Alexander Meigs Haig


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(b Philadelphia, 2 Dec. 1924; d Baltimore, 20 Feb. 2010)

US; General US army 1973–9, Supreme Allied Commander Europe 1974–9, White House Chief of Staff 1973–4, Secretary of State 1981–2 Haig was educated at West Point and graduated MA from Georgetown University, 1961. He joined the US army in 1947, serving in Korea 1950–1 and Vietnam 1966–7. In 1973, promoted to the rank of general, he became Vice-Chief of Staff US Army Washington and worked as a junior adviser to Dr Kissinger in the National Security Council. This latter post brought Haig to the attention of President Nixon, who appointed him White House Chief of Staff. During the turbulent closing weeks of the Watergate affair, Haig was one of the few officials to have continued access to the President and was perceived as being almost a lone voice of calm in the White House. After Nixon's resignation Haig returned to military duties as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, 1974–9. Retiring from active service in 1979, he took up a career in private consultancy.

In 1981 Haig became President Reagan's Secretary of State. But in stark contrast to his reputation for calm and efficiency at the height of the Watergate drama, his period at the State Department was marred by turf wars between himself and other members of the administration. Soon after his appointment Haig gained a reputation for being power hungry and ambitious. He began badly by staking a claim to responsibility for ‘everything beyond the water's edge’. Then, in the immediate aftermath of the attempt on the President's life in March 1981, Haig displayed a lack of judgement and political finesse by asserting on television ‘I am in control here in the White House, pending the return of the Vice President’, thereby encroaching on the territory of Mr Weinberger, Secretary of Defence and second in line of command after the Vice-President in an emergency. This self-inflicted damage compounded an earlier error when he had tried to assume the chairmanship of a new crisis management committee, a task allotted to the Vice-President.

Haig resigned from his post in 1982, blaming lack of consistency in foreign policy, and once again returned to private consultancy work. In 1987 he made a brief return to the public arena when he attempted unsuccessfully to gain the Republican Party's nomination for the presidency. In his later years, he hosted business programmes on television.

Subjects: Warfare and Defence.

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