Friday, October 24, 2003

a Hominidal peek at Rumsfeld's memo

The leaked memo.

Everyone's talking about it. I just spent about two hours reading comments, and comments about the comments (e.g., Sensing on Lileks). Fuck other people's commentary and let's just reprint the thing right here at the Hairy Chasms, with MY uneducated commentary. Ready?

October 16, 2003

TO: Gen. Dick Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Pete Pace, Doug Feith
FROM: Donald Rumsfeld
SUBJECT: Global War on Terrorism

The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?

DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere - one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.

A lot of people are going bonkers over Rumsfeld's supposedly Admin-critical tone. But these are precisely the questions a man in his position is supposed to be asking, and his feeling that national defense needs revamping hasn't been hidden. He is, every step of the way, fighting a great deal of bureaucratic inertia, as can be expected.

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be: We are having mixed results with Al Qaeda, although we have put considerable pressure on them - nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

The "mixed results" phrase in particular has resulted in a rather poisonous meme, but to me it seems to be an honest assessment. In and of itself, it implies nothing further than the observable truth in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Should Rumsfeld have taken a North Korean propagandist tack and written a memo that said:

Glorious American fighters for democracy have boldly eradicated every last remnant of the evil al-Qaeda group, and are at this moment butchering the families of these evil men, creating a sea of blood that stretches across the world of Islam! ALL PRAISE TO OUR LEADER GEORGE BUSH! Please email me your personal praises of Leader Bush in prose or poetry form by Monday.


I think not.

USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis. USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban - Omar, Hekmatyar, etc. With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started. Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the U.S.? Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror? Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental?

My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

This, again, is no secret. Rumsfeld has long been critical of the way things are run. I don't see why this memo is creating all this furor. Maybe I'm overestimating the excitability of certain people.

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? Does the U.S. need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?

"Metrics"-- yes, if you're trying to measure progress, it makes sense to ask for standards by which to measure that progress. Rumsfeld even suggests criteria on which to build such standards.

The U.S. is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions. Do we need a new organization? How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools? Is our current situation such that "the harder we work, the behinder we get"?

And if you were in Rummy's position, wouldn't you be asking and re-asking these questions as relentlessly and annoyingly as possible?

It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog. Does CIA need a new finding? Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madradssas to a more moderate course? What else should we be considering?

The optimism of the first sentence of this quote seems to have been largely ignored in all the uproar.

Please be prepared to discuss this at our meeting on Saturday or Monday. Thanks.

The pisser, of course, is that the enemy gets a little more insight into the breadth and depth of our current thinking on terrorism. If this project is taken seriously, the implications of DoD reconfiguration obviously span more than a single presidential tenure. Rumsfeld has always gotten my vote because he advocates flexibility plus rapid deployment and seems, if this memo is any indication, capable of apprehending and dealing with current realities, instead of shrinking from them or papering over them. And it's not much of a pisser-- so much of this memo, in one form or another, has been public knowledge that I fail to see what deep impact the memo can have.

Publishing the answers to Rumsfeld's questions, however...

Conclusion: much ado about what we already know.

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