In a recent interview with The Times, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confessed former President George W. Bush was wrong to impose democracy in Iraq. Known for his aristocratic bearing and frequent blunt, unsparing language when greeting the press corps as the primary face of the Bush Administration’s Iraq strategy, Rumsfeld, the principal architect of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, expressed his private reservations about establishing democracy in Iraq in 2004 to The Times.
Rumsfeld said: “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories. The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words.”
Is this belated acknowledgement by Mr. Rumsfeld an attempt to cleverly distance himself from the remaining Bush White House chorus line or is he issuing a prescient warning?
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have inspired countless books, speeches, interviews and offhanded remarks by former Bush White House officials. Each deed serves an explicit purpose: To rebut others, settle scores, posture themselves as a sympathetic figure or for self-vindication. What prompted Mr. Rumsfeld to impart with these words to The Times will be subject to supposition; however, his utterance parrots the howling of skeptics during the run up to the war and, imaginably, will be used as a rhetorical club to batter the GOP in the 2016 election cycle and by those who persist in pursuing vendettas against Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.
To be fair, it is not shameful to examine mistakes; it is crucial. A man of Rumsfeld’s worthy authority is aware of this and his role in what has become an ongoing catastrophe in the region, something he and members of the Bush White House were woefully unprepared for, did not foresee or, worse, were simply impertinent.
Depending on a favored interpretation, Wilson’s Fourteen Points called for the spread of democracy, capitalism, opposition to isolationist policy and intervention to preserve national interest. Those who excogitate foreign policy are expected to use initiative at all time to determine impact even if logic, basic politics or economics tells us otherwise. Rumsfeld’s remarks should illuminate the unglamorous realities of foisting unwanted political systems on societies which are either unprepared for or outright reject them. It is politically toxic and a policy disaster.
Although an exploration of an important dialectic, Wilsonianiam, a Western theme, works in the West, but few spots elsewhere.