Monday, September 17, 2007

Rumsfeld Foundation Focuses on Central Asia

Bradley Graham reports in today's Washington Post that the recently retired Defense Secretary is turning international to charity work--especially in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (perhaps also Afghanistan?):
Rumsfeld became wealthy during a 24-year business career between stints in government. A family foundation, set up in 1985 by him and his wife, Joyce, is now valued at about $20 million and makes charitable contributions to dozens of groups a year.

Rumsfeld plans to fund the new foundation with a grant from the old one and with other personal assets, plus any contributions that friends might make. He does not intend to solicit money from others, nor keep either foundation going after he and his wife have died.

Royalties from Rumsfeld's planned memoirs also will go into the new foundation, which is to be called the Rumsfeld Foundation. But Rumsfeld said he is "in no rush" to get the book out. "I'm not going to try to get something out fast -- a kiss-and-tell -- and affect the elections," he said. "That's not me."

Details about the number and size of the Rumsfeld fellowships have yet to be worked out. But they will not be attached to a particular school, going instead to individuals for study in foreign and national security affairs, economics, and other public policy fields. Similarly, the foundation's lecture series will not be confined to a single campus, Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld has long spoken of the need to encourage government service. The other main aims of his foundation -- loans to micro-enterprises and help for Central Asian republics -- reflect more recent interests.

Micro-enterprise is a burgeoning global phenomenon in which people who lack access to normal credit receive financing to operate small businesses. It has proved to be an economic boon to some poor regions. Rumsfeld noted that the repayment rates have been high, and he said such loans have the advantage of bypassing sometimes corrupt governments and landing directly in the hands of beneficiaries.

His focus on Central Asian republics such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan stems from a concern that they lack the U.S.-based support groups that benefited the Eastern European states in their transition from communist rule. "We don't have, in Chicago or Detroit or Pittsburgh, Uzbeks or Tajiks or Kazakhs," Rumsfeld said. "I think that we need to have people who understand what's going on in Central Asia . . . and the difficulty of that transition."
According to the New Zealand blog Scoop, Rumsfeld will join The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, at Stanford University.