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"Rumbo"-feld — Or: Who's Boss?

Does U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld further or harm U.S. policies?

June 18, 2003

Does U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld further or harm U.S. policies?

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has not exactly endeared himself to the rest of the world. His hard-charging style reminds many of Rambo — or similar characters played by actor Sylvester Stallone. It has become quieter around Mr. Rumsfeld, but he leaves nobody in the dark about his own views. Our Read My Lips traces his verbal track record — and views on his performance.

Why did you take on Iraq?

“There are moments in history when the judgment and resolve of free nations are put to the test.”

(U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, February 2003)

Were you not troubled by the prospect of going it alone?

“It is less important to have unanimity than it is to be making the right decisions — and doing the right thing.”

(January 2002)

Mr. Rumsfeld, how do you assess the process of Iraq's reconstruction?

“The reality is that it is a very difficult transition from despotism and repression to a freer system. It’s untidy.”

(Donald Rumsfeld, May 2003)

What was one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s most surprising remarks about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?

“We do not believe they are there.”

(May 2003)

How do outsiders view his heads-on approach?

“Donald Rumsfeld often quotes Al Capone. But should our guiding philosophy really be the street talk of a Chicago mobster?”

(Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek Editor, March 2003)

How does the Defense Secretary help out his president?

"For Europeans, Rumsfeld is the problem more than Bush."

(Richard Longworth, Chicago Tribune Senior Correspondent, July 2002)

Why would you go ahead with National Missile Defense despite technological challenges?

“A system of defense need not be perfect — but the American people must not be left completely defenseless.”

(February 2001)

What is the main point about NMD?

“It is not so much a technical question as a matter of a president’s constitutional responsibility. Indeed, it is in many respects a moral issue.”

(February 2001)

Does your previous service as defense secretary from 1975-1977 make your job easier now?

“For some reason, people think I know more than I know.”

(Donald H. Rumsfeld, May 2001)

In what way has Europe changed in recent years?

“Thinking of Europe as Germany and France, I think that’s old Europe. The center of gravity is shifting to the east.”

(January 2003)

What might be Secretary Rumsfeld's true worry?

“It is not really the ‘old Europe’ that worries Rumsfeld. It is the ‘new Europe’ that France and Germany are creating.”

(EU military official, January 2003)

What is your view of European wide anti-war demonstrations?

“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion — but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

(February 2003)

What could be done to win European public opinion for the U.S. Iraq policy?

“I did tell the President that we need a lot of Secretary of State Colin Powell — and not much of Rumsfeld.”

(Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, February 2003)

Is Europe prepared to listen to Donald Rumsfeld at all?

“When Don Rumsfeld speaks, much of Europe and the rest of the world disagree with him, before he even opens his mouth.”

(James P. Rubin, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, February 2003)

Which one of Sylvester Stallone's lines appears to come close to Mr. Rumsfeld's approach?

"This is where the law stops — and I start."

(Sylvester Stallone, alias Cobra)

And finally, can Mr. Rumsfeld afford his verbal attacks much longer?

“It’s time for Rumsfeld to cool down — and to place lasting U.S. interests ahead of personal pique.”

(Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, May 2003)