Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

  • Public-Policy Reform
  • 1910

“To hasten the abolition of war, the foulest blot upon our civilization.” That was the utopian aim when Andrew Carnegie handed over a $10 million startup grant in 1910 to create the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The charter written by the optimistic Carnegie actually made plans for what the organization should do next after it ended armed conflict: “When the establishment of universal peace is attained, the donor provides that the revenue shall be devoted to the banishment of the next most degrading evil or evils, the suppression of which would most advance the progress, elevation, and happiness of man.”

Pacifists dominated Carnegie’s initial board, and rosy hopes abounded. In the 1920s, the endowment pushed for the adoption of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, whose signatories foreswore the use of war to resolve conflicts. Nicholas Butler, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace actually won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for his promotion of Kellogg-Briand. The pact’s real-world effect, however, was nil: Its signatories included Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union.

Disappointed in its efforts to ban war, the endowment turned its attention in the 1950s and ’60s to promoting the United Nations and training young foreign-service officers from newly independent countries. In the 1970s, in what the organization called a “second founding,” the endowment moved from New York to Washington, D.C., and began to focus on influencing U.S. foreign policy. It launched the Arms Control Association to advocate for disarmament, and took control of Foreign Policy magazine, a voice for liberalism in international affairs.

Additional think tanks have been spun off of the endowment, including the Henry Stimson Center (a similar group promoting liberal security policies), the Institute for International Economics (now the Peterson Institute), and the Migration Policy Institute. In 2007, the endowment announced plans to become “the world’s first global think tank,” opening offices in Moscow, Beijing, Beirut, and Brussels. All of this has been possible because the group maintains an endowment of more than $300 million, thanks to Andrew Carnegie’s original investments.