Pin It
Favorite

Rummy's Rules 

Robert Gates teaches his predecessor something about 'unknown unknowns.'

click to enlarge art16268.jpg

Donald Rumsfeld is remembered for a lot of things. He once gave Saddam Hussein a gift of golden spurs. His boss, Richard Nixon, called him a “ruthless little bastard” on those secret tapes. But his New York Times obit will no doubt lead with this quote from during the Iraq War: “There are known knowns … We also know there are known unknowns … But there are also unknown unknowns.” Rumsfeld even titled his new memoir Known and Unknown.

But there’s another bunch of words he should be remembered for. In 1974, after leaving the Nixon administration and before helping Gerald Ford take over, he wrote Rumsfeld’s Rules, a batch of quotations he shared with friends. Culled from the best advice he ever got, it was eventually published. It’s actually a pretty inspiring collection of sound American advice.

If only he’d re-read his own book.

One of his rules, chillingly, is, “It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.”

Maybe Rumsfeld’s replacement, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, dusted off a copy before his final West Point speech last Friday.

“Any future defense secretary,” he told the Army cadets, “who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

Gates speech was a careful, but powerful indictment of the hasty, ill-founded invasions of two faraway nations that, Rumsfeld predicted, would be over in, “you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”

Now, with our economy in tatters and our nation still at war, he’s on his book tour settling scores and refusing to acknowledge any mistakes.

Rumsfeld’s arrogance blinded him to the basic findings of our nation’s hard-won wisdom; he (and Bush and Cheney) believed those unknown unknowns don’t apply to us.

Gates seemed to agree with Rumsfeld’s theory of unknown unknowns, but he filtered it through a healthy humility: “When it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam our record has been perfect. We have never once gotten it right.”

The Rumsfeld-to-Gates transition is crucial. It’s a transition from never admitting we’ve made a mistake to trying to learn from them. It’s going from Bush-Cheney America, where everything will work out if we just close our eyes and believe it, to an America where being the best requires open eyes and open minds. It’s from plowing ahead in the face of all the unknown unknowns to pondering that nugget somebody once took the trouble to write down — that it is easier to get into something than to get out of it. n

Ted S. McGregor Jr. is the Editor and Publisher of The Inlander.

  • Pin It

Speaking of Common Ground, politics

  • The Other Washington
  • The Other Washington

    Our local state representatives and senators gear up for another year of fights over education, taxes and crime
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • The Gem State's Agenda
  • The Gem State's Agenda

    What to watch for in the Idaho legislature's 2017 session
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Thanks, Obama
  • Thanks, Obama

    The legacy of the 44th President goes far beyond the election of the 45th
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Comment

  • Children Will Listen
  • Children Will Listen

    How art speaks to life in this particular moment
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • So Here We Are
  • So Here We Are

    Here's hoping the new president fills the office with the grace and sense of tradition it requires
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Get Big Money Out
  • Get Big Money Out

    Letters to the Editor
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Intersection of What? A Presentation on Intersectionality

Intersection of What? A Presentation on Intersectionality @ Spokane Falls Community College

Wed., Jan. 25, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Ted S. McGregor Jr.

  • The Watch List
  • The Watch List

    You'll learn a lot by watching some key people who could make or break Trump's presidency
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Fake-News Nightmare
  • Fake-News Nightmare

    The social media dream of the 2000s is fading, but we can reset the system by sticking up for the truth
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • BOOKS
  • BOOKS

    From Twin Peaks to the darkest reaches of our galaxy, there's a new book for everyone on your list
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


Briefs


marijuana


green zone


Politics


Readers also liked…

  • To Kill the Black Snake
  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • A Broken World
  • A Broken World

    One woman's chaos exposes the hell of addiction and homelessness on the streets of Spokane
    • Jul 28, 2016

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation