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Dr. Fred Charles Iklé (August 21, 1924 – November 10, 2011[1]) was a Swiss-born sociologist and defense expert who became a significant part of the US defense policy establishment. Iklé's expertise was in defense and foreign policy, nuclear strategy, and the role of technology in the emerging international order. After a career in academia (including a professorship at MIT) he was appointed director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1973-1977, before becoming Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (1981 to 1988). He was later a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Department of Defense's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, a Distinguished Scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)[2] and a Director of the National Endowment for Democracy.[1]

Iklé is credited with a key role in increasing U.S. aid to anti-Soviet rebels in the Soviet War in Afghanistan. He successfully proposed and promoted the idea of supplying the rebels with anti-aircraft Stinger missiles, overcoming CIA opposition.

Background and early career[edit | edit source]

Iklé was born Fritz Karl Iklé in Samedan, Switzerland in 1924, growing up in St. Gallen; he anglicised his name after moving to the United States in 1946.[1] [3] He followed a degree at the University of Zurich with a master's and doctorate from the University of Chicago (1948 and 1950), both in sociology. His doctorate involved research in Dresden and Nagasaki and led to a book, The Social Impact of Bomb Destruction, (1958).[3]

From 1964 to 1967 Iklé was a professor in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[1] He was also at the Rand Corporation and at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. At Harvard he met Henry Kissinger, and in 1973 Kissinger (then Richard Nixon's national security advisor) recruited Iklé to government service.[3]

Government service[edit | edit source]

From 1973 to 1977 Iklé served as director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.[1][3] After the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Iklé was appointed Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, serving from 1981 to 1988.

Under Secretary of Defense[edit | edit source]

As an under secretary of defense, Iklé led the effort to lobby for National Security Decision Directive 166 ("Expanded US Aid to Afghan Guerrillas"), signed by Reagan in March 1985.[4] When he visited Pakistan in April 1985, Iklé found that the CIA was still pursuing the war in a halfhearted manner.[5] "We began to understand that what to us was a very big deal back in Washington, from the point of view of the president, is a second order priority handled by one GS [civil service officer]," according to Michael Pillsbury, Iklé's deputy.[5]

Iklé sponsored a proposal to supply the rebels with Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.[6] The Stinger proposal was at first strongly opposed by the CIA, the U.S. State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[6] CIA Deputy Director John McMahon, who resisted the proposal, was the target of a letter-writing campaign by conservative groups.[7] At a meeting on December 6, 1985, Iklé asked McMahon if the CIA needed Stingers. "I decided then and there that I had enough of carrying water for the Joint Chiefs and I said 'Fred, I'll take every Stinger you can send me,'" McMahon recalled.[7] Despite McMahon's apparent change of heart, the CIA again vetoed the Stinger proposal at an interagency meeting in mid-February 1986.[8] President Reagan signed an executive order to supply the Angolan guerrilla group UNITA with Stingers on February 18, and the CIA finally agreed to supply them to the Afghan rebels on February 23.[8] McMahon resigned soon afterward.[9] The decision to supply the Stinger to the Afghan rebels is often viewed as the turning point of the war.[9]

He is mentioned in chapter 14 of the novel Fail-Safe as someone working with the Air Force to reduce the chance of war by accident.

Later life[edit | edit source]

Iklé remained at the Defense Department until 1988, when he joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Iklé served as a Commissioner on the National Commission on Terrorism, which produced the Report of the National Commission on Terrorism in June 2000, and he served for nine years as Director of the National Endowment for Democracy.

He also co-chaired the bipartisan Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy, which published Discriminate Deterrence in January 1988.[10] In 1975 and 1987, Iklé received the highest civilian award of the Department of Defense, the Medal for Distinguished Public Service. In 1988, he was awarded the Bronze Palm.

Iklé served as chairman of the Board of the Telos Corporation and as a director of the Zurich-American Insurance Companies. He was a Director of CMC Energy Services and served as Governor of the Smith Richardson Foundation and as a Director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

He was a founding signatory of the Project for the New American Century's 1997 "statement of principles".[11]

He was the author of several books and numerous articles on defense, foreign policy, and arms control, including How Nations Negotiate and Every War Must End.

Awards[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]


  • Ikle, Fred Charles Annihilation From Within (Columbia University Press 2006)
  • Ikle, Fred Charles Every War Must End (Columbia University Press, 1971, 1991, 2005 with new prefaces)
  • Ikle, Fred Charles How Nations Negotiate (Harper and Row, 1968)
  • Ikle, Fred Charles The Social Impact of Bomb Destruction (University of Oklahoma Press, 1958)

External links[edit | edit source]

Government offices
Preceded by
Robert Komer
United States Department of Defense
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

Succeeded by
Paul Wolfowitz

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 CSIS news release (2011-11-11). "CSIS Mourns the Loss of Fred C. Iklé". Center for Strategic and International Studies. http://csis.org/press/press-release/csis-mourns-loss-fred-c-ikle. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  2. CSIS experts
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Washington Post, 16 November 2011, Fred Charles Ikle, Reagan defense official, dies at 87
  4. Heymann, Philip B., (2008) Living the policy process (2008), pp. 38–39.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Heymann, pp. 46–47.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Heymann pp. 42–43, 77.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Heyman, p. 75.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Heyman, p. 80.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jack Wheeler, "'Charlie Wilson and Ronald Reagan's War'
  10. "Fred Iklé: A man who helped win the Cold War, and future wars too.". Wall Street Journal. 2011-11-15. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204190504577038000923866694.html. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  11. Elliott Abrams, et al., "Statement of Principles", June 3, 1997, newamericancentury.org, accessed May 28, 2007.
  12. National Endowment for Democracy, Democracy Service Medal
  13. List of publications: http://csis.org/images/stories/Misc/ikle_pubs.pdf

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