Fred Ikle’s insights guided the Reagan policy discussions on all the major strategic questions of that era. Quietly and yet effectively, he marshaled his arguments and expanded his influence by the sheer power of his intellect.
To meet with Fred was both to receive a lesson in grand strategy and to be given an assignment: help us advance the case for missile defense; have your team analyze a problem and report your findings back to me in 60 days; serve on a high-level advisory board at the National War College (in my case on the need for rebuilding America’s domestic industrial base); meet regularly with senior military officers, industrialists and academics and tell us what will happen if we become overly dependent on foreign nations for key technology components. Somewhere, in the bowels of the Pentagon those reports are still lying around. They should be dusted off and revisited, because our military’s technological dependence is surely an issue that needs review today.
A daily swimmer, Fred argued that he could think more clearly after his morning exercise. A thoughtful, humane person, he rejected the Cold War doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” because it rested “on a form of warfare universally condemned since the dark ages — the mass killing of hostages.”
As one of the longest serving members of Reagan’s administration, Fred refused to accept what Michael Pillsbury, one of Mr. Ikle’s deputies, called “defeatist détente.” He oversaw military assistance to anti-communist rebels in Central America and also took the fight to the Soviets by supporting the transfer of Stinger missiles to the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet invasion.
Fred was one of the unsung heroes of the Reagan administration. In many ways he put his imprint on the national security policies for the good of the United States, while others received the credit. Fred was never about taking credit — he was always about getting the job done, working effectively as a member of “the Reagan team.”
A hero has passed. We should not only pause to remember Fred Ikle, but also to draw inspiration from his unwavering service and dedication to our nation.