James Forsyth

The breath-taking recklessness of Donald Rumsfeld

The breath-taking recklessness of Donald Rumsfeld
Text settings

One thought one had heard it all when it came to the folly of Donald Rumsfeld’s second stint at the Pentagon. But it is jaw-dropping to see these cover sheets for intelligence briefings that Rumsfeld gave President Bush. They come with Biblical quotes attached to martial images. Just imagine the reaction if these had leaked during the Iraq war. The incident would have played into the charge that the United States was trying to impose Christianity on the Muslim world. They would have undercut Iraqi and Afghan democrats and would have made life even more difficult for American allies in the Muslim world. And to what end, what upside was there to the use of these quotes? None but possibly a brief motivational buzz for those who saw these quotes.  

Robert Draper, the author of the best Bush biography, has further illustrations of Rumsfeld’s arrogance and inability to cooperate with others in the accompanying article. Take these two examples:

“When Condoleezza Rice appointed Robert Blackwill to the Iraq Stabilization Group in 2003 to oversee that country’s rickety reconstruction efforts, Rumsfeld saw the new group as an encroachment and therefore elected to dispatch no DoD personnel to its meetings. Here was the Rumsfeld paradox in action— his need for control trumping his desire for information—and his own subordinates could see the cost. “The truth is,” recalls a former aide, “having people in the National Security Council is how you influence the NSC. So he would weaken himself by not having his eyes and ears there.”

Another such trespasser on Rumsfeld’s turf was the deputy national-security adviser for combating terrorism—an office that Rumsfeld once decreed does not exist. Its third occupant was a woman, Fran Townsend, and Rumsfeld’s contempt for her was well-known throughout the building. “You think I’m going to talk to this broad?” he would complain.”

Why Bush didn't sack Rumsfeld before November 2006 is one of the great mysteries of the Bush administration. If Rumsfeld had been dismissed earlier, the legacy of the Bush administration might be far better.  

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Topics in this articleSociety