Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, 1932-2021

Donald Henry Rumsfeld, who has actually passed away at the age of 88, had the distinct difference of being both the youngest and earliest guy to function as United States secretary of defence. His stints in the job, separated by a quarter of a century, were formed initially by the cold war and after that by what he called “the global war on terrorism”. They marked him out as a military strategist comfy with difficult Washington orthodoxies and forecasting American power abroad, a worldview he carried out with a self-esteem that verged on conceit.

It was his hesitation to brook dissent that, critics argued, coloured his specifying tradition: assisting encourage President George W Bush to get into Iraq in 2003 after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. Rumsfeld, who had actually supported assaulting Saddam Hussein’s Iraq even prior to rejoining federal government as Bush’s defence secretary in 2001, ended up being the intrusion’s leading cheerleader within the administration. He overthrew generals on release schedules and overlooked diplomats prompting him to carry out in-depth postwar preparation. He then bore much of the blame when a fast military triumph versus Saddam ended up being a grinding counterinsurgency that the United States was ill-prepared for.

Rumsfeld, circa 1975 © Getty Images

Rumsfeld was born in the Chicago location on July 9 1932, the boy of George and Jeanette Rumsfeld. He matured in the Chicago suburban area of Winnetka, where he ended up being an Eagle Scout and went to New Trier High School. The Rumsfeld household likewise quickly resided in Coronado, California, throughout the 2nd world war, when George served in the United States Navy on a carrier.

After finishing from Princeton University, where he was on the fumbling group, Rumsfeld ended up being a navy pilot in 1954. In the exact same year he wed Joyce Pierson, with whom he had 2 children and one boy.

After demobilisation in 1957, he went to work in Washington as a congressional assistant, prior to a two-year stint as a financial investment lender in Chicago. In 1962 he was chosen to the United States Legislature as a Republican from Illinois and served 3 terms. He resigned in 1969 to sign up with Richard Nixon’s brand-new administration as director of the Workplace of Economic Chance, a now defunct company accountable for administering anti-poverty programs. Among his very first employees there was Penis Cheney, who later on as United States vice-president was prominent in bringing his coach back to the Pentagon in 2001.

President Ronald Reagan and Rumsfeld, then Middle East envoy, offer a press rundown at the White Home in 1983 © AP

Rumsfeld satisfies Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 1983 © Getty Images

Rumsfeld flourished in the country’s capital. In 1971 he was called director of the financial stabilisation program and 2 years later on was sent out to Brussels as United States ambassador to Nato. However Nixon’s resignation in 1974 brought him back house, initially to run President Gerald Ford’s shift group and after that as his White Home chief of personnel, with Cheney as deputy and later on follower.

In 1975, aged 43, Rumsfeld became the youngest-ever secretary of defence. The circumstances of his appointment were inauspicious. His predecessor, James Schlesinger, was fired by Ford after repeated disputes with Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state.

Once installed in the Pentagon, Rumsfeld proved to be a wily bureaucrat. It looked as though he had inherited a poisoned chalice. The military was not only in the throes of a difficult transition to an all-volunteer force but also demoralised by its defeat in the Vietnam war. Additionally, the political tide had turned against increased defence spending.

He met these challenges head on, pushing for further reforms of the armed services, development of the cruise missile and the B1 bomber, a prototype of which he flew as a pilot, more ships for the navy and, naturally, a bigger budget. He justified his ambitious plans on the grounds that the threat posed by the former Soviet Union demanded nothing less, and in his initially year, secured substantial extra federal funding.

Rumsfeld meets then Afghan leader Hamid Karzai at Bagram airfield in 2001 © Reuters

Rumsfeld shakes hands with members of the US military forces at an undisclosed location near the Afghan border in 2001 © Reuters

But he also fell out with the military brass. He overruled them on a conservative design for the M-1 tank, designed as Nato’s primary fighting vehicle, by insisting that it accommodate both American and European sized guns. And he publicly disciplined General George Brown, then chair of the US joint chiefs of personnel, after an undiplomatic outburst that, among other things, described the British army as “a pathetic sight”.

The Democratic victory in the 1976 elections prompted Rumsfeld to embark on a career in the private sector. He served as chief executive and later on chair of GD Searle, the Chicago-based pharmaceuticals company, before running General Instrument Corp, a pioneer of high-definition television. From 1997 until 2001 he was chair of Gilead Sciences, a US drugmaker that was best-known for its HIV medications.

US marines cheer for Rumsfeld as he is introduced at a town-hall meeting held at Camp Pendleton, California in 2002 © AP

Rumsfeld in the hold of a C-130 military aircraft as he flies over Iraq in 2004 © AP

Though he did not return to cabinet during the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan or longtime rival George HW Bush, he remained an influential spokesman on security issues, and briefly weighed running for president himself after Reagan’s second term ended in 1988. Named in 1998 by the Republican leadership in Congress to head a commission on ballistic missiles, he concluded that the threat posed by “rogue” states, such as North Korea, was grave. His report underpinned the case, adopted by George W Bush in 2001, for a national missile defence system. He also argued publicly that Saddam should be removed by force if necessary.

His return to the Pentagon in 2001 did not go smoothly at first. He immediately ordered a fundamental and wide-ranging review of the structure of the US armed forces but the consultative process that ensued alarmed the conservative military brass.

Rumsfeld was reluctant to push for a bigger defence budget. In one sense he was hamstrung, since the new Bush administration was intent on passing deep tax cuts and did not want to implement any large increases in departmental spending. But his reticence made him unpopular in some rightwing circles. By the summer of his first year, several pundits were calling for his replacement. That changed with the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001. After a jetliner was flown into the Pentagon, he rushed from his office to try to rescue those who were trapped, earning him admiration among staff.

Rumsfeld talks to Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, then the top commander of American forces in Iraq, in 2004 © EPA

Rumsfeld and China’s then defence minister Cao Gangchuan attend a welcoming ceremony at the Chinese defence ministry in Beijing in 2005 © Reuters

Rumsfeld will be remembered not only for his bureaucratic prowess but also for his aphorisms. His admission in 2002 that there were “known knowns” and “known unknowns” about the Iraqi government’s programme for weapons of mass destruction, while initially mocked, ended up being part of the political lexicon for leaders dealing with complex problems.

Rumsfeld resigned in 2006, after Republicans took a battering in the midterm elections amid growing public discontent over the Iraq war. He largely retreated from public life but published two books — a 2011 memoir entitled Known and Unknown and a 2013 advice volume called Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life. He also participated in Errol Morris’s documentary about his life.

In his later years, he released a mobile gaming app called Churchill Solitaire, based on a version of the card game played by the late UK prime minister. And six months before he died, he co-authored an opinion piece in The Washington Post alongside nine other former US defence secretaries, warning that the armed force must not contribute in Donald Trump’s efforts to obstruct Joe Biden from ending up being president.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.