And think back to the gulf war, the First Gulf War in the early 1990s. Saddam Hussein, when it was over, said he had fought the mother of all battles, and President George Herbert Walker Bush was gone, Margaret Thatcher and the U.K. was gone, and he was still in office. And the implication of that was that he had defeated the United States.
And we are involved -- let there be no question we're now involved in Libya. And if Gadhafi stays on, he will feel he has fought the mother of all battles against the United States. And it will be damaging to us, just as our demeanor in Somalia was damaging, the situation in Lebanon was damaging, and that will embolden others of his ilk.
TAPPER: Well, speaking of emboldening, Gadhafi is -- it's not new that he's a bad guy and that he was involved in the -- Libya was involved in the Pan Am bombing, and yet the administration that you were a member of, after you left, took Gadhafi off the terror list, opened relations with Libya after he abandoned the country's nuclear program. In hindsight, was that a mistake by President Bush?
RUMSFELD: I think the -- the logic behind President Bush's decision there was that, after Saddam Hussein was deposed and pulled out of that spider hole and then executed by the Iraqi people, Gadhafi looked at that and made a conscious decision that he did not want to become the next Saddam Hussein.
He had a nuclear program. And he decided that he would give up his nuclear program to avoid becoming a Saddam Hussein and being deposed, begin inviting inspectors in. They dismembered his nuclear program, and the world is a lot better off today because there is not a nuclear competition going on in that part of the world.
Now, was it a mistake in retrospect? I don't see how anyone, that President Bush or anyone else, could have anticipated necessarily that you'd end up with this kind of turmoil occurring in that country. But I think probably getting rid of Libya's nuclear program was a major accomplishment of the Bush administration.
TAPPER: Your former deputy at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, supports military intervention against Libya. He was on this show last week, and he said this.
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WOLFOWITZ: If Gadhafi were to survive, it would be very much against American interests, very seriously so.
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TAPPER: If Gadhafi were to survive, it would be very much against American interests. Is Wolfowitz correct?
RUMSFELD: Oh, he is, at this stage. Once the United States gets involved in something like this, if it ends and Gadhafi's still sitting there, as I say, being able to say, with some credibility, that he has just fought the mother of all battles in Libya, and he is still there, and the United States and the coalition countries are all gone, you bet it will be damaging to our country.
That's a quite different issue as to what we should have done at the very outset. And I wasn't knowledgeable about what the details were at that point, and I can't respond to that part of it.
TAPPER: Let's talk for one second about forming coalitions. After 9/11, NATO offered to help. And some argued that the U.S. and you rebuffed the offer. Would the U.S. be better off if it had pursued the military campaign in Afghanistan the way that President Obama has conducted this campaign in Libya, with NATO as the command-and-control structure?