Donald Henry Rumsfeld, who has died on the age of 88, had the distinctive distinction of being each the youngest and oldest man to function US secretary of defence. His stints within the job, separated by 1 / 4 of a century, have been formed first by the chilly warfare after which by what he referred to as “the global war on terrorism”. They marked him out as a army strategist comfy with difficult Washington orthodoxies and projecting American energy overseas, a worldview he carried out with a self-confidence that bordered on vanity.
It was his unwillingness to brook dissent that, critics argued, colored his defining legacy: serving to persuade President George W Bush to invade Iraq in 2003 after the September 11 2001 terrorist assaults. Rumsfeld, who had supported attacking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq even earlier than rejoining authorities as Bush’s defence secretary in 2001, turned the invasion’s main cheerleader inside the administration. He overruled generals on deployment schedules and ignored diplomats urging him to conduct detailed postwar planning. He then bore a lot of the blame when a fast army victory in opposition to Saddam turned a grinding counterinsurgency that the US was ill-prepared for.
Rumsfeld was born within the Chicago space on July 9 1932, the son of George and Jeanette Rumsfeld. He grew up within the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, the place he turned an Eagle Scout and attended New Trier High School. The Rumsfeld household additionally briefly lived in Coronado, California, in the course of the second world warfare, when George served within the US Navy on an plane provider.
After graduating from Princeton University, the place he was on the wrestling staff, Rumsfeld turned a navy pilot in 1954. In the identical yr he married Joyce Pierson, with whom he had two daughters and one son.
After demobilisation in 1957, he went to work in Washington as a congressional assistant, earlier than a two-year stint as an funding banker in Chicago. In 1962 he was elected to the US House of Representatives as a Republican from Illinois and served three phrases. He resigned in 1969 to hitch Richard Nixon’s new administration as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, a now defunct company chargeable for administering anti-poverty programmes. One of his first recruits there was Dick Cheney, who later as US vice-president was influential in bringing his mentor again to the Pentagon in 2001.
Rumsfeld prospered within the nation’s capital. In 1971 he was named director of the financial stabilisation programme and two years later was despatched to Brussels as US ambassador to Nato. But Nixon’s resignation in 1974 introduced him again residence, first to run President Gerald Ford’s transition staff after which as his White House chief of workers, with Cheney as deputy and later successor.
In 1975, aged 43, Rumsfeld turned the youngest-ever secretary of defence. The circumstances of his appointment have been inauspicious. His predecessor, James Schlesinger, was fired by Ford after repeated disputes with Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state.
Once put in within the Pentagon, Rumsfeld proved to be a wily bureaucrat. It seemed as if he had inherited a poisoned chalice. The army was not solely within the throes of a tough transition to an all-volunteer pressure but additionally demoralised by its defeat within the Vietnam warfare. Additionally, the political tide had turned in opposition to elevated defence spending.
He met these challenges head on, pushing for additional reforms of the armed providers, improvement of the cruise missile and the B1 bomber, a prototype of which he flew as a pilot, extra ships for the navy and, naturally, a much bigger price range. He justified his formidable plans on the grounds that the risk posed by the previous Soviet Union demanded nothing much less, and in his first yr, secured substantial further federal funding.
But he additionally fell out with the army brass. He overruled them on a conservative design for the M-1 tank, designed as Nato’s major combating car, by insisting that it accommodate each American and European sized weapons. And he publicly disciplined General George Brown, then chair of the US joint chiefs of workers, after an undiplomatic outburst that, amongst different issues, described the British military as “a pathetic sight”.
The Democratic victory within the 1976 elections prompted Rumsfeld to embark on a profession within the personal sector. He served as chief govt and later chair of GD Searle, the Chicago-based prescription drugs firm, earlier than working General Instrument Corp, a pioneer of high-definition tv. From 1997 till 2001 he was chair of Gilead Sciences, a US drugmaker that was best-known for its HIV drugs.
Though he didn’t return to cupboard in the course of the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan or longtime rival George HW Bush, he remained an influential spokesman on safety points, and briefly weighed working for president himself after Reagan’s second time period resulted in 1988. Named in 1998 by the Republican management in Congress to go a fee on ballistic missiles, he concluded that the risk posed by “rogue” states, akin to North Korea, was grave. His report underpinned the case, adopted by George W Bush in 2001, for a nationwide missile defence system. He additionally argued publicly that Saddam needs to be eliminated by pressure if obligatory.
His return to the Pentagon in 2001 didn’t go easily at first. He instantly ordered a basic and wide-ranging overview of the construction of the US armed forces however the consultative course of that ensued alarmed the conservative army brass.
Rumsfeld was reluctant to push for a much bigger defence price range. In one sense he was hamstrung, because the new Bush administration was intent on passing deep tax cuts and didn’t need to implement any massive will increase in departmental spending. But his reticence made him unpopular in some rightwing circles. By the summer season of his first yr, a number of pundits have been calling for his alternative. That modified with the terrorist assaults on September 11 2001. After a jetliner was flown into the Pentagon, he rushed from his workplace to attempt to rescue those that have been trapped, incomes him admiration amongst workers.
Rumsfeld will likely be remembered not just for his bureaucratic prowess but additionally for his aphorisms. His admission in 2002 that there have been “known knowns” and “known unknowns” concerning the Iraqi authorities’s programme for weapons of mass destruction, whereas initially mocked, turned a part of the political lexicon for leaders coping with complicated issues.
Rumsfeld resigned in 2006, after Republicans took a battering within the midterm elections amid rising public discontent over the Iraq warfare. He largely retreated from public life however printed two books — a 2011 memoir entitled Known and Unknown and a 2013 recommendation quantity referred to as Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life. He additionally participated in Errol Morris’s documentary about his life.
In his later years, he launched a cell gaming app referred to as Churchill Solitaire, based mostly on a model of the cardboard recreation performed by the late UK prime minister. And six months earlier than he died, he co-authored an opinion piece in The Washington Post alongside 9 different former US defence secretaries, warning that the army shouldn’t play a task in Donald Trump’s efforts to dam Joe Biden from changing into president.