Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq
Donald Rumsfeld recently gave a speech at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced Studies at Johns Hopkins where he discussed in an engaging and candid way the reasons why perceptions over the Iraq mission differ and laying out why he thinks seeing OIF to victory is not only necessary but indispensable. But the question-and-answer period which followed rises above his prepared remarks by considerable margin. While no transcript is available, a Real Player audio file is available here and it is worth every one its 44 minutes. (Hat tip: DL)
Secretary Rumsfeld regretted that every time he spoke it was inevitably to "several audiences" of varying degrees of friendliness or hostility, an awareness which probably made routine press briefings dull and wary affairs. But while Rumsfeld at Johns Hopkins may not have been playing to an unquestioningly admiring audience, I think he felt he was talking to a rational and highly intelligent group of listeners, one that could be swayed by force of argument and the enumeration of facts. That turned the Q&A period into a kind of dialogue, in which Rumsfeld proved willing to examine each question in the round. And the subjects he covers run the gamut. What is torture? Are military contractors necessary in Iraq? Why does the perception of the same event differ between segments of the American public? What is military transformation? What are the key advantages of the enemy? If they are not to be called insurgents, then what should they be called? How many troops are enough?
In responding to each question it's obvious he has considered them before and we can hear the echoes of earlier dialogues in his response to the students and faculty of Johns Hopkins; one can't help wondering in what setting those earlier conversations took place. And yet it isn't pure regurgitation because if one listens carefully it's possible to hear Rumsfeld debating with himself; and the reverberations give the listener something of a picture of his mind. And whether one likes or loathes him, Rumsfeld's mind is an interesting place to be.