Sun . 19 Mar 2019

Robert McFarlane

Robert Carl "Bud" McFarlane born July 12, 1937 is a retired Marine Corps officer who served as National Security Advisor to President of the United States Ronald Reagan from 1983 through 1985

After a career in the Marines, McFarlane became part of the Reagan administration and was a leading architect of the Strategic Defense Initiative SDI for defending the United States against missile attack1 Subsequently, he was involved in, and pleaded guilty to charges for actions related to, the Iran-Contra affair, but received a pardon from President George HW Bush


  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Marine Corps service
  • 3 Civilian posts
  • 4 Iran-Contra affair and resignation
  • 5 Other activities
  • 6 Awards and decorations
  • 7 See also
  • 8 Notes
  • 9 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links

Early life and educationedit

After graduating high school, McFarlane entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1955, where he graduated in 1959 He was the third member of his family to attend the Academy, after his uncle Robert McFarlane 1925 and his brother Bill 1949 At the academy he graduated in the top 15 percent of the class and lettered twice in gymnastics He received an honorary doctorate from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC in 2014 He sang in the Chapel Choir, and was a Brigade Administrative Officer and 14th Company Commander

Marine Corps serviceedit

Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1959, McFarlane was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, where he served as a field artillery officer

As a Marine Corps officer, McFarlane commanded platoons, a battery of field artillery howitzers and was the Operations Officer for an artillery regiment He taught Gunnery at the Army Advanced Artillery Course He was the executive assistant to the Marine Corps' Operations Deputy from 1968–1971, preparing the deputy for meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff During this assignment he was also the Action Officer in the Marine Corps Operations Division for Europe/NATO, the Middle East and Latin America

McFarlane served two combat tours in the Vietnam War In March 1965, he commanded the artillery battery in the first landing of US combat forces in Vietnam While deployed during his first tour, McFarlane was selected for graduate studies as an Olmsted Scholar McFarlane received a master's degree License in strategic studies with highest honors from the Graduate Institute of International Studies Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales, HEI in Geneva, Switzerland

After attending the Graduate Institute of International Studies, McFarlane returned for a second tour in 1967–1968 as a Regimental Fire Support Coordinator for the 3rd Marine Division deployed along the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone during the Tet Offensive He organized all fire support B-52s, naval gunfire from the USS New Jersey BB-62 and artillery for forces deployed at Con Thien, Cam Lo, Dong Ha, The Rockpile, Khe Sanh and points between McFarlane received a Bronze Star and a Navy Commendation Medal, both with Valor device

Following his second tour in Vietnam and a tour at Headquarters Marine Corps, in 1971 he was named a White House Fellow He was the first Marine Corps officer selected for the program

McFarlane was assigned to the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House and at the conclusion of that assignment was selected as the Military Assistant to Henry Kissinger at the National Security Council In this post, McFarlane dealt with intelligence exchanges with the People's Republic of China from 1973 to 1976, giving detailed intelligence briefings to China at the time of the Sino-Soviet split He also accompanied Kissinger on his visits to China In addition, McFarlane dealt with other aspects of foreign policy, including the Middle East, relations with the Soviet Union and arms control McFarlane was appointed by President Gerald Ford as his Special Assistant for National Security Affairs while a Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal in 1976

Upon leaving the White House, McFarlane was assigned to the National Defense University, where he co-authored a book on crisis management while concurrently receiving a diploma from the National War College

He ended his Marine Corps career on Okinawa as Operations Officer for the 12th Marine Regiment McFarlane retired in 1979 with the rank of lieutenant colonel

Civilian postsedit

In 1979, he was appointed by US Senator John Tower to the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he was responsible for staffing Senate consideration of the SALT II Treaty from 1979 to 1981 He also authored much of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy platform during the 1980 presidential campaign

In 1981, President Reagan appointed and the Senate confirmed McFarlane as Counselor to the Department of State2 In this post he assisted Secretary of State Alexander Haig

In 1982, Reagan appointed McFarlane as Deputy National Security Advisor responsible for the integration of the policy recommendations of the Departments of State, Treasury and Defense In 1983, he was appointed by the president as his Special Representative in the Middle East responsible for Israeli-Arab negotiations3

McFarlane has been criticized for involving the United States armed forces in the Lebanon Civil War with gunship bombardment of Lebanese opposition forces which may have led to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing where 241 American servicemen were killed4

Following that assignment, he returned to the White House and was appointed President Reagan's National Security Advisor5 In that post, he was responsible for the development of US foreign and defense policy He was a supporter of the Strategic Defense Initiative SDI or "Star Wars"

Iran-Contra affair and resignationedit

McFarlane in 1987

The Iran-Contra affair involved secretly selling arms to Iran and funneling the money to support the Contras in Nicaragua As National Security Adviser, McFarlane urged Reagan to negotiate the arms deal with Iranian intermediaries, but McFarlane says that by late December 1985 he was urging Reagan to end the arms shipments6 McFarlane resigned on December 4, 1985,78 citing that he wanted to spend more time with his family;9 he was replaced by Admiral John Poindexter10

The Iran-Contra affair came to light in November 1986 and a political scandal ensued Disheartened, feeling abused by his former colleagues and in depression over the embarrassment for the president that his actions had contributed to, McFarlane attempted suicide with an overdose of 25 to 30 valium tablets 11 on February 9, 1987, saying he had failed his country12

In 1988, he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress as part of the Iran-Contra cover-up13 He was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $20,000 fine but was pardoned by President George HW Bush on Christmas Eve 1992

Other activitiesedit

McFarlane co-founded and served as CEO of McFarlane Associates Inc, an international consulting company

McFarlane is a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy WINEP Board of Advisors, is president of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, is on the Board of Advisors and is a founding member of the Set America Free Coalition He is also an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy

McFarlane serves on a number of boards including:

  • Aegis Defence Services – Non-executive director
  • Partnership for a Secure America – Advisory Board
  • Fuel Freedom Foundation – Advisory Board
  • Myriant Incorporated – Advisory Board
  • Member of the Committee on the Present Danger
  • Alphabet Energy – advisory board14

He was an advisor to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign Since 2009, McFarlane has been working in the southern region of Sudan and Darfur on intertribal relations and development projects On September 30, 2009, the Washington Post published a story suggesting that McFarlane's contract for this work, which is supported by the government of Qatar, was the result of a request by Sudanese officials McFarlane denied any improper contact with Sudanese officials or efforts to avoid disclosure of his work The Washington Post article reported that some persons involved in peacemaking efforts in the southern Sudan region questioned the source and helpfulness of McFarlane's activities15 That article prompted FBI investigators to review McFarlane's activities in the Sudan After an exhaustive probe that lasted three years and included search of his trash, email, and personal belongings, investigators concluded that McFarlane was innocent of all allegations16

In July 2011, McFarlane, in cooperation with former CIA director Jim Woolsey, co-founded the United States Energy Security Council,17 sponsored by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security

Awards and decorationsedit

Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Bronze Star with Valor device
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy Commendation Medal with Valor device
Army Commendation Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
Secretary of State Distinguished Service Award
Secretary of the Navy Medal for Distinguished Public Service
Presidential Service Badge
Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement 1979
American-Swiss Friendship "Man of the Year" Award 1985

See alsoedit

  • Biography portal
  • United States Marine Corps portal
  • Iran–United States relations


  1. ^ Smith, R "McFarlane Calls SDI Pitch Misleading", Washington Post 1988-09-15: "Robert C McFarlane, a key architect of President Reagan's 'Star Wars' plan to develop sophisticated defenses against Soviet ballistic missiles, said he has concluded 'There is no current basis for confidence that a survivable defensive shield is within reach' and that Reagan's announcement of it was misleading and simplistic"
  2. ^ The White House January 29, 1981 "Nomination of Robert C McFarlane To Be' Counselor of the Department of State" Press Release The American Presidency Project Retrieved March 23, 2009 
  3. ^ The White House July 22, 1983 "Appointment of Robert C McFarlane as the President's Personal Representative in the Middle East" Press Release The American Presidency Project Retrieved March 23, 2009 
  4. ^ Nir Rosen October 29, 2009 "Lesson Unlearned" Foreign Policy Retrieved December 24, 2009 
  5. ^ The White House October 17, 1983 "Appointment of Robert C McFarlane as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs" Press Release The American Presidency Project Retrieved March 23, 2009 
  6. ^ Shenon, Philip "Ex-Official Says Bush Urged End to Iran Arms Shipments", New York Times 1989-01-23: "Robert C McFarlane, the former adviser, said in a telephone interview that although Vice President Bush rarely expressed an opinion at such meetings, he supported Mr McFarlane in urging that the shipments be stoppedAt the December 1985 meeting, Mr McFarlane recalled, he advised Mr Reagan to end the arms operationMr Bush, he said, made a similar brief statement at a White House meeting after Mr McFarlane went to Teheran in May 1986"
  7. ^ "Letter Accepting the Resignation of Robert C McFarlane as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs" Retrieved 2012-12-04 
  8. ^ "United States v Robert C McFarlane" Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters 1993 Retrieved June 7, 2008 
  9. ^ Reagan, Ronald 1990 An American Life New York: Simon & Schuster p 509 
  10. ^ "Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs" 
  11. ^ https://wwwhighbeamcom/doc/1P2-1305409html
  12. ^ Okie, Susan Okie & Chris Spolar February 10, 1987 "McFarlane Takes Drug Overdose;Iran Probe Figure Hospitalized Shortly Before Testimony Due" Washington Post 
  13. ^ Pichirallo, Joe March 12, 1988 "McFarlane Enters Guilty Plea Arising From Iran-Contra Affair; Former Reagan Adviser Withheld Information From Congress" Washington Post 
  14. ^ 1
  15. ^ Eggen, Dan September 30, 2009 "Former Reagan Aide Robert McFarlane's Dealings With Sudan Raise Questions" The Washington Post 
  16. ^ Zapotosky, Matt November 27, 2013 "Probe of former national security adviser's relationship with Sudan ends without charges" The Washington Post 
  17. ^ United States Energy Security Council


  • “Complaint That Donald Regan May Be Placing Blame for the Iran Initiative on Robert McFarlane,” Secret PROFS email November 7, 1986 Original source: US National Security Council
  • Kornbluh, Peter and Malcolm Byrne, eds The Iran-Contra Affair: The Making of a Scandal, 1983–1988 Document collection Alexandria, VA: Chadwyck-Healey; Washington, DC: National Security Archive, 1990
  • Kornbluh, Peter and Malcolm Byrne, eds The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History New York: New Press, Distributed by WW Norton, 1993
  • Walsh, Lawrence E Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up New York: Norton, 1997
  • Timberg, Robert, The Nightingale's Song New York: Free Press, 1996
  • Daalder, Ivo H, James M Lindsay, Robert C “Bud” McFarlane, Carla Anne Robbins panelists April 18, 2001 "Assessing the Bush Foreign Policy Transition" PDF Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link
  • McFarlane, Robert C / Smardz, Zofia: Special Trust Pride, Principle and Politics Inside the White House Cadell & Davies, New York, NY, 1994

Further readingedit

  • Timberg, Robert 1996 The Nightingale's Song Simon and Schuster ISBN 0-684-82673-9  Tells the stories of John McCain, James Webb, Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, and John Poindexter; the impact of the Vietnam War
  • Johnson, Haynes Bonner 2003 Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years W W Norton & Company ISBN 0-393-32434-6  Discussion of Iran-Contra and McFarlane's role in the Reagan administration

External linksedit

  • Official Web Site of the Partnership for a Secure America
  • Official Web Site of the Committee on the Present Danger
  • Institute of World Politics
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
Political offices
Preceded by
Rozanne L Ridgway
Counselor of the Department of State
Succeeded by
James L Buckley
Preceded by
James Nance
Deputy National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
John Poindexter
Preceded by
William Clark
National Security Advisor

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