Recently, retired politician and businessman Donald Rumsfeld (perhaps best known among the millennial generation for his role in misleading the U.S. into the Iraq War as George W. Bush's secretary of defense) took to CNN to loudly and arbitrarily grade the Obama administration’s handling of the war on terror.
Most of us would agree that the national security policy record under the Bush administration was pretty abysmal, riddled with controversies, scandals, and blatant disregard for civil rights. Surprisingly, Rumsfeld would agree. After first distancing himself from the administration and its routine torturing of prisoners (the Department of Defense, he states, is not actually the CIA, even if they work together), Rumsfeld graded the Bush administration’s handling of the conflict as a D-.
It seems like the kind of rating that Obama himself would agree with. After all, Obama has spoken against the executive power-grabbing that occurred after 9/11 and has even taken strides to restore the balance of powers within the government.
Rumsfeld sees it quite differently though – he proceeded to grade the Obama administration as an F. Let’s break down how and why Rumsfeld thinks Obama is doing worse than Bush.
Rumsfeld started with the complaint that Obama has “blamed the Bush administration for practically everything.”
Well, yes. I’m a little unsure who else to blame for the fact that the U.S. ended up embroiled in wars based on false information, enacted legislation that trampled the Bill of Rights, cost the U.S. diplomacy points by ignoring the United Nations, and financially drained us of trillions of dollars. After all, Bush held those reins until 2008.
Rumsfeld then derided Obama’s decision to end the war on terror by contesting Obama’s statement that Al-Qaeda has been gutted, maintaining that we don’t know anything about them.
But Obama’s statement wasn’t just empty words – it was based on intelligence analysis by some of the nation’s leading experts on national security and terrorism. Maintaining an open-ended war on a group that has been determined as defunct is pointless, costly, and exactly the kind of Bush administration nonsense that Obama is fighting.
Rumsfeld continued by stating that Obama was failing on an “ideological” level because his administration never used the term “jihad” in its discussions of the conflict.
While this is true, the administration does this because it is fighting “radical extremism,” and not Islam or Muslims. In fact, the term “jihad” is actually defined in Islam as the struggle against sin, mostly within oneself. By not solely using the term “jihad,” the Obama administration is being far more culturally and religiously respectful than the Bush administration and curbing Islamophobia.
Rumsfeld concluded by stating that the Obama administration did not recognize the fact that there are people determined to kill innocent men, women, and children and who are also “attacking the concept of the nation-state.”
The first part of that statement makes no sense. The administration, like any reasonable person, has acknowledged that there are threats and have demonstrated this by continuing its efforts to fight terrorism globally, just not in the form of a failed “war.” As for the second half, the fall of the nation-state is a hot topic in international relations. But it’s just an evolution of the world order thanks to globalization. Terrorists are certainly new actors that are eroding the power of nation-states, but so are multinational corporations, global charities, and international media. That’s not part of the threat of terrorism.
All of this is to say that Obama’s national security track record has its own blemishes, the recent controversy over drones being one of them. But I find it hard to believe that the Obama administration, by any stretch of the imagination, could be worse than Bush. At all.