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Rise of the Vulcans : the history of Bush's war cabinet /
James Mann.
imprint
New York : Viking, 2004.
description
xix, 426 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., ports. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0670032999 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Viking, 2004.
isbn
0670032999 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
5125495
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [377]-410) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
James Mann is senior writer-in-residence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Arthur Ross Book Awards, USA, 2005 : Nominated
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Introduction As George W. Bush campaigned for the presidency in 1999 and 2000, he gradually settled upon a consistent theme. Seeking to deflect questions about his lack of experience in foreign policy, he explained again and again that he possessed an eminent group of advisers, one with vastly more experience than the Democrats. Most of these advisers had already served at the highest levels of government during his father's administration, in the heady days of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War against Iraq. Some of the advisers had served in the Reagan administration; some had even worked in the 1970s for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.Whenever the younger Bush stumbled over details'as he did, for example, when an ambush- style ?pop quiz? by a television reporter demonstrated that he couldn't name the leaders of Pakistan or India1?the candidate could argue that what mattered was a president's ability to select good people. ?I've got one of the finest foreign policy teams ever assembled,? he said in response to one Democratic challenge.2 He pointed to the men and women supporting him, such as his vice presidential nominee, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Armitage, as symbols of continuity and stability. This group of advisers became, for all practical purposes, Bush's principal foreign policy plank in his first race for the White House. His message was not so much what he would do as whom he would appoint. During the campaign Bush's foreign policy advisers came up with a nickname to describe themselves. They dubbed their team the Vulcans, in honor of the Roman god of fire, the forge and metalwork. Rice, who was serving as foreign policy coordinator for the Bush campaign, had been raised in Birmingham, Alabama, where a mammoth fifty-six-foot statue of Vulcan on a hill overlooking downtown paid homage to the city's steel industry. The name had started as a joke, but it caught on, and the campaign group began to use it in public. That word, Vulcans, captured perfectly the image the Bush foreign policy team sought to convey, a sense of power, toughness, resilience and durability. (Ironically, Birmingham's statue of Vulcan was taken down for repairs in 1999 because it was beginning to fall apart, a detail that the Bush team understandably did not emphasize when it began employing the metaphor.) To no one's surprise, once Bush became president-elect, he turned to this same group of veterans to fill most of the top jobs. By the time the new administration's foreign policy team was assembled in early 2001, it had the feel of a class reunion. Most of its members had already worked closely alongside one another in previous administrations, and the ties among them were close, intricate and overlapping. Donald Rumsfeld, the new defense secretary, had first worked alongside Cheney more than three decades earlier, when Cheney served as Rumsfeld's administrative assistant in the Nixon administration. Cheney, as defense secretary in the first Bush administration, had selected Colin Powell (over several more senior generals) to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had served with him for three years. Richard Armitage, the new deputy secretary of state, had worked with Powell when the two men helped run the Pentagon in the Reagan administration. Paul Wolfowitz, the new deputy secretary of defense in 2001, had collaborated closely with Armitage when the two men were responsible for America's relations with Asia under Reagan. Wolfowitz had also served in the Pentagon as a top aide to Cheney. During the 1990s, when the Republicans were out of power, Wolfowitz had served on a prominent missile commission headed by Rumsfeld, and Armitage had run a small private consulting firm that employed Cheney's daughter. By 2001 the Republicans had already controlled the White House for twenty of the previous thir
First Chapter
Introduction

As George W. Bush campaigned for the presidency in 1999 and 2000, he gradually settled upon a consistent theme. Seeking to deflect questions about his lack of experience in foreign policy, he explained again and again that he possessed an eminent group of advisers, one with vastly more experience than the Democrats. Most of these advisers had already served at the highest levels of government during his father’s administration, in the heady days of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War against Iraq. Some of the advisers had served in the Reagan administration; some had even worked in the 1970s for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Whenever the younger Bush stumbled over details—as he did, for example, when an ambush- style “pop quiz” by a television reporter demonstrated that he couldn’t name the leaders of Pakistan or India1—the candidate could argue that what mattered was a president’s ability to select good people. “I’ve got one of the finest foreign policy teams ever assembled,” he said in response to one Democratic challenge.2 He pointed to the men and women supporting him, such as his vice presidential nominee, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Armitage, as symbols of continuity and stability. This group of advisers became, for all practical purposes, Bush’s principal foreign policy plank in his first race for the White House. His message was not so much what he would do as whom he would appoint.

During the campaign Bush’s foreign policy advisers came up with a nickname to describe themselves. They dubbed their team the Vulcans, in honor of the Roman god of fire, the forge and metalwork. Rice, who was serving as foreign policy coordinator for the Bush campaign, had been raised in Birmingham, Alabama, where a mammoth fifty-six-foot statue of Vulcan on a hill overlooking downtown paid homage to the city’s steel industry. The name had started as a joke, but it caught on, and the campaign group began to use it in public. That word, Vulcans, captured perfectly the image the Bush foreign policy team sought to convey, a sense of power, toughness, resilience and durability. (Ironically, Birmingham’s statue of Vulcan was taken down for repairs in 1999 because it was beginning to fall apart, a detail that the Bush team understandably did not emphasize when it began employing the metaphor.)

To no one’s surprise, once Bush became president-elect, he turned to this same group of veterans to fill most of the top jobs. By the time the new administration’s foreign policy team was assembled in early 2001, it had the feel of a class reunion. Most of its members had already worked closely alongside one another in previous administrations, and the ties among them were close, intricate and overlapping.

Donald Rumsfeld, the new defense secretary, had first worked alongside Cheney more than three decades earlier, when Cheney served as Rumsfeld’s administrative assistant in the Nixon administration. Cheney, as defense secretary in the first Bush administration, had selected Colin Powell (over several more senior generals) to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had served with him for three years. Richard Armitage, the new deputy secretary of state, had worked with Powell when the two men helped run the Pentagon in the Reagan administration. Paul Wolfowitz, the new deputy secretary of defense in 2001, had collaborated closely with Armitage when the two men were responsible for America’s relations with Asia under Reagan. Wolfowitz had also served in the Pentagon as a top aide to Cheney. During the 1990s, when the Republicans were out of power, Wolfowitz had served on a prominent missile commission headed by Rumsfeld, and Armitage had run a small private consulting firm that employed Cheney’s daughter.

By 2001 the Republicans had already controlled the White House for twenty of the previous thirty-two years. Their frequent successes in presidential politics had opened the way for ambitious Republicans such as the Vulcans to accumulate more years of on-the-job experience in foreign policy than their counterparts in the Democratic party. They had a long history, a collective memory. Even the two youngest members of the Bush foreign policy team of 2001— the president himself and Rice, his national security adviser—possessed extraordinarily close ties to this legacy of the past. Bush’s father of course had been president of the United States and before that had served as director of central intelligence and U.S. vice president. Rice had had the arduous task of coordinating policy toward the Soviet Union in the first Bush administration; she had been carefully groomed as a protégée by Brent Scowcroft, the elder Bush’s national security adviser.

The interconnecting relationships and the overhang of the past extended down through the ranks of the faithful. The aides and disciples of the top leaders had also toiled and advanced together through the series of past Republican administrations. Some of them shuffled back and forth from one boss to another. I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Vice President Cheney’s new chief of staff, had been an undergraduate student of Wolfowitz’s at Yale University three decades earlier and had served as an aide to Wolfowitz for more than a decade during the Reagan and first Bush administrations. Several members of Rice’s new National Security Council team had worked previously for Cheney, Wolfowitz or Armitage.

Because of this legacy, as the Republicans prepared to return to power in 2001, there were suggestions that America’s relations with the world were about to be restored to what they had been in the first Bush administration. During the same week, New York Timescolumnists Maureen Dowd and Thomas L. Friedman chose the same word, retreads, to describe the people surrounding Bush. “George II was an obedient son who emulated his father, the old king, in all respects,” wrote Dowd a few weeks later. “He felt no need to put his own stamp on his monarchy.”3

Such perceptions extended well beyond the realm of newspaper columns. Overseas many foreign governments and scholars basked in a sense of security that a new Bush administration would follow largely along the lines of the previous one and that its policies would be predictable. Its veterans were thought to care about great power diplomacy, not moral crusades; about maintaining stability, not changing the world. “The Republicans are generally better at foreign and security policy than the Democrats,” observed Yang Jiemian of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.4

These predictions of restoration and continuity were soon shown to be wrong. From its first months in office the new Bush foreign policy team made clear that it would deal with the world in new ways. Its style was, from the outset, at variance with that of the first Bush administration. During the first nine months of 2001 the new administration adopted a more confrontational approach to dealing with North Korea and with China. It quickly pressed forward with plans to develop a missile defense system, despite the uneasiness of its European allies. It displayed a pronounced skepticism about the value of international agreements and treaties that it believed were not in the American interest.

The administration’s distinctive approach to the world became considerably more pronounced after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Over the following year the Vulcans put forth a remarkable series of new doctrines and ideas, ones that represented a dramatic break with the foreign policies and strategies of the past. In dealing with hostile powers, the Bush administration decided that the United States would no longer hold to the policies of containment and deterrence that had been the fundamental tenets of the cold war. Instead the United States would be willing to start a war through a preemptive attack. In the Middle East, where the United States had for decades worked closely with such authoritarian regimes as Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration broke precedent by openly espousing the cause of democracy and by talking about the political transformation of the entire region.

These developments represented something more profound than a minor change of direction from one Republican administration to another. They represented an epochal change, the flowering of a new view of America’s status and role in the world. The vision was that of an unchallengeable America, a United States whose military power was so awesome that it no longer needed to make compromises or accommodations (unless it chose to do so) with any other nation or groups of countries.

This new worldview represented the culmination of ideas and dreams that had been evolving in Republican administrations for more than three decades. Their intellectual origins can be traced back to the Reagan administration and, still earlier, to events in the Ford administration—notably, to the responses to the American defeat in Vietnam and to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union.

Several of the Vulcans had begun their careers in Washington in reaction to those two developments. Three top officials of the George W. Bush administration—Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz—had been participants in the debates over détente. Two others, Powell and Armitage, had served in the military in Vietnam. As these men rose through the ranks of Washington’s foreign policy apparatus, they kept in mind the lessons and experiences of the 1970s: The United States should build up its military power, regain popular support for the armed forces and advance democratic ideals in such a way as to confront and, where possible, overwhelm its leading adversaries.

As a group the Vulcans embodied a unique generation in American foreign policy, one every bit as distinctive as the “Wise Men” (such as Dean Acheson, George Kennan, Averell Harriman and John McCloy) who created a new American foreign policy at the end of World War II or the “Best and Brightest” (the Kennedys, Robert McNamara, the Bundys and Rostows) who prosecuted the Vietnam War in the 1960s.5

The Wise Men had come to government from the worlds of business, banking and international law; their spiritual home was Wall Street and the network of investment banks and law firms connected to it. The Best and Brightest had come to government with strong backgrounds in academia; their spiritual home was Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Harvard campus where many of them had studied or taught.

The Vulcans were the military generation. Their wellspring, the common institution in their careers, was the Pentagon. The top levels of the foreign policy team that took office in 2001 included two former secretaries of defense (Cheney and Rumsfeld), one former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Powell), one former undersecretary of defense (Wolfowitz) and one former assistant secretary of defense (Armitage). Even Rice had started her career in Washington with a stint at the Pentagon, working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In the 1940s the Wise Men had concentrated on constructing institutions, both international and in Washington, that would help preserve democracy and capitalism in a threatened Europe. For institution building, their skills of law and business proved invaluable. Kennedy’s Best and Brightest had attempted, with less success, to make use of their academic expertise to extend American influence in the third world and counter what they saw as Communist movements in Asia and Africa.

The Vulcans were different. They were focused above all on American military power. In the 1970s and early 1980s their goal was to help the armed forces recover and rebuild after Vietnam. In the late 1980s and early 1990s they attempted to figure out when and how America’s revitalized military power should be employed. By the first years of the twenty-first century, with U.S. war-making abilities beyond question, they were trying to sketch out a new role for America, one that took into account the overwhelming gulf between America’s military power and that of any other nation.

The Vulcans represented the generation that bridged what are commonly depicted as two separate and distinct periods of modern history: cold war and post–cold war. For the Vulcans, the disintegration of the Soviet Union represented only a middle chapter in the narrative, not the end or the beginning.

Hundreds of books have been written about America’s role in the cold war. Most of these works end in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, or in 1991, with the Soviet collapse. There is an entire school of study that is now called cold war history. Meanwhile, over the past decade, many other books have been devoted to what is commonly called the post–cold war world, and these works tend to begin in 1989–1991. All these books tend to assume that the end of the cold war marked a break so fundamental that historical narratives must either start or stop there.

The story of the Vulcans serves as a reminder that this bifurcation of history into cold war and post–cold war is ultimately artificial. In their careers, the Vulcans worked on both sides of the arbitrary divide. While working in government, they confronted firsthand both the world of the Berlin Wall and the world without it.

If we can reach beyond our continuing preoccupation with the end of the cold war, then we can begin to detect, through the lives of these Vulcans, a coherent narrative. It is the story of the gradual rise of an America whose strength is without precedent in the history of the world. Indeed, we can look at the time span covered in this book as itself a distinct historical period. Between the early 1970s and 2003 American power rose gradually from its nadir, at the end of the war in Vietnam, to a position of incontestable military power.

At the beginning of this era the United States was reeling from its defeat in Southeast Asia. A common view, both overseas and at home, was that the United States was in decline. The American military was in disrepute and was beset by racial tensions; in Congress, defense budgets were regularly under attack. The United States was eager for a new series of understandings overseas: détente with the Soviet Union and, meanwhile, a new relationship with China to help keep the Soviets in check.

Then America reversed course. Over the following decades the United States elected repeatedly to augment its power and to wield its economic and military might in such a way that it could overwhelm any potential rival. The Vulcans were at the center of these events and these choices. They were among those who were convinced America was not in decline, that it was and should be the world’s most powerful nation and should advance its values and ideals overseas. Through the Vulcans and their careers we can see the transformation of America and the emergence of its role as the world’s reigning superpower.

The purpose of this book is to examine the beliefs and the worldview of the Vulcans, Bush’s foreign policy team, by tracing the histories of six of its leading members: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Armitage, Wolfowitz and Rice. The aim is to try to understand how and why America came to deal with the rest of the world in the ways that it did during the George W. Bush administration. Where did the ideas of the Vulcans come from? Why did these six Vulcans, in particular, rise to the top of the Republican foreign policy apparatus? What was it in their backgrounds and experiences that caused them to make the choices they made after taking office in 2001 and after the terrorist attacks of September 11?

An explanation may be in order about the terminology Vulcans. I am using the word symbolically to refer to anyone who worked on foreign policy in previous Republican administrations and then returned to office under George W. Bush.

The six people covered in this book were not all direct participants in the campaign advisory unit where the word Vulcanswas first used. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell weren’t members of this campaign group because they were above it; they were too senior for the day-to- day activities of electoral politics. All three, however, played crucial roles in the Bush campaign.

There were many other foreign policy hands from past Republican administrations who were not part of the campaign advisory group but who came back to power in 2001: men and women such as Scooter Libby, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky. All of them qualify as Vulcans. I have chosen to concentrate on the careers and the views of six individuals because they were the most prominent and powerful of all the Vulcans.

In calling the Vulcans a generation, I do not mean to suggest that they all thought alike. Quite obviously, they did not. For example, the differences in outlook that often emerged between Powell and Armitage at the State Department, and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz at the Pentagon— differences over Iraq, over the Middle East, over North Korea and other issues—were genuine and serious. They took up considerable energy within the administration, and they certainly dominated the daily press coverage of the administration.

Nevertheless, these disagreements tended to obscure the larger agreements in outlook among the Vulcans. All of them believed in the importance of American military power. Powell had been famously cautious about the use of force, but his aim was to avoid another Vietnam and to shepherd and preserve the U.S. armed forces; Powell supported the overall goal of military strength, as did other leaders, such as Wolfowitz, who were less hesitant about American military action. During the 1989–1991 period, when the Pentagon was trying to limit congressional efforts to cut back the defense budget, Powell and Wolfowitz were allies.

Moreover, as befitted their Pentagon backgrounds, all the Vulcans tended to concentrate on traditional national security issues, leaving America’s role in the international economy largely in the hands of private businesses. Their approach differed from the economic-oriented focus of the Clinton administration, when the National Economic Council was for a time more powerful than the National Security Council and when the Treasury Department and the International Monetary Fund became prime instruments of American foreign policy.

All the Vulcans believed that American power and ideals are, on the whole, a force for good in the world. In that sense, they all differed from liberal Democrats, such as those in the Carter administration and in Congress, who worried about America’s abuses of power and sought to create rules and an international order that might help curb such abuses.

Finally, throughout their careers, the Vulcans’ view also tended to be optimistic about America’s capabilities and its future. In this sense, the Vulcans’ view differed from the gloomy outlook of Henry Kissinger, who had reigned over foreign policy in the Republican administrations of the early 1970s; it also differed from the perspective of Ross Perot, who warned in the late 1980s of the rise of Japan and of America’s impending decline. Kissinger and his followers thought a weakened America needed détente; Perot and his followers believed that an unwitting United States was being made ever weaker. The Vulcans, by contrast, assumed that America was strong and getting stronger.

Characterizations of the Bush administration as divided overlook these commonalities. One way to illustrate this point is to look at the history of Powell and Armitage, the two State Department officials commonly depicted as the doves or liberals within the George W. Bush administration.

In 1981 Ronald Reagan became the most conservative American president since Calvin Coolidge. Within his administration the leading hard-liner was Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Powell and Armitage emerged as Weinberger’s two key aides; in other words, they were loyal followers of the most hawkish cabinet member in the most hawkish administration in a half century. Armitage was one of the officials implementing the Reagan doctrine, the effort to provide military and financial support for armed rebellions against regimes supported by the Soviet Union. A few years later Powell was sounded out about the possibility of joining the Democratic party as vice presidential nominee or as secretary of state. He declined because on foreign policy issues he felt much more at home with the Republicans.

Powell and Armitage, in short, may have been doves in comparison with some of their colleagues at the Pentagon in the George W. Bush administration, but within the broad spectrum of American foreign policy over the past three decades, they were hardly doves and in fact shared much in common with the other Vulcans. Their relationship with hawks like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz was akin to that of a feuding family. They bickered; but they seemed to need one another, and they all kept on coming back to the dinner table.

And what of George W. Bush himself? Why not include the president of the United States in this book along with these six individuals who served under him? I have left Bush out for several reasons.

Bush himself had not worked directly on foreign policy before 2001. He had not been obliged to develop his beliefs or to execute policy during the cold war, the Gulf War or any other of the crises that dominated America’s relations with the world over the previous decades. Bush’s father had possessed his own base of prior knowledge with which to make presidential decisions. For example, the joke was that the senior Bush, the former American envoy to Beijing, was the day- to-day “desk officer” for China. The same could not be said for his son. What he did after 2001 cannot really be viewed as an evolution or judged against the backdrop of his own past because when it came to foreign policy, George W. Bush had no past. He was not, in that sense, a Vulcan.

Because Bush’s prior experience was so limited, he was obliged to rely to an extraordinary extent on his advisers for ideas and for information. He could not have made decisions if the Vulcans had not laid out the choices; he could not have formulated policy without the words and ideas they brought to him. That reality too increased the importance of the Vulcans.

To say this is not to denigrate George W. Bush or to minimize his importance. Bush’s inexperience in foreign policy was not necessarily a crippling defect. Those who complained that Bush had rarely traveled abroad before becoming president overlooked the fact that neither had Harry Truman. Before coming to the White House, Truman had never left the United States except for a one-year tour of duty in Europe as a soldier during World War I; he nonetheless became one of America’s greatest presidents in the field of foreign policy.

Bush was the manager, the decision maker, the ultimate arbiter whenever, as happened frequently, those below him disagreed on foreign policy. This authority in itself represented awesome power. He also set the overall political direction for his administration, and that role too was of critical importance for foreign policy.

Nevertheless, the subject of this book is America’s evolving relationship with the world over the past thirty years. For that, one must look to the members of Bush’s foreign policy team and to the ways their views developed over time.

Americans often tend to overpersonalize the role of the president of the United States. The president’s press aides and personal advisers, for their own reasons, foster the perception that the president is not merely at the center of everything but is in fact the driving force for every action taken by the U.S. government. Journalists and scholars scour the childhoods, the educations and the earlier careers of American presidents on the assumption that every triumph, every trauma, every Rosebud in the life of a president is significant. In reality, of course, the actions and words issued in the name of the president generally reflect the views of the officials working beneath him.

In many books about modern American history, the president is the central character. Here, in the story of the Vulcans and a changing America, he plays only a supporting role.

CHAPTER ONE
A Rising Politician Amid War and Dirty Tricks

During the midday hours of Wednesday, April 7, 1971, Richard Nixon was sitting in his hideaway office in the Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, attempting to prepare himself for that night’s prime-time presidential address to the nation. The subject, as usual, was Vietnam. And yet, as Nixon went over his speech with his two top aides, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and Chief of Staff H. R. (Bob) Haldeman, the conversation kept returning to a different topic—namely, what the president, with growing irritation, called “the Rumsfeld problem.” Nixon was thinking of getting rid of Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former congressman then serving on the White House staff. “I think Rumsfeld may be not too long for this world,” he said, adding, a few minutes later, “Let’s dump him.”1

The problem was that Rumsfeld was becoming, from Nixon and Kissinger’s perspective, a troublesome antiwar advocate. Increasingly, Rumsfeld had emerged at the center of a small group of administration officials, all of them involved with domestic policy, who were privately questioning in staff meetings why the administration could not move more quickly to end the war. The internal opponents also included George Shultz, director of the Office of Management and Budget; Clark MacGregor, the counselor for congressional relations; and John Ehrlichman, who was in charge of domestic policy.

“They don’t know a goddamn thing about foreign policy!” Nixon had exploded over the telephone to Kissinger a day earlier. “They’re only concerned about, frankly, peace at any price, really. Because all they’re concerned with is, well, revenue-sharing and the environment and all that crap—which doesn’t amount to anything in my opinion.” Kissinger had concurred, saying, “They don’t know what we’ll be hit with if this whole thing comes apart.”2

The Vietnam War had reached a milestone the previous week: It had now claimed more American lives than had the Korean War. Vietnam had thus become the fourth most lethal conflict in American history, after the Civil War and the two world wars. At home it had created ever-greater upheavals on college campuses, in the streets of major cities and also in American politics. That spring a new round of antiwar protests was building. A Democratic challenger, Senator Edmund Muskie, was gearing up to run against Nixon in 1972; Muskie was challenging Nixon on the war, and polls showed that he was even with or ahead of the president. Even Republicans in Congress were becoming restive; in early April, nine Republican senators had met with Defense Secretary Melvin Laird at the home of Senator Jacob Javits of New York to plead for Nixon to end the war.3

For nearly two months Rumsfeld had been seeking some new role in the administration through which he could influence the administration’s policy on Vietnam. In the process, he had become a particular annoyance to Kissinger. Rumsfeld’s first attempt, in a memo to Nixon dated February 27, 1971, was to propose the appointment of “a high-level Presidential aide to review and report on postwar Southeast Asia during the winding down of hostilities.” The detailed paper left no doubt Rumsfeld had himself in mind for this job. The special envoy could lay the groundwork for postwar reconstruction of Southeast Asia, Rumsfeld argued; he insisted such an envoy would not intrude on Kissinger’s turf as national security adviser. Rumsfeld told Nixon that such an appointment “would focus attention and emphasis on Indo-China peaceinstead of Indo-China war.”4 In bureaucratic language, Rumsfeld was asking Nixon to give peace a chance.

Henry Kissinger was not about to yield any authority over Vietnam policy to this pushy politician. Kissinger’s deputy, Alexander Haig, at first postponed any response to Rumsfeld’s memo for weeks, then sent a reply saying that introducing a special envoy “would confuse our allies as to who was doing what.”5 Undaunted, Rumsfeld broached this idea in a one-on-one Oval Office meeting with Nixon. The president brushed him off. Nixon offered instead a diversion, suggesting that Rumsfeld broaden his foreign policy experience with a brief mission overseas. “It might be better from your standpoint—I think you want to take a trip to Europe,” he told Rumsfeld. The trip, for the ostensible purpose of exchanging ideas with European officials about drug abuse, was scheduled for later that spring.6

Yet Rumsfeld still did not let go of Vietnam. On the morning of April 7 he pressed Kissinger in the presence of other White House staff members for an explanation of why the administration couldn’t move more quickly to bring the war to a close. Afterward Kissinger grumbled to the president that Rumsfeld had never quite said exactly what he wanted Nixon to do. He had never called specifically for Nixon to set a “date certain” for the end of the war (as Nixon’s critics were requesting) but had only spoken more vaguely of setting a date by which the United States would reduce its presence to a “residual force” in Vietnam. It was this staff meeting, and Rumsfeld’s overall stance on Vietnam, that prompted Nixon to talk about firing him. The president also worried that Rumsfeld might quit first.

“He’s ready to jump the ship, Rummy,” Nixon said during his later meeting with Haldeman and Kissinger.7

“No, I don’t think he’s ready to jump,” said Haldeman. “And I doubt if he ever would, just because [staying on in the administration] serves his interests more than not. But I don’t think he’s ever going to be a solid member of the ship.”

“He’s just positioning himself to be close to the Washington Postand the New York Times,” Kissinger interjected.

Nixon returned to business. “Well, then, let’s dump him right after this,” he said. “Good God, we’re sending him and [the White House adviser Robert] Finch on a two-month holiday to Europe. Shit. For what purpose?”

“To get him out of town,” said Kissinger, gently reminding his boss that Rumsfeld’s “holiday” in Europe had originally been a Nixon-Kissinger idea.

Nixon tried to go back to the task of rehearsing that night’s speech, in which he would announce that he planned to withdraw a hundred thousand Americans from Vietnam by the end of the year, but in which he also would explicitly refuse to set a date for the end of the war. Still, Nixon couldn’t put Rumsfeld out of his mind.

“Coming back to the Rumsfeld problem—I’m disappointed in Don, Bob,” he told Haldeman a few minutes later. “Understand, I don’t want to be disappointed, just because—I don’t want somebody who’s just with us, God damn it, when things are going good, you know what I mean? If he thinks we’re going down the tubes, and he’s just going to ride with us, maybe he’s going to take a trip to Europe occasionally—then screw him, you know?”

What galled Nixon especially was that Rumsfeld, who was viewed as one of the administration’s most effective public speakers, refused to go out and defend the Nixon administration to the American people. “He won’t step up to anything,” Nixon grumbled. “We have given him time and time again, opportunities to step up, and he will not step up and kick the ball.”

Haldeman agreed. “I used to think at one point he was a potential presidential contender, but he isn’t,” he told the president.

“He’s like Finch,” Nixon said. “They both have the charisma for national office, but neither has got the backbone.”

Nixon’s irritation with Rumsfeld eventually subsided. He was one of several aides Nixon talked about dumping but never did; Rumsfeld remained in the administration until its premature end. Yet the Vietnam episode provides a glimpse at how Rumsfeld’s work in the Nixon administration contradicted some of the simplistic perceptions Americans came to have of Rumsfeld many years later.

During the following three decades Rumsfeld came to be viewed as an ardent hawk, a champion of American military power. Those perceptions do not fit the early phases of his career, when, as a fervent proponent of domestic reform, he was a moderate to liberal force within the Nixon administration. His dovish views matched his political ambitions: The war was unpopular, and Rumsfeld, as an adviser on domestic policy, had no personal or professional stake in winning it. Indeed, Rumsfeld, who throughout his government career seemed to relish bureaucratic combat, may have viewed Vietnam as an issue on which he could challenge Kissinger’s primacy within the government (something Rumsfeld once again did with greater success in his more hawkish guise during the Ford administration).

Over the years another assumption about Rumsfeld has taken hold: that he had no connection at all to the seamier side of the Nixon administration, the bare-knuckled political apparatus that waged combat with Nixon’s political enemies. This idea was based in part on the fact that Rumsfeld was appointed ambassador to NATO and was thus thousands of miles away in Europe in 1973 and 1974, as the Watergate scandal crested and Nixon resigned. Gerald Ford, the old friend who brought Rumsfeld back to Washington to take charge of the White House staff after Nixon’s resignation, helped foster this perception. “He [Rumsfeld] wouldn’t tolerate political shenanigans and the men around Nixon knew he wouldn’t, so to protect themselves, they kept him out of the loop,” Ford wrote.8

However, Nixon’s secret White House tape recordings portray a more complex reality. Rumsfeld was not entirely divorced from Nixon’s political operations. There is no sign that Rumsfeld was involved in any of the illegalities of Watergate, but he was willing to offer Nixon other low-level help of a not particularly exalted nature—some dirt on political enemies, some covert ties with a prominent pollster. The Nixon tapes show that Rumsfeld was often working with and was a special favorite of John Mitchell and Charles Colson, Nixon’s two roughest political operators, who viewed Rumsfeld as more savvy than other White House aides. Indeed, when Nixon first considered naming Rumsfeld NATO ambassador in the summer of 1971, Mitchell urged the president to delay the appointment until after the presidential election, and Nixon decided Mitchell was right. “Let me say this—he has done some good political stuff for Mitchell. He’ll cooperate. NATO’s fine, but it pulls him out of politics,” Nixon told Haldeman about Rumsfeld at one point. “...He’s an operator.”9 In short, the secret White House tape recordings demonstrate that Rumsfeld was not nearly so marginal a figure in Nixon’s political apparatus as he was later portrayed.

Nixon and Rumsfeld seem to have formed a curious but strong bond early on. Rumsfeld saw Nixon as a mentor. In a series of lengthy one-on-one conversations in the White House, Rumsfeld repeatedly sought to advance to a cabinet job inside the administration and, at the same time, to obtain Nixon’s advice on his political career. Rumsfeld was of course gaining private tutelage from America’s most skilled political infighter.

Nixon valued Rumsfeld too. From Nixon’s perspective, Rumsfeld stood in a different category from aides like Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Kissinger; as a former congressman Rumsfeld was the only senior White House staff member who had repeatedly subjected himself, as Nixon had, to the hazards and potential public humiliations of running for elective office. Nixon’s political defeats in 1960 and 1962 and his long, acrimony-filled career had left the president not only with a strain of self-pity but also with a strong sense of a personal identification with other politicians. Top White House aides like Haldeman and Ehrlichman loathed Rumsfeld for his ambition and his self-promotion, but for Richard Nixon, these qualities did not count against Rumsfeld. Moreover, Nixon thought Rumsfeld was a good public face for the administration, and Nixon hoped to make use of him, especially in courting voters on college campuses and in America’s suburbs. “He’s young, he’s thirty-nine years old, he’s a hell of a spokesman,” Nixon said.10

Yet their relationship remained largely private. In public Rumsfeld never seemed as though he were a central part of the Nixon administration. Nixon discovered, to his frustration, that Rumsfeld was too often willing to challenge existing policy inside the White House and not willing enough to defend it in public. For Rumsfeld’s part, he never managed to obtain from Nixon the central role or the cabinet appointment he wanted. As things turned out after Watergate, Rumsfeld was fortunate that he was never identified too closely with Nixon.

Donald Henry Rumsfeld’s father, a Chicago real estate broker named George Rumsfeld, had moved his family around the country during a stint in the Navy in World War II and then returned to settle on Chicago’s North Shore. Donald went to New Trier High School, where he was the star of the school’s state championship wrestling team. He went on to Princeton, where he became the captain of the wrestling team. One teammate, two years ahead of him, was Frank Carlucci, who, like Rumsfeld, was to rise to the top of America’s national security apparatus.11

After college Rumsfeld spent three years in the Navy, where he became a pilot and flight instructor and, yet again, a wrestling champion; he hoped for a chance at the 1956 Olympics but gave up because of a shoulder injury. In the late 1950s he worked as a congressional aide in Washington. Eventually he decided to run for Congress himself. He entered the 1962 Republican primary for a congressional seat in Chicago’s northern suburbs. His main rival was an Evanston insurance executive whose company had been under state investigation. One of Rumsfeld’s campaign aides, the young Republican Jeb Stuart Magruder (later convicted of perjury in the Watergate scandal), made sure Rumsfeld’s rival was asked repeatedly about the insurance investigation. Rumsfeld won the primary and captured the seat.12

In Congress, Rumsfeld first began to display some of the distinctive style that would mark his career for decades. Fellow representatives found that he hated clichés and enjoyed embarrassing in public those who lapsed into jargon-filled speech. He served on the House Committee on Science and Astronautics and took a special interest in the space program. Once an official of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration began telling the committee how NASA would do this project “in-house” and that project “in-house” and another project “in-house.” Exasperated, Rumsfeld finally interjected, “What about the out-house?”13

Rumsfeld’s voting record was not unlike that of other Republicans from the northern suburbs; he was economically conservative but socially moderate.14 He supported civil rights legislation; he was a leader in the drive to replace the military draft with a volunteer army. (Four decades later, when Rumsfeld was secretary of defense, two members of Congress who were opposed to military action against Iraq introduced legislation to reinstate the draft. Rumsfeld, drawing on his old arguments from the 1960s, said that draftees had added “no value, no advantage, really” to the armed services. He was quickly obliged to apologize to veterans’ groups.15)

Rumsfeld also took a modest interest in foreign policy. In 1962, Richard Allen, the conservative Republican who later became Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, set up a think tank called the Center for Strategic Studies at Georgetown University. Rumsfeld was one of the organization’s earliest congressional allies. “We organized a little salon back when the members of Congress still had time to think and breathe,” said Allen. “Rumsfeld would come over along with a little coterie of Republican and Democratic congressmen. And Rumsfeld and I formed a friendship. We didn’t have any money; we drove Volkswagens and went to each other’s houses and drank jug wine and ate spaghetti.”16

Rumsfeld’s main achievement during this period was his role in a successful challenge to the existing political order on Capitol Hill. Following Barry Goldwater’s humiliating defeat in the 1964 presidential election, some Republicans in the House of Representatives decided to push for new party leadership. The Republican minority leader at the time was Charles Halleck, of Indiana. Rumsfeld emerged at the head of this group of insurgents, which also included Representatives Charles Goodell of New York, Robert Griffin of Michigan, Albert Quie of Minnesota and Robert Ellsworth of Kansas. The group moved to dump Halleck and replace him with Representative Gerald Ford of Michigan.17 The effort succeeded, and Rumsfeld became one of Ford’s closest advisers.

For a generally conservative Republican congressman, Rumsfeld maintained some surprising friendships among the Democrats. One of his closest associates in the House of Representatives was Allard K. Lowenstein, a leader of the antiwar movement and perhaps the most liberal member of Congress at the time, who in 1967 led the fight within the Democratic party to drop Lyndon Johnson as the party’s presidential nominee. Rumsfeld and Lowenstein had served as congressional aides together in the late 1950s and once dreamed of buying a country newspaper together.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-01-19:
Mann, a former correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, offers a lucid, nonpolemical and carefully researched history of President Bush's foreign policy team, the self-described "Vulcans" (after the Roman god of fire). In doing so, Mann illuminates the administration's rationale for the Iraqi war with impressive clarity. For the Vulcans, he shows, the war is not an anomalous foreign adventure or a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11. On the contrary, the foreign policy, devised by Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, was 35 years in the making and has its roots in the Republican Party faction that opposed d?tente with the Soviet Union. Vulcan philosophy has three major tenets: the embrace of pre-emptive action, the notion of an "unchallengeable American superpower" and the systematic export of America's democratic values. Implicit is the rejection of both the notion that transatlantic relationships are the natural focus of U.S. foreign policy and the Kissingeresque realpolitik that dominated much of 20th-century policy. Mann's purpose is to explicate Bush's foreign policy, not to make sweeping value judgments about its wisdom; he takes care to expose not only errors in the Vulcans' assumptions about the war in Iraq but also those of the war's opponents. This well-written, serious, evenhanded effort should be essential reading for anyone interested in American foreign policy. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. First serial to the Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker. (On sale Mar. 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-02-15:
Today every presidency has its own shelf of contemporary histories and other accounts, but rarely do these books combine the immediacy and depth of this one. Mann (About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China from Nixon to Clinton) has written a collective biography of George W. Bush's foreign policy inner circle: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, and Condoleezza Rice. In tracing their personal histories in the military, government, business, and academia, Mann aims to show how America's stance toward the world changed over the 40 years between the Vietnam War and our invasion of Iraq and how the notion of distinct pre- and post-Cold War eras is misleading. "The ideas that the United States should emphasize military strength, should spread its ideals and should not accommodate other centers of power," Mann shows, were long in the making. Mann interviewed dozens of insiders, including several of his principals, and researched archival and other printed sources to produce this exceptionally evenhanded and well-written book. Highly recommended.-Robert F. Nardini, Chichester, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, January 2004
Booklist, February 2004
Library Journal, February 2004
New York Times Book Review, February 2004
Los Angeles Times, March 2004
New York Times Book Review, March 2004
Wall Street Journal, March 2004
Globe & Mail, May 2004
New York Times Book Review, October 2004
Washington Post, November 2004
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Summaries
Main Description
When George W. Bush campaigned for the White House, he was such a novice in foreign policy that he couldn't name the president of Pakistan. But he was advised by a group that called themselves the Vulcans'a group of men and one woman with long and shared experience in government, dating back to the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and first Bush administrations. After returning to power in 2001, the Vulcans'including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, and Condoleeza Rice'were widely expected to restore U.S. foreign policy to what it had been in past Republican administrations. Instead, they put America on an entirely new course, adopting a far-reaching set of ideas and policies that changed the world and America's role in it. In this revelatory and newsworthy volume, James Mann narrates the hidden story of these six history makers, their early careers and rise to power, the interactions and underlying tensions among them, their visions, and their roles in the current administration. Along the way, he offers a wealth of new information (about how Rumsfeld schemed in the Nixon White House, how Cheney toiled as Rumsfeld's doorkeeper, how Wolfowitz first warned of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East in the 1960s) to complete a remarkable look at George W. Bush's inner circle.
Main Description
When George W. Bush campaigned for the White House, he was such a novice in foreign policy that he couldn’t name the president of Pakistan. But he was advised by a group that called themselves the Vulcans—a group of men and one woman with long and shared experience in government, dating back to the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and first Bush administrations. After returning to power in 2001, the Vulcans—including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, and Condoleeza Rice—were widely expected to restore U.S. foreign policy to what it had been in past Republican administrations. Instead, they put America on an entirely new course, adopting a far-reaching set of ideas and policies that changed the world and America’s role in it. In this revelatory and newsworthy volume, James Mann narrates the hidden story of these six history makers, their early careers and rise to power, the interactions and underlying tensions among them, their visions, and their roles in the current administration. Along the way, he offers a wealth of new information (about how Rumsfeld schemed in the Nixon White House, how Cheney toiled as Rumsfeld’s doorkeeper, how Wolfowitz first warned of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East in the 1960s) to complete a remarkable look at George W. Bush’s inner circle.
Main Description
When George W. Bush campaigned for the White House, he was such a novice in foreign policy that he couldn’t name the president of Pakistan. But he was advised by a group that called themselves the Vulcans—a group of men and one woman with long and shared experience in government, dating back to the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and first Bush administrations. After returning to power in 2001, the Vulcans—including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, and Condoleeza Rice—were widely expected to restore U.S. foreign policy to what it had been in past Republican administrations. Instead, they put America on an entirely new course, adopting a far-reaching set of ideas and policies that changed the world and America’s role in it.In this revelatory and newsworthy volume, James Mann narrates the hidden story of these six history makers, their early careers and rise to power, the interactions and underlying tensions among them, their visions, and their roles in the current administration. Along the way, he offers a wealth of new information (about how Rumsfeld schemed in the Nixon White House, how Cheney toiled as Rumsfeld’s doorkeeper, how Wolfowitz first warned of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East in the 1960s) to complete a remarkable look at George W. Bush’s inner circle.
Unpaid Annotation
In the tradition of "The Wise Men" comes the first group portrait of the inner circle of George W. Bush's team--Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell, Armitage, Rice, and Wolfowitz.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. ix
A Rising Politician Amid War and Dirty Tricksp. 1
The Intellectual as Protegep. 21
A Soldier and a Sailorp. 37
Combating the Soviets, Detente and Henry Kissingerp. 56
Enter the Persian Gulfp. 79
Transitionsp. 95
Camelot of the Conservativesp. 112
Of Dictatorships and Democracyp. 127
In the Midst of Armageddonp. 138
A Scandal and Its Aftermathp. 150
A New Republican President, a New Foreign Policy Teamp. 165
Use of Forcep. 179
Death of an Empire, Birth of a Visionp. 198
Vulcans in Exilep. 216
A Vulcan Agendap. 234
The Campaignp. 248
Who Runs the Pentagon?p. 261
Warnings and Signalsp. 277
History Starts Todayp. 294
A New Strategyp. 311
Toward War with Iraqp. 332
Conclusionp. 359
Acknowledgmentsp. 373
Notesp. 377
Indexp. 411
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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