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Committee on the Present Danger

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

The Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) is a hawkish "advocacy organization" first founded in 1950 and re-formed in 1976 to push for larger defense budgets and arms buildups, to counter the Soviet Union. In June 2004, The Hill reported that a third incarnation of CPD was being planned, to address the War on terrorism. The head of the 2004 CPD, PR pro and former Reagan adviser Peter Hannaford, explained, "we saw a parallel” between the Soviet threat and the threat from terrorism. The message that CPD will convey through lobbying, media work and conferences is that “the war on terror needs to be won,” he said. [1]

Members of the 2004 CPD include Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, former CIA director R. James Woolsey, Jr., and Reagan administration official and 1976 Committee founder Max M. Kampelman.[2] At the July 20 launching of the 2004 CPD, Lieberman and Senator Jon Kyl were identified as the honorary co-chairs. [3] Other notable members listed on the CPD website include Laurie Mylroie, Norman Podhoretz, Frank Gaffney and other associates of the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Boeing Company. [4]

One day after the launch of the 2004 CPD, managing director Peter Hannaford resigned after it was reported that Hannaford, while working for his PR firm the Carmen Group, has lobbied on behalf of Austria's Freedom Party, which is headed by right-wing nationalist Joerg Haider. Haider has been quoted as commending the "orderly employment policy" of the Nazi Third Reich government and paid a "solidarity visit" to Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein in 2002. Some CPD members defended Hannaford; Midge Decter said, "I first came to know him because he was a right-hand man of Ronald Reagan. I cannot imagine Pete Hannaford is anything but a firm and solid lover of democracy."[5]

History: 1950s

The CPD, according to the PublicEye.org website (last updated July 1989), was originally "formed in 1950 by top eastern establishment luminaries. It was designed as a 'citizen's lobby' to alert the nation to the Soviet 'present danger,' and the resultant need to adopt the NSC-68 agenda in order to survive. NSC-68 was a top secret National Security Council document written by Paul H. Nitze promoting a huge military build-up for the purpose of rolling back communist influence and attaining and maintaining U.S. military supremacy in the world. In 1951 the CPD launched a three-month scare campaign over the NBC network. Every Sunday night thereafter the group used the Mutual Broadcasting System to talk to the nation about the 'present danger' and the need to take action. As a result of efforts such as these both in and out of government, the recommendations of NSC-68 were adopted. President Harry S. Truman adopted a policy of containment militarism and the military budget escalated even more than the targeted factor of three times. The Cold War and an era of interventionist policies became a political reality in the United States." [6]

History: 1970s

"The post Vietnam era, however, saw the reemergence in the American public of anti-interventionist sentiment. In Congress, new policies of detente and arms control reflected a more conciliatory attitude toward East-West relations. Such trends were anathema to the CPD's bipolar view of the world. Led once again by Eugene V. Rostow and Nitze, members of the CPD regrouped for action.

"The revitalization of the CPD grew out of an independent group called Team B. Team B was authorized in 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford and organized by then-CIA chief, George Herbert Walker Bush. The purpose of Team B was to develop an independent judgment of Soviet capabilities and intentions. Team B was headed by Richard Pipes and included Paul Nitze, Foy Kohler, William R. Van Cleave, Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham (ret.), Thomas Wolf of RAND Corporation and Gen. John Vogt, Jr. (ret.). Also a part of Team B were five officials still active in government: Maj. Gen. George Keegan, Brig. Gen. Jasper Welch, Paul Dundes Wolfowitz of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and Seymour Weiss of the State Department. Team B was housed in the offices of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority.

"The political base for CPD II was in the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, a group formed in 1972 by the hard-line, anti-Soviet wing of the Senate, led by Sen. Henry M. Scoop Jackson. These conservative Democrats contended that communism was a great evil and that the U.S. had a moral obligation to eradicate it and foster democracy throughout the world. The 193 individual members of the revitalized CPD comprise a who's who of the Democratic Party establishment and a cross-section of Republican leadership. Eventually, 13 of the 18 members of the Foreign Policy Task Force of the CDM, lead by Eugene V. Rostow, joined the CPD. Notable among them were Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Leon Keyserling, Max M. Kampelman, Richard Shifter, and John P. Roche.

"CPD II is a nonprofit organization established to 'facilitate a national discussion of the foreign and national security policies of the U.S. directed towards a secure peace and freedom.' CPD II broadened its base considerably from the original group by including in its ranks top labor officials, Jewish liberals and neo-conservative intellectuals. It managed this feat by including in its ideology not only a strong anti-Soviet policy, but also one which promoted growth and expansion. These members donate their time to the organization. The CPD presented an alternative to the cooperative vision of empire put forth by the Trilateralists with an imperial, unilateral philosophy of power retention through military strength. President James Earl Carter, Jr. chose to follow the philosophy of the Trilaterals, but the CPD and its cohorts became dominant with the election of Ronald Reagan. (See Trilateral Commission.)

"Other proponents of the CPD position include the American Security Council (ASC), the ASC's Congressional lobby group--the National Coalition for Peace through Strength."

"Advocate of nuclear superiority, the CPD helped to create the myth of U.S. nuclear inferiority and the concept of 'windows of vulnerability.' CPD has expressed longstanding opposition to all types of arms control. Founding member William R. Van Cleave said, 'Arms control has had a depressant effect not only on our military programs but also on our ability to deal with the Soviets. It has thoroughly muddled our thinking.'"

Government Connections

"Thirty-three members of CPD received appointments in Reagan's first administration, more than twenty of them in national security posts. They were: Ronald Reagan, president; Kenneth L. Adelman, U. S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations; Richard V. Allen, assistant to the president for National Security Affairs; Martin Anderson, assistant to the president for Policy Affairs; James L. Buckley, Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology; W. Glenn Campbell, chairman of the Intelligence Oversight Board and member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; William J. Casey, director of the Central Intelligence Agency; John B. Connally, member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; Joseph D. Douglass, Jr., asst director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; John S. Foster, Jr., member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; Amoretta M. Hoeber, deputy asst secretary of the Army for Research and Development; Fred Charles Ikle, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; Max M. Kampelman, chairman, U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe; Geoffrey Kemp, staff of the National Security Council; Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, U.S. representative to the United Nations; John F. Lehman, Secretary of the Navy; Clare Booth Luce, member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; Paul H. Nitze, chief negotiator for Theater Nuclear Forces; Edward F. Noble, chairman of U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corp; Michael Novak, representative on the Human Rights Commission of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations; Peter O'Donnell, Jr., member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; Richard N. Perle, asst secretary of Defense for Intl Security Policy; Richard Pipes, staff of the National Security Council, Eugene V. Rostow, director of Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Paul Seabury, member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; George P. Shultz, Secretary of State and chairman of the presidents Economic Policy Advisory Board; R. G. Stilwell, deputy under secretary of Defense for Policy; Robert Strausz-Hupe, ambassador to Turkey; Charles Tyroler II, member of the Intelligence Oversight Board; William R. Van Cleave, chairman-designate of the General Advisory Committee, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Charles E. Walker, member of the President's Economic Policy Advisory Board; Seymour Weiss, member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; and Edward Bennett Williams, member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

"In 1979, Ronald Reagan was initiated into the ranks of the CPD as a member of its executive committee. Dean Rusk, former Secretary of State was on the original board.

"The original board of CPD included a number of people who had served as ambassadors for the U.S.: John M. Allison, Japan, Indonesia, and Czechoslovakia; Eugenie Anderson, Denmark; Jacob D. Beam, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union; John M. Cabot, Sudan, Colombia, Brazil, and Poland; and Walter Dowling, Germany.

"Charles Tyroler II was the director of Manpower Supply for the Defense Department and chair of the Democratic Advisory Council in the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration. He also served as Assistant Secretary of Defense under Anna Rosenberg during the life of CPD I.

"Ray Cline served in the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) and was a deputy director of the CIA. Cline has close connections with the World Anti-Communist League and its former U.S. chapter, the U.S. Council for World Freedom.

"Max Kampleman was the chief U. S. negotiator to the Geneva arms talks with the Soviet Union."

Private Connections

"The CPD is a member of the Coalition for Peace Through Strength (CPTS), an ad hoc lobby group of the American Security Council which is modeled after the Emergency Coalition Against Unilateral Disarmament. The Emergency Coalition was set up by the CDM in 1976. CPTS, which has 191 members of Congress in its ranks, serves as a link or umbrella for the New Right, the neoconservatives and the military-industrialists. It is the public face of the American Security Council, a group established in the 1950s by the military-industrial complex to ferret out 'internal subversives.'

"Rita E. Hauser of the CPD was chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the American Jewish Committee.

"Labor connections in the CPD have included: Lane Kirkland, head of the AFL-CIO; Sol Chaikin of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU); Evelyn Du Brow, legislative director of the ILGWU; William Du Chessi, executive vice president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union; Albert Shanker, chair of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Rachelle Horowitz, director of the Committee on Political Education of the AFT; Martin J. Ward, president of the Plumber and Pipefitters International Union; John H. Lyons, president of the Ironworkers International Union; Bayard Rustin (deceased), former president of A. Philip Randolph Institute; J. C. Turner, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers; and Jay Lovestone, consultant to the AFL and ILGWU.

"Lane Kirkland serves on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private organization created to channel U.S. Information Agency (USIA) funds earmarked for democracy-building projects. Kirkland also serves on the boards of the Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI) and the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) and is president of the AfricanAmerican Labor Center (AALC) and the Asian-American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI). All of these organizations are a part of the AFL-CIO's Department of International Affairs, a far-reaching international operation which works with third world labor groups. Since the AFL-CIO receives a great deal of its funding from the government, these groups often work to carry out U.S. foreign policy. Kirkland is also an honorary chairperson of the Bayard Rustin Fund, a group closely associated with the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

"Albert Shanker currently serves on the boards of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and Freedom House, an organization that studies countries and governments around the globe to determine whether or not they qualify as democratic. Shanker is also on the boards of FTUI, NED, and the Social Democrats, USA (SD/USA), a neoconservative group that sees labor as the cutting edge for social and political change. He was on the boards of AALC and AAFLI. Shanker is treasurer of the League for Industrial Democracy (LID), a group working closely with SD/USA. (17) In 1988, he was vice president of the AFL-CIO and on the board of trustees of AIFLD.

"Rachelle Horowitz serves on the boards of LID and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDIIA), a group established by NED to channel grants for democracy-building activities in third world nations. She is the wife of Thomas Donohue who is the secretary of the AFL-CIO.

"Bayard Rustin was chairman of the executive committee of Freedom House, chairman of SD/USA, vice president of LID, and on the board of CDM. Rustin also served as the vice presintl of the International Rescue Committee, a private voluntary organization which assists refugees from 'totalitarian oppression.'

"Jeane Kirkpatrick is on the board of the Committee for the Free World, a group founded by Midge Decter. CFW envisioned itself as an organization committed to the defense of the non-communist world 'against the rising menace of totalitarianism.' CFW is stridently anticommunist and presents its case to the public through ads in major newspapers and other major media. Kirkpatrick is a resident scholar at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and is a syndicated columnist for the New York Times.

"Max Kampleman was vice chair and served on the board of the CDM. He is chairman of the board of Freedom House.

"Frank Barnett, director of the National Strategy Information Center, a lobbying organization and think tank dedicated to the preservation of containment militarism, opened an office in Washington DC in 1976. According to Jerry Sanders in Peddlers of Crisis, the major reason behind the DC office was to be more effective in the promotion of CPD policy. The Washington office is directed by Roy Godson who is also the director of Georgetown's International Labor Program. In 1983, seven CPD members were on the staff of the Intl Labor Program.

"Industry was represented on the founding board of CPD by David Packard of Hewlett Packard; Richard V. Allen president of the Potomac International Corp; William Connell, president of Concept Associates; Henry Fowler, partner at [[|Goldman, Sachs & Co. investment brokerage house; David Harper of Gateway National Bank of St. Louis; James A. Linen, director and former president of Time, Inc.; Hobart Lewis, chairman of Reader's Digest; Sarason D. Liebler, president of Digital Recording Corp.; Donald S. MacNaughton, chairman and CEO of The Prudential Insurance Company of America; Thomas S. Nichols, president of Nichols Co. and former chairman of the executive committee of the Olin Corp.; George Olmsted, chairman and CEO of International Bank in Washington; Charles E. Saltzman, partner in Goldman, Sachs & Co.; and Harold W. Sweatt, former chairman of the board of Honeywell, Inc.

"Think tank representatives on the original board of directors included Donald G. Brennan, director of National Security Studies at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Indiana; George Tanham, vice president and trustee of the RAND Corporation; Glenn Campbell, director of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University; Harris Huntington, trustee at the Brookings Institution; Ray Cline, director of the Center for Strategic and Intl Studies; and J. C. Hurewitz, director of Columbia's Middle East Institute.

Funding: "The start-up grant for CPD-II came from David Packard of Hewlett-Packard. In 1984, the $300,000 budget came from 1,100 contributors, with a limit of $10,000 per year per source. Grants given by Richard Mellon Scaife (Gulf Oil) from the Carthage Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Trust of the Grandchildren of Sarah Mellon Scaife to CPD between 1973 and 1981 total $300,000."

Note: See original article for footnoted material, as well as other extensive information on CPD.


Donald H. Rumsfeld "was a founding member of the Committee on the Present Danger, which effectively undermined President Jimmy Carter's arms control policies. He was the first major advocate of the MX missile, and he was a moving force behind the Republican right's Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, which rejected the CIA's more moderate 1995 estimate of the ABM threat."[7]


In his April 2000 article "Lest We Forget: Neo-conservatives and Republican Foreign Policy, 1976-2000," Alex Zaitchik, who "researches security policy at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, Czech Republic," and who is also an editor at Freezerbox.com, prophetically wrote:

"Most of the super-hawks that populated Ronald Reagan's cabinet were culled from the ranks of the advocacy group Committee on the Present Danger. The Committee, formed in 1976, was organized by fanatically anti-communist neo-conservatives with little patience for the give-and-take of Richard M. Nixon/Jimmy Carter diplomacy. Once viewed as extremists with minimal influence on policy debates, Reagan's victory brought the Committee to the center of power, the reigns of policy delivered into its lap. The arms control process was hijacked, beheaded and left to rot besides the discarded corpse of détente.

"Once in power, these men geared US policy toward forcing the Soviets to accept US strategic superiority, if not humiliating defeat. Outraged by the fact of Soviet nuclear parity as enshrined in the ABM accord of 1972, they sought to move beyond the stabilizing strictures of Mutual Assured Destruction into a brave new world of effective first-strikes and laser defenses. In a series of extremely destabilizing public statements, they described nukes as effective offensive weapons. Rather than seeing the Soviet build-up of the 1970s as a rational and belated response to the American build up of the 1960s, they argued that the Soviets were preparing to use nuclear blackmail against the US and takeover the world. That this was roundly rejected as absurd by nearly every major academic and foreign policy analyst had little effect on Reagan's Defense and State Departments, where closed system intellectual incestuousness and a religious intensity kept everyone happily immune to rational criticism.

"In retrospect, given the scale of recklessness in the policies and statements of the first Reagan Administration--from medium-range missiles in Europe to civil defense to Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to 'winnable nuclear war'--it is remarkable that disaster was avoided. During the early 1980s, US leaders sounded less like educated and serious men with the fate of the earth in their palms than did General Buck Turgidson of Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove: 'I'm not saying we won't get our hair muffed. Ten to twenty million casualties tops--depending on the breaks.'

"The full story makes for fascinating history. Unfortunately it is a history we may be doomed to repeat.

"The crusading--what one might call 'madman'--school of right-wing foreign policy did not die with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Despite something of a drift in Republican strategy in the post-Cold War period, hawkish instincts remain alive and well at the heart of the Party in 2000. Reincarnated in a new generation of neo-conservatives these instincts are reasserting themselves amidst George Walker Bush's drive to the White House. Hints of what would be found in a GOP executive are currently on display in Congress.

"Along with pushing for a multi-billion dollar national missile defense system, the GOP is seeking budget cuts that would eliminate funding for the dismantling of Russian nuclear weapons. They are also urging the abandonment of a project to construct detection sensors crucial to the implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Republican dominated Senate rejected the Test Ban, of course, a move that more thoughtful conservatives have described as 'gratuitously blunt.'

"Not far from Capitol Hill, neo-conservative strategists are currently pushing to make foreign policy a front-burner issue again, and the scripted ideas being put forward by Bush on the trail manifest a disturbing nostalgia for the brashness and imagined simplicity of the Reagan era. Many prominent neo-conservatives clearly yearn for the good old days, when imagined 'windows of vulnerability' won them the White House and The Day After was on the tube. 'Assertive internationalism' and 'Robust Nationalism' are the hot keywords of the new old thinking. Needless to say, arms control does not fit into the future being projected. For it is a future of absolute American technological mastery, and no artificial limits on the national megatonnage will be tolerated.

"Infused with the righteousness of the true believer, neo-conservatives are terrifyingly fanciful when it comes to international affairs. Robert Kagan and William Kristol, two neo-con architects of GOP policy, recently penned an essay in the conservative National Review entitled 'The Present Danger' in which they explicitly held up the Cold War era Reagan model as appropriate for the next president. While the authors admit that the new Present Danger is not incarnate in any adversary--'it has no name'--they nonetheless recommend that the US spend an extra $60-100 billion per year above current defense budgets to combat it. This money would be devoted to enhancing America's ability to project force abroad and the pursuance of 'regime change,' i.e., the invasion of foreign countries and the overthrow of leaders unpalatable to Mr. Kagan and Mr. Kristol. Flagrant disregard for international law and arms racing is to make the world safe for democracy--again.

"The flagship neo-con journal, the Weekly Standard, offers an analysis of the present international scene that can only be described as paranoid delusional, claiming in a recent editorial that 'it's hard to think of a time when America's international standing has been so low, when Washington's credibility was in such disrepair.' The piece goes on to compare Bill Clinton's foreign policy 'drift' to Carter's 'weakness'; the implication being that what America needs is another maniacal spread-eagle cowboy like Ronald Reagan. There's no Soviet bogeymen to rally behind and no charismatic leader this time around, but apparently certain unnamed mortal threats and Bush Jr. will have to do. We are surrounded and our freedom in grave peril, and apparently only The Weekly Standard has the vantage point needed to see this.

"Connections between propagandists for the new Present Danger and the original Committee of the 1970s are not limited to nostalgia and borrowed catchphrases. A list of current advisors to George W. Bush reveals former members of the old Committee, most notably Richard Perle, who served as Reagan's Assistant Secretary of Defense. Along with Harvard Sovietologist Richard Pipes, Perle was the most vocal proponent of 'winnable nuclear war' in Reagan's first Administration. Known as a hawk's hawk, he once famously described the European peace movement as an expression of mere 'protestant angst.' The millions that marched against US policy weren't really worried about getting fried in a nuclear war, you see, they were just reading too much Kierkegaard.

"That Richard Perle, an advocate of nuclear superiority and manageable nuclear exchange, is one election away from getting his corner office at the Pentagon back doesn't only worry liberals. Republicans of a less ideological bent fear that the neo-conservatives will pull a Bush White House in an extremist direction, thus keeping responsible voices away from policy formation. Moderate 'realists' like Alexander Haig either resigned or were forced out of the cold war circus of the 1980s for lack of passion, and the silencing of rational perspectives could again occur in a Bush Administration dominated by neo-conservative thinking.

"Such worries have led Gideon Rose of the Council on Foreign Relations to doubt that the Republicans are ready to 'exercise power responsibly.' He sees recent statements by influential neo-conservative strategists as 'cause for alarm' and says that their eerily familiar ideological passion 'remains constant and dangerous.' Mr. Rose is no dove, and for him to caution that the current constellation of forces in the GOP is incapable of producing a foreign policy of mature adults should stop us in our tracks.

"The lessons of 1980 are loud and they are clear. Militarists and loose cannons can capture the White House and hold the world hostage."

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