Wherever he served, he made a difference. That is the compliment Al Haig, who died on Feb. 20 at age 85, would have most appreciated. Service was his purpose. Courage was his defining characteristic. Patriotism, his impetus.
Societies become rich through ingenuity and hard work. But they become great because they produce men and women who lift them beyond the moment. Alexander Haig, who served his country during turbulent times, was such a person. I recruited him for the National Security Council staff as my deputy. One of his principal tasks was to help end a war that President Richard Nixon had inherited and in which Al had fought. It proved a heartrending journey, especially for a soldier. But with typical skill and dedication, Al carried out the many vital missions entrusted to him, including the dual tasks of extricating America from war while preserving the nation's honor.
As Nixon's chief of staff, Al had an even more grueling assignment: holding our government together as its presidency disintegrated in the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War. Al almost single-handedly saw us through this travail. He was willing, and sometimes eager, to battle for his convictions in the many important positions he held afterward, including those of NATO commander and Secretary of State to President Ronald Reagan.
A warrior-statesman, Al Haig will be remembered with respect, affection and the special kind of gratitude reserved for those who stood by their country in times of need. He leaves a big hole in the lives of his many friends and on the ramparts of our nation.
Kissinger was Secretary of State from 1973 to '77 and National Security Adviser from 1969 to '75
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