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Across seven administrations they shared a belief in the importance of American military power. Post-9/11, they were President Bush's war cabinet. Here's an overview of their intertwined relationships over the decades, their conflicts, and the events that have shaped their views on America's role in the world. [This historical chart is drawn in large part from James Mann's book, Rise of the Vulcans (2004), a history of the lives, ideas and careers of Bush's war cabinet.]



Richard Nixon's presidency is the early testing ground for many of the men who will advise George W. Bush decades later. Nixon gives Rumsfeld his first taste of life in the executive branch -- and his first enemies. Cheney, Wolfowitz and Powell have their own firsts: Washington jobs with the era's most powerful politicians. But for Armitage in Vietnam, Washington is literally and figuratively miles away.


Donald Rumsfeld

Dick Cheney

Paul Wolfowitz

Colin Powell

Richard Armitage

Richard Nixon takes office; the war in Vietnam continues to escalate

Rumsfeld, a congressman from Ill., helps Nixon win and becomes director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, an unpopular liberal program which he ends up vigorously supporting. He is ambitious and has many enemies, but finds a mentor in Nixon.

· Congressman Rumsfeld >

· Audio: Rumsfeld and Nixon: caught on tape >

Young Cheney flubs his first job interview with Rumsfeld, but quickly impresses him with a memo on how to run and staff OEO. He becomes Rumsfeld's low-key personal assistant.

· Rumsfeld and Cheney >

· Tag-team at the OEO >

A Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago, Wolfowitz spends the summer working with another student, Richard Perle, and the legendarily hawkish Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Wash.), drafting memos supporting Nixon's anti-ballistic missile treaty.

Powell, finishing up his second tour in Vietnam, is now a senior officer. He has come to believe that Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara and the other Pentagon civilians have no understanding of the reality on the ground in Vietnam.

Originally assigned to a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam, Armitage has been moved to shore duty by his own request. Just two years out of the Naval Academy, Ensign Armitage finds himself leading and training South Vietnamese ambush units.

An unlikely dove in the White House

Rumsfeld realizes there is no strategy to win Vietnam. He secretly pushes to end the war and tries to get involved with post-war planning. Nixon tells him to concentrate elsewhere.

· Was Rumsfeld really a dove? >

· The plot against Rumsfeld >

Cheney follows Rumsfeld to the White House, but soon moves on to serve as assistant director of the Cost of Living Council. He will stay there until 1973, when he returns to private life as a businessman.




Nixon wins re-election

Rumsfeld is still frustrated by his lack of specific duties in the White House. His biggest nemesis, Henry Kissinger, is frustrated too -- a new school of thought, nascent neoconservatism, has started challenging Kissinger's worldview.


Wolfowitz finishes his Ph.D., writing his thesis on nuclear weapons in the Middle East. He goes to work for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, helped by his connection to Sen. Scoop Jackson, who now has Nixon's ear.

· The beginnings of neo-conservatism >

Powell, now widely seen as an up-and-comer, takes a fellowship at the White House and then a job assisting Frank Carlucci, Rumsfeld's OEO colleague, in the Office of Management and Budget.


Unlikely hawks

Rumsfeld seeks foreign experience to help him in a later Senate campaign. He gets it: He is named ambassador to NATO. He disapproves of NATO's sluggishness and begins to develop a hawkish view of the world. Meanwhile, Watergate is unfolding -- but, safely out of the country, he remains untainted by it.

· Slow going at NATO >




After three tours in Vietnam, Armitage has become a hawk. Nixon and Kissinger's move toward a Vietnam peace settlement angers him. Armitage is told it's time to exit the Navy for the good of his career. But he doesn't want to leave Vietnam, so he joins the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.


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posted oct. 26, 2004

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