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paths to power
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.]



Rumsfeld engineers success after success in the Ford Administration, first as White House chief of staff, and then as the nation's youngest-ever defense secretary. Cheney follows, becoming White House chief of staff in his mid-30s. But all is not well: The military is reeling, and Ford lasts less than three years. Meanwhile, two men are developing views that will come to shape their positions years later on Iraq -- Wolfowitz in the Pentagon, working as an analyst, and Armitage in Vietnam, witnessing the fall of Saigon.


Donald Rumsfeld

Dick Cheney

Paul Wolfowitz

Colin Powell

Richard Armitage

Nixon is out, Ford is in

Rumsfeld presides over the Ford transition and then becomes White House chief of staff. From his new position of power, he begins to challenge Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, especially on arms control.

· Rumsfeld vs. Kissinger >

Cheney, left behind when his boss Rumsfeld went to NATO, is back in the game. He becomes an assistant in the White House again after Rumsfeld calls him on his way back from NATO HQ in Brussels.

Wolfowitz is still working as an analyst in the Pentagon's Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, where he will stay for the entirety of the Ford Administration. His work mainly concerns the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) and nuclear nonproliferation.

Powell continues to advance in the Army, having made powerful friends at the White House -- including future Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, the later co-author of his eponymous military doctrine.


Spring, 1975:
The fall of Saigon

The Ford administration announces that all Americans are out of Saigon -- but a few are still there. The top brass want to cover up the mistake, but Rumsfeld pushes for telling the truth.

· Rumsfeld the truth-teller >




Armitage arranges for thousands of South Vietnamese refugees to leave the country by boat. He singlehandedly leads them to Manila, where they eventually are allowed safe harbor.

· Armitage the war hero >

Fall, 1975:
A shake-up in the Cabinet

At 44, Rumsfeld becomes the youngest secretary of defense in U.S. history. He takes over a military destroyed by Vietnam and wracked with drug problems and racial tension. There are other worries, too: Congress is trying to destroy the CIA.

· Rumsfeld helps the CIA >

· Vietnam's aftermath >

Cheney takes over as White House chief of staff. No task is too small, whether sending out the White House Christmas cards or getting toilets fixed, and he augments his reputation for efficiency.



Armitage has finally come to Washington, only to be sent back abroad. He serves in Tehran as a Pentagon consultant, and will stay there until the end of the Ford administration.


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posted oct. 26, 2004

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