Richard Armitage

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Richard Armitage (1945-) is an American foreign policy specialist, currently in his own private consulting firm, who served in a variety of political and military posts, the highest being Deputy Secretary of State in the George W. Bush Administration. At present, he is Board of Directors of ConocoPhillips, ManTech International Corporation and Transcu Ltd., is a member of The American Academy of Diplomacy as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).[1]

He is a close friend of Colin Powell, and, like Powell, is more an internationalist than a neoconservative, although he signed the 1999 Project for the New American Century letter to Bill Clinton, recommending an attack on Saddam's Iraq.[2] Ironically, of the senior civilian officials in the Bush Administration, he was the one with the most combat and counterinsurgency experience, yet was least consulted on that expertise.

Early life

He graduated from the United States Naval Academy, class of 1967, and was commissioned an ensign in the United States Navy. He first went to the Vietnam War on a destroyer, and then served three combat tours as an adviser to the Vietnamese riverine forces. He became fluent in Vietnamese. Some reports incorrectly describe him as a U.S. Navy SEAL,[3] but he did have missions that overlapped the SEAL inland water patrols.

Leaving active Navy duty in 1973, he became a Defense Department employee in South Vietnam, and helped remove Vietnamese Navy personnel and equipment before the fall of South Vietnam.

In May 1975, he came to Washington as a Pentagon consultant and was posted in Tehran, Iran, until November 1976. After private sector work, he became Administrative Assistant to Senator Robert Dole (R-KS) in 1978.

Reagan Administration

In the 1980 Reagan campaign, he was senior advisor to the Interim Foreign Policy Advisory board, which prepared the President-Elect for major international policy issues confronting the new administration. He worked with Caspar Weinberger in this role, who found him a complement:

Weinberger was precisely the sort of person whom Armitage knew how to charm. In style, Armitage was everything Weinberger was not. The defense secretary was slight in build, formal in manner, cultivated and enamored of pomp and ceremony; Armitage was physically imposing, loose, brash, outgoing and informal. In military terms, the defense secretary could legitimately look at Armitage as representing a successor generation; during World War II Weinberger had been an infantryman and an intelligence officer under General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific.[4]

From 1981 until June 1983, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In the Pentagon from June 1983 to May 1989, he served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

George H. W. Bush Administration

After the Bush victory, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney asked him to serve as Secretary of the Army. While Armitage had had the East Asian post, H. Ross Perot, then a powerful businessman deeply involved in the Vietnam War POW-MIA issue, Perot concluded Armitage was blocking his proposals and tried, but failed, to have him fired. Perot, however, gained considerable support in Congress, especially from Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina (U.S. state)), to block the nomination. When Armitage found Cheney lukewarm about supporting the nomination, he withdrew it. They stayed on reasonably cordial terms in later years, but there was a sense of distance.[4]

From 1989 through 1992, he was Presidential Special Negotiator for the Philippines Military Bases Agreement and Special Mediator for Water in the Middle East. President Bush sent him as a Special Emissary to Jordan’s King Hussein during the Gulf War. None of these required Senate approval so the Perot problem did not recur.

From March 1992 until he left government in May 1993, with the personal rank of Ambassador, he directed U.S. assistance to the new independent states (NIS) of the former Soviet Union.

George W. Bush Administration

He was Deputy Secretary of State in the George W. Bush Administration, differentiated himself from many other policy officials in the administration, in that he had the perspective of actual combat. This was one reason for his close collaboration with Colin Powell, and probably for his conflicts with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

He saw competition between Powell and Rumsfeld, and believed Rumsfeld wanted to invade Iraq with a small force, in part, to demonstrate rejection of the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine. [5]

Israel and Palestine

In the summer of 2001, Armitage was asked by Anthony Zinni to consider a peace mission to Indonesia, and, in 2001, for the Israel-Palestine Conflict. His role was to assist in restarting stalled talks, especially in getting commitment against terrorism from the Palestine Liberation Organization[6]

When a pro-Israel rally was held in Washington in April 2002, during a new push for peace with Palestine, Armitage was considered as the Administration's representative, but it was decided that sending a State Department representative might imply too much approval of the Israeli position, at a time when Powell was negotiating. [7]


On the day of the 9-11 attack, he was on the main operational conference, representing State. Richard Clarke described him as focused, "responding in tactical radio style", and emphatic on counterattacking the Taliban and al-Qaeda.[8]


While he had signed the 1998 PNAC letter recommending regime change, by 2002, he was opposed to any cooperation with Ahmed Chalabi, a favorite of Cheney. [9] He and Powell also continued to ask internal questions about the justification. According to Bob Woodward, he considered the foreign policy apparatus, under Condoleeza Rice, "dysfunctional", and was more critical internally than was Powell; Armitage believed that Rice needed to do more to manage Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell so a full range of options were given to the President. [10]

Nevertheless, as the decision came closer, he was a public supporter. He told Vladimir Putin that the U.S. did not need a second U.N. resolution to authorize an attack. [11]

Bush second term

Armitage left the Administration in the second term. Among the positions he took, as a private citizen, was that the only way to resolve Israel's conflict with Hizbollah and Lebanon was for the U.S. to talk with Syria.[12]

He testified that he had inadvertently leaked the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson to Robert Novak. [13]


  1. The Honorable Richard L. Armitage, Armitage International
  2. Letter from the Project for a New American Century to President Bill Clinton. Dated January 26, 1998. Retrieved May 7, 2008.
  3. Richard A. Clarke (2004), Against all Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, Free Press, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0743260244, p. 9
  4. 4.0 4.1 James Mann (2004), Rise of the Vulcans: the History of Bush's War Cabinet, Viking, ISBN 0670032990, p. 108 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Mann" defined multiple times with different content
  5. Thomas Ricks (2006), Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Penguin, p. 102
  6. Powell, Colin L. (March 29, 2002), Briefing on Situation in the Middle East
  7. Mann, p. 325
  8. Clarke, p. 9, p. 23
  9. Isakoff, Michael & David Corn (2006), Hubris: the Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War, Crown, ISBN 0307346811, pp. 53-55
  10. Bob Woodward (2004), Plan of Attack, Simon & Schuster, pp. 414-415
  11. "Armitage: UN decree for Iraq war not needed", The Associated Press, 23 January 2003
  12. "Richard Armitage: U.S. Must Talk to Syria", Morning Edition, National Public Radio, July 26, 2006
  13. Joel Seidman (September 20, 2006), "The Armitage effect: Star prosecutor Fitzgerald faces tough battle in CIA leak probe", NBC News