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Former defense secretary faults lack of direction in Middle East

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld discussed the past decade of U.S. Middle East military strategy Thursday evening at the Minutemen Memorial Building during an event co-hosted by the GW Reserve Officers Association and Graduate School of Political Management. Delaney Walsh | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Justin Peligri.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the U.S. government has failed to identify clear goals in the Middle East for the past decade in a speech Thursday.

By declaring a “war on terror” in 2001, the U.S. misidentified its future mission in the region, Rumsfeld said. Public disappointment has stemmed from the government’s lack of clear goals for the wars, he explained.

“What we’re against is radicals, and we ought to be able to say it. I don’t see how you win if you don’t identify the enemy,” he said.

Rumsfeld, who served under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006, said both Bush and President Barack Obama mishandled efforts in the Middle East.

“The war is likely to last a long time. What people don’t understand is that we have to win it with ideas, not bullets,” he said. “We have not even engaged in that.”

He credited U.S. troops for making tremendous strides in Iraq and Afghanistan, though they were forced to overcome political unrest, ethnic and religious instability and poverty throughout the region.

“We can’t build other nations. We can give them a chance. That’s what we’ve done. And we’ve done a darn good job,” Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld acted as secretary of defense for presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, in addition to serving as Ford’s chief of staff and as a four-term Republican member of the House of Representatives. He was largely seen as director of the U.S. post-9/11 military offense and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In his second term as secretary of defense, Rumsfeld said he pushed to direct resources toward specific aims, like the Iraq war.

“The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein,” he added.

During his talk, an Iraq War veteran asked if U.S. efforts would still be worthwhile if the nation fell back into chaos after the projected withdrawal later this year.

“Yes,” he said. “Is war perfect? No. Is it ugly? Yes. War is a God-awful, ugly thing.”


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