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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Peter Rodman


  • Brookings Institution: Former Fellow
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense (2001-2007)
  • Project for the New American Century: Founding Signatory

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Peter Rodman, who passed away August 2, 2008, was an assistant secretary of defense for international security under Donald Rumsfeld in the George W. Bush administration; he joined the Brookings Institution in 2007.1 A longtime Washington insider who served five administrations dating back to the late 1960s, Rodman was generally viewed as a member of the realist wing of the Republican Party, despite his association with hawkish right-wing outfits like the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and the National Review.2

Although he resigned from his Pentagon post in early 2007, Rodman had announced his intention to leave and join the Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy Studies Program shortly after his boss Rumsfeld stepped down after the midterm elections in November 2006.3 Rodman had played a role in supporting the U.S. "war on terror"; as Douglas Martin wrote, "As assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, he traveled with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to gather allies for the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere."4

Rodman began his career in government in the late 1960s, "lured into government by his senior thesis adviser at Harvard, Henry Kissinger, then the national security adviser, and he became Kissinger's aide in negotiations that included opening ties to China, peace talks on Vietnam and the Arab-Israeli conflict."5 Often regarded as a Kissinger protégé, Rodman's later close association with the Bush administration's hardline faction—led by Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney—spurred some observers to remark that he had turned against his erstwhile mentor, who was frequently attacked for his détente policies throughout much of the 1970s by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the burgeoning neoconservative movement. Wrote former CIA political-military analyst Peter Dickson: "Peter Rodman drifted away from Kissinger and toward the neoconservatives while serving in many top posts at the NSC and State Department during the Reagan-Bush administrations. In fact, Rodman recently resigned from the Pentagon after serving since 2001 as a close adviser to Rumsfeld."6

Rodman worked under Kissinger from 1969 to 1977, before becoming a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In 1984, he joined the Reagan administration's State Department, where he was director for policy planning until 1986. He later served as deputy assistant for national security affairs for both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. After leaving the Bush Senior administration, Rodman joined the editorial staff of the right-wing National Review, where he served as an editor until 1999.7

During the 1990s, Rodman supported the advocacy campaigns of PNAC, a neoconservative-led group created by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in 1997 with the intention of advocating a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity," as declared in the group's founding statement of principles, which Rodman signed.8 Other signatories to this statement included Rumsfeld, Cheney, Elliott Abrams, and I. Lewis Libby—all of whom would, along with Rodman, later be tagged to serve in the administration of George W. Bush. Rodman also signed three other early PNAC open letters urging President Bill Clinton and congressional figures to oust Saddam Hussein from power, and he contributed a chapter on Russia for Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy, a 2000 PNAC volume edited by Kristol and Kagan.9

In a 1999 essay for Freedom House, "Multilateralism and Its Discontents," Rodman faintly echoed neoconservative notions about the moral righteousness of U.S. military power. Arguing that, "Iraq may turn out to be multilateralism's last hurrah," Rodman wrote that one's views on the value of multilateralism ultimately come down an individual's views about the United States. "Those who believe the United States guilty of too many sins in the past—and these include some Americans—will be eager to see restraints on American unilateral action. Those who believe that global freedom and peace and the cause of human rights have more often than not been advanced if not sustained by the United States, acting out of some combination of its own self-interest and a general interest, will find multilateralism a potential source of paralysis."10

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq years later did little to change Rodman's views. In a 2007 op-ed for the Washington Post, Rodman equated any decision to begin pulling out of Iraq with defeat. He wrote, "All the hyperventilation about American hubris and unilateralism is a tired cliche; it never had much validity anyway. The real problem is that the pressures pushing us to accept defeat in Iraq are already profoundly unnerving to allies in the Middle East, and elsewhere, who rely on the United States to help ensure their security in the face of continuing dangers. If we let ourselves be driven out of Iraq, what the world will seek most from the next president will not be some great demonstration of humility and self-abasement—that is, to be the 'un-Bush'—but rather for reassurance that the United States is still strong, capable of acting decisively and committed to the security of its friends."11

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, Rodman published many books, essays, and articles covering national security, strategic affairs, and Cold War history. He is the author of More Precious than Peace—a history of the Cold War in the Third World—and of a series of monographs on strategic issues published by the Nixon Center. Shortly before his death, Rodman completed Presidential Command: Power, Leadership, and the Making of Foreign Policy from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, which is expected to be published in early 2009.12

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Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

Sources

1. Brookings Institution, "Peter W. Rodman," http://www.brookings.edu/experts/r/rodmanp.aspx.

2. Brookings Institution, "Peter W. Rodman," http://www.brookings.edu/experts/r/rodmanp.aspx.

3. Brookings Institution "Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman to Join Brookings Institution," press release, November 15, 2006, http://www.brookings.edu/comm/news/20061115.htm.

4. Douglas Martin, "Peter Rodman, Pentagon Aide," International Herald Tribune, August 7, 2008, p. 4.

5. Douglas Martin, "Peter Rodman, Pentagon Aide," International Herald Tribune, August 7, 2008, p. 4.

6. Peter Dickson, "Robert Gates: Realist or Neo-Con?" ConsortiumNews.com, December 4, 2006.

7. Center for the Study of the Presidency, Speaker Biographies: Peter Rodman, http://web.archive.org/web/20060223092438/http://www.thepresidency.org/events/lead/991022pwr.htm (Web Archive).

8. Right Web, "A Complete List of PNAC Signatories and Contributing Writers," Political Research Associates.

9. Right Web, "A Complete List of PNAC Signatories and Contributing Writers," Political Research Associates.

10. Peter Rodman, "Multilateralism and Its Discontents," Freedom House, 1999, http://web.archive.org/web/20010630152922/http://freedomhouse.org/survey99/essays/rodman.html (Web Archive).

11. Peter Rodman, "Political Cover for Whom," Washington Post, July 29, 2007.

12. Brookings Institution, "Peter W. Rodman," http://www.brookings.edu/experts/r/rodmanp.aspx.

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Peter Rodman Résumé

    Affiliations

  • Brookings Institution: Former Senior Fellow
  • Freedom House: Former Member, Board of Trustees
  • Project for the New American Century (PNAC): Founding Signatory, Letter Signatory
  • Nixon Center: Director of National Security Programs (1995-2001)
  • National Review: Senior Editor (1991-1999)
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS): Fellow (1977-1983)
  • Johns Hopkins Foreign Policy Institute: Former Fellow
  • Government Service

  • Defense Department: Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (2001-2007)
  • National Security Council and White House: Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and NSC Counselor (1987-1990); Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (1986-1987); Staffer (1969-1977)
  • State Department: Director, Policy Planning Staff for Secretary of State George Shultz (1984-86); Special Assistant to Henry Kissinger (1972-1977)
  • Private Sector

  • Kissinger Associates, Inc.: Former Director of Research
  • Education

  • Harvard Law School: J.D.
  • Oxford University: B.A., M.A.
  • Harvard College: A.B., Summa Cum
  • Dates of Birth, Death

  • Nov. 24, 1943 to Aug. 2, 2008

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