Rumsfeld ‘Comfortable’ With Decision to Resign
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Dec. 12, 2006 Saying he feels fortunate to have served as defense secretary during this momentous period in history, Donald H. Rumsfeld said he has been inspired by working with the nation’s men and women in uniform.
Rumsfeld looked back on almost seven years at the helm of the department during an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity in Baghdad. The secretary visited Iraq Dec. 9-10 to thank U.S. troops for their service and sacrifices in the region.
The secretary leaves office Dec. 18. Robert M. Gates will become the 22nd defense secretary the same day.
Rumsfeld said he talked over his decision to resign with President Bush before Nov. 8, when the president announced the decision. Rumsfeld had offered his resignation before -- most notably after the prisoner-abuse scandal at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison broke in the press in 2004. Bush accepted Rumsfeld’s resignation after Democrats took both houses of Congress on Nov. 7.
“This time the outcome of the election created a situation where I personally believe, and the president agrees, that it’s better for someone else to be leading this department with that new Congress,” Rumsfeld said. “It’s better for the military; it’s better for the president; and it’s better for the administration. And I’m comfortable with that.”
While he’s comfortable with the decision, Rumsfeld said, he’s not happy about stepping aside. “I hate to not be doing what I’ve been doing, because I care so much about what we’ve been doing,” he said. “I’m convinced what we’ve been doing is right and that it will ultimately succeed.”
Americans need to understand the war the country is involved in, the secretary said. The war on terror is the first war of the 21st century. “It’s new; it’s strange; it doesn’t have major forces clashing with one another with the outcome clear for all to see,” he said.
He said the war calls for participation from all aspects of government. “There’s only so much the military can do; the military can do the military tasks,” he said. “Ultimately it will take a political solution. The danger to our country is real; it’s present; it’s lethal; and it’s growing.”
The threat terrorism presents seems to have receded because of success in preventing another attack in the United States, Rumsfeld said. “President Bush has almost been a victim of his success in preventing another attack, because people have allowed the idea of the threat to diminish in their minds,” he said.
Rumsfeld called this time “a period of a gathering storm.” The threats of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons are real, he said. Terrorists will use these weapons if they get their hands on them. “We need to be vigilant,” he said.
The military is doing a superb job in Iraq, he said. U.S. servicemembers are doing everything they can in the region. “The problems here are political,” he said. “They will require diplomacy, and they will require progress on that front for the military to succeed.
“We’re in the unusual circumstance where there is no way that our military can lose a single battle, here or around the world,” he continued. “There’s also no way the military can win alone. They simply have to have a political process that works with the various elements of these countries.”
The vast majority of Muslims are not violent extremists, and a political and diplomatic effort is needed to encourage them and empower them to denounce those who go around killing innocent people in pursuit of a tortured ideology, he said.
Transforming government to deal with these new threats is important. “Our government is basically organized to face the threats of the 20th century, not the 21st century,” he said. “The same is true of international institutions.”
The Defense Department is the only U.S. agency “that is expeditionary and deployable,” Rumsfeld said. The department also excels in deliberate planning.
He said that in many places of the world, nations need help patrolling their own borders. That means the best way to help these nations is to help them strengthen their border force. DoD doesn’t have that expertise, but other agencies in the government do, and those resources should be deployed when needed, he said.
Rumsfeld said he is not in favor of talking with Iran about Iraq, as one of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group suggests. “Talking for the sake of talking in this kind of a circumstance … is nowhere near as desirable as having some sense of why you would believe that process would be useful to you,” he said.
He also said other nations in the region are worried about the growing divide between Sunnis and Shiites as a general trend, and he does favor speaking with nations of the Middle East about this divide.
Finally, Rumsfeld wished his successor well. “It’s a tough job, and I have every confidence that he will do a good job at it.”