Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How not to make fun of Rumsfeld

Even occasional readers of this blog know that I am no fan of Donald Rumsfeld, and that's an understatement.  However, to twit him (via) for a brief memo he sent in April 2003 to Douglas Feith, then undersec of defense for policy, seems a little misplaced.  Yes, the memo is very short and easy to laugh at; on the other hand, Rumsfeld presumably liked the idea of short memos.  Can't say that, in itself, was bad.  It's the policies that were the problem, not the length of the memos (or, in this case, some of the content of the memo). 

Btw, I see from the FP South Asia Daily (that I get but am always behind on reading) that the Obama admin's proposed budget for the next fiscal year would cut U.S. aid to Pakistan by 10 percent (though the overall figure remains relatively substantial, albeit considerably below aid to Afghanistan, of course.)

10 comments:

LFC said...

Actually there are a few interesting, informative comments in the linked LGM thread (linked with the word "via" here).

Not every comment at LGM is a piece of pompous, semi-ignorant, self-righteous, posturing shit. Only about, say, 45 percent of them or so. ;)

chaosandgovernance said...

The memo underscores the fact that Rumsfeld thought that Iraq would not require a long occupation and that US forces could move quickly onto the next issue. Neo-Conservatives like Rumsfeld really do seem to have thought that the international order could be transformed very rapidly through the use of overwhelming force, without creating any long-term liabilities.

LFC said...

Agreed that that's what the memo seems to indicate. But Scott Lemieux's post at Lawyers Guns & Money (LGM) which I linked could have made that point more clearly. Perhaps he thought it was so self-evident he didn't have to make it explicit.

JS said...

Rumsfeld communicated with the memos he had, not the memos he wished he had.

hank_F_M said...

Having read a good number of memos that were 2 to 10 times longer than they needed to be, and which sometimes newer addressed the alleged topic of the memo, I can't complain about desiring shorter memos. (Yes I have written a few of them myself.)

I don't really care for Secretary Rumsfeld, but he did have a few good points.

LFC said...

@js.

Rumsfeld communicated with the memos he had, not the memos he wished he had.


:-)

Rumsfeld did have a penchant for saying some, what's the right word?, weird/awful things.

A while back I wrote a post on a journal article about him. I'll have to dig it up and refresh my memory on the article's argument.

LFC said...

@hank
my bias is also toward short(er) memos, all other things being equal. It's been a while since I've been in a memo-reading environment, though.

hank_F_M said...

LFC

I had another thought on the subject. Dr. Feith has the sort of undisciplined mind that draws all sorts of connections that no one else sees or would consider plausible. Possibly a good thing in a think tank or academic department. A very bad hahbit for an Undersecretary of Defense.

A memo with short questions in an imperative voice is good way to minimize that tendency.

chaosandgovernance said...

I think some scholars working on political psychology and operational codes have done research on him: https://books.google.at/books?id=0VjHAAAAQBAJ&dq

I'm not sure what I think of the operational code stuff. The problems of assessing the belief systems of individuals at a distance and on the basis of public statements are obvious, but proponents like Walker argue that the analyses have been corroborated in instances where public statements have been compared to evidence from the archives. Still, I'm cautious...

LFC said...

My previous post on Rumsfeld I alluded to was from Oct. 2009.

The opening (i.e., quoting myself here) ran:

"The current issue of Foreign Policy Analysis contains an illuminating article about Donald Rumsfeld's 2001-06 tenure as Sec. of Defense, with particular reference to Iraq: Stephen Benedict Dyson, " 'Stuff Happens': Donald Rumsfeld and the Iraq War," Foreign Policy Analysis 5:4 (2009): 327-347.

"Dyson argues that Rumsfeld was a paradox: a bureaucratic in-fighter who wanted to be in control of decision-making but, once in control, believed rather fatalistically that he and others could have relatively little impact on the course of events. This "paradoxical combination of a bureaucratic infighter style and a highly complex, somewhat fatalist worldview" (p.345) produced results that, given the larger context of the Bush administration's policy process, were nothing short of disastrous."

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I don't recall whether Dyson cites the operational code stuff in that piece.


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Re Feith: I really don't know enough about him, nor do I know what other sorts of memos Rumsfeld sent him. Feith has been given a lot of the blame for the Pentagon's failure to plan for post-invasion Iraq. Presumably he makes an effort to defend himself in his memoirs, which I haven't read. I did dip into the memoirs for about 5 minutes in a bkstore once. He describes a mtg or a dinner as a college student with some prominent neocon, I forget which one, that influenced his politics and outlook.