Rumsfeld warns against weakening of U.S. will

December 16, 2006|By Peter Spiegel

WASHINGTON -- Donald H. Rumsfeld used his farewell address as defense secretary yesterday to warn against a weakening of American will in Iraq, saying a withdrawal of troops might provide short-term relief from U.S. casualties but would embolden extremist enemies.

Joined by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney at a Pentagon ceremony, Rumsfeld defied critics of his conduct of the war, saying a failure to project military strength would make the U.S. more vulnerable.

"A conclusion by our enemies that the United States lacks the will or the resolve to carry out missions that demand sacrifice and demand patience is every bit as dangerous as an imbalance of conventional military power," he said. "It may well be comforting to some to consider graceful exits from the agonies and, indeed, the ugliness of combat, but the enemy thinks differently."

Rumsfeld likened the broader war on terror to the Cold War. But he warned that, in contrast with the mood of the Cold War, when the U.S. relied heavily on European allies in facing down the Soviet Union, those same allies seem less willing to support the U.S. That might force the U.S. to shoulder even more of the burden in the future, he said.

"Sadly, realistically, [we have] friends and allies with declining defense investment and declining capabilities and, I would add, as a result, with increasing vulnerabilities," Rumsfeld said, in one of his sharpest critiques of allied governments. "All of which requires that the United States of America invest more."

Rumsfeld will not formally relinquish his post until Monday, when former CIA Director Robert M. Gates is sworn in.

Peter Spiegel writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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