Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has kept a relatively low profile in recent years – leaving office as a reviled national embarrassment tends to leave limited options – but he still works his way into the spotlight from time to time.
This week, for example, Rumsfeld appeared on Fox News to question President Obama’s claims about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago. “You mentioned there was a tough decision,” he said. “I don’t think it was a tough decision.”
There are a few relevant angles to the comments. First, whether the former Pentagon chief understands this or not, the decision facing Obama was far more complex and risky than Republicans chose to believe. Second, if Rumsfeld hadn’t made the wrong call at Tora Bora, the threat posed by the al Qaeda leader would have been eliminated a decade ago.
But Glenn Thrush highlights another tidbit that seems important: six years ago, the U.S. was poised to launch a raid in Pakistan against al Qaeda, but Rumsfeld called it off. It was, he decided at the time, too risky.
A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.
The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group’s operations.
But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld…. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.
Rumsfeld thought at the time the mission was too dangerous and could cause diplomatic problems with Pakistan.
The point, of course, isn’t to mock Rumsfeld’s questionable judgment during his tenure; rather, the point is his recent rhetoric about what does and doesn’t count as a “tough decision” is ridiculous.
And frankly, the idea that this guy still considers himself a credible voice is itself rather comical. Listening to Rumsfeld talk about the wisdom of military strikes is comparable to listening to George W. Bush talk about economic policy. Oh wait.