Rumsfeld reflected upon World War II, which, as a boy, he remembers as a time when the entire country got behind the effort. To critics, who have called for more troops in Iraq, he says, "(Such people) are often thinking World War II and the (former Defense Secretary Caspar) Weinberger Doctrine, which is valid in a conflict between armies, navies and air forces. The problem with it, in the context of a struggle against extremists, is that the greater your presence, the more it plays into extremist lies that you're there to take their oil, to occupy their nation, stay and not leave; that you're against Islam, as opposed to being against violent extremists."
His greatest concern is that the public is not sufficiently prepared mentally for another domestic terror attack. He says there are "two centers of gravity. One is in Iraq and the region; the other is here." The "here" to him centers on the way the media report the story and focus mainly on opposition to administration policies and not on the objectives of the enemy, who he describes this way: "They're deadly. They're not going to surrender. They're going to have to be captured or killed. They're going to have to be dissuaded (and) people are going to have to be dissuaded from supporting them, from financing them and assisting in their recruitment, providing havens for them."
"We're in an environment where we have to fight and win a war where the enemy is in countries we are not at war with," he says. "That is a very complicated thing to do. It doesn't happen fast. It means you have to invest the time, effort and ability."
Rumsfeld seems to agree with the Iraq Study Group's conclusion that Iraqis and their government must ultimately run their own country. He likens it to an adult holding a child's bicycle seat for fear the child will fall: "You know if you don't (eventually) let go, you'll end up with a 40-year-old who can't ride a bike. Now that's not a happy prospect."
He'll consider writing a book about his experiences over many years in Washington and adds this about today's volunteer military: "when the uniform personnel look back five, 10, 15 years from now, they're going to know they've given these folks an opportunity to succeed in an environment that is not a repressive political system, but a free political system."
That legacy has yet to be determined. As with the Cold War, the end won't come on the watch of those presidents and defense secretaries who fought it. Donald Rumsfeld, a cold and hot warrior, understands the enemy. His principled stand against them will be proved right.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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