By Melissa Bower, Fort Leavenworth LampMarch 1, 2012
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (March 1, 2012) -- Looking from high above the earth at night, one can see lights shining brightly on the Korean Peninsula south of the demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel.
To the north, there is darkness.
That difference -- between the democratic South Korea and autocratic North Korea -- spells out what kind of partnerships with foreign countries may lead the United States into the future, said the nation's former twice-serving secretary of Defense.
"The ones that have freer political systems and freer economic systems have an interest in the world being a peaceful place," Donald Rumsfeld told Fort Leavenworth community members Feb. 24. "Those are where the opportunities are."
Rumsfeld visited Fort Leavenworth to address more than 1,500 students at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and sign copies of his latest book, "Known and Unknown: A Memoir."
Rumsfeld said many of the national agencies and organizations -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others -- were formed at an inflection point immediately following World War II. In several cases, Rumsfeld said, those agencies have gone unchanged for more than 50 years. NATO, for example, could begin looking at countries with like-minded ideas, such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and many others, as allies in the fight for human freedom.
"We have, basically, not rearranged the United States of America's government, or congress, or the executive branch, to fit the information age," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld also visited the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., where protesters interrupted his speech, according to a story in the Independence Examiner. Two were arrested. Rumsfeld has become a somewhat controversial character in the public eye for various decisions that took place during his second time serving as secretary of Defense in 2001-2006.
Maj. Joe Odorizzi, a student in the 2012-01 ILE class, said listening to Rumsfeld speak frankly about U.S. government and its policies was helpful.
"It was nice to hear his honest dialogue with us," Odorizzi said.
He mentioned that although rumors abound about a rift between Rumsfeld and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, Rumsfeld was able to refute those claims after a question from a student.
Odorizzi said listening to Rumsfeld speak also allowed him to reform his opinion about some of the decisions the former leader made.
"He cited documents and things we could read to decide for ourselves," he said.
Maj. Rick Sierra, a student in the 2012-01 ILE class, said Rumsfeld also gave him some things to think about.
"It was very refreshing. He's a guy who explains his point of view and how the government has to change," Sierra said.
Rumsfeld cited documents from a new website released along with his book, called The Rumsfeld Papers, www.rumsfeld.com. The site contains memos and documents from several decades of U.S. history. Under the section "detention operations documents," for example, is a 2003 memo on how Joint Task Force Guantanamo service members should handle the Koran when it is necessary for them to search detainees. The three-page document gives exact instructions so that military police do not offend Muslim detainees or their religion, with instructions such as: "Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in a manner signaling respect and reverence. Care should be used so that the right hand is the primary one used to manipulate any part of the Koran due to the cultural association with the left hand. Handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art."
Rumsfeld said he recognized the challenge that service members have in defending the nation. Fighting extremists is not like fighting a country, as many service members know, he said. No attacks have happened on U.S. soil as the nation's military struggles to neutralize terrorism.
"That didn't just happen," Rumsfeld said. "It's happening in large measure because of the service and deployments that the folks in this room have engaged in, and the pressure that has been put on terrorists … and the coalitions that have been established with some 90 countries sharing intelligence and sharing bank accounts -- making life difficult for people who are planning to engage in terrorist attacks."
While the rest of the nation and the government outside the Department of Defense is only modestly engaged in this battle, service members have given up years of being with their families and their lives, Rumsfeld said. He said he appreciated the interagency effort now taking place at CGSC to bring U.S. students from various government agencies to learn alongside the U.S. and international students.