U.S. LtGen and Ambassador (ret.) Ed Rowny honored by WSN Foundation
Not many people can say that they helped steer the peaceful resolution of one of the greatest conflicts in modern history, but Lieutenant General (ret.) Edward L. Rowny, member of the International Advisory Board of the independent World Security Network Foundation, is one such man. As the chief negotiator for nuclear disarmament under President Reagan, he sat across the bargaining table from the Soviets and, pursuing a philosophy of “peace through strength,” helped put an end to the Cold War. That feat was just one of many that speak to the courage, wisdom and tenacity of this great man who Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann and his World Security Network Foundation recently honored, hosting a 95th birthday gala for him in Washington D.C. Fellow officers, international strategists, diplomats and renowned journalists attended the event, along with friends and family. At a time when the world stage is filled with paralyzing conflicts teetering on the edge of precipices, the world’s best negotiators can look to General Rowny for inspiration.
The Honorable Joseph E. Schmitz, former Inspector General of the Department of Defense and also a member of the WSN International Advisory Board, emceed the gala evening at the Hay Adams Hotel. Said Schmitz afterwards, “Ed Rowny is a living legend, a courageous soldier and statesman of profound faith and patriotism, a real American hero. One of the highlights of the evening was General Rowny playing on his harmonica a complete medley of American service songs from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.” Listen to Ed Rowny playing the harmonica here.
Representatives from the Polish and German Embassies and Homeland Security were also in attendance, along with World Security Network staff and Madeline Bryant, daughter of the late Fritz Kraemer, among others. Long-time journalist, Georgie Anne Geyer gave a moving tribute to Rowny, having covered many of the international affairs issues in which Rowny was involved.
General Rowny’s skills in meaningful negotiations were honed over five decades of military and government service. A West Point graduate (USMA ’41), Rowny commanded in three wars, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam; in the latter, he introduced a new concept to combat — the idea of arming helicopters, a concept that would forever change the face of war, including the war on terror. Along the way, Rowny worked directly with some of America’s greatest leaders, and still today, one of his favorite topics is what comprises an exception leader. He saw General Marshall as one of the most selfless and one who held great moral courage. As a general, President Eisenhower had a unique ability to reconcile varying opinions, including persuading U.S. and UK commanders to fight as a team. As MacArthur’s spokesman, Rowny saw first hand that leader’s boldness, decisiveness and innovation. And Rowny commends General Ridgway for unparalleled professionalism. Seeing such fine qualities up close profoundly influenced Rowny’s work over the years as did the vision of Pentagon strategist and friend, Fritz Kraemer.
But Rowny has never been one to rest on his laurels. To understand how the Soviets viewed matters from their side of the world, as a young officer, he read 26 books and articles on their negotiating style and intensely studied their language, culture and history. This led to a deep understanding of subtleties in dealing with them such as their practice, Rowny says, of wanting to be “more equal than others,” or the affirmation by a Russian general with whom he negotiated that it only “takes one to tango.” Understanding these nuances, Rowny pursued Reagan’s approach of peace through strength by building up the U.S. military, an extension of Fritz Kraemer's warnings against "provocative weakness." And Rowny taught President Reagan to say, "Doveria no proveria." Trust but verify.
Like the leaders he so admired, General Rowny was also unwavering in his displays of moral courage. In addition to Reagan, General Rowny served as an advisor to four additional presidents – Nixon, Ford, Carter and Bush. When he was Joint Chiefs of Staff Representative to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks II (SALT II) under Carter, he resigned in protest after the President signed what Rowny viewed as a fatally flawed treaty that was unequal and unverifiable. He then led efforts to prevent its ratification. A Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) eventually came into force but only after the dangers of one-sidedness and inability to verify it was overcome.
Rowny once wrote the “10 Commandments” of negotiating with the Soviets, which could easily be transferable to modern, pressing conflicts. The commandments included such edicts as:
1. Never think that they’re like you;
2. Put yourself in their moccasins;
3. Negotiate from a position of strength;
4. Remember that 50/50 to them means that you give 50 and they take the other 50…and so on.
It is with this type of hindsight that Rowny says of far-reaching agreements to preserve peace, “Tie the knot, but first reach a good prenuptial agreement.”
President Reagan awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Medal to Rowny for being one of the “principal architects of America’s policy of ‘Peace through Strength’.” Rowny is currently writing two books: “Smokey Joe & The General,” which follows his career and that of the mentor that inspired him. The book will also include his detailed analysis of the leadership styles of the generals earlier mentioned such as Marshall and the like. He is also co-authoring “West Point ’41: The Class that Shaped America’s Future,” which relays the remarkable odyssey of members of his West Point class, many of whom helped shape America’s future.