David M. Abshire, named by President Reagan to coordinate White House responses to multiple investigations into the Iran- contra affair, is no stranger to controversy over covert national security operations.
In 1970, as assistant secretary of state, it was Abshire's job to try to enlist congressional support for President Richard M. Nixon's military raids in Laos and Cambodia at a time when the public was demanding that the war in Southeast Asia be wound down.
In 1975, he served on a commission that investigated the government's foreign policy machinery and recommended that Henry A. Kissinger's dual roles as national security adviser and secretary of state not be repeated.
After New Year's
Abshire, 60, about to leave Brussels as U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, will begin his duties Jan. 5.
He is regarded a moderate conservative and a pragmatist who gets along well with people throughout the Washington Establishment. Some conservatives have criticized him as being too agreeable and question his depth as a foreign policy thinker.
"He is an amiable, fund-raiser type," said Robert Schuettinger, president of the Washington International Studies Center. Schuettinger also described Abshire as "somebody with no scholarly credentials."
But a longtime colleague, former Ambassador Robert G. Neumann, said Abshire is "a man of great sensitivity . . . very politically astute with a fine touch for the whole range of the Washington scene. Is he not deep? That was my first impression also. Be he has a great deal of depth. He's so polite and nice one doesn't see it immediately."
A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Abshire is a 1951 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and earned a Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University in 1959. He is a founder of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which until October was affiliated with Georgetown. University officials severed those ties with the complaint that the center was more attuned to the news media than to serious research.