Foreign Policy Expert Peter Warren Rodman, 64

Peter W. Rodman served under five presidents and influenced national security and defense policy.
Peter W. Rodman served under five presidents and influenced national security and defense policy. (Family Foto - Family Foto)
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By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Peter W. Rodman, 64, a foreign policy expert who helped shape major government initiatives in the areas of national security and defense while holding key posts in the administrations of five presidents, died of complications of leukemia Aug. 2 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Over years of service in government and in the private sector, Mr. Rodman brought his vigorous intellect to bear on many of the nation's most sensitive diplomatic negotiations and undertakings. These involved such matters as bringing an end to the war in Vietnam and reopening relations with China. He advised on the Middle East during the Reagan administration and was involved in aspects of the Iraq war under President George W. Bush.

Mr. Rodman was known as a force of intellect in the national security and defense arenas. He employed his expertise in issues stretching from the Cold War to beyond the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in both government and private sector positions.

Of particular interest to him were U.S. policies relating to Europe and Russia, East Asia and South Asia, and the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Since 2007, he was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he researched, wrote and gave speeches on presidential policymaking in national security.

Mr. Rodman was a strategist and policy planner who understood theory and how to put it into practice in a meaningful way, said Robert M. Kimmitt, deputy secretary of the Department of the Treasury, who worked with Mr. Rodman on President Gerald R. Ford's National Security Council staff.

"While everyone else was working on the issue of the moment, he always took time to look at it in a broader context" to see what it would mean five to 10 years from now, Kimmitt said.

An independent thinker who wasn't always predictable, Mr. Rodman offered clear, thoughtful and principled views, Kimmitt and other colleagues said.

Mr. Rodman started his government career with the National Security Council in 1969 with his mentor from college, Henry Kissinger. He was an assistant to the former national security adviser and secretary of state during the early days of China diplomacy.

Later, Mr. Rodman directed the State Department's policy planning staff under Secretary of State George Shultz. Shultz said that Mr. Rodman "viewed the world with profound seriousness yet always with a wry sense of humor."

As assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 2001 to 2007, Mr. Rodman coordinated Pentagon policies and operations in regions around the world.

Former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Mr. Rodman had an understated manner. But he "worked energetically over many decades finding bipartisan support for our nation's foreign policy at home and a consensus among diplomats abroad," Rumsfeld said in a statement.

"Unlike so many in the field of foreign policy, Peter was neither a partisan nor an advocate," he added.

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