Apr 10, 2019

TAPS: Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall
The Pentagon strategist who saw the military threats of the future.
By The Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

26 March 2019. Mr. Andrew Marshall, 97. Foreign Policy Strategist whose work impacted three generations of intelligence professionals. He received the George P. Shultz Award for Distinguished Service in 2015.

The Wall Street Journal framed his life work this way:

Victory in war is never certain, and victories are often won by decisions made decades earlier. Sun Tzu? No, in so many words, Andrew Marshall, the Pentagon strategist who saw earlier than most the decline of the Soviet Union, the strategic challenge from China, and the impact of the digital revolution in warfare.

Andy Marshall died on March 26 at age 97 with much the same lack of notice he spent toiling in a windowless office in the Pentagon. For 42 years he ran the Office of Net Assessment, the idea shop of 13 people charged with looking around strategic corners to anticipate future challenges to America’s national defense. He began studying military strategy in 1949, worked at Rand Corp., and came to the White House in 1969 as an aide to Henry Kissinger.

Marshall’s top-secret papers influenced many crucial decisions that helped the U.S. win the Cold War. His shop produced a study that persuaded Jimmy Carter not to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea. In the 1980s his work was influential in overcoming Pentagon opposition to deploying Stinger missiles against Soviet air power in Afghanistan.

He also commissioned studies by Charles Wolf and Henry Rowen, two other heroes of the Cold War who concluded that the Soviet economy was far smaller than the CIA believed at the time. Their work contributed to Ronald Reagan’s conviction that the Soviets could not match America’s technological advances and military buildup.

Marshall was also the author of what became known in the 1990s and 2000s as “the revolution in military affairs” based on the impact of information technology. And he nurtured the work of Michael Pillsbury, the strategist whose warnings about China are now influencing the Trump Administration as it attempts to reset relations with Beijing.

Andy Marshall stayed at his modest desk until he retired at age 93 in 2015. His brilliant career is a reminder of those who, often unheralded, devoted their lives in a perilous time to defeat a dangerous adversary in Moscow and keep America safe long into the future. The young progressives at Google could learn from his patriotic example.