Rumsfeld Era – the Known and Unknown Book Tour

Rumsfeld was reviled by many for acting on this knowledge fearlessly, vocally, and very publicly. But he was right on a lot of stuff. And ahead of his time. Not Mr. Nice Guy, and ‘way too dedicated to protecting the American Establishment for my taste, but right. And in your face? Even with roars of laughter from the crowd he made the point:

Half of you out there don’t know what a tweet is.

Forum: The Hudson Institute, K Street, Washington D.C.

Special guest: Donald Rumsfeld, author of Known and Unknown

Three things you should take away from here:

1. Donald Rumsfeld is of technical, scientific bent and “gets it” – evolving technology and its implications for his sphere of interest, keeping the “super” in superpower. 2. He is assertive and scornful of those who do not agree with his conclusions. 3. When he was invited back to government service in the Bush administration, he negotiated a mandate to inculcate the United States military philosophy with a new openness and responsiveness to unpredictable threats. He did so, ruthlessly. Many are still bruised.

Battle in Libya breaks, and once again, a U.S. President talks to the nation explaining involvement of U.S. (and NATO) armed forces in a messy, local conflict. A coalition has been built and put into action in a matter of days. Why? As the strongest military force on the planet and with national interests everywhere, there is always a sector of the U.S. populace or economy that is threatened when a conflict breaks out almost anywhere in the world. These conflicts are unpredictable, with murky battle lines and unclear beginnings and resolutions. Our lifestyles, our global supply lines, and technological inventiveness in weaponry make it impossible for the U.S. to ignore them. The U.S. military seems the best prepared to lead because some leaders in the U.S. government and think tanks saw it coming.

U.S. air forces had been stationed in Iceland at a cost of about $236M per year – they were there to counter a Soviet Union threat that did not exist any more. Rumsfeld related it took 4 years and constant argument and persuasion to get that the base closed. Vested interests including Icelandic interests wanted the spending to go on. As happened around the world, locals benefitting from the presence of the U.S. military but paid not a cent of the costs.

President Obama is further moving this along in regard to the revolts happening in the Mideast His performance during the crisis has been everything but accurate, based in local U.S, political wrestling or expectations of how the U.S. should be acting in Libya. Challenges to and vitriolic attacks on the President are following the same course as those on Rumsfeld. Obama striving for post-imperialism, Robert Grenier in Al Jazeera, April 5.

Rumsfeld is a s**t. Ok. The military of the US is a huge, expensive, cumbersome machine. Whether or not it is a necessary evil, it EXISTS. Rumsfeld did a lot of stuff to try and conform it to a newer, more capable, faster responding, cooler kind of evil, expensive machine that can handle the challenges of the 21st century [as he saw them].

I wrote this as an on line comment in 2008. I had just read the July/August issue of Atlantic and an item, What Rumsfeld Got Right: How Donald Rumsfeld remade the U.S. military for a more uncertain world By ROBERT D. KAPLAN was a coherent piece in a partisan free-for-all.

At the time, most rants and raves were anti-Rumsfeld in nature. He deserved it. Pugnacious and with a world-class ego, he pushed every button . But he was right that the times they are a-changing. And that more changes will happen in shorter cycle times – so more, quicker, more radical in nature – everyone is struggling with ways to deal with it. Government, regulators, law, creative arts worried to death about useless copyrights, corporate and their patents, popular and/or strategic mythologies trashed by wikileaks – the effects of accelerating technological capabilities of both good and bad actors are chaotic and unpredictable.

A metaphysical leap must happen to where the expectation of unexpected change becomes a foundation element of a new consciousness.

Expecting change is the first hurdle. After that is a process at individual and organizational levels to work with it. For large organizations, this is almost impossible. Dissension is inevitable. That’s the problem with change. You have to deal with new things using the already-obsolete tools you have. You have to take a lot of change on faith and adopt at least some of the new paradigm so you can deal with the very change you are dealing with! It goes for individuals and it goes double for government. Tradition and established constituencies hate this. But it has to be done if society and its agencies are to accomplish their goals.

Rumsfeld was reviled by many for acting on this knowledge fearlessly, vocally, and very publicly. But he was right on a lot of stuff. And ahead of his time. Not Mr. Nice Guy, and ‘way too dedicated to protecting the American Establishment for my taste, but right. And in your face? Even with roars of laughter from the crowd he made the point:

Half of you out there don’t know what a tweet is.

seated, l. to r. Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; General Peter Pace, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Jamie McIntyre, former Senior Pentagon correspondent for CNN; Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney; Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense - photo Russ Imrie

There, that’s probably one of the most subdued photo captions for a panel I will ever write. Note: both Feith and Libby are active with the Hudson Institute, which kindly hosted this discussion.

I am completing this blog at home. I must say that I was surprised at the different personalities that emerged in the discussion. Briefly, this is as diverse a panel of characters as you would ever meet. I want to credit the respect of free speech that gives me an opportunity to be here. Thanks Hudson.

distant US Capitol dome

U.S. Capitol SOTU eve, 2011 - photo Russ Imrie

Russell Imrie is a content producer, webmaster and an American Indian blogger living in the Washington DC area. 1. My earlier blog on evolving social networking and its political power 2. on the blogging phenomenonand classic [print] journalism. This is to say nothing about social networking. I tweet at tweedyBard. Copyright forever by Russell Imrie.

* Asymmetric Warfare – where two forces in conflict are of disparate natures, i.e. guerrillas with small arms facing the high-tech American “war-fighter”


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