The Strategist

Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security


By Bartholomew Sparrow

Formats and Prices




$7.99 CAD




ebook $5.99 $7.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 27, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

For more than thirty years, Brent Scowcroft has played a central role in American foreign policy. Scowcroft helped manage the American departure from Vietnam, helped plan the historic breakthrough to China, urged the first President Bush to repel the invasion of Kuwait, and worked to shape the West’s skillful response to the collapse of the Soviet empire. And when US foreign policy has gone awry, Scowcroft has quietly stepped in to repair the damage. His was one of the few respected voices in Washington to publicly warn the second President Bush against rushing to war in Iraq.

The Strategist offers the first comprehensive examination of Brent Scowcroft’s career. Author Bartholomew Sparrow details Scowcroft’s fraught relationships with such powerful figures as Henry Kissinger (the controversial mentor Scowcroft ultimately outgrew), Alexander Haig (his one-time rival for Oval Office influence), and Condoleezza Rice (whose career Scowcroft helped launch — and with whom he publicly broke over Iraq).

Through compelling narrative, in-depth research, and shrewd analysis, The Strategist brings color and focus to the complex and often secretive nature of US foreign policy — an intellectual battlefield on which personalities, ideas, and worldviews clash, dramatically shaping the world in which we live.


— PART I —

Air Force Officer

We must not forget the self-confidence that is instilled by the military training and career: those who are successful in military careers very often gain thereby a confidence that they readily carry over into economic and political realms. . . . Whatever the case may be with individuals, as a coherent group of men the military is probably the most competent group now concerned with national policy; no other group has the training in co-ordinated economic, political, and military affairs; no other group has the continuous experience in the making of decisions; no other group so readily “internalizes” the skills of other groups nor so readily engages their skills on its behalf; no other group has such ready access to world-wide information.




SHORTLY AFTER BREAKFAST one morning, Mark Twain’s westbound stagecoach overtook a Mormon emigrant train just past Independence Rock in southeastern Wyoming. “Dozens of coarse-clad and sad-looking men, women and children” trudged along, Twain wrote in Roughing It, “dusty and uncombed, hatless, bonnetless, and ragged.” Traveling the eight hundred miles from Florence, Nebraska Territory—now “Historic Florence” in Omaha, Nebraska—to Independence Rock had taken Twain’s stagecoach eight days and three hours. It had taken the Mormon wagon train eight long, exhausting weeks to cover the same distance.2

However bedraggled and trail-worn the Mormon men, women, and children may have appeared to Twain as he looked out from his stagecoach, their trek to Salt Lake City would be a success. All 150 people survived, and all thirty-three wagons arrived intact on September 2, 1861, eighty-seven days after leaving Omaha on June 7.3 Leading the Pingree Company was twenty-four-year-old Job Pingree, a tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed man originally from Worcestershire, England. Pingree was “captain,” as the leaders of the Mormon wagon trains were called, and he was returning to Utah after spending a year and a half back in his native country.

Pingree’s was one of several overland wagon trains making the trek that summer. Between 1847 and 1868, almost 50,000 Mormons arrived in Salt Lake City in a total of 7,453 wagon trains, according to the records kept by the Latter-day Saints. About 90,000 Mormons in all emigrated to the United States between 1840 and 1890, almost all of them going to or ending up in Utah, with the overwhelming majority of them coming from Europe. By 1890, the territory’s population had surpassed 210,000, nearly all of them Mormon. As the historian of religion John G. Turner observes, Brigham Young, the leader of the Church of Latter-day Saints, was responsible for “the organization and settlement of more people than anyone else in American history.”4

Less than a month after leading his company to Salt Lake City, Pingree married one of the Saints—that is, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—traveling under his charge: Esther Hooper, a twenty-two-year-old woman also from Worcestershire. Job and Esther settled in Ogden, a town nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, forty miles north of Salt Lake City and ten miles east of the Great Salt Lake.

The area around Ogden, like much of Utah, is open, majestic country. But also like much of Utah, it is unforgiving, arid land. Yet through years of effort Mormon settlers managed to clear the land, divert and channel water for irrigation, and plow the hard, dry soil. Gradually they turned the harsh terrain into productive farmland.

Like other Mormon towns in what are now the states of Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah, Ogden benefited from its location along the routes being traversed by tens of thousands of forty-niners heading west (and fewer returning east). An extensive trade developed between the Mormon farmers and entrepreneurs and the often-desperate gold seekers.5

Pingree was one of Ogden’s first residents, and he became a successful merchant, a prosperous banker—he cofounded the Pingree National Bank—and a large landowner. He opened the Ogden Co-operative Store in the summer of 1866, the first cooperative in Utah and a predecessor of Zion’s Co-operative Mercantile Institution, which was established in 1868 by Brigham Young in Salt Lake City (ZCMIs were later opened throughout the Utah Territory).6 Job and Esther had fourteen children and two infants who were stillborn.

But Pingree already had a wife, a woman by the name of Mary Morgan Pingree, with whom he had had seven children. In fact, Pingree would marry three more times before he died in 1928 (although only his first two wives bore him children).

For Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for Brigham Young, and for other Mormon leaders, the possession of multiple wives was a manifestation of belief and constituted a reward to the faithful. As a practical matter, though, polygamy was also a measure of worldly success, since caring for more than one spouse, having many children, and keeping more than one household demanded more resources—sometimes a great deal more. And Pingree, who had twice led wagon trains through the Great Plains and over the Rockies into the Salt Lake Valley and who had become one of Ogden’s early leaders, had revealed himself to be a dedicated Saint.

For his dedication, US federal agents arrested Pingree along with other leading Ogden citizens in 1885, following the passage of the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882. On one of their “polyg hunts,” US deputy marshals seized Pingree while he having dinner with his second wife, Esther, and their children, fined him, and imprisoned him briefly for being a “cohab.”7

Job Pingree was Brent Scowcroft’s great-grandfather, and Esther Hooper Pingree, Pingree’s second wife, was his great-grandmother; Job and Esther’s eldest child, Ellen Pingree, was his father’s mother.8

Making the overland trek to the Salt Lake Valley thirteen years before Pingree was another of Scowcroft’s great-grandfathers, Richard Ballantyne. Born in Whitridgebog, Roxburgshire (now part of the Scottish Borders council area), Ballantyne grew up working on his parents’ farm, began working as a baker, and then owned and operated a bakery. He became an elder in the Presbyterian Church before converting to Mormonism at the age of twenty-five. In 1843, he and his siblings left Scotland for the United States and, after stops in Liverpool, New Orleans, and St. Louis, met up with their fellow Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois, shortly before they would all be driven away by mobs and Joseph Smith would be assassinated. Ballantyne himself was kidnapped for a short period in the summer of 1846 and held hostage before LDS leaders negotiated his release. Ballantyne was subsequently ordained a Seventy—a member of the inner council that Brigham Young established to serve as the equivalent to the Twelve Apostles—and made a high priest of the Church.

After a short, harsh migration in 1846 from Nauvoo, across Iowa Territory, and to the east bank of the Missouri, Brigham Young and the Mormon faithful spent almost two years in the grim Winter Quarters, where an estimated 550 Mormons died.9 Then in late May 1848, Ballantyne, his mother, his sister (a second sister had married one of the Mormon leaders), and his new twenty-year-old wife, Huldah Maria Clark (known as Maria), joined the 1,220-person Brigham Young Company for the trek across the high plains and over the Rockies to the Intermountain West. Only a few days after leaving Council Bluffs, Maria gave birth to a son, and Richard and Maria completed the journey with the nursing infant.

Ballantyne lived a remarkable life as a devout Mormon and an early Ogden settler. In 1849, just one year after arriving in Salt Lake City, he established the first Mormon Sunday school. He then went on a difficult three-year mission to India, leaving his young wife and family behind. Upon his return to the United States in 1855 he led his own 402-person company, the Ballantyne Company, in forty-five wagons from Mormon Grove in Kansas Territory—a settlement that no longer exists but was originally four miles west of Atchison, Kansas—to Salt Lake City, where, to great fanfare, they were greeted by Erastus Snow and Heber Kimball, both Apostles of the Mormon Church, and Brigham Young.10

Young rewarded Ballantyne by enjoining him to take a second wife. Ballantyne chose Mary Pearce, a twenty-seven-year-old woman from his company. Ballantyne’s biographer writes that he was uncomfortable taking a second wife but believed he should do what Young and other Church leaders asked of him.11 Maria believed it was her duty as a Saint to accommodate Richard. Less than two years later, Ballantyne married again. His third wife was Caroline Sanderson (also spelled “Sandersen”), a Norwegian woman who had come to Utah in 1855. Mary, in turn, accepted the new spouse.

Throughout his life Ballantyne dutifully agreed to do whatever Brigham Young and the Church asked of him. So when Young asked Ballantyne in 1860 to relocate to Ogden and open a general merchandise store, Ballantyne willingly moved up to Ogden, accompanied by his three wives and their children.12 Just one year later Young requested that Ballantyne sell his store—already very successful—and take his wives and all his children to Eden Township, east of Ogden, to start a farm. So he did.

The pattern would be repeated. Over the next two decades Ballantyne helped build a toll road and a railway through Weber and Echo Canyons; he assisted subcontractors on other railroads; he built canals; he served as a Weber County commissioner for fourteen years; he sat on the Ogden city council; he became the editor and publisher of a local newspaper, the Ogden Junction; and he bought a lumber company and then a brickyard. He then lost his businesses and two homes because of the depression of 1893.13

Ballantyne’s foremost legacy was the Mormon Sunday school system. He founded the first Sunday school in Weber County, was the first to introduce music to Sunday schools, made Sunday school available to the deaf and blind, and began a system for qualifying Sunday school teachers, among other efforts on behalf of religious instruction for Mormon children. Ballantyne died in 1898, highly respected and deeply revered by the residents of Ogden and among Mormons more generally. His wives Maria, Mary, and Caroline, twenty-two children, and more than one hundred grandchildren survived him.14

Richard and Caroline Ballantyne were the parents of Thomas Henry Ballantyne, Scowcroft’s grandfather, and the grandparents of Lucile Ballantyne Scowcroft, Brent’s mother.

The most famous of Scowcroft’s great-grandfathers was John Scowcroft. Scowcroft grew up in Lancashire, England, and in 1861, at the age of seventeen, converted to Mormonism. When he was thirty-six, he, his wife, Mary Fletcher Scowcroft, and their five surviving children left for America and Utah.

Having learned the confectionary business in Lancashire, Scowcroft set up his own bakery and candy store in 1881, within a year of arriving in Ogden. Three years after that, he turned his business into a retail grocery and dry goods store, and three years later he added shoes, hardware, and household goods to his product list. By 1893, the now-incorporated Scowcroft & Sons—John gradually brought his sons Joseph, Willard, Heber, and Albert into the business—was doing half a million dollars in annual sales, an immense volume at the time. The company moved to a large five-story building in downtown Ogden and expanded further by adding men’s clothing to its offerings. It also began to engage exclusively in the wholesale business.

The growth of Scowcroft & Sons dovetailed with Ogden’s rise as “Junction City.” Ogden was the site where the two rival transcontinental railroads met, the Union Pacific coming from the east and the Central Pacific from the west. Ogden, then, was where all railroad passengers had to disembark to change trains when traveling across the country. Freight trains kept their own railcars and only had to switch locomotives and crews; Ogden had a series of railroad turntables built to accommodate ever bigger and more powerful locomotives.

Passengers and freight soon began arriving in Ogden from directions other than east or west. Trains began running on the Utah Central line on January 10, 1870, thereby connecting Ogden with Salt Lake City. (Utah Central was to be the only American railroad line built by a religious organization.15) A year later, construction started on the narrow-gauge Utah Northern, which reached north to Logan, Utah, in 1874 and Silver Bow, Montana, in 1880. The narrow-gauge Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad, heading northeast from Ogden, was completed in 1883.

By the 1920s a total of seven separate railroads (four steam and three electric) joined in Ogden, with five of them constituting “the largest systems [in the] region.” Hence Ogden’s other nickname, “Crossroads of the West,” and the boast of the town’s leaders: “You can’t go anywhere without coming to Ogden.”16

Southern Pacific’s one thousand employees constituted the largest workforce of any railroad company in the country and the biggest share of Ogden’s four thousand railroad employees. With dozens of freight trains coming through every day—an average of 70 in the early 1910s, and up to 140 a day, including as many as 62 passenger trains in the 1940s—the Ogden depot and surrounding rail yards grew to encompass hundreds of acres. The rail yard area became filled with warehouses, livestock pens, grain silos, and icing equipment for refrigerated cars (for the shipment of fruits and vegetables and the products of meatpacking companies such as Swift and Armour). A whole section of Ogden’s Union Station was set aside for handling the mail, the most profitable part of the railroad business.17

With dozens of passenger trains arriving every day, a thriving and gritty downtown sprang up around the railroad station, complete with hotels, restaurants, bars, and brothels, all teeming with clients. Below street level, the city had a hidden world consisting of underground tunnels and interconnecting basements that were used for gambling, smoking opium, and, during Prohibition, smuggling liquor. Ogden had sixty-five different gambling establishments in the years between 1940 and 1944, for instance, and more than its share of saloonkeepers and prostitutes. Al Capone is reported to have declared that Ogden—referred to as “Little Chicago” during Prohibition—was too wild a town for him.18

The result was that Ogden’s civic culture clashed with that of the rest of Utah. In 1889, Ogden became the first town in Utah Territory to have its mayor’s office captured by the Liberal Party, which ran on the separation of church and state. The new city administration proceeded to rename the city streets, replacing the names honoring Mormon leaders such as Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and Franklin D. Richards with the names of US presidents. “Ogden Americanized,” proclaimed one newspaper.19

The population of Ogden grew steadily, increasing from fifteen thousand residents in 1890 to twenty-six thousand in 1910, thirty-three thousand in 1920, and forty thousand by 1940.20 Many famous Americans would call Ogden their hometown, among them Bernard DeVoto, the famous writer and historian; Marriner Eccles, the Utah banker and budget director under President Franklin D. Roosevelt (although Eccles was born in Logan, Utah); and the Browning family of gunsmiths.

Ogden proved to be an optimal site for Scowcroft & Sons and its line of wholesale grocery and dry goods products, which it sold under the Blue Pine Foods label. Weber County had the agricultural resources—the water supply, wheat, sugar beets, dairy, poultry, livestock, tomatoes, peas, lima beans, carrots, peaches, cherries, and other fruits and vegetables, plus the nearby salt—and the manufacturing, canning, bottling, meatpacking, milling, iron foundries, and other facilities to support the firm’s booming business. Other needed materials or ingredients could be brought in by train.21

The company became one of the city’s best-known businesses, and John Scowcroft became very wealthy. He organized the local chamber of commerce, known as the “Weber Club,” and served as its first president. He was a director of the Ogden Sugar Company, which he founded with a former mayor, David Eccles (Marriner Eccles’s father and Ogden’s first millionaire), as well as of the Utah State Bank. And he built a grand home that he named Lancaster; it was designed by the same architect who designed Ogden City Hall, the Utah Loan and Trust Building, and the remodeled Broom Hotel, which was Ogden’s finest hotel at the time.

When John Scowcroft died in 1902, his sons took over the business. They oversaw the completion of a huge warehouse in downtown Ogden—itself containing eleven separate warehouses within its walls—and the company became one of the largest wholesalers in the vast area stretching between Omaha and San Francisco. Scowcroft & Sons offered teas, spices, extracts, coffee, and other grocery and household items under its Blue Pine and Kitchen King labels. Its best-known product was Never Rip Overalls, which in 1909 the company produced at the rate of two thousand pairs per day. By 1914, Scowcroft & Sons had 250 employees making just overalls, work pants, and work shirts.22

John Scowcroft’s eldest son, Heber, married Ellen Pingree on January 10, 1890, and the young couple’s son, James, was born in 1892. Ellen died eight years later. James Scowcroft, who went by Jim, served for four years as a Mormon missionary in Japan before returning to Ogden in 1915 to help run the family business. He eventually succeeded his father as the manager of Scowcroft & Sons, and the business thrived in the 1910s and 1920s. Seeking to adjust to the depressed market conditions of the 1930s, Scowcroft & Sons would get out of manufacturing and move into the retail grocery business, opening large grocery stores—what Scowcroft described as the “forerunner of supermarkets”—under the name American Food Stores in Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. In 1958 Scowcroft & Sons would be sold to the Mayfair Corporation.23

Back in 1915, though, the first thing Jim Scowcroft did upon returning from Japan was to marry his high-school sweetheart, Lucile Ballantyne, on Wednesday, August 18. Her father, Thomas Ballantyne, was a “big, tough man,” in Brent Scowcroft’s description, who served as a police officer, as an Ogden City marshal, and then as a deputy sheriff. Lucile herself, though, was a warm, personable, and very pretty young woman: trim, petite, and brown-eyed, with dark curly hair. Jim, for his part, was of medium height (five feet eight inches tall) and a similarly compact build. The couple was “popular in Ogden society,” the Ogden Standard Journal reported, with “a host of warm friends,” and the fact that Jim and Lucile were married in the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City was indicative of their good standing among the Saints. Both were twenty-three years old.24

Immediately after the wedding and their honeymoon in California, Jim and Lucile moved to Idaho Falls. They lived there for several years, where he represented Scowcroft & Sons, before they returned to Ogden, where Jim became manager of Blue Pine Foods.25 Brent was born ten years after their wedding, on March 19, 1925, the youngest of three children and the couple’s only son.

Brent was small for his age, shy, and extremely bright. Cheerful and engaging, he easily made friends among the kids in his neighborhood and the children at school. He attended the local schools: Polk Elementary, Mount Ogden Middle School, and the brand-new Ogden Central High School (built in 1938). Brent’s homeroom teachers took an interest in him, and he recalled that he liked his teachers.

Brent loved sports and roamed outdoors with his friends, especially around the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, which began only five blocks east of where his father had built their home, at 2735 Taylor Avenue on a large corner lot in the eastern part of town. He also played baseball, joined the Boy Scouts, played a little golf, and practiced the piano for eight years (hating “every minute of it,” including the recitals).

A precocious child, Scowcroft loved to read. One of his older sisters called him “a speed reader before we knew what speed reading was.” Among the books he read as a young teenager were Plutarch’s Lives and Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Because of Brent’s reading ability and obvious intelligence, his elementary school principal wanted him to skip some grades, but his father rejected the idea. Jim Scowcroft worried that Brent, who was already short and slight for his age, would not be able to participate in organized sports if he had to compete against older and much bigger boys.26 But Brent ran track in high school—the 100-yard dash, 4-by-100-yard relay, 220-yard dash, and 4-by-220-yard relay—and placed well in many of his meets. When he was a junior in high school, his 4-by-220 relay team won the state championship.27

Jim Scowcroft and Brent had a close, easy relationship. He was an attentive and loving father, and his son reciprocated. When Jim was on a business trip to Chicago, for instance, his ten-year-old son wrote:

Dear Daddy,

If you happen to pass where you got my Draw-Mor set please get me some paper. I took Mother to Will Rogers today.

Your Pal

Guess Who?

P.S. Don’t forget to get some candy for Mother and hurry home. A happy birthday, too. I’ll kiss Mother for you. We will come down to the train to meet you Saturday morning. Don’t try to fool us by coming home on the taxi like you did last spring.

His list of particulars on “How I would like to work,” which he wrote down when he was eleven, speaks to his character:


            1.  making fires

            2.  cuting [sic] the lawn

            3.  Watering the grass


            1.  raking leaves

            2.  put them around the flowers


            1.  cleaning the terrase [sic]

            2.  cleaning the walk

            3.  clearing the drive

            4.  clearing the front and back stairs28

Scowcroft was liked and respected by his school classmates. “Brent Scowcroft’s good humor and cheerful grin have made him well known to all of the students,” two girl reporters wrote for the Ogden high school newspaper. He became the president of the small Ogden High School Ski Club; he was tapped to join an exclusive high school society, the Stagg Club; he was secretary of the Golf Club; he attended dances and other social events; and he excelled in the high school ROTC program. His summer job during his high school years was loading boxes at the Blue Pine Foods warehouse.29

During the summers, when not working, Brent played outdoors, swam, and went vacation for two weeks each year with his family, usually driving out to La Jolla, California, their favorite destination, where he would sometimes golf. Other years, he and his parents and sisters would go to different national parks or, as they did once, drive across the country to see Niagara Falls, visit New York City, and also look at colleges.30 Since he made almost all A’s in high school—nothing lower than a B—and graduated in the top 10 percent of his 650-student senior class, he could go to almost any college he wished.

Reflecting back on his upbringing, Scowcroft wryly observed that his idyllic childhood gave him a highly distorted view of his fellow humans: not once did he remember hearing his parents fight. On the contrary, he recalled that his mother and father loved each other deeply, and he never remembered feeling any tension at home. Raised in a setting that gave him a sense of utter security, Brent was a well-behaved child, never getting into trouble either at home or at school.

Scowcroft’s personal background exemplified a comment attributed to George Will: that Mormonism is the “most American” of religions, since Mormons have been highly successful at both establishing a strong community of believers and achieving material success.31 Jim Scowcroft thought his son might grow up to be a college professor and study international relations; Brent himself thought he would become a chemist.32

He found another calling instead.


On Sale
Jan 27, 2015
Page Count
752 pages

Bartholomew Sparrow

About the Author

Bartholomew Sparrow is a professor in the department of government at the University of Texas at Austin where he teaches American political development. He has received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University, and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, and has been awarded the Leonard D. White and the Franklin L. Burdette Pi Sigma Alpha awards from the American Political Science Association. He received his PhD in political science from the University of Chicago.

Learn more about this author