Our Establishment Church: Its Rules and Credo

Anders Mikkelsen has written an excellent review of Andrew Bacevich’s recent book, Washington Rules, which summarizes and lays out the “rules” and “credo” of the American foreign policy Establishment. It is another fine example of power elite analysis or “establishment studies.”

The concept of the Establishment was first used in England referring to the established (or official) state church, the Anglican Church or Church of England, created by the usurper and schismatic Henry Tudor during the Protestant Reformation.

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Nineteenth-century writer William Cobbett later expanded the concept to include those networks of financial institutions related to the Bank of England, elite public schools and clubs, and publishing entities (such as “the bloody old Times”) the ruling aristocracy used to train and sustain its oligarchic bureaucracy who manned the British empire. Cobbett labeled this power elite as “the Thing.”

As Leonard and Mark Silk observed in their masterful book, The American Establishment, twentieth century British historian A. J. P. Taylor later adapted Cobbett’s “the Thing” into “the Establishment” in a 1953 article in The New Statesman, followed by journalist Henry Fairlie’s usage of the term in The Spectator in 1955.

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The broad concept was soon adopted by wide-ranging American analysts of the powers-that-be, such as Richard H. Rovere, C. Wright Mills, Dan Smoot, Phyllis Schlafly, Carroll Quigley, John Kenneth Galbraith, and G. William Domhoff.

These authors recognized that while the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits an establishment of religion, our nation does indeed have, like its British cousins across the pond, an Establishment, complete with its own theological canon and doxology of statecraft and spy craft. Its “Vatican” is the Council on Foreign Relations.  Its primary source of treasure and alms has been the Morgan and Rockefeller financial empires, which created the Fed, the great enabler of the Welfare-Warfare State.  Many of its elite seminarians have studied at Ivy League institutions such as Harvard, Princeton, or Columbia; some in particular, at Yale where they were initiated into Skull and Bones.

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Bacevich concentrates on the immediate post-World War II period of history, tracing the Establishment’s bipartisan “foreign policy consensus” on the Cold War to the present Bush/Obama war on terrorism. He see this as the crucial gestation period, a time implementing “the American Century” of Henry Luce, of the Truman administration’s creation of the National Security State and its doctrine of Containment as a public rationale for global intervention and the military-industrial complex (and George F. Kennan’s, Robert A. Lovett’s, and the Dulles Brothers’ clandestine policy of Rollback or Liberation through covert operations of the OPC and CIA).

But the Establishment’s rules and credo were sketched on papyrus long before 1948. They were put forth by visionary prophets of pelf, plunder and empire fifty years earlier, during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection.

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A central figure was the sinister Elihu Root, later founding chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, who like his fellow interventionists and war criminals Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama, was recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the archetype of the Establishment’s much-abused “Wise Man” category, the mainstream media’s designation of select servitors of power stretching from Root to the recently departed Richard Holbrooke – Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Bilderberg group, Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, former managing director of Lehman Brothers, and board director of AIG to July 2008 (just before the bailouts).

Before the acclaimed “Wise Men” of the Truman regime came the “Four Evangelists” of an earlier era. Led by Elihu Root, his protégé “Colonel” Henry L. Stimpson, along with “Colonel” Edward M. House and Raymond B. Fosdick, these little-known four were the real architects of the American Establishment and its interventionist gospel of the Welfare-Warfare State. It is they who wrote its rules and drafted its credo which has transformed the American republic into a squalid and overstretched empire.

In a recent LRC article I wrote of how today’s libertarians must become the new abolitionists.

We must also continue our role as non-interventionist heretics to the CFR’s church, working for its disestablishment and demise.

December 28, 2010