Served as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to Ford, Bush; op­posed Iraq in­va­sion


WASHINGTON — Brent Scowcroft, who played a prom­i­nent role in Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to Pres­i­dents Ger­ald Ford and Ge­orge H.W. Bush and was a Repub­li­can voice against the 2003 in­va­sion of Iraq, has died, a Bush spokesper­son said Fri­day. He was 95.

Mr. Scowcroft died Thurs­day of nat­u­ral causes at his home in Falls Church, Vir­ginia, spokesper­son Jim McGrath said.

Mr. Scowcroft was the only per­son to serve as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to two dif­fer­ent ad­min­is­tra­tions. His ap­point­ment by Ford in 1975 came as Mr. Scowcroft re­tired from the Air Force with the rank of lieu­tenant gen­eral. He ad­vised Bush, by then a close friend, dur­ing the four years of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, 1989-93.

In a study of Mr. Scowcroft’s ca­reer, his­to­rian David F. Sch­mitz noted that Mr. Scowcroft had been at the cen­ter of nu­mer­ous post-Viet­nam War dis­cus­sions of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy. He was part of the pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tions that grap­pled with U.S. re­sponses to the col­lapse of com­mu­nism in Europe, the crack­down in China af­ter the Tianan­men Square protests, and Sad­dam Hus­sein’s in­va­sion of Kuwait.

“The key tenets of his think­ing, shaped by the Sec­ond World War, were that na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy had to pro­tect the na­tion from ag­gres­sion, pro­vide in­ter­na­tional sta­bil­ity, con­trol arms while main­tain­ing pre­pared­ness, and shape an in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment that was con­ducive to Amer­ica’s goals and needs,” Sch­mitz wrote.

De­scribed as both gen­tle and tough, a bril­liant co­or­di­na­tor most con­cerned with re­sults and a tire­less worker used to 18-hour days, Mr. Scowcroft of­fered a self-as­sess­ment to The Washington Post on the eve of the Ge­orge H.W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion: “I don’t have a quick, in­no­va­tive mind. I don’t au­to­mat­i­cally think of good, new ideas. What I do bet­ter is pick out good ideas from bad ideas . . . . It is com­fort­ing to be do­ing things that make a dif­fer­ence. In the end, it’s the job that’s more im­por­tant.”

Mr. Scowcroft was born March 19, 1925, in Og­den, Utah, where his fa­ther owned a whole­sale gro­cery busi­ness. He grad­u­ated from the U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy at West Point in 1947 and then joined the Army Air Corps, which soon be­came the Air Force. Only a few months af­ter com­plet­ing pi­lot train­ing, he broke his back in the crash of an F-51, which put him in the hos­pi­tal for two years.

Re­fo­cus­ing his mil­i­tary ca­reer on strat­egy, Mr. Scowcroft earned a mas­ter’s de­gree at Columbia Univer­sity in 1953 and then taught Rus­sian his­tory at West Point.

Mr. Scowcroft was as­signed to Air Force head­quar­ters and the De­fense Depart­ment dur­ing the 1960s and earned a doc­tor­ate in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions from Columbia in 1967. He was ap­pointed mil­i­tary as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon in 1972. A year later, he be­came deputy as­sis­tant for na­tional se­cu­rity un­der Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser.

Af­ter leav­ing the White House with the elec­tion of Demo­crat Jimmy Carter in 1976, Mr. Scowcroft set up a con­sult­ing firm serv­ing in­ter­na­tional busi­nesses and even­tu­ally joined Kissinger in cre­at­ing Kissinger As­so­ciates, a con­sult­ing firm with sim­i­lar goals.

Mr. Scowcroft served on Carter’s ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee on arms con­trol and was chair­man of Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s Com­mis­sion on Strate­gic Forces, which fo­cused on the ef­fort to mod­ern­ize U.S. nu­clear weapons. He also served on the three-mem­ber Tower Com­mis­sion, which in­ves­ti­gated the arms-for-hostages af­fair that oc­curred dur­ing the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In 2002, Mr. Scowcroft an­gered the White House of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush when he pub­licly ex­pressed the view that lit­tle ev­i­dence tied Sad­dam Hus­sein to ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions and warned that war with Iraq could dam­age if not de­stroy U.S. al­liances in the re­gion.

In a col­umn for The Wall Street Jour­nal, Scowcroft wrote: “The cen­tral point is that any cam­paign against Iraq, what­ever the strat­egy, cost and risks, is cer­tain to di­vert us for some in­def­i­nite pe­riod from our war on ter­ror­ism.”

His con­cerns, made pri­vately be­fore he spoke out pub­licly, were “pretty much re­jected” by the younger Bush’s White House, he re­called later dur­ing an in­ter­view with the West Point Cen­ter for Oral His­tory.


Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Brent Scowcroft (from left), White House aide An­drew Card (partly ob­scured), Chief of Staff John Su­nunu, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush and Sec­re­tary of State James Baker III at­tend a brief­ing at the pres­i­dent’s Ken­neb­unkport, Maine, home on Aug. 11, 1990.


Brent Scowcroft has been the only per­son to serve as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to two dif­fer­ent ad­min­is­tra­tions.

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