George Schultz, who led Reagan’s Cold War diplomacy, has died


An Ivy League-trained economist, Shultz transitioned seamlessly from academic to government to business. He was Secretary of Labor, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard Nixon. In the Reagan administration, he clashed with ideological members of the presidential team in his quest for a gradual, consensus-based foreign policy.

He became Reagan’s second foreign secretary and the nation’s 60th after the resignation of Alexander Haig in July 1982, and served until the end of Reagan’s second term in January 1989.

“Our colleague was a great American statesman and a true patriot in the truest sense of the word. He will be remembered in history as the man who made the world a better place, ”said Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State to President George W. Bush and current director of the Hoover Institution.


The reluctant Shultz fought with the Pentagon, above all Defense Minister Caspar Weinberger, for arms control, the appropriate use of military power, dealing with the Nicaraguan Sandinista and US policy in the Middle East. According to Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, Shultz led a pragmatic faction that promoted “realism” in foreign policy, including direct negotiations with the Soviet Union.

In President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, Cannon wrote of Shultz: “His mild and Buddha-like demeanor and somewhat professorial manner hid a smoldering temper that occasionally erupted in volcanic eruptions and an inquiring intellect that he understood from Ronald Reagan dedicated. “

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In 1986, in response to Shultz’s vehement objections, Reagan said the US would no longer commit to complying with the unratified Treaty on the Limitation of Nuclear Weapons of 1979 known as SALT II. The prospects for further arms control efforts under Reagan seemed as bleak as the influence of Shultz.

Shultz recovered and later that year successfully pushed for a summit meeting between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland. At that historic meeting, Gorbachev offered drastic cuts in nuclear weapons in exchange for limits in Reagan’s proposed strategic defense initiative, sometimes referred to as “Star Wars”.


Although Reagan refused, the two nations signed a treaty to eliminate nuclear and conventional medium-range missiles a year later. Shultz claimed that Reykjavik, although viewed as a failure at the time, was a historic achievement, a view that has gained relevance among historians examining the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.

“I knew the genie was out of the bottle: the concessions Gorbachev made in Reykjavik could in reality never be withdrawn,” wrote Shultz in his 1993 memoir, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State . “We had seen the end result of the Soviets. I was confident that the concessions could be brought back to the negotiating table. “

Like many members of the Reagan team, Shultz’s image has been damaged by the aftermath of the Iran-Contra affair, a clandestine effort to fund guerrillas in their struggle against the left-wing Nicaraguan government, in violation of US law, through the sale of arms to the Iran were collected.


Shultz insisted that he disagreed during secret discussions about the arms deal with Iran. In his memoir, Shultz said he personally warned Vice President George HW Bush that such an exchange “would never stand up in public,” and then Bush “admonished” me.

His report – quoted in the final report by Iran-Contra independent attorney Lawrence E. Walsh – gave Bush a headache when it was published in 1993. Bush always claimed that he knew about arms sales to Iran but did not know that they were supposed to win the freedom of American hostages.

Shultz did not escape the affair without criticism. The Tower Commission, appointed by Reagan to review the Iran-Contra scandal, said in their Final report Shultz and Weinberger had “simply distanced themselves” from the secret agreement and “not vigorously tried to protect the president from the consequences”.

In response, Shultz said he stayed away from the National Security Council’s program to respect its secrecy.


George Pratt Shultz was born in New York on December 13, 1920, grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, and attended Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut.

As the only child of parents whom he described as very attentive, he excelled at school and enjoyed playing football. His father, Birl, was the dean of the New York Stock Exchange’s investor education program.

After graduating from Princeton University with a degree in economics in 1942, Shultz served in the U.S. Marine Corps through 1945. As a captain, he was stationed in Hawaii during World War II. There he met his first wife, Helena O’Brien, known as O’Bie, who was a lieutenant in the Army Nurses Corps. They married in 1946 and had three daughters and two sons. Helena died of pancreatic cancer in 1995.

In 1997 Shultz married Charlotte Mailliard Swig, then chief of protocol and special events director for the City of San Francisco.

After completing his military service, Shultz earned a Ph.D. in Industrial Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1946 to 1957 he worked on the faculty of MIT and spent 1955 in Washington as a senior economist on President Dwight Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisers. He then became Professor of Industrial Relations and Dean of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago.

In 1969, Nixon named Shultz head of the Department of Labor. In 1970 he became director of the OMB.


As Treasury Secretary from 1972, Shultz played a role in detaching the US dollar from the price of gold in response to a growing US balance of payments deficit. The termination of the gold standard meant the fall of the fixed currency rates and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, which had determined the economic relations between the major industrial nations after the Second World War.

Shultz also helped steer government policy when Nixon was caught in the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation.

Shultz left the government in 1974 and moved to Stanford University, where he became a professor of management and public policy. Later that year, he joined the US engineering company Bechtel Corp. and was its president from 1975 to 1979. Bechtel gained international notoriety with the help of former senior government officials who held senior positions, including both Shultz and Weinberger.


After serving in the Reagan administration, Shultz kept a hand on national affairs. He was an advisor to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and co-chair of the Committee on the Present Danger, a pro-military group revived by Conservatives in 2004 to support the US war on terrorism.

He supported the US war in Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and wrote six months before the invasion in March 2003: “Self-defense is a valid basis for preventive measures.”

Shultz chaired JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s International Council, which advises senior management on global business issues.

In December 2020, just before his centenary birthday, Shultz wrote one Opinion piece for The Washington Post, titled “The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Trust in My 100 Years.”

“I learned a lesson early on and then learned it again and again: Trust is the coin of the empire. When there was trust in the room, whatever it was – the family room, the school room, the locker room, the office room, the government room, or the military room – good things happened, ”he wrote. “When there was no trust in the room, no good things happened. Everything else is details. “


Schultz was an early supporter of Elizabeth Holmes, the now-disgraced founder of Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup that claimed to have developed a blood test that could diagnose a variety of diseases with just a prick of the finger. Holmes hired Schultz, along with other luminaries, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former US Senator Sam Nunn, to serve on the company’s board of directors. Schultz worked from 2011 to 2015 and helped raise the profile of Holmes and the company.

Although Theranos was never able to deliver the technology he touted, Holmes was able to close a deal with Walgreens of Deerfield in 2010 to install Theranos devices in stores, a deal that finally fell through in 2015 when the Wall Street Journal first raised questions about technology.

Schultz’s grandson, Tyler, a Theranos employee from 2013 to 2014, was the whistleblower who helped bring the company’s wrongdoing to light. The company closed in 2018 and Holmes was charged nine cases of wire transfer fraud and two cases of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in 2018. Your trial is currently scheduled to begin in July.

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