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Across seven administrations they have shared a belief in the importance of American military power. Today, they are 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.]



This first Bush administration foreshadows many aspects of the Bush administration 12 years later. Rumsfeld is in the background, but key players are Cheney, Wolfowitz and Powell, who spend the four years arguing over Iraq, WMDs, use of force, and the strategy required for U.S. military dominance in a post-Cold War world. Alliances are cemented -- Cheney and Wolfowitz, Powell and Armitage -- and Rice finds herself caught in the middle.


Donald Rumsfeld

Dick Cheney

Paul Wolfowitz

Colin Powell

Richard Armitage

Condoleezza Rice

New powers, new threats


Most of the administration is moderate, but not Cheney, the new secretary of defense. Leading an effort to create a military budget that will not cut too much funding -- even though the Cold War is winding down and the Berlin Wall will fall in September -- Cheney points to emerging new threats, specifically WMD.

Wolfowitz, now number three at the Pentagon, orders a review of Persian Gulf policy with an eye toward defending the Saudi oil fields from an invasion by a nearby nation, such as Iraq, which has used chemical weapons on the Kurds at Halabja. The Iraq-Iran war has been over for a year.

Now a four-star general, Powell had been serving as Reagan's national security adviser. At Cheney's suggestion, he becomes chair of the Joint Chiefs -- where he will become so powerful that he overshadows Cheney.

· Powell's power >

Eager to become secretary of the Army, Armitage is blocked by a powerful enemy: Ross Perot. Instead, he becomes Bush's negotiator for military policy in the Philippines and aid to former Soviet states. He remains close to his friend Powell.

· Armitage's lost chance >

In these final days of the Soviet Union -- her academic specialty -- Rice directs Bush's policies on Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council. Hawkish, but not so much as Cheney or Wolfowitz, she will also advise Bush during the Gulf War.

December 1989:
Noriega overthrown




Powell, in full military uniform, is as commanding in his press conferences as he is within the military, and a star is born. The Panama invasion, which involves a large number of U.S. troops, is the military's first post-Cold War success.

· The media's new darling >



August 1990:
Iraq invades Kuwait


Cheney is keen to respond to Iraq with force. Behind Powell's back, he begins work on a plan for U.S. invasion -- "Operation Scorpion" -- and argues that Bush does not need Congressional approval for the war. Bush, however, insists. Cheney also orders Powell to keep his advice strictly limited to military matters.

Wolfowitz helps Cheney develop his plan. But he argues against going in to Baghdad. Later, he explained his opposition at the time, writing that an occupation might be "easy initially," but it was "unclear how or when it would have ended."

· Wolfowitz's warning >

· Should we have ousted Hussein? >

Powell prefers containment and U.N. sanctions to invasion. He speaks up and is rebuked by Cheney, who tells him to stick to his job description. He doesn't. In the next few weeks, he speaks out even louder -- but behind closed doors.

· Powell the renegade >



January 1991:
U.S. air strikes begin


Cheney's war plan, which might result in chaos in the region, is rejected. But he presses on, asking for a new civilian-authored war plan and independent assessments of the SCUD missile threat (and further angering Powell in the process). His second plan more closely resembles the one eventually used.

· Cheney vs. Powell >


The war plan that prevails is based partly on the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force and quick fighting. Powell keeps some details secret from Cheney, who is increasingly frustrated by the man he himself suggested for the post.



February 1991:
The military, vindicated




The huge success in Iraq -- after only four days of ground fighting -- shows that the military has more than recovered from Vietnam. Powell is a media hero, and the Army feels vindicated after years of remaking itself.

· Was Iraq a tough adversary? >



March 1991:
Saddam strikes back



Hussein uses his helicopters to gun down Shiites and Kurds; 100,000 die between March and September. A horrified Wolfowitz pleads for U.S. intervention, but can get no support. The incident fuels both neo-conservatism and Wolfowitz's fixation on Hussein.

· A lack of post-war planning? >

Powell, believing Iraq can keep Iran in check, does not want to see Iraq break up. He suspects Saddam Hussein may not last much longer and says the U.S. has no mandate for invasion. He does not respond to the helicopter attacks, drawing Wolfowitz's ire.

· Wolfowitz vs. Powell >



Bin Laden and preemption


Cheney has his hands full: Wolfowitz, who is now talking to Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi, has voiced his divisive views a bit too strongly. The military is becoming dependent on technology and inflating its success in Gulf War I. And in the Middle East, Osama bin Laden is angered by the U.S.'s new presence in Saudi Arabia following the Gulf War.

· Bin Laden: The newest threat >

Wolfowitz writes the Defense Planning Guidance, arguing that the Cold War idea of containment is dead and military preemption of threats, particularly WMD, is the U.S.'s best strategy. The draft is leaked and, amid controversy, Cheney rewrites it, editing out mentions of preemption and unilateralism.

· The dangers of preemption >

· Chalabi emerges >





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posted oct. 26, 2004

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