Jeffrey LewisThe Problem with Don Rumsfeld

There’s just one? Yeah, but it’s a doozy.

Holding court on the O’Reilly Factor, Captain Loofah turned surprisingly tough, asking if anyone warned Rumsfeld that Iraq might turn out to be a gigantic shit sandwich. Rumsfeld replied:

We, you can find intelligence that says almost anything.

Is Don Rumsfeld an arrogant jerk? Ask Richard Avedon’s camera.

And therein lies the problem. Rumsfeld makes up his mind, then finds the evidence to fit. When the intelligence community, for example, doesn’t find something as threatening as he does, Rumsfeld assumes they are being duped.

This tendency was evident in both Congressionally-empaneled Commissions he chaired prior to his current term as Secretary of Defense. Here are a pair of quotes from the Ballistic Missile and Space Commissions:

  • Precise forecasts of the growth in ballistic missile capabilities over the next two decades-tests by year, production rates, weapons deployed by year, weapon characteristics by system type and circular error probable (CEP)-cannot be provided with confidence. Deception and denial efforts are intense and often successful, and U.S. collection and analysis assets are limited. Together they create a high risk of continued surprise.
  • [T]he threat to the U.S. and its allies in and from space does not command the attention it merits from the departments and agencies of the U.S. Government charged with national security responsibilities. Consequently, evaluation of the threat to U.S. space capabilities currently lacks priority in the competition for collection and analytic resources. Failure to develop credible threat analyses could have serious consequences for the United States. It could leave the U.S. vulnerable to surprises in space and could result in deferred decisions on developing space-based capabilities due to the lack of a validated, well-understood threat.

This is no accident: Rumsfeld, in one of his first appearances before a Congressional Committee, emphasized that “the only thing we know for certain is that it is unlikely that any of us knows what is likely.” He added, after a lengthy review of various suprises in his lifetime, that “recent history should make us humble.”

Wouldn’t humility be a nice change?

Note: Thanks to ACW reader JP for the quote.


  1. Michael Roston (History)

    Saddam Hussein has superpowers. If you shake hands with him, you will never be held accountable for anything.