Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Donald Rumsfeld's Long March

"The Undertaker's Tally"
By Roger Morris

At a
press conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels in June 2002, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously said:

"Now what is the message there? The message is that there are no 'knowns.' There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns."

Strangely enough, Rumsfeld's own career, which catches so much of the political history that has led us into our present catastrophe, qualifies -- or at least did until today -- as either a "known unknown" or even one of those mystifying "unknown unknowns."

Every now and then, we need a little history to make sense of our world....

Roger Morris, a member of the National Security Council under Presidents Johnson and Nixon (he resigned in protest over the invasion of Cambodia) and bestselling author of biographies of Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and the Clintons, explores both the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns of Donald Rumsfeld's emblematic history and legacy, of his long march to power, and what he did with that power once it was in his hands.

Morris' two-parter on Rumsfeld's legacy, long as it is, is actually a miracle of historical compression, packing into a relatively modest space an epic history none of us should avoid. Call it a necessary reckoning with disaster.

Donald Rumsfeld himself may be front and center, but the supporting cast of rogues -- Dick Cheney, George Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Robert Gates, and so many others -- makes this a summary meditation on some of the most costly lessons of our times.

As a prophet, Rumsfeld may not have been exactly Delphic, "I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months," he said in an interview on November 14, 2002, "but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that." Nonetheless, he remains an emblematic figure of our age.

If you don't understand Rumsfeld, you can't fully grasp the unprecedented ruin which is American foreign policy today....

The Undertaker's Tally (Part 1)
Sharp Elbows
By Roger Morris

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

The Undertaker's Tally (Part 2)
The Power and the Glory
By Roger Morris
Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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