Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who served in the George W. Bush administration, warned in a recent speech that military and financial weakness on the part of the United States is creating a more dangerous and unstable world. “What I worry about most today is American weakness,” Rumsfeld told a conference on Capitol Hill that was organized by the Defense Forum Foundation. “The signal of weakness is a dangerous one,” he said. He also asserted that Congress and the federal government are dysfunctional and inadequate in the increasingly complex information age. He is calling for a high-level commission to modernize both the executive and legislative arms of American government. Rumsfeld said that America’s government “isn’t working very well,” because bureaucracies and other world institutions such as the United Nations were set up during the industrial age. “The world’s changed. We’re now in the information age, and those institutions really don’t serve us very well,” he said.
Asserting that “the world has been a safer place because of the United States of America,” the perception of American weakness on the part of adversaries can provoke them into conflict. He pointed out the importance of keeping the U.S. economy and military strong. “I look at the United States today and I think anyone has to worry,” Rumsfeld said.
The octogenarian Rumsfeld said that he recently visited the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, where he met regional leaders who said they were concerned about possible weakness on the part of the U.S. One prominent statesman told Rumsfeld that the U.S. should not model itself on Europe’s economy: “a failed model, a model that isn’t working very well.” Rumsfeld added, “And to the extent the world looks at the United States and sees that we are not managing our economy in a way that suggests that we’ll be able to continue to participate in the world in a constructive way, that is a signal of weakness.”
Critiquing plans by President Obama’s administration to cut $487 billion from the Defense budget over the next decade, Rumsfeld said, “People read that and they think, ‘Well, which way is America going? Where is it going? What’s it going to be like? What’s the effect of that in the world?’” He added, “And I would submit that that is what worries me when I go to bed tonight, the idea of an America that is not seen as strong, and a presence, and a deterrent, a dissuader to countries from behaving in manners that are harmful to others.” There is also the potential for an additional $600 billion in Defense cuts due to a Congressional parliamentary process known as sequestration.
The former Defense chief and Marine pilot said that the planned cuts in defense spending would send the wrong signal to China. “It’s important for the United States of America to recognize that cutting our defense capabilities by half a trillion dollars in the first tranche, and prospectively another half a trillion dollars, is a signal that is not a good signal for the world and is not responsible behavior by the United States,” he said.
What the U.S. needs is a military build-up, not a draw-down said ‘Rummie.’“The goal is not to fight a war,” he said. “The goal is not to win a war because you don’t want to fight one in the first place. The goal is to do what [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower said is, it’s peace through strength. It’s to have those capabilities that create the kind of deterrent and defense and dissuading effect in the world that enable us to make a contribution to peace and stability.” While communist China is free to increase its military footprint, “we can’t ignore it,” he said. “We have to recognize not that they are an enemy, but you can be darn sure that they don’t get up every morning and ask what they can do to make life better for the United States. You can be absolutely certain of that. And we have to recognize that. It’s our job to look out for our interests, and it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for us to do.”
China is free to build up its military, “but we can’t ignore it,” he said. “We have to recognize not that they are an enemy, but you can be darn sure that they don’t get up every morning and ask what they can do to make life better for the United States. You can be absolutely certain of that. And we have to recognize that. It’s our job to look out for our interests, and it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for us to do.”