President George W. Bush was wrong to try to build democracy in Iraq, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a recent interview, marking a striking admission from a key player behind the 2003 U.S. invasion.
In an interview with British newspaper The Times, Rumsfeld said that efforts to oust Saddam Hussein and replace his tyrannical regime with democracy were unworkable, and that he had concerns about the plan from the beginning.
“I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories,” Rumsfeld told The Times. “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.”
Rumsfeld, who served under Bush from 2001 to 2006, has previously defended the administration’s actions in the run-up to the war, which dragged on for years before formally ending in 2011.
In the interview with The Times, Rumsfeld addressed the issues that world leaders face today, warning that he did not believe the West is equipped to combat growing Islamic extremism or the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that has taken hold of swaths of the Middle East.
“The movement for a caliphate, the movement against nation states is central and fundamental. And no one’s talking about it. Have you ever heard anyone at the UN begin to think about the concept?”
The former defense secretary suggested that world leaders needed to mount a broad offense, one that could last for decades.
“You begin to look at this thing not like a war but more like the Cold War … you’re not going to win this with bullets, you’re in a competition of ideas,” Rumsfeld told The Times.