December 5, 2006

Rumsfeld's Memo: The Larger Picture


If the Rumsfeld memo moved through the media like a sonic wave, shattering any last doubt this Administration could conduct a war, there was even more to the piece of paper than that.

What the LA Times photo editors picked up on, in choosing this spot-on photo to accompany their story, is what Rumsfeld and this Administration are good at instead.  If you read the memo, what you see (besides a scratch list of one-to-two-line random and contradictory ideas) is a prevailing concern for spinning, not winning.

In the following excerpts, notice how Rumsfeld’s mind is focused as much or more on the perception of the policy, as it is on the policy itself.  (Italics mine).

“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them)….”

“Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi government and the U.S. — political, economic and security goals — to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made).”

And what about this one (which the phrase “stay the course” practically an indictable offense).  Rumsfeld writes:

“Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis… This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”

Don’t you just love that “whatever?”

Here’s what the memo confirms:  Rummy’s style as Defense Secretary was just to wing it.  And to obfuscate that fact, he was well practiced in the art of misdirection — and cliche.  (So, who put our hands on the bicycle seat, exactly, and who couldn’t figure out how to pull up his socks?)

… But then, as long as the American people felt that real progress was being made, all Donald had to do was stand there and gesture while, below the radar, he “went minimalist” and keep it all stealth.

(image: AFP / Getty Images.  File photo. Published December 3, 2006.

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Michael Shaw
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