A bare two weeks after the attacks of September 11, at the end of a long and emotional day at the White House, a sixty-nine-year-old politician and businessman—a midwesterner, born of modest means but grown wealthy and prominent and powerful—returned to his enormous suite of offices on the seventh floor of the flood-lit and wounded Pentagon and, as was his habit, scrawled out a memorandum on his calendar:Interesting day— NSC mtg. with President— As [it] ended he asked to see me alone… After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone He was at his desk— He talked about the meet Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]
“Was it a failure of the imagination,” Morris asks, “or a failure to look at the intelligence that was available?”Rumsfeld: Why We Live In His Ruins [paywalled too]
It is the film’s most telling question, and though it passes quickly, for just an instant the entire elaborate scaffolding of tricked-up epistemological skepticism, promoted in the title of Rumsfeld’s memoir and now with lethal irony in that of Morris’s film, trembles and wobbles, exposed as the bare rhetoric of self-exculpation. Twice in the film, and with undisguised pride, Rumsfeld offers us this philosophy:There are known knowns, the things we know we know. There are known unknowns, the things we know we don’t know. There are also that third category of unknown unknowns, the things we don’t know we don’t know. And you can only know more about those things by imagining what they might be.
A perfect little chamber play of dysfunction: the American proconsul in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, secretly demands that 30,000 more soldiers be sent to Iraq, having neglected to mention this to the general who actually commands American forces there or to the president’s national security adviser, to whom Bremer supposedly reports. The secretary of defense, to whom he also supposedly reports, feels compelled to act out his shock and regret before the president.In The Darkness Of Dick Cheney
The pinnacle of power had been attained not in Baghdad but long before, when the leaders decided to set out on this ill-starred military adventure. By invading Iraq Bush administration policymakers—and at their head, Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—had managed to demonstrate to the world not the grand extent of American power but its limits. The most one could say is that the “demonstration model” had had the opposite result of that intended, encouraging “rogue states,” faced with the prospect of an aggressive United States determined to wield its unmatched conventional military forces, to pursue the least expensive means by which to deter such an attack: nuclear weapons of their own. Now the Iraq war suggested that even if the Americans did invade, a determined core of insurgents equipped with small arms, suicide vests, and other improvised explosive devices might well be enough to outlast them, or at least outlast the patience of the American public.Documentarian Errol Morris (and "his secret weapon for unsettling interviews"), famous for his work in and on former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, has created a new piece on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, called The Unknown Known. "As an investigation, The Unknown Known adds little to our memory of Rumsfeld’s press conferences and his lugubrious ruminations over what words meant. The marvel of the film (and of other Morris projects) is the cold lucidity of the light in undeviating close-up on the “witness.” " The film focuses on the memos Rumsfeld sent, and still sends, the "snowflakes." Morris wrote about his experience for Vanity Fair:
He was clearly proud of the role that he had played in the Bush administration. I realized right away that the film I hoped to make was not going to be a story about someone who felt remorse. In fact, when I asked Rumsfeld about The Fog of War—my film about Robert McNamara, secretary of defense during the Vietnam War—he told me that he didn’t like it. He said that McNamara didn’t have anything to apologize for.Last year, Showtime made a documentary focused on another prominent Bush Adminstration figure: The World According To Dick Cheney. Reviewed in the New York Times:
“The World According to Dick Cheney” has interesting insights and revealing moments, but for critics who long to confront Mr. Cheney it may prove dissatisfying, because it allows him to make astonishing assertions without direct contradiction or follow-up questions."Essentially, Cheney has one answer for most questions: I did what I believed was right, not what I thought would be popular." Dick Cheney was apparently displeased with how he was portrayed.
Even during the 1990s, those who disliked your views tagged you as a neoconservative. But the label never quite fit. You were at most a fellow traveler. You never really signed on with the PR firm of Podhoretz, Kristol, and Kagan. Your approach to policy analysis owed more to Wohlstetter Inc. — a firm less interested in ideology than in power and its employment.In 1992, the New York Times reported on a leak of a Department of Defense policy statement authored by then-Undersecretary Wolfowitz:
I didn’t understand this at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate the extent to which your thinking mirrors that of the nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter. Your friend Richard Perle put the matter succinctly: “Paul thinks the way Albert thinks.” Wohlstetter, the quintessential “defense intellectual,” had been your graduate-school mentor. You became, in effect, his agent, devoted to converting his principles into actual policy. This, in a sense, was your life’s work.
What is most important, it says, is "the sense that the world order is ultimately backed by the U.S." and "the United States should be postured to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated" or in a crisis that demands quick response.Wolfowitz talked about the policy guidance to Vanity Fair.
« Older Evolution and adaptive significance of low intelli... | Tire Ski Jump [slyt]... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments