Regrets? Even Brent Scowcroft Had a FewBreaking News
tags: Middle East, foreign policy, military history, Iraq War, Iran-contra, Gulf War
By the time he died last week at age 95, Brent Scowcroft had helped steer the nation through some of the most pivotal events of the modern era. As the much-admired national security adviser to two presidents, he became known as the archetype of a foreign policy steward, the model his successors vowed to emulate, though never as successfully.
But that does not mean that it was smooth or easy. And it does not mean that Mr. Scowcroft always got his way. In a revealing 20-year-old secret oral history released after his death, the man who did so much to define the United States’ place in the world in the last decades of the 20th century openly discussed the times he failed to define America’s policy around the world.
Among other things, Mr. Scowcroft said he tried to fire Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf — the swaggering, larger-than-life officer leading American forces against Iraq — and later tried to rescind a decision that enabled Saddam Hussein to deploy armed helicopters against his own people. Mr. Scowcroft said he wished they had prolonged the war to destroy more Iraqi forces. He also wanted to use force to intervene in the bloodletting in Yugoslavia and opposed pardons for Iran-contra figures.
But one decision Mr. Scowcroft never regretted came to have more resonance later on. Despite pressure in 1991 to continue the Persian Gulf war and drive to Baghdad to topple Mr. Hussein, Mr. Scowcroft told interviewers in 2000 that it was the right decision to end it. Mr. Hussein was contained, and pushing him out would have only caused a mess for the United States, he said. Less than three years after the oral history, his fears were realized.
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