Rumsfeld's Rules : LUSENET : Unk's Troll-free Private Saloon : One Thread


Issue 174 Sept. 9, 2002


In 1977, the month after Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as President, and one month after I lost my job as Congressman Ron Paul's research assistant, because he had lost the 1976 election by 268 votes out of about 180,000 cast, an article appeared in THE WASHINGTONIAN: "Rumsfeld's Rules." This was a long list of unofficial rules that should govern any senior advisor in the Washington bureaucracy. In 1974, he had copyrighted these rules. Now that he was out of office, he allowed a version of them to be published.

Donald Rumsfeld had been the Secretary of Defense -- the youngest in history -- under President Ford. Previously, he had advised President Nixon on Nixon's ill- fated price controls program, while he was part of Nixon's Office of Economic Stabilization. He left Washington in 1973, just as the Watergate scandal was breaking, to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to NATO. Ford brought him back in August, 1974, to serve as the chairman of his transition team. On the day before Ford left office, he awarded Rumsfeld the Medal of Freedom. To say that Rumsfeld is a Washington insider is to say the obvious. He is arguably the supreme Washington insider today.

Because the United States seems to be preparing to start a war with Iraq, I think it is time to review a few of Rumsfeld's rules. This war, if unsuccessful in reducing the terrorist threat to the United States, will become an expensive quagmire for the U.S. military and the U.S. taxpayer. Afghanistan has already become such a quagmire. Our troops are there for an indefinite stay. Our man in Afghanistan, Karzai, was nearly assassinated last week, yet we know little or nothing about who was behind the assassination attempt. It came out of nowhere. To imagine that this threat will go away is naive.

To imagine that an extended stay in Iraq will be any less risky or less costly is also naive. Like B'rer Rabbit in the Joel Chandler Harris story, President Bush is about to smash the nation's collective fist into the tar baby of the Middle East. We will not get out easily. B'rer Osama will be the winner, as I hope to explain.


In January, 2001, when Rumsfeld once again took over as Secretary of Defense, the Defense Department posted his list of rules on its Website. If you search for "Rumsfeld's Rules" on Google, the first link is to the Defense Department's site.

You see this message underneath the section, "Press Advisory."

"Rumsfeld's Rules Now Available on the Web."

When you click on this link, you are taken to a PDF file:

There you read:

"Rumsfeld's Rules are no longer available from the Department of Defense."

Allow me to suggest a reason for this disappearance. These rules are an old-time Washington insider's insights into how to operate as a Presidential advisor, and also how to survive. Rumsfeld is a survivor. His list of posts indicates a career of supreme partisan survivorship. He may eventually become a member of the American Talleyrand Society, joining the list with Elihu Root, Henry Stimson, John Foster Dulles, and John J. McCloy.

But I don't think he will make it into this select group. First, Democrat Presidents have avoided him like the plague when they have been in office, unlike Root & Co., who enjoyed bipartisan office-holding. Second, he is now widely perceived as the man who has provided the rationale for President Bush to invade Iraq. If that adventure proceeds as announced and then turns sour, as the Afghanistan adventure is now turning sour, Bush will lose in 2004. Rumsfeld will then go into retirement as an also- ran in the Talleyrand sweepstakes. He will be regarded as a Republican partisan who served in high positions in three losing Administrations -- Nixon's, Ford's, and Bush's. (He was a relatively minor player in Reagan's, holding seven forgettable positions, which indicates edge-of-the- loop status.)

It's not that the Pentagon thought that by removing the document from its site, this would somehow kill it. The Web is too fecund for that. But something odd happened to the document a year ago. According to a Website that specializes in PDF, the most widely used document format for the Internet, Rumsfeld's rules were updated on September 11, 2001. Even more incredibly, the "Doc Info" data file indicated that this document had been updated one hour before the plane hit the Pentagon.

Sometime after September 11, the document was removed from the Pentagon's site. The PDF Website has posted the Feb. 20, 2001 version of "Rumsfeld's Rules."

If the Iraq adventure turns out badly, which is likely, Rumsfeld's rules will eventually come back to haunt him. I begin with some early principles.


- In the execution of Presidential decisions work to be true to his views, in fact and tone.

- Know that the immediate staff and others in the Administration will assume that your manner, tone and tempo reflect the President's.

Rumsfeld is perceived, correctly, as the Iraq war's defender and chief cabinet-level spokesman. There are minor figures within the Administration who are also strong promoters, but they do not have Rumsfeld's visibility or his high office.

Today's Iraq warhawks are the heirs of the earlier Iraq warhawks, who were the source of Bush, Senior's policy of luring Saddam Hussein into attacking Kuwait. Someone high in the State Department told our Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, to tell Saddam Hussein in July, 1990, that Bush did not care if Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The spiritual and intellectual heirs of the policies in the second half of 1990 are in power today. The policy has not changed: eliminate Iraq as a power in the Middle East. Prior to August, 1990, the U.S. was content to play England's ancient game of the balance of power: Iran vs. Iraq. This strategy eventually led Britain into to two world wars and the loss of the Empire. It will not do any better for us.

Iraq does not directly threaten the United States. There is no evidence that it has weapons of mass destruction, according to Scott Ritter, who was the head of the United Nations' inspection team. Ritter wrote recently:

I bear personal witness through seven years as a chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations to both the scope of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating them.

While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament. This figure takes into account the destruction or dismantling of every major factory associated with prohibited weapons manufacture, all significant items of production equipment, and the majority of the weapons and agent produced by Iraq.

With the exception of mustard agent, all chemical agent produced by Iraq prior to 1990 would have degraded within five years (the jury is still out regarding Iraq's VX nerve agent program -- while inspectors have accounted for the laboratories, production equipment and most of the agent produced from 1990-91, major discrepancies in the Iraqi accounting preclude any final disposition at this time.)

The same holds true for biological agent, which would have been neutralized through natural processes within three years of manufacture. Effective monitoring inspections, fully implemented from 1994-1998 without any significant obstruction from Iraq, never once detected any evidence of retained proscribed activity or effort by Iraq to reconstitute that capability which had been eliminated through inspections.

In direct contrast to these findings, the Bush administration provides only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster its claims concerning Iraq's continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration accountable for its unwillingness -- or inability -- to provide such evidence.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld notes that "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

I am convinced that President Bush is really the brains behind his Iraq policy, which is why I think it will fail to achieve its stated objective, namely, to reduce the threat of terrorism in the United States. When it comes to his policy on Iraq, this is a case of a son's desire to settle an old score for his father, who is accurately perceived as a man who did not eliminate his enemy when he had the opportunity. Bush, Senior said that the coalition's goals did not include the removal of Hussein, only the removal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Bush, Junior has countered with this argument: "Nuts to any coalition." So, the American taxpayers, not Saudi Arabia, will foot the economic bill for this one. Our ground troops will foot the bill in blood.

As for any American-approved replacement ruler in Iraq, he will have Karzai as a role model.


- In our system leadership is by consent, not command. To lead, a President must persuade.

Recent public opinion polls reveal that almost two- thirds of the American public does not think that the President has clarified his position on why this war is necessary. This is a political banana peel if the war goes badly. It will justify a fickle public's reversal of judgment.

Today, before the blood is flowing, two-thirds of the public is willing to send the volunteer army -- not the sons and daughters of the middle-class -- to war in Iraq. Incredibly, only half think it's worth it if there will be substantial American casualties. This indicates that well over 10% of those polled think that we can topple Saddam without suffering substantial casualties.

About 49% thinks we should invade even if there will be substantial casualties for Iraqi civilians. Again, 49% thinks that it's worth invading even if the war takes years and we must occupy Iraq for years. But two-thirds thinks the President should wait for the approval of our allies. (There is no approval by our allies, other than Tony Blair, who is facing criticism from within his own party)

The Democrats are not saying mush about the war. It is not a major election issue. It is not even a minor election issue. This indicates that Bush will get his war. But unless he clarifies why Americans must fight, the public reserves the right to change its mind and blame him for the blood. I think a bloody war followed by a bogged- down recovery phase are a safe bet. At that point, the Democrats will start criticizing Bush's handling of the nation-building process. This will be an issue in 2004.

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- The price of being close to the President is delivering bad news. You fail him if you don't tell him the truth. Others won't do it.

The truth is this: there is no case for Iraq as being in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Yet the United States is about to launch an attack on Iraq on the basis that someday, Iraq might have such weapons.

The State of Israel sent jets over Iraq in 1981 and blew up a nuclear power plant. The justification was that the plant could someday produce plutonium, which could be used to build a nuclear weapon. But Israel did not send in ground troops. We will have to.

You can find a strong defense of Israel's 1981 action on a Website devoted to defending Jonathan Pollard, the convicted American spy who gave Israel American military secrets. The site reprints a 1995 article that identifies Pollard as the original source of the information that Iraq had an unconventional weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We read:

"Shimon Peres, currently calling most of the shots in the Rabin government, was, after all, the man who bitterly attacked Begin for bombing Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. It is this mind-set which is so troublesome when the vital question of ensuring our safety arises. Among all the doubts, Pollard emerges as a truly great Jewish hero. He passed on information to try and save Israel from its enemies -- information which was Israel's due."

Today, Bush is about to launch a war based on a revived, unsupported version of Pollard's argument regarding Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

This leads me to another of Rumsfeld's rules, which he attributes to Simon Peres.

- If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact, not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.

President Bush knows that an American President has only so much time. He may have only until January 20, 2005. His father ran out of time. Saddam Hussein is still in power. A perceived family score must be settled.


- Remember the public trust. Strive to preserve and enhance the integrity of the office of the Presidency. Pledge to leave it stronger than when you came.

This desire to strengthen the office of President is being enacted into law, day by day. The war against terrorism is the justification domestically for an ongoing reduction of our liberty. Mr. Rumsfeld fully understands the nature of this process.

- "It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once." (David Hume)

A shooting war will silence the political opposition for as long as the war seems to be going well. Nothing strengthens the Presidency more than a war, unless the war becomes a stalemate or a defeat. But it's a big gamble to start a war. It assumes that the war will be easy to win. I predict that "bring the boys home by Ramadan" will not be possible. As Rumsfeld said long ago,

- It is very difficult to spend "federal (the taxpayers') dollars" so that the intended result is achieved.

Fortunately, there is an alternative:

- Presidential leadership needn't always cost money. Look for low- and no-cost options. They can be surprisingly effective.


- If in doubt, don't.

- If still in doubt, do what's right.

My view: it is not a wise policy for the President of the United States to follow Jonathan Pollard's recommended military strategy -- an attack on Iraq -- based on Mr. Pollard's assessment regarding Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. It also isn't right. I remind Mr. Rumsfeld:

- In politics, every day is filled with numerous opportunities for serious error. Enjoy it.

Frankly, I would not enjoy it. But I know what he meant. If you don't enjoy it, resign. He does not resign.

My advice:

- "The oil can is mightier than the sword." (Senator Everett Dirksen, [R-IL])

What this country's foreign policy needs is more oil cans and fewer oil embargoes.


- If you get the objectives right, a lieutenant can write the strategy. (General George Marshall)

The objectives are not right -- not morally right, and not strategically right for the United States. There are no known weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Pollard is in jail, because what he did was morally wrong. His strategic analysis was equally flawed.

- "No plan survives contact with the enemy." (Old military axiom)

This is an axiom, not a corollary. Someone in Washington should pay closer attention to the fact that Saddam Hussein is a secularist and therefore the sworn enemy of Osama bin Laden and his radical co-religionists. Removing Saddam Hussein will create a crisis of rule in Iraq. So will a series of assassinated puppets. This will be grist for Osama's mill.

- Look for what's missing. Many advisors can tell a President how to improve what's proposed or what's gone amiss. Few are able to see what isn't there.

I'll tell you what's missing: a realization that war with a terrorist group is not like war with a nation. The head of state of a nation understands that the rule of tit- for-tat governs warfare. This is why neither side used chemical weapons in World War II. It is also why, historically, nations at war do not resort to assassination of the rival nation's head of state. Assassination produces tit-for-tat.

The strategic problem comes with terrorists. First, they tend to be martyrs. Second, their leaders are not easily targeted, for they hide. They do not make public appearances. Third, if the terrorist organization doesn't claim responsibility for its act of terrorism, its leader may escape tit-for-tat.

If Saddam Hussein is replaced by the United States, assassination will become the wave of the future. His successors will not survive. The Karzai attempt last week was the first salvo. It will not be the last.

If the West's inability to deal with assassination becomes obvious to Islamic terrorists, the likelihood of an escalation of assassination increases dramatically.


- "The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

This rule now governs Mr. Rumsfeld. This is the nation's problem. He is still functioning.


- It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.

This one is going to bite Bush and his advisors. It is going to bite the Republican Party in 2004.


We are about to enter a new phase of the war on terrorism. This phase will increase the confidence of Islamic terrorists that the Great Satan is ready to remove secular leaders in Islamic states. This message will also get through to secular leaders of Islamic states. It will place them in between the U.S. military and the Islamic Koranists. It will produce a common enemy: the United States, which is already viewed as a client state of Israel by the Arabs.

As I began saying last September, "the action is the reaction." To undermine secular leaders in Middle Eastern Islamic states is a reaction that will strengthen the hand of the radicals.

It is now time for the Commander-in-Chief to scrap both the military analysis and the military response recommended by Jonathan Pollard. The sooner that Mr. Rumsfeld becomes convinced of this, the better.

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