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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Henry S. Rowen

  • Hoover Institution: Senior Fellow Emeritus
  • Project for the New American Century: Signatory
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense (1989-1991)

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Henry S. Rowen, a senior fellow emeritus at the Hoover Institution and professor of Public Policy and Management at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, is an expert on international security, economic development, and high tech industries in the United States and Asia who served as assistant secretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration.[1] Rowen has also served on numerous government boards and panels, and was a founding member of the neoconservative advocacy outfit, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

Although largely inactive since the final years of the George W. Bush presidency, Rowen is sometimes quoted in the press on a range of issues, including China, about which he published a book in 2008, Greater China's Quest for Innovation. In a 2009 interview with the Economist, Rowen predicted that by 2020 China will have shifted from “not free” on Freedom House’s democracy rating system to “partly free.” According to the Economist, Rowen based his optimism “on the numbers. By 2020, he reckons, China’s GDP per person at 1998 purchasing-power parity will be over $7,500. In 1998 all but three of the 31 countries above this level of GDP per person were rated free. People who live in rich countries (oil-rich ones notably excepted) generally enjoy high levels of political rights and civil liberties.”[2]

Track Record

During his tenure as assistant secretary of defense (1989-1991) under Dick Cheney in the George H.W. Bush administration, Rowen played a role in helping develop military plans for the first Gulf War in 1990. In his 2004 book, The Rise of the Vulcans, James Mann relates how during the lead up to the U.S.-led attack on Iraqi forces in Kuwait, Rowen devised an ambitious plan to send U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia into western Iraq from where they would have advanced on Baghdad. The plan was intended to force Saddam Hussein to withdraw his troops from Kuwait in order to defend the Iraqi capital.[3]

When Rowen shared his plan, which came to be known as Operation Scorpion, with then-Defense Secretary Cheney, Cheney reportedly said: “Set up a team, and don’t tell [Colin] Powell or anybody else.”[4] Two other Pentagon officials, Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby, created a secret group aimed at exploring the plan and keeping it from the attention of Powell—then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—and other administration figures. Although the plan was eventually scuttled, Mann writes that the behind-the-scenes “maneuvering” was “extraordinary”: “To the American public and the rest of the world, the administration seemed to be unified. But behind the scenes, during the three months after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was quietly seeking to win support for a strategy of containment that the secretary of defense opposed. And the defense secretary was quietly campaigning for a war plan different from the one submitted by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”[5]

According to Rowen, during the course of the war, he suggested to Cheney that the U.S. use its position in Iraq and Kuwait to impose a democracy in Iraq. This was precisely the policy Cheney would pursue after the 9/11 attacks. However, back in 1990, Cheney was of a different mind. Rowen told Mann, “As the war was coming to an end, I went to Cheney and said, ‘You know, we could change the government and put in a democracy.’ The answer he gave was that the Saudis wouldn’t like it.”[6]

In 2001, shortly after the election of President George W. Bush, Rowen was appointed to the Defense Policy Board (DPB), a Pentagon advisory board then chaired by Richard Perle. Observers were critical of many of the appointees at that time because of their numerous ties to defense industry interests, arguing there was a clear conflict of interest.[7] Perle eventually stepped down as chair after his various industry ties were widely discussed in the media. Other members serving with Rowen included Newt Gingrich, Ken Adelman, James Woolsey, Eliot Cohen, Richard Allen, and Martin Anderson. Many members appointed to the Perle-led DPB were men who first rose to prominence in the Reagan administration, and had previously joined forces in the late 1970s in the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), a hardline anticommunist pressure group.[8]

Some of Rowen’s fellow DPB members had also previously joined forces—along with Rowen—in supporting the launching of the Project for the New American Century in 1997. PNAC, which was founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, played an influential role in pushing public support for the invasion of Iraq in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.[9]

In 2004-2005, Rowen served on the Presidential Commission on the Intelligence of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. This commission, chaired by Laurence H. Silberman, was tasked with assessing “whether the Intelligence Community is sufficiently authorized, organized, equipped, trained, and resourced to identify and warn” the U.S. government on the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the role played by foreign powers, including terrorists.[10] The commission’s final report, issued in March 2005, was a “scathing report on the intelligence community,” which contended that the United States knows “‘disturbingly little’ about the weapons programs and intentions of many of its ‘most dangerous adversaries.’”[11]

Rowen is one of several hawkish policy figures influenced by Albert Wohlstetter, the RAND Corporation analyst and University of Chicago mathematician notorious for his nuclear war fighting strategies and promotion of fear-mongering Cold War notions like a purported “missile gap,” which helped lead to such misguided policy initiatives as the 1970s-era Team B affair. Other Wohlstetter acolytes included Ahmed Chalabi, Richard Perle, Henry Sokolski, William Luti, Paul Wolfowitz, and Zalmay Khalilzad.

Rowen provided a commentary on the Wohlstetters’ work for the 2009 volume, Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter.[12] A press release on the book states: “Pioneers of nuclear-age policy analysis, Albert Wohlstetter (1913-1997) and Roberta Wohlstetter (1912-2007) emerged as two of America's most consequential, innovative and controversial strategists. Through the clarity of their thinking, the rigor of their research, and the persistence of their personalities, they were able to shape the views and aid the decisions of Democratic and Republican policy makers both during and after the Cold War. Although the Wohlstetters' strategic concepts and analytical methods continue to be highly influential, no book has brought together their most important essays-until now.”[13]

Stanford Bio

According to his Stanford University bio: “Rowen was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense from 1989 to 1991. He was also chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 1981 to 1983. Rowen served as president of the RAND Corporation from 1967 to 1972 and was assistant director, U.S. Bureau of the Budget, from 1965 to 1966. Rowen's most recent work is co-editor of Greater China's Quest for Innovation (Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2008).  He co-edited Making IT: The Rise of Asia in High Tech (Stanford University Press, 2006) and The Silicon Valley Edge: A Habitat for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (2000). Other books include Prospects for Peace in South Asia (edited with Rafiq Dossani) and Behind East Asian Growth: The Political and Social Foundations of Prosperity (1998). Among his articles are ‘The Short March: China's Road to Democracy,’ National Interest (1996); ‘Inchon in the Desert: My Rejected Plan,’ National Interest (1995); ‘The Tide underneath the Third Wave,’ Journal of Democracy (1995). Born in Boston in 1925, Rowen earned a bachelors degree in industrial management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1949 and a masters in economics from Oxford University in 1955.”[14]

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[1]Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute, Henry Rowen, http://fsi.stanford.edu/people/henrysrowen

[2]The Economist, “The Rich Scent of Freedom,” Economist, October 24, 2009.

[3]James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans(Viking 2004), page 187.

[4]James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans(Viking 2004), page 187.

[5]James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans(Viking 2004), page 188.

[6]James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans(Viking 2004), page 192.

[7]Center for Public Integrity, "Advisors of Influence," 2003.

[8]For more about the DPB membership over the years, see the Federal Advisory Committee Database, http://fido.gov/facadatabase/default.asp.

[9]For a full list of PNAC signatories, see "A Complete List of PNAC Signatories and Contributing Writers," http://www.publiceye.org/pnac_chart/pnac.html.

[10]Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities, “About the Commission,” http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/wmd/about.html

[11]CNN, "Report: Iraq intelligence ‘dead wrong,’” CNN, April 1, 2005, http://articles.cnn.com/2005-03-31/politics/intel.report_1_major-intelligence-failure-iraq-survey-group-national-intelligence-estimate?_s=PM:POLITICS.

[12]Strategic Studies Institute, "Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings Of Albert And Roberta Wohlstetter,” January 26, 2009, http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubid=893.

[13]Strategic Studies Institute, "Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings Of Albert And Roberta Wohlstetter,” January 26, 2009, http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubid=893.

[14]Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute, “Henry Rowen,” http://fsi.stanford.edu/people/henrysrowen.

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Henry S. Rowen Résumé


  • Project for the New American Century: Signatory, 1997
  • Hoover Institution: Senior Fellow
  • Stanford University Graduate School of Business: Professor of Public Policy and Management, Emeritus
  • Stanford Institute for International Studies: Senior Fellow Emeritus
  • Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center: Director Emeritus
  • Council on Foreign Relations: Member
  • RAND Corporation: President, 1967-1972; Economist, 1950-1953, 1955-1961
  • Harvard Center for International Affairs: Research Associate, 1960



  • U.S. Department of Defense Policy Board: Member, 2001-2004
  • Presidential Commission on the Intelligence of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction:2004–05
  • U.S. Department of Defense: Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, 1989-1991; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, 1961-1964
  • National Intelligence Council: Chairman, 1981-1983
  • U.S. Bureau of the Budget: Assistant Director, 1965-1966
  • U.S. Navy: Pacific Theater Officer, 1943-1946



  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: B.A., 1949 in industrial management
  • Oxford University: M.A., 1955 in economics


Henry S. Rowen News Feed

Henry S. Rowen, 90, RAND Chief Who Quit in Pentagon Papers Case, Dies - New York TimesHenry Rowen, public policy leader on defense matters, dies at 90 - Washington PostHenry S. Rowen, Stanford business professor and US policymaker, dies at 90 - Stanford University NewsDuBois Area High School Honors | Lifestyle - The Courier-ExpressHenry 'Harry' Rowen, Rand leader at time of Pentagon Papers, dies at 90 - Los Angeles TimesNHS First Quarter Honor Roll - The Newtown BeeThe Short March: China's Road to Democracy - The National Interest OnlineFuture unclear after historic 230-year-old Henry Rowan mansion demolished - NJ.comScandal Recap: Series Finale — [Spoiler] Dies, Olivia Gets A Portrait - TVLineWENY News - Henry Dormann Passes Away at 86 - WENY-TVMeinke leads Neenah boys to Division 1 cross country title - Appleton Post CrescentLancaster County deeds recorded: June 25, 2018 | Deeds Records in Lancaster County - LancasterOnlineDearborn's Henry Ford College adds nearly 400 new graduates to its roster - Dearborn Press and GuideAFP-NoLCom deployed in flooded areas - Manila BulletinRowan Atkinson's girlfriend Louise Ford debuts baby bump - Daily MailMiddleton settles for second; McFarland's Andrew Pahnke second in Division 2 - Madison.comRowan and Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Third Season - DVD TalkStanford scholars discuss Asia-Pacific policy during Obama's second term - Stanford Report24 people sentenced for massive IRS call center scam - WENY-TVWhen the World Opened the Gates of China - The Wall Street Journal

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