The Future of Iraq (Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies): Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, John's Hopkins University, Washington, D.C. Campus, Monday, December 5, 2005

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Thank you very much, Dean Einhorn. I see here Ruth Wedgwood in the front row, a member of the Defense Policy Board, and a couple of friends here from 30 or 40 or even more years back. Bill Coleman and Hal [inaudible], it's good to see you. Colonel Hickey, thank you for all you do, as well as you gentlemen.

This is an impressive institution, with a well-deserved reputation as one of the important centers of strategic thought in America. And I'm certainly pleased to be with you. And I thank you for your invitation.

This School, of course, is named for one of the giants of the Cold War, Paul Nitze, who I knew and worked with over the years.

Paul was a driving force here, as has been my friend, Paul Wolfowitz, who led this School before returning to government in the Pentagon first and now at the World Bank.

And I am pleased to be here to discuss America's ongoing mission in Iraq--and the importance of it succeeding.

The other day, I came across an interesting set of statistics that I'd like to mention. It seems that the Pew Research Center asked leaders in the United States their views of the prospects for a stable democracy in Iraq.

Here were some of the results:

* 63% of the people in the news media thought the enterprise would fail;

* So did 71% of the people in the foreign affairs establishment; and

* 71% in the academic settings or think tanks.

Interestingly, opinion leaders from the U.S. military are more optimistic about Iraq by a margin of about 64 percent to 32 percent favorable. And so is the American public, by a margin of 56 percent to 37 percent.

And the Iraqi people are optimistic. I've seen this demonstrated repeatedly--in public opinion polls, in the turnout at the elections, the referendum on the constitution, in the number of tips that the Iraqi people are providing to the Iraqi Security Forces and to the Coalition forces. They've grown from 483 a month to 4,700 tips per month.

This prompts the question: which view of Iraq is more accurate? The pessimistic view of the so-called elites in our country--or the more optimistic view expressed by millions of Iraqis and by the some 155,000 U.S. troops on the ground?

But, most important is the question: why should Iraq's success or failure matter to the American people?

I'd like to address these questions today, before responding to your questions which I look forward to.

First, should we be optimistic or pessimistic about Iraq's future?

The answer may depend on one's perspective to a certain extent. Indeed, one of the reasons that views of Iraq are so divergent is that we may be looking at Iraq through different prisms of experience or expectation.

For starters, it must be jarring for reporters to leave the United States, arrive in a country that is so different, where they have to worry about their personal safety, and then being rushed to a scene of a bomb--car bomb--or a shooting, and have little opportunity to see the rest of the country.

By contrast, the Iraqi people see things probably somewhat differently: they can compare Iraq as it is today, to what it was three years ago--a brutal dictatorship where the Secret Police would murder or mutilate a family member sometimes in front of their children, and where hundreds of thousands of Iraqis disappeared into mass graves. From that perspective, Iraq today is on a vastly different, and a greatly improved path.

A distinguished academician, I don't have the exact quote so I won't name him, said something to the effect that the situation in Iraq is terrible, and it's never been better.

If one is viewing events through a soda straw, they should know that they are by definition selectively focusing on some facts that may highlight their view and not seeing some other perspectives. A full picture of Iraq comes best from an understanding of both the good and the bad, and the context for each. …