Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that it will only be a matter of time before America endures another terrorist attack if Congress ends up blaming the defense budget for this country’s red ink woes. “The Department of Defense is not what’s causing the debt and the deficit. It’s the entitlement programs,” he told HUMAN EVENTS in an exclusive interview. “If we make that mistake, we’re doomed to suffer another attack of some kind, and our intelligence will be less strong and less effective.”
Before legislators attempt to take out the nation’s crushing debt on the Defense Department, they must understand that spending on the military is low compared with historical averages, said Rumsfeld. He noted that military spending from Eisenhower though LBJ topped 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP), far less than today’s 4.7%.
President Obama has already imposed $400 billion in military cuts, and there could be $800 billion more in slashing to follow in the very near future if congressional leaders do not agree on a debt-reduction deal.
Rumsfeld stressed that the military cuts looming today may be similarly disastrous to those that occurred at the end of the Cold War—a precursor, he claims, to creating the vulnerable environment that bred 9/11. The mindset then was, “we can cut the defense budget, we cut the intelligence budget, and we’ll be okay. The answer was that we weren’t okay. We didn’t have the kind of intelligence capability we needed.”
Ten years after September 11, Rumsfeld, who served as the secretary of defense for both Presidents George W. Bush and Gerald Ford, insists that the lessons we must never forget pertain to the nature of our enemies and how we eliminate them. “The country can no longer treat terrorists as criminals—as murderers, or bank robbers” and “lob a couple of cruise missiles into a training camp and think we’ve solved the problem,” he told HUMAN EVENTS.
Instead, explained Rumsfeld, the lesson we must remember on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is why President Bush changed the country’s foreign policy direction to one that targeted and dismantled terrorist strongholds before they became operationally dangerous to the United States. “If we were going to protect the American people, some structures had to be in place and coalitions had to be formed so that he [President Bush] could put pressure on the terrorists wherever they were and make it harder for them to talk to each other, and harder for them to move between countries and to find a country that would be hospitable to them.”
Rumsfeld told HUMAN EVENTS that Obama’s decision to keep many of the tools and tactics President Bush implemented to fight terrorism is reassuring. Even though Obama spent his entire 2008 presidential campaign promising to roll back those same terror-fighting policies, the President has discovered that they’ve “contributed to the protection of the American people these past 10 years.”
Are we safer today than we were before 19 jihadists hijacked American airplanes and took out the World Trade Center?
Rumsfeld thinks so, and that’s because President Bush invested loads of resources to improve this country’s defense apparatus and intelligence gathering dramatically.
On the other hand, America remains exposed, he argues, because today’s terrorists can “attack anytime, anyplace, using any technique.” A chemical weapon could easily wipe out 300,000 people, not 3,000. The “lethality of weapons” on the market today is vastly greater in the carnage they could create. “We need to recognize that a President’s margin for error is less than it was in earlier decades and therefore we have to be even better at knowing what’s taking place.”
Rumsfeld recalls the first conversation he had with President Bush after the deadly attacks on America’s soil, where Bush told him that he didn’t want just to “indict the al-Qaeda leadership.” The President wanted a plan to uproot their base and thwart future attacks. Rumsfeld discussed the challenge of that edict, acknowledging that there weren’t any road maps or guidebooks on how to fight al-Qaeda and other terrorist operatives. So he and his team got working on creating those systems from scratch immediately following the aftermath of 9/11.
In Rumsfeld’s expected sarcasm, he quipped that the “mainstream” media still doesn’t get how the anti-terror tactics the Bush administration developed foiled plots, or even how they worked, for that matter.
“I’m just reassured that they are still there.”