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Brent Scowcroft is back in the tent

By A. James Memmott

November 25, 2008 at 10:58am

Brent Scowcroft has gone from insider to outsider. Now he’s back on the inside again.

Scowcroft, 83, the national security adviser in the first Bush presidency, became persona non grata at the White House during the second Bush presidency.

Scowcroft, a Republican, lost standing with the younger George Bush for publicly opposing the Iraq war before and after U.S. forces went into that country in 2003.

But Scowcroft’s foreign policy views would seem to be in synch with those of Barack Obama, the president-elect, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The two men have spoken often, and some of Scowcroft’s proteges are expected to part of the Obama administration, the Journal reported.

Robert Gates, the current secretary of defense and a favorite to continue in that position under Obama, was Scowcroft’s deputy national security adviser in the first Bush administration.

Richard N. Haass, who was Scowcroft’s deputy for Near East and South Asia affairs in the first Bush administration, may join Obama’s National Security Council.

Scowcroft is also close to Colin Powell, the former secretary of state who endorsed Obama near the end of the presidential campaign.

Powell preceded Scowcroft as national security adviser under George H.W. Bush.

Finally, Scowcroft is philosophically aligned with Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is his party’s ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Obama has consistently pointed to Lugar as someone who has influenced him on foreign policy matters, and in 2006 he and Lugar co-sponsored a bill aimed to keep weapons away from terrorists.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy who rose to the rank of lieutenant general, Scowcroft himself is a protege of Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state.

Scowcroft was an assistant to Kissinger, then the national security adviser, during the Nixon administration. In the 1980s, Scowcroft was vice chairman of Kissinger’s consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.

Scowcroft, who was also national security adviser in the Gerald Ford administration, has long advocated a “pragmatic” approach to foreign relations.

Obama shares this approach to foreign affairs, the Journal and other media have reported, and both men support some diplomatic engagement with Iran.

“Compared to the other alternatives we face with Iran, we ought to give it a really good, sincere try,” Scowcroft told the Journal. “I have a hunch that we’ll be more successful than a lot of detractors think.”

Scowcroft, who heads The Scowcroft Group, a consulting firm, has also advocated a renewed effort to achieve an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement.

In August 2002, Scowcroft fell out of favor with the George H.W. Bush administration when he wrote a Wall Street Journal opinion piece headlined “Don’t Attack Saddam.”

“Any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism,” wrote Scowcroft, who was then the chairman of Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. “Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time.”

The piece angered people within the Bush White House, including his friend Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, The New Yorker reported in October 2005. Scowcroft had brought Rice, then a professor at Stanford University, to the National Security Council in 1989.

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