Written by Chris Dahl
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Friday, 23 December 2016

image for Deciphering Donald: A Look at the Rumsfeld Doctrine of Information Dissemination

Donald Henry Rumsfeld, affectionately known as "Duck" due to his ability to duck reporters' questions with his Donald Duck-like twisting of phrases, has a long and distinguished career in American politics. The former staffer has worked for many of the most prolific presidents our country has had to offer, and has always seemed to be in the midst of national and global change. Rumsfeld has served as Secretary of Defense twice (the youngest and second oldest ironically), first for Gerald Ford and then again under George "Dubyah" Bush at the inception of the long, complicated Middle-Eastern military campaign. Congressman, counsellor and representative to NATO, Rumsfeld' career is long and colorful. In short, the Princeton University graduate and navy serviceman has done everything in his personal and political power to spread his particular vision of freedom and democracy. This man's vision of freedom and democracy is often not as clearly defined as it may have been in the past, present or future, or as Rumsfeld himself adroitly stated: "I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."

A political veteran reaching back to the Nixon administration, "Duck" admits that the greatest thing any given people can enjoy - freedom - is paradoxical, something not easily defined. Rumsfeld's freedom is different than the classical definition, a true paradox. "Freedom's untidy," Rumsfeld explained, "and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." This Rumsfeldian form of liberty goes well beyond simple liberties and leans on a Libertarian utopia where the free must reckon themselves by their own conscience - and nothing else. They can screw up and explain it away with the right form of language. Thus, to spread the good news of this new form of freedom, the Rumsfeld Doctrine of Information Dissemination was formed.

In the purview of Rumsfeld's political paradigm, those who are free do not have to offer justifications for say, arbitrarily invading an oil-producing country for the financial gain of corporate interest, whereas those are not free must support their claims to aggression. The controversy surrounding the invasion of Iraq under his command without any significant evidence (justification) of purported WMD's (Weapons of Mass Destruction) that supposedly threatened American interests in the region caused a maelstrom of criticism aimed at him and the Bush administration in general, for example. WMD's were the justification for invasion, even if they never physically surfaced. The situation was not as simple as the lumpen-proletariat of America thought it was, though, according to this precept. It was a situation that required the interpretation of Rumsfeld's doctrine: "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know." And so, Rumsfeld indicates that, quite simply, it was unknown whether or not the United States government knew that there were threats to American safety. Therefore, in the name of American safety, military intervention was deemed necessary whether there was evidence or not.

When asked if the former Secretary of Defense was still comfortable with the due diligence displayed during the search for "evidence" needed for an armed invasion, Rumsfeld reiterated his stance: "There's another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something does exist does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn't exist. We knew where they were. They were in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." The elusiveness of Osama Bin Laden posed the same sort of conundrum to the United States military and government, but the Rumsfeld Doctrine was applied in that case too: "We do know of certain knowledge that he [Osama Bin Laden] was either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, either alive and well or alive and not too well or not alive." To paraphrase this novel political doctrine: just because no one saw the evidence doesn't mean they weren't there. According to this concept, Rumsfeld would rather err on the side of caution to protect his beloved United States and wage war.


Pressed on the topic of the length of the military engagement in the Middle East and how such estimates of the action have been consistently inaccurate, Rumsfeld admitted that even he, an Ivy-League educated veteran of government, could not calculate the scope of the engagement. "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. Who knows? [If I told you a specific time] that would then suggest that that might be the only time it might be done which would not be accurate, necessarily accurate. It might also not be inaccurate, but I'm disinclined to mislead anyone. I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work." It was then brought up that President Bush at the time of the invasion of Iraq, for instance, was able to produce a figure of approximately 6 to 7 months; Rumsfeld was typically unruffled and loyal to his Commander-in-Chief, as well as his doctrine: "Needless to say, the President was correct. Whatever it was he said." When confronted with the fact that he had agreed with the original estimation of 6 months, Rumsfeld simply retorted, "Oh, Lord. I didn't mean to say anything quotable, but I believe what I said yesterday. Anyway, I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty."


This "concepty" Rumsfeld Doctrine has one thing at its crux, a slick evasion of a well-defined reality. Like its creator, this doctrine is not the "stuff" of precise "details," but broader "concepty" stuff. Rumsfeld, while crafting and perfecting this idea and its correlative techniques, has come to realize that there are a few key phrases that can get one out of any difficult situation. "Learn to say 'I don't know.' If used when appropriate, it will be often," Rumsfeld advised using a verbal smokescreen through which it was virtually impossible to discern the truth. And what if one doesn't know the precise answer to a question? "If I know the answer I'll tell you the answer, and if I don't, I'll just respond, cleverly. I'll say something like I don't know what the facts are but somebody's certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what he knows that he may not know."

But what are the realities behind the linguistic smokescreen? What does he have to say about the quagmire that the Middle East has become militarily? Rumsfeld, with his political instincts honed to a razor's edge, responded intuitively saying, "I don't do quagmires." When faced with several loosely related topics concerning the conflict that has dragged on since 2001, Rumsfeld stalled for time. "Now, settle down, settle down. Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."

The core of the questioning was reduced down to the perception of the war as a poorly conceived Oil War that benefits billionaire tycoons while sacrificing the lives of the poor and economically desperate. Rumsfeld became pensive and stepped away from his doctrine … sort of. When addressing whether the army was prepared for a desert war of this extent, he simply said, "As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." Though a seemingly simplistic answer that seemed more something a college football coach might say about his under-manned squad, and not something coming from a two-time Secretary of Defense, it did have a certain reductive logic. On the topic of the perception of the war as unnecessary and mercenary, even bloody and gruesome, the former White House staffer said, "Well, um, you know, something's neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so, I suppose, as Shakespeare said. Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war." In other words, war, and all of its attendant horrors and carnage, no matter whether the cause be noble or ignoble, is all a matter perception, and, moreover, the more you think about it, the worse the perception of it is. So, knock off the thinking.


Finally, when asked for whom he would be voting in the upcoming election, Rumsfeld confidently stated that he had fallen in to the Trump camp "[t]ruthfulness is important." When asked if he thought Trump was genuinely truthful, the cagy veteran fell back on his doctrine once more (a trick currently being employed by Trump himself) by saying, "I think he's not untruthful, And I think [Hillary Clinton] is. I can't imagine not voting for Donald Trump in November."

Donald skillfully employed the doctrine and "ducked' brilliantly when asked for further elaboration on his political choice. "Mrs. Clinton is a known known. Trump is a known unknown who's a recent entry into the equation. And I am a lot more comfortable with a known unknown, who I will support, than with a known known who is unacceptable."

So the Rumsfeld Doctrine of Information Dissemination offers a ray of hope in times "wrought with imminent peril," as W.C. Fields would say. The message is not confusing, misleading, Orwellian Newspeak that obfuscates the reality of the situation with contradictions and shady gray areas of connotation, creating a veil between the people and the actions of its government with the intention misleading the flock of America. No, the moral of this story is that of The Wizard of Oz: never look behind the veil. The city is bright, beautiful and filled with cheer and prosperity - so long as you do not pull the curtain back. If you do pull back this veil of language, you will see that it is not the Great and Mighty Oz. No, it is a little man with a bunch of levers, mannequin strings and blow-horns that he uses to create an alternate reality, one which is much more comforting than the falling bombs, cities on fire and crumbling economies across the globe. So, what would Donald Rumsfeld of over a half-century of political experience advise? I think it might go a something like this: Don't think about it and it will go away.

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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