In 1938 the Council On Foreign Relations, possibly the most prestigious “think tank” in America was very concerned about the isolationist attitudes of many Americans as well as our elected officials. The depression was with us and many still remembered how much blood and treasure America had lost in World War I, which had ended only 19 years before. The general conscious was that two great oceans separated us from the vagaries of the rest of the world and why would we want to become involved in additional crises?
It was with that back drop that the Council believed it was time to create a number of Committees across the country for the purpose of bringing business and professional leaders together to discuss world events. Des Moines was one of the original thirteen committees formed by the Council. Eventually the Council would send, on a regular basis, experts on foreign policy issues out to speak to the various committees. These discussions were non-partisan and were quite informative for the committees as well as provided insight into what Americans were thinking about world affairs.
The original members of the Des Moines Committee were, at the time, household names. A few we might still recognize today were Gerard Nollen, President of Bankers Life (Principal); Garner Cowles Jr., Publisher of the Register and Tribune; Rabbi Eugene Mannheimer; Charles Friley, President of Iowa State; and E.L. Nelson with The Maytag Company-just to name a few.
In the early ‘90s the local committees spun off and created their own organization now known as the American Committees on Foreign Relations (ACFR). ACFR provides speakers to the local committees, holds a spring annual meeting in Washington DC and occasionally sponsors foreign trips. As a member of a local committee a person is automatically a member of the national group.
The DSM Committee is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that has, for over 75 years, provided a forum for dialogue on foreign affairs and US foreign policy.