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Brent Scowcroft (1925–2020), national security advisor to two presidents

by Linnea Crowther

Brent Scowcroft was national security advisor to two presidents, Gerald Ford (1913 – 2006) and George H.W. Bush (1924 – 2018).

National Security Advisor

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Scowcroft was working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was tapped by Henry Kissinger to become deputy national security advisor in 1973. Two years later, when Ford drastically reorganized his cabinet in the 1975 “Halloween Massacre,” Scowcroft took Kissinger’s place as national security advisor. While serving under Ford, Scowcroft helped organize the removal of U.S. military personnel from Saigon. As President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, Scowcroft was replaced as national security advisor but continued to serve on the president’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control.

The end of the Cold War

Scowcroft returned as national security advisor under Bush, serving for the president’s entire term from 1989 to 1993. It was a fraught time for national security, as the Cold War came to an end with the fall of the Berlin Wall even as human rights abuses were carried out in China at Tiananmen Square and in Romania under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and the U.S. entered the Persian Gulf War. Among Scowcroft’s accomplishments was working closely with Bush to support Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in a successful attempt to avert a military coup against him during a time of upheaval. Scowcroft and Bush later cowrote the memoir “A World Transformed,” discussing their view of the Cold War’s end.


Scowcroft on democracy

“Wouldn’t it be great if all the world were democratic? Gee, well, let’s do it. Okay, what are the consequences if you try and don’t succeed? We are now living in a world that is partly a result of that particular experiment.” —from a 2008 interview with Esquire

Tributes to Brent Scowcroft

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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