Historians of the future, assuming any such will exist, will spend hours raking through the broken rubble of the western alliance and ask this: How did this group of nations, still fresh from victory in the Cold War, so quickly lose their power? When did their decline commence? They will point to many impersonal forces: economic, cultural, demographic perhaps. But they will know that at one point, as always, a group of men sat around a table and came up with some bad – no, really bad – decisions that changed everything for all time. And Donald Rumsfeld was right in the middle of such a group of men.
The Iraq Invasion of 2003 was a decision so monumentally awful that its consequences cannot be summarised in one tiny blog. Suffice that it wasted trillions in money and thousands of lives. It threw down Iraq and raised up Iran – a dreadful exchange. Far from concluding the daftly named “War on Terror”, it exalted such groups as ISIS and Al-Queda, who would go on to unprecedented achievements of atrocity and bloodshed. Above all it legitimised dictators everywhere to conclude that there was no new rules-based order. That if the US and its allies could invade anyone they jolly well didn’t like, so could anyone else. The sauce was the same for goose and gander.
As the reading of the links below will show, Rumsfeld committed the primary error of proud people everywhere. He felt that his will could be be made real if he only tried hard enough, and that he had no need of the advice of others. Not one. Not his intelligence people, not his senior commanders (whom he seems to have brought close to mutiny), nor his wiser allies inside the Republican Party and abroad. He was not alone; the whole Bush Administration and its media cheerleaders blundered into Iraq. But there he stood among them – proud, confident, knowing – and utterly wrong.
The benign world that existed before the Iraq invasion has vanished. The planet is once more divided into hostile, lethally-armed camps. Great problems such as climate change and epidemic disease seem as far as ever from solution, with all their conflict-generating potential. And while far from alone, the decisions and influence of Donald Rumsfeld did as much as any to push us all down this slope.
Media coverage of Rumsfeld has been so widespread that can only select a few examples, and one book
For an unforgiving take try Julian Borger of the Guardian
Daniel McCarthy of the Australian Spectator tries to balance Rumsfeld’s goods and bads
For a really good book on the whole sorry mess try
James Bluemel and Renad Mansour Once Upon a Time in In Iraq BBC 2020
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