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.