Government professor: Former national security advisor’s childhood influenced leadership

Caleb Wong

Former U.S. national security advisor Brent Scowcroft positively influenced foreign policy because of his tranquil childhood, government professor Bartholomew Sparrow said Thursday.

Scowcroft, who served under former presidents Gerald Ford and President George H. W. Bush, advised both administrations in an official and non-official capacity, according to Sparrow. Sparrow said Scowcroft’s ideal childhood influenced his ability to make sound policy decisions.  

“[His decisions] convey, it seems, how secure Scowcroft was growing up — secure psychologically, secure maturely, secure socially,” Sparrow said. “He had no status anxiety. He wasn’t motivated by a sense of deprivation.”

Sparrow said Scowcroft’s contributions to foreign policy were not as visible as other iconic advisors and presidents such as Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon and George Kennan because he preferred to work behind the scenes.

“He’s worked in small groups, in one-on-one closed meetings,” Sparrow said.

Sparrow said Scowcroft’s success as a national security advisor stems from a powerful combination of wisdom and a friendly personality.

“He has strong, well-informed views, but makes sure he’s willing to be persuaded by new evidence and strong arguments,” Sparrow said. “He listens. He is very serious, reserved and rightly been described as compartmentalized. He is affable; he plays pranks; also, to be sure, has a great sense of humor; he was not above making off-color jokes. He gets along well with others … in fact, the interns at his office at the Scowcroft Group in Farragut Square refer to him as ‘Yoda.’” 

Herbert Hurn, a UT alumnus and retired former sales manager at IBM, said he admired Scowcroft’s fact-based decision-making process.

“He looked at research and facts and developed his targets based on wisdom and logic rather than [on] an ideological [basis},” Hurn said. “He was doing what seemed to me what was best for America and best for the time.”

Kevin Merrill, a public affairs graduate student, said that he believes Scowcroft’s humble, friendly personality strengthened the organizations he worked for.

“He was a friend to so many different people and able to work organizations to their best efficiency and effectiveness by understanding their needs and how they cross-relate to his own needs,” Merrill said. “It’s very refreshing to know that there are leaders at the senior level who can step back and say, ‘I don’t know everything,’ or, ‘My answer is not the best answer.’”