With the situation in the Middle East continuing to intensify, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld believes that the U.S. will need to send ground troops to combat ISIS in Iraq, while adding that it’s “better” to do so “sooner rather than later.”
In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt Friday, Rumsfeld also remarked that President Barack Obama “made a terrible mistake” by “telegraphing” the U.S.’s plans in the Middle East to terror groups. The former Bush 41 and 43 official added to Hewitt that Obama has compounded the problem by telling terror groups “what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.”
HUGH HEWITT: Given all that is public right now, all the public information, do you think the return of American combat troops to Iraq in large numbers is going to be necessary in the next few years?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I think it’s too soon to tell. I think it’s very clear that what we’re doing is not enough, and that it is going to take some ground forces, and that it is better to do what you’re going to do sooner rather than later. To the extent that you wait and let them recruit and build up and get more finances and get better organized and do what the government’s doing now, telling them what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do, it seems to me all it does is compound the problem, make it worse for the future.
HEWITT: Well, that sounds, then, Mr. Secretary, like a yes, even though you said it might be too early to tell. That sounds like, in your mind, you think we have to go back again.
RUMSFELD: I think it is a shame the way it’s been handled in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I mean, I have never believed that the United States should or could serve as policemen for the world, nor do I believe that we’re capable of nation building. I do think that we are making a terrible mistake by pulling back, telling the enemy what we plan to do and don’t plan to do, leaving a vacuum, and allowing that vacuum to be filled by people that are hostile to the United States and hostile to our values.
HEWITT: Can anybody else do the job of defeating the Islamic State besides the United States using significant numbers of ground troops?
RUMSFELD: Well, the way I look at it, this is much more like the Cold War than it is World War I or World War II or Korea. It is something that is going to take all elements of national power through successive administrations of both political parties, undoubtedly, with a lot of cooperation from our friends and allies around the world. And ultimately, it’s going to take some action by the moderate Muslims in the world, the overwhelming majority of them, to do their part. And I must say, I think the Egyptian leader has done a terrific job saying what he said and doing what he’s doing. I think the king of Jordan is under pressure. He’s got a country flooded with Syrian refugees, and he is now stepping up the bombing and the military action. And I think it’s going to take that kind of leadership. But our country has backed off. And leading from behind for the United States doesn’t work.
HEWITT: But ultimately, to use your word ultimately, is it going to take American troops?
RUMSFELD: Well, I think so. You know, at what time? I know I’m not there, and I’m not in a position to judge that, but I think that it’s very clear what he’s been doing is not working. He has been unsuccessful in gathering other countries to cooperate and assist. He has made a terrible mistake by telegraphing in advance everything he thinks he’s going to do or not do. And he’s simplified it. He’s demystified the problem for the other side. And it’s going to take U.S. leadership to be sure. In what form that takes, it depends in part on when he gets going and when he decides that this is a serious problem.