfil his unique and individual destiny--a belief based upon our dedicated faith in the brotherhood of all mankind".63 "The upheaval in the world will subside only with the emergence of a more or less generally accepted international system", he wrote in 1968. "The goal is order ... though we cannot create order by ourselves, it surely cannot come about without us."64
America was too interconnected with the world to
escape its obligations, Nelson argued; in fact, "the true interests
of America are interdependent with the interests of free world
nations". The implications were obvious:
Even the demise of Communism would not free the US
of this burden:
Though his hopes of reaching the White House were fading by the 1970s, Nelson Rockefeller still sought political relevance and did so by embracing the latest fad of environmentalism, and again inserted an internationalist bent. In his book, Our Environment Can Be Saved (1970), Nelson invoked the obvious international political implications for pre-empting environmental degradation, arguing that preventing the impending "environmental crisis" could "become an area of increased cooperation between nations". To that end, he recommended that the US should "help coordinate international planning for environmental controls".67
The Accidental Vice-President
Yet, as fate would have it, the political and personal self-destruction of his nemesis, Richard Nixon, presented Nelson with an unexpected prize, and in December 1974, after a lengthy and revealing confirmation process by a suspicious Congress,68 he became Vice-President in the short-lived Ford Administration. Despite Nelson being next in line for the Presidency, his foreign policy pronouncements were few and far between in that period. With his protégé Henry Kissinger commanding foreign policy as Secretary of State, Nelson had anticipated exercising control over domestic policy. However, Nelson fell foul of Ford's Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld, who was determined to keep the Vice-President powerless.69
Although eventually appointed Vice-Chairman of the Domestic Council, Nelson found himself largely sidelined from decision-making. When describing his actual position, Nelson would quip: "I go to funerals. I go to earthquakes."70 His input into US foreign and national security policy was limited to serving on the Commission on the Organization of Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy in 1974, and more controversially as Chairman of the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States in 1975.71
In the final analysis, though, Nelson's somewhat marginal role in the Ford Administration is in itself of no consequence, for the Wilsonian liberal-internationalist agenda was adopted by Ford and Kissinger anyway, although this is more attributable to the machinations of David Rockefeller. Under the aegis of the Trilateral Commission, David had mobilised the Establishment against the Realpolitik of the Nixon Administration with profound effect. Gone was Nixon's previous talk of a "safer world" through an "even balance" of all the great powers and disdain for the United Nations.72 In its place was an uncharacteristic (especially for Kissinger) embrace of international law, institutionalised cooperation among the industrial powers (rather than alliances), and notions of a "world community" and growing global "interdependence".73 Indeed, as the head of the Council on Foreign Relations' "1980s Project" observed in 1976, "President Ford's fulsome statements at the Western summits of Rambouillet and San Juan and many of Kissinger's recent speeches could have been lifted from the pages of [the Trilateral Commission's journal] Trialogue ... "74 Rockefeller Internationalism had again made its mark, but, in a major irony, Nelson, despite being the Vice-President, had only a peripheral role.
His marginal role was reinforced when, in November 1975, at Ford's insistence, Nelson withdrew his candidacy for Vice-President in the 1976 presidential elections. It was Rumsfeld's doing; believing Rockefeller to be an electoral liability, the zealous Chief of Staff pushed to have Nelson dumped from the Republican presidential ticket. Instead of the Vice-Presidency being the final stepping-stone to the Oval Office, as Nelson undoubtedly hoped, it became a dead-end in his political career.
According to David Rockefeller, "Ford's decision devastated Nelson" and caused him to lose all interest in politics. Moreover, "Thwarted when the greatest political prize seemed within his grasp", Nelson ended his political career an "angry and deeply bitter man". He returned to the family fold where, in one last grasp at power, he tried--and failed--to wrest control of the RBF from his brothers.75
The end for Nelson Rockefeller was sudden and suitably controversial, the 70-year-old ex-politician reputedly dying in the midst of a sexual tryst with one of his female staffers. Nevertheless, Nelson's passing in 1979 was the cause of much pious reflection from the corporate-controlled US media and some of his former beneficiaries. Time magazine claimed that "He was driven by a mission to serve, improve and uplift his country", while the New York Times lauded Nelson's "enlightened internationalism" and "extraordinary standard of concern and effort in service of the country".76
Less restrained was Henry Kissinger, who eulogised
his departed benefactor as the "greatest American I have ever known",
a "pragmatic genius" who "would have made a great President". In
fact, it was "a tragedy for the country" that Nelson had not achieved
his goal. Kissinger also claimed that Nelson's impact on American
domestic and foreign policy was greater than many people
If we put to one side Kissinger's fawning and somewhat inaccurate eulogy, Nelson Rockefeller's rise and demise reveals that his contribution to the New World Order was marginal at best. There can be no doubt that had Nelson been President of the United States, even if only for a few years, he would have set in motion the globalist plans he had endorsed throughout the 1960s. Fortunately--though some Establishment figures might disagree--it was not to be.
But Nelson's failure to get into the Oval Office effectively reduced him to little more than a publicist of the Rockefeller family's New World Order vision. He promoted the policies for global government, but was never able to order their implementation. As Nelson was unable to secure the high office he craved and was largely detached from those philanthropic institutions--especially the RBF and Rockefeller Foundation--that gave the Rockefellers their real power, the bitterness of his final years should come as no surprise.
As we shall see in the following parts, it was those Rockefeller brothers who were the most heavily involved in philanthropic pursuits, including the foundations, think-tanks and policy-planning organisations supported by Rockefeller money, who have had the most impact on formulating the NWO ideology and implementing it. And the leading Rockefeller in that endeavour has been, of course, David ...
About the Author: