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A Summary and Review of James Mann's
Rise of the Vulcans:
The History of Bush's War Cabinet

Introduction Donald Rumsfeld Richard Cheney Paul Wolfowitz
Colin Powell Richard Armitage Condoleezza Rice


Rise of the Vulcans is an excellent, fascinating account of the backgrounds of the six principal foreign policy advisers of President George W. Bush. There are many insights in the book but one wonders how comprehensive the author's perceptions are when he completely missed the connotation of the name Vulcans. According to Mann the name arises because there is a fifty-six-foot statue of the Roman god Vulcan overlooking the downtown of the steel city of Birmingham, Alabama, the town where Condoleezza Rice grew up. To most Americans the name Vulcans congers up the steely rational race of Mr. Spock of the Star Trek story. And undoubtably the Star Trek allusion is the correct one. Vulcan was a singular god, a lame one at that. It makes no more sense to pluralize Vulcan that it would to refer to some group of high policy makers as Jupiters. In fact, it would make more sense to refer to Bush's foreign policy makers as Jupiters than as Vulcans. Furthermore there is the awkward problem of Condoleezza Rice's gender if the allusion was to the Roman god. But Mr. Spock comes from the planet Vulcan and so all members of the race, male and female, are Vulcans. And there is no allusion to lameness or proletarian blacksmithery for the residents of the planet. Mr. Spock and his race are notable for being coldly rational and unemotional. This is exactly the image that Bush's group of foreign policy advisers would want to cultivate.

The following summaries are largely based upon The Rise of the Vulcans, but here and there some extraneous commentary has been added.

(To be continued.)

Donald Rumsfeld

The picture that emerges from Mann's presentation of Rumsfeld's political career is that of a tough competitor who intends to win. His ideology is a bit ambiguous. Generally he would be characterized as a liberal Republican but political circumstances have required that he take political stances at variance with that label. And that flexibility too is part of winning in politics.

Rumsfeld's politically formative years to place in a North Shore suburb of Chicago. In high school he was a star member of his school's wrestling team which won the Illinois state championship. When Rumsfeld went on to Princeton he was the captain of the wrestling team there. Wrestling competition at this level requires a large amount of drive and determination. And this is competition against an opponent where sizing up the opposition, anticipating his strategy, intimidating him and keeping one's own strategy and tactics a secret are essential elements of the fray.

After graduation from Princeton Rumsfeld went into the Navy for three years. The Navy was also the service which his father served in. Rumsfeld became a Navy pilot and flight instructor. Again this indicate a great deal of dedication and drive. After his stint in the Navy Rumsfeld, where incidentally he was also a wrestling champion, he felt he had a shot at being a member of the U.S. Olympic team for 1956, until a shoulder injury took him out of the running.

In the late 1950's Rumsfeld worked as a Congressional aide until he left to run in the Congressional race in his home district in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. Rumsfeld won a seat in Congress.

In Congress Rumsfeld was conservative on economic issues but willing to support social issues such as civil rights and the abolishment of the military draft. He allied himself with a think tank studying foreign policy strategy at Georgetown University. When Barry Goldwater lost the presidential election of 1964 to Lyndon Johnson, Rumsfeld participated in a purge of the Goldwater supporter who was House Minority Leader and his replacement with then Congressman Gerald Ford. Rumsfeld became an adviser of Ford.

In 1968 Rumsfeld was ready to move on to something else after serving three terms in the House of Reprsentatives. rumsfeld campaigned hard for Richard Nixon and developed a good rapport with him, but alienated some of the top advisers of Nixon and did not get the political appointment he was hoping for.

When two Republican governors turned down the opportunity to run an agency leftover from Johnson's War on Povery, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the appointment was given to Rumsfeld.

Generally Rumsfeld was opposed to social engineering ventures but when put in charge of OEO he tried to make it work. What the Nixon administration wanted Rumsfeld to do was to rein in the political activists who were using the programs of legal aid to the poor to bedevil state governors. Rumsfeld did curb the abuses but within a few months he was pursuing the mandate of the OEO. To handle the management of the organization Rumsfeld hired Richard Cheney. Cheney was quiet, efficient and nonconfrontational. That left Rumsfeld free to concentrate on the political and public image of the organization. One major initiate that Rumsfeld introduced to the political arena is tax credits for private school tuition.

In 1970 Rumsfeld was ready to move on. Nixon was generally pleased with the political image which Rumsfeld projected of moderate Republicanism. Nixon wanted to give Rumsfeld a cabinet appointment, either as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development or Secretary of Transportion but the holders of those positions would not resign. Nixon gave Rumsfeld temporary assignments with the intend of making him American ambassador to NATO. Interestingly enough that appointment was held up because Nixon political operatives wanted Rumsfeld available to help with strategy for the 1972 presidential campaign. After Nixon's reelection Rumsfeld did go to NATO and was thus out of Washington when the Watergate episode developed and the Nixon administration came to an end.

Gerald Ford, when he became president, called Rumsfeld back from Europe to be his Chief-of-Staff in the White House. Rumsfeld then brought Dick Cheney to the White House to be his assistant. Cheney was the dependable functionary who handled the details, freeing Rumsfeld to deal with the bigger issues of bureaucratic politics. After about a year Ford appointed Rumsfeld secretary of defense and Cheney was made Ford's chief-of-staff.

When Ford assumed office Henry Kissinger was given complete jurisdiction over foreign policy. Kissinger was emphasizing detente with the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld began a campaign to overturn that policy and soon dethroned Kissinger. Mann quotes a saying that apparently was common among Republicans at the time:

Donald Rumsfeld does not lose.

His opponents acused Rumsfeld of chosing his position on policy issues not on the basis of conviction but on the basis of what would give him victory in the bureacratic power struggles.

(To be continued.)

Richard Cheney

Dick Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyoming. He was a highschool football star in Casper and that fame served him well when he ran for Congress. Cheney was however a major political figure at the time he ran for that office. He had been the White House chief of staff for Gerald Ford.

In addition to being a football star in his highschool Dick Cheney had been class president. When he graduated from highschool he received a scholarship to go to Yale. Yale did not suit the young Cheney. Although there may be many other reasons for Cheney's dissatisfaction with Yale the difference in climate between dry, sunny Wyoming and damp, overcast Connecticut was undoubtably one of them. In Wyoming, while it may be cold it is usually sunny and the snow does not stay on the ground for long. That is not true of New England and a damp cold at 20° below zero in New Haven is a far greater hardship than that same temperature in sunny Wyoming.

In any case, Dick Cheney left Yale after two years and worked in the West building power lines. This was a significant experience and gave him training in organization.

He later entered the University of Wyoming and completed his undergraduate degree in political science. He also married during that period. From the University of Wyoming Dick Cheney went on to the Univesity of Wisconsin to earn a Ph.D. in political science.

After completion of his Ph.D. he was awarded a fellowship to go to Washington, D.C. and work for a member of Congress. Dick Cheney is a laconic Westerner and he did not impress all of the Congressmen who interviewed him. In particular, he was flatly turned down by Representative Donald Rumsfeld. But Representative William Steiger of Wisconsin saw Cheney's strengths and selected him as an assistant.

While working for Steiger, Cheney wrote a memorandum on how to staff a Federal agency. This memo was passed on to Donald Rumsfeld who had been recently selected to head the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). OEO was one of Lyndon Johnson War on Poverty programs. It was not a particularly welcome organization in the Nixon Administration. Political activists in the OEO were using the agency's funds to launch legal challenges for state governors. Rumsfeld's assignment was to reign in the political activism of the OEO. To the surprise of the Nixon Administration Donald Rumsfeld was attempting to carry out the mandate of OEO. He saw in Dick Cheney someone who could keep the organization running smoothly and efficiently and so he hired Dick Cheney to be his administrative assistant. This working relationship between Cheney and Rumsfeld lasted, off and on, for three decades.

(To be continued.)

Paul Wolfowitz

James Mann's material on Paul Wolfowitz is extremely valuable in fitting Wolfowitz into a political millieu. Paul Wolfowitz's foreign policy stance is not his own idiosyncratic creation. It came as result of his academic training under Allan Bloom at Cornell University, who in turn, drew upon the philosophizing of Leo Strauss of the University of Chicago. Wolfowitz went to the University of Chicago just before Leo Strauss retired and was more influenced by Albert Wohlstetter who specialized in nuclear weapon strategy analysis.

Paul Wolfowitz's career was influenced that of his father, Jacob Wolfowitz. Jacob was a childhood immigrant from Poland. He earned a degree from the City College of New York which allowed him to teach in a high school where he earned enough to finance his graduate education in mathematics at New York University. After Jacob Wolfowitz earned his Ph.D. he taught at Columbia and specialized in statistical theory. He was a committed Zionist and joined in the protests against the Soviet Union's treatment of dissidents and minorities. In 1951 Jacob Wolfowitz moved to Cornell University.

Paul Wolfowitz's formative years were spent at Cornell. He had initially intended to go to college at Harvard but he received a scholarship to Cornell which provided a great financial inducement to attend Cornell. His father wanted him to major in mathematics or one of the hard sciences. Paul did major in mathematics but he found himself drawn to political science.

(To be continued.)

Colin Powell

Colin Powell's career consists of two phases. The first was his military career; a career that was quite successful on its own. The second was the far more spectacular rise to political prominence and international statesmanship.

Colin Powell was the son of Jamaican immigrants to the South Bronx. Such immigrants are sometimes labeled West Indian and the popular image of them is of people who are willing to work multiple jobs and do whatever it takes to make it in America. The first generation from these immigrants are understandably reluctant to live the rigorous life of their parents. Colin Powell wanted something different from the life of his father. College is one avenue of escape and the military is another. Colin Powell combined the two. He attended the City College of New York. There he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) soon became enamored of the military life. He rose to be the cadet leader of the ROTC at City College. With an enrollment of approximately one thousand this was a significant command.

Under the terms of his ROTC participation he had to serve three years of active duty. This was in the years of 1958 through 1961. When the ROTC hitch was up he opted to join the army as a career. This was at a time that the U.S. involvement in South Vietnam was minimal. Powell was given special training in countering guerillas and sent to South Vietnam at the end of 1962. At this stage the American soldiers in Vietnam were military advisers. Powell's tour of duty in South Vietnam was one year. He spent it in a remote valley until he was injured and taken to Hue. He experienced the frustration of having armchair officials in the Pentagon making decisions inappropriately for the soldiers in the field. It may have been at this time that he became interested in political and military policy making.

Powell returned to South Vietnam for a one year tour of duty in 1968. By this time the U.S. troop strength there had risen to a half million. Powell was in the Americal Division which provided supplies for the other troops. The commander of the Americal Division made Powell the staff officer in charge of operations and planning. It was a perfect fit for Powell. His talents lay in organization and personal diplomacy; i.e., getting things done through personal persuasion.

(To be continued.)

Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage appears to be a reasonable approximation in real life to the fictional character played by Sylvester Stallone in the movie First Blood; i.e., John J. Rambo. Richard Armitage was intending to play college football. He was accepted at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He was extraordinarily strong but not fast enough to make the team for Annapolis. He was later able to participate as a coach for the freshman football team.

His active duty service after graduating from Annapolis was in a ship off the coast of Vietnam. In 1968 during the Tet Offensive he decided that he must actively participate in the war and volunteered to advise the South Vietnam naval unit, the so-called brown water navy.

Armitage's adventures with the South Vietnamese navy patroling the Mekong River and other inland waters were dangerous and exciting but ultimately inconsequential except for their effect on him as a policy maker in the George W. Bush administration.

(To be continued.)

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice in the most interesting and important of the six policy makers because she has a fair chance of becoming the first female president and the first African-American president.

Condoleezza Rice was the only child of middle class black parents in Birmingham, Alabama. Both of her parents were educators. Her mother was a school teacher and her father was a school guidance councelor and later a college dean. At age eleven Condoleeza's family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where her father was appointed dean. After only two years her father received another deanship, this time at the University of Denver.

In Denver Condoleeza attended a parochial school, St. Mary's Academy. She was discourage by a school guidance councelor from attending college, but she went anyway. She matriculated at the University of Denver, a private college where her father was a dean.

She intended to major in music but was discouraged by the possibility that teaching music might be the only career open to her.

While searching for another career option she met the father of Madelein Albright, the Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration. He convinced her to pursue Soviet Studies.

She graduated for the University of Denver at the remarkably young age of 19 and went on to obtain a master's degree at Notre Dame. For her doctorate she came back to the University of Denver. Her dissertation was on the relationships among the Czech army, the Soviet leaders and the Soviet-approved Czech leaders. When her dissertation was completed she was appointed to the faculty of Stanford University.

The philosophical bent of the international relations faculty at Stanford was real politik; i.e., that the relationship between nations should be based upon self-interest rather than morality or ideology. It was called realism and coincided with the perspective that Condoleezza Rice had developed in her undergraduate and graduate studies.

While moderately conservative on domestic issues as well as international issues she could support the candidates of the Democrats until Jimmy Carter fumbled American interests precisely because he could not be realistic in the sense of realpolitiks. In the 1980 election she switched her support from the Democratic candidate, Carter, to the Republican candidate, Reagan. Reagan, who had been orginally a New Deal Democrat, was not so far different from her on most issues. She perhaps differed from Reagan most on his ideological rhetoric concerning the Soviet Union, but at least he was not as naieve concerning the Soviet Union as Carter appeared to have been.

It was at Stanford that people began to take note of her as an exemplary scholar, teacher and administrator. She had a specialty in arms control policy and in the early years of the Reagan Administration went to the Pentagon to serve as an advisor.

(To be continued.)

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