WASHINGTON – A lifetime before serving two Presidents as a National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft was just 12 when he decided to become a West Point Cadet after reading about Cadet Lives. After graduating with the Class of 1947, he decided to join the Army Air Corps and train to become a fighter pilot. He also achieved this goal, but then fate overturned his plans.

Just months after gaining his wings, Scowcroft was flying over New Hampshire when his F-51 crashed into a frozen swamp. A broken back and other injuries kept him in the hospital for two years. He flew again, but so much time had passed that he decided to move from tactics and operations to strategy and planning.

And he did. Playing a leading role in US foreign policy, Scowcroft served as national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George HW Bush, the sole national security adviser to two different administrations. He has also advised Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan on defense matters.

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“I am not quick and innovative. I don’t automatically think of good and new ideas. What I do better is distinguish the good ideas from the bad ones, he told the Washington Post on the eve of the administration of George HW Bush. He added, “It’s heartwarming to do things that make a difference. At the end of the day, it’s the work that is most important.

Scowcroft, who died Thursday of natural causes at the age of 95 at his home in Falls Church, Va., was appointed Ford’s National Security Advisor in 1975 as he retired from the Air Force with the rank of Lieutenant General . He was a national security adviser to Bush, then a close friend, during the four years of the Bush administration, 1989-93.

Scowcroft’s death was confirmed on Friday by Jim McGrath, a longtime Bush spokesperson, who died in 2018.

An independent streak and a penchant for honesty tarnished Scowcroft’s reputation in government. He sometimes diverged with the Reagan administration over missile policy. In 2002, as President George W. Bush prepared to invade Iraq, Scowcroft opposed an attack on Saddam Hussein’s regime.

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Scowcroft was sometimes described as both soft and tough, a brilliant coordinator very concerned with results, a tireless worker accustomed to 18-hour days. In a 2011 study of his career, historian David F. Schmitz noted that Scowcroft had been at the center of many discussions about US foreign policy after the Vietnam War.

He was part of the presidential administrations grappling with the American responses to the collapse of communism in Europe, the repression in China after the Tiananmen Square protests and the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War which followed.

“The key tenets of his thinking, shaped by World War II, were that national security policy should protect the nation from aggression, ensure international stability, control arms while maintaining preparedness, and shape an international environment conducive to aggression. America’s goals and needs, ”Schmitz wrote.

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Scowcroft was born March 19, 1925 in Ogden, Utah. Her father owned a wholesale grocery business, which helped the Mormon family avoid the hard times following the Great Depression.

After refocusing his military career in the aftermath of the plane crash, Scowcroft earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1953, then taught Russian history at the US Military Academy at West Point. In 1957, he began his studies at the Strategic Intelligence School in Washington. Two years later, he was Deputy Air Attaché at the US Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, then taught political science at the US Air Force Academy.

Scowcroft was posted to Air Force Headquarters and the Department of Defense in the 1960s and received a doctorate in international relations from Columbia in 1967. He was appointed Nixon’s military assistant in 1972. A year later, he became deputy assistant for national security under Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser.

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He left the White House with the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. He established a consultancy firm serving international businesses and eventually joined Kissinger at Kissinger Associates, a consultancy firm with similar goals.

Scowcroft served on Carter’s advisory committee on arms control and was chairman of Reagan’s Commission on Strategic Forces, which focused on the US nuclear modernization effort. He also served on the three-member Tower Commission, which investigated the arms-versus-hostage affair that arose during the Reagan administration.

Scowcroft had been a close friend of George HW Bush since they had served together in the Nixon administration. With the election of Bush in 1988, Scowcroft was interested in leading the Pentagon as Secretary of Defense during the Bush administration. He accepted a return engagement as a national security adviser when he realized he would be by the president’s side instead of leading the Defense Ministry’s huge bureaucracy.

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After Bush lost his candidacy for re-election to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992, Scowcroft returned to the board. He co-wrote with Bush a book on the Cold War, “A World Transformed”, published in 1998, and with Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski the book “America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy ”in 2008.

Scowcroft angered the White House at the son of his friend, President George W. Bush, when in 2002 he publicly expressed the view that little evidence linked Saddam Hussein to terrorist organizations and warned that the war with Iraq could damage, if not destroy, American alliances in the region.

In a Wall Street Journal column, Scowcroft wrote: “The central point is that any campaign against Iraq, regardless of strategy, cost and risk, is certain to divert us indefinitely from our war against Iraq. terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq right now. As long as this sentiment persists, the United States would have to pursue a virtually autonomous strategy against Iraq, which would make any military operation more difficult and costly. “

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Given his relationship with the Bush family, Scowcroft’s criticisms of the administration carried particular weight. “I thought they were rushing to judge and making a big mistake,” Scowcroft recalled in an interview with the West Point Center for Oral History. His concerns, voiced privately before he spoke publicly, were “pretty much dismissed” by the young Bush White House, he said.

President George W. Bush and his wife Laura said in a statement Friday that they were saddened to learn of Scowcroft’s death.

“This patriot has had a long career of distinguished service to our country. As a retired Air Force general, he has given sound and thoughtful advice to several presidents. He was a particularly important adviser to my father – and an important friend, ”said Bush.

Scowcroft married Marian Horner in 1951; she died in 1995. He is survived by their daughter, Karen, and a granddaughter, Meghan.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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