Rumsfeld's Cluetrain


Donald Rumsfeld has a very interesting op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal that makes a qualified and somewhat disingenuous case for government openness as a weapon in waging the War on Terror. Sample:

I have long believed in the importance of granting the public greater access to information about their government -- the good and the bad. Almost four decades ago, while serving as a member of Congress, I was a co-sponsor of the legislation later called the "Freedom of Information Act" that allows individual citizens and the press to obtain access to public documents, absent a showing by the government of a need to keep certain information confidential. […]

Following the publicity of allegations of detainee abuse, the Pentagon even declassified and published memoranda pertaining to interrogation techniques and detainee policies.

Rumsfeld conveniently leaves out that it was his and Dick Cheney's lobbying that convinced Gerald Ford to veto the 1974 expansion of the FOIA to include the crucial arenas of law enforcement and National Security, and obviously the Pentagon's detainee-abuse disclosure record is not as rosy as the Donald claims here, but that's not necessarily what makes this interesting. The fact of the column itself confirms that the Defense apparatus is thinking seriously and urgently about the management of worldwide information flows, something we've been following here for a while.

Rummy's recs? 1) "[G]overnment officials will need to communicate clearly and often," 2) "[A] healthy culture of communication and transparency between government and the public needs to be established," 3) "[P]rotecting the secrecy of confidential information that, if revealed, could harm the security of the U.S.," 4) "[G]overnment officials must find new and better ways to communicate America's mission abroad. This will mean embracing new ways of engaging people across the world, as the U.S. Information Agency and Radio Free Europe did during the Cold War. We will need to find ways to use the capabilities offered by the Information Age to counter the toxic images and lies that target the U.S. and to better inform the world about our nation's efforts."

Do you trust Rumsfeld & Co. to "find ways" that are consistent with National Security, the principle of openness, and basic morality? Read the whole thing, and those other links, and judge for yourself. I, for one, took interest in his choice of an opening line: "Every conflict in history has seen its share of rumor, propaganda and misinformation."

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  1. (1)

    We need more dumbed downed propaganda to sway the population with.


    We need more domestic propaganda in general.


    Making more and more of what government does secret so we can cover our ass from political fallout.


    Rumsfeld is saying that he and his ilk are badly losing the propaganda war in the middle east. Of course they've known this for a few years now and they still remain tone deaf.

  2. Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush imperialist war mongering team should be either impeached or fired immediately and charged with whatever they can be for engaging the US in a war based on falsified intelligence and outright fraud that is becomming more evident daily. Not to mention the general disgust Bush and his cronies have shown for the Constitution and the security of the United States.

  3. "In war, truth is the first casualty." - Aeschylus

  4. Donald Rumsfeld talks about the importance of open, honest government. In other news, Bin Laden discusses the importance of religious tolerance, Rush Limbaugh denounces drug war hypocrisy, Paris Hilton talks about the importance of life having a purpose, and Bill Clinton discusses the importance of remaining faithful to your marriage vows.

  5. What an odd coincidence that just as the deputy Chief of Staff comes under fire for leaking classified information, the Secretary of Defense writes an op-ed about the virtues of government openness. Oh, please.

  6. alkali,

    And imagine, Bush is now changing his criteria for firing someone over l'affair Plame. 🙂

  7. Jennifer -- I don't think that's entirely fair. I think Rumsfeld genuinely *does* believe in open government, just not necessarily when it comes to National Security. (His press conference performances, in my mind, are in some ways more open & human than those of any other Cabinet member.)

    The whole dropping-our-usual-principles-when-it-comes-to-National-Security thing is a very common trait, I think.

  8. Matt Welch,

    Rumsfeld mostly likes to distract people with his hand gestures during his press conferances.

  9. Matt Welch--
    Do you recall a few years back, when some sexually repressed women in Orange County tried to get certain textbooks banned on the Rorschach grounds that if you looked at certain pictures under a microscope you'd see all sorts of disgusting sexual images? These women honestly believed that their minds were free of sexual thoughts, and it was just those dirty pictures that made them think of naughty body parts, but their honest beliefs didn't change the fact that they were projecting their own issues onto something else.

    I'm sure Rumsfeld THINKS he believes in open and honest government. I've never known of anybody (anybody vile, at any rate) who honestly comes right out and says "Ich bin ein hypocrite."

    If he thought honesty and openness in government were so damned important, he wouldn't be so supportive of this administration's shenanigans.

  10. Gawd damn! I had to read that three times to be sure, but sure 'nuff, that "opinion" piece doesn't seem to say anything. Not a damn thing.

    I'm sending it off to a friend of mine who does some semantic content work. I don't have the skill to chart it.

    Rumi would bring tears to Machiavelli's eyes.

  11. The editorial opinions of the Wall St Journal in general are so ossified.
    At least there are Forbes and The Economist magazine.

  12. I predict joe will not admonish us to keep our minds open on this thread.

  13. Actually, Dynamist, my first impression was that Rumsfeld has been a pretty good Defense Secretary, if you set aside the invasion of Iraq. He did yeoman's work in his efforts at military transformation, and is clearly someone of experience and substance. I'm inclined to give him a hearing on issues like this.

    So, maybe you should keep a more open mind about my reflexive partisanship.

  14. Yeah, I know, echoes of "LBJ was a good president, if you forget about Vietnam."

  15. joe: I stand corrected. But like in "The Matrix", would you have posted that way if I hadn't stepped in? 🙂

    (resisting reflexive urge to bust on LBJ)

  16. I was going to post it earlier, but I asked myself, how interested, really, are the Reasonoids going to be about my feelings about Rumsfeld?

  17. joe,

    How specifically has Rumsfeld "transformed" the military?

  18. Haklyut,

    Give the man a break on the "transformation" thing - he's been busy!

    Back in 2001, he was really fighting the good fight. Cancelling the Crusader (or was it the Paladin?) artillery system, for example.

    He also got the Stryker Brigade up and running.

  19. joe,

    The Stryker is a pork barrel boondoggle. You could fit all the fancy new technology on those things onto existing platforms (the M-1) at a much lower price and have a much robust machine to boot. The fetish over lighter-skinned, wheeled platforms is just foolish. Wheeled vehicles are inherently inferior to tracked vehicles.

  20. joe,

    What's also hilarious is that the Stryker as a MGS cannot be carried by a C-130 at all. This completely defeats the idea of having a rapidly deployable force with any sort of mobile firepower.

  21. Wheeled vehicles are inherently inferior to tracked vehicles

    If mission, cost, speed, weight, and maintenance are all ignored.

  22. It isn't about the merit of the Stryker per se, Haklyut, but the necessity of dragging the military establishment into the modern era.

  23. That's not right, either. The military establishment is plenty modern.

    The problem is iron triangles locking the status quo in place, and Rumsfeld led as good a charge against them as I've yet seen.

  24. Dynamist,

    Actually, the Stryker is harder to maintain, is far, far more expensive merely re-tooling the existing platforms we have, is far heavier than was asked for by the Pentagon (so much so that as an MGS it cannot be airlifted by a C-130), etc. Please, stop buying into the myth.

    Some other criticisms of the Stryker:

    * Adding new armor to fend off RPG assaults causes the Stryker to lose tire pressure, which forces the crew to get out of the vehicle in order to increase it
    * While on the move the Stryker does not shoot accurately
    * The recoil from the cannon consistently damages electronic components
    * The MGS
    * It is not an amphibious vehicle (though it was supposed to be one)

    In a word, the Stryker is a piece of junk.


    Despite propaganda, I am not convinced any transformation has occurred at all.

  25. I never thought Rumsfield was much more than a pompos ass. I don't think the propaganda is even all his.

    How many newspaper articles will tell you about "this age of assymetric warfare" and "the need for a lighter, faster military". I don't think it's just Rumsfield that's put this mini-theme in the headlines.

    What Rumsfield is good at is barking in a convincing manner. It scares a lot of people. That makes other people think "wow, this guy knows how to get things done".

    Now you know 50% of what it takes to be a CEO today.

  26. I, the evil conqueror,

    Well, the pork barrel nature of weapons procurement certainly hasn't been transformed.

  27. Hakluyt: I was picking on the general comment about wheels v. tracks. Specifically to the Stryker [nudging into the trough], it gives jobs to Louisianans, so it can't be all bad.

    Does it fit on a C-17? Maybe the Air Force needs more pork, too!

  28. Dynamist,

    Yeah, a C-17 will carry it.

    One of the army's requires though was that the MGS version be carried by the C-130. Honestly, I don't know why the government even sets requirements for its weapons systems since 1/2 of them never seem to be met.

    Now, if you have the barest boned model of the Stryker (say the APC version), you can transport it via a C-130, but only in the latest models of the C-130. Further, even a C-17 can only carry two the MGS versions, which is exactly how many M-2 Bradley Fighting vehicles a C-17 can carry. As far as I can tell, the Stryker simply isn't the sort of strategically mobile platform that it was promised to be and is only a slight improvement on say an M-1 or an M-2. Thus, all these glowing reports out of the press about it (with some exceptions) just tend to tick me off.

  29. Yes, I do believe Rumsfeld & Co. a lot more than I believe your minions' commentary on the Bush pledge re firing leakers. See Powerline's post this AM. Dummies!

  30. Uh, yeah, I'll hurry right over to see what Assrocket has to say.

    Haklyut, "Despite propaganda, I am not convinced any transformation has occurred at all." As I said, the guy's had a lot on his plate for the past three and a half years. My point is that he made a good start during 2001, which leads me to conclude that we would have seen a lot of progress in the area, had events not put transformation on the back burner.

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