Analysis & Opinions - Project Syndicate

Brent Scowcroft Remembered

| Aug. 10, 2020

Brent Scowcroft, who died on August 6, aged 95, was the model of a modern lieutenant-general. A graduate of West Point whose career as a fighter pilot was cut short by a broken back suffered in a P-51 Mustang crash in 1949, Scowcroft went on to serve three presidents and advise others. He was the national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, and, to this day, when scholars and practitioners discuss the best way to organize the National Security Council, they invariably refer to the "Scowcroft model."

Scowcroft was famously fair-minded and believed that his job was not to lobby for a particular policy, but to make sure that the president was aware of all opinions in his government, and that all key advisers felt that their voices had been heard. Beyond his concern for establishing an orderly process, Scowcroft was devoted to public service. The concept of duty he learned as a cadet at West Point was reinforced by his Mormon faith.

While loyal to his presidents, Scowcroft understood that his oath to uphold the Constitution implied a higher duty. A quiet and self-effacing man, he eschewed publicity while in office and focused on efficacy. He had a reputation for integrity that extended well beyond his office.

For example, in the early 1980s, when Scowcroft was out of office, Americans were deeply divided over foreign policy along partisan lines. When I was talking to foundations about supporting the creation of the Aspen Strategy Group, a bipartisan group that would try to bridge the gap, they said it would work only if we found Republican and Democratic co-chairs whose personal integrity was so obvious to members of both parties that we could overcome the partisan schism.

Scowcroft was the gold standard for personal and policy integrity, so we chose him as the Republican (and William Perry as the Democrat). The group has succeeded and exists to this day....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Nye, Joseph S. Jr.“Brent Scowcroft Remembered.” Project Syndicate, August 10, 2020.