We lost an exceptional man this week with the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, who was at once one of the most consequential and controversial of our public servants at the cabinet level, having twice served the country as Secretary of Defense and as special envoy to the Middle East under a third president. George H. W. Bush once called him an “iron ass” for his tough stance in the Middle East during his son’s term, particularly in his staunch support for U. S. intervention in Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. I had an opportunity to meet him once and I liked him and approved of his leadership, including our intervention in Iraq, although I will admit that, after ousting Hussein from power he and his boss, Bush 43, badly misjudged the enormous problems associated with democratic “nation-building” and the Bush administration made terrible mistakes that resulted in the need for Rumsfeld’s removal at Defense and Bush’s implementation of the surge that prevented a U. S. defeat there.
In a final farewell upon leaving the Pentagon in 2006, he left the following warning that I thought was particularly appropriate then as well as now during our current debate over withdrawal from the so-called “endless war” in Afghanistan: “A conclusion by our enemies that the United States lacks the will or the resolve to carry out our missions that demand sacrifice and demand patience is every bit as dangerous as an imbalance of conventional military power. It may well be comforting to some to consider graceful exits from the agonies and, indeed, the ugliness of combat. But the enemy thinks differently”.
He was a patriot and a man of conviction. We need more of these.