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Known and Unknown: A Memoir.

Known and Unknown: A Memoir. By Donald Rumsfeld. New York: Sentinel, 2011. Photographs. Illustrations. Maps. Notes. Index. Pp. 815. $36.00 ISBN 978-1-59523-067-6

Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Rumsfeld left the Bush Administration in 2006 and practically disappeared from sight until the publication of this memoir, a substantial and clearly written work that in all likelihood will be viewed, above all else, as an apologia. Beyond that, it is a personal account of his incredible track record in government and in the private sector.

His government service spanned four decades and encompassed shaping events in American domestic and foreign policy. He was a four-term congressman; senior advisor to several US presidents; ambassador to NATO; twice SecDef; special ambassador to the Middle East in the aftermath of the Beirut bombing; presidential chief of staff; ambassador on the Laws of the Sea Treaty; and chairman of the Cost of Living Council, Commission to Assess U.S. National Security Space Management and Organization, and the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission. He was a respected and feared Republican power broker and was considered several times as a vice presidential candidate. Outside of government, he was a successful CEO and chairman of several corporations.

Rumsfeld portrays himself as a hard-driven, highly focused, and intelligent leader, with a politically and fiscally conservative vision for government and national security. If his vignettes are accurate, he was also a fair-minded and thoughtful task master. He cites his decision, as SecDef, to continue USAF General Brown as JCS Chairman after some of his comments displeased President Ford. One immediately thinks of the opposite outcome when SecDef Cheney fired Air Force Chief of Staff General Dugan for his comments. Rumsfeld also discusses his successful struggle with opposing Army brass to have the M-1 tank selected for production. He was a proponent of the B-1 bomber and the ballistic-missile-defense system (for which he was a key player in having the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty repealed), an outspoken opponent of detente, and tireless in his effort to reform the Pentagon's way of doing business.

His six years as SecDef under President George W. Bush are of particular interest and consume two thirds of the book examining his involvement in military transformation, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and the global war on terrorism (GWOT). Rumsfeld argues that the National Security Council (NSC) and National Security Advisor (NSA) were not nearly as effective as was needed, especially in the aftermath of 9/11. He places the blame squarely on NSA Condoleezza Rice who failed to facilitate a clear flow of viewpoints and supporting arguments between NSC members and the President. In his view, she marginalized differences of opinion, giving a misleading impression there was consensus on different issues. One unfortunate consequence was that the war in Iraq both exacerbated flaws in the system and suffered from an inharmonious war cabinet. Rice also created confusion in the management of the Iraq occupation by circumventing Rumsfeld's linkage to Paul Bremer, the unpredictable head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Rumsfeld's account of decision making is a litany of repeated frustration. Failures within the intelligence agencies and an often dysfunctional NSC undermined him. He highlights clashes with the State Department, especially Deputy Secretary Armitage, over media leaks that impinged on Rumsfeld's credibility and effectiveness. It appears he also wasn't enchanted with either Secretary of State Colin Powell or Paul Bremer. He takes issue with the belated argument, in the embarrassing aftermath of locating no weapons of mass destruction, that bringing democracy to Iraq was a key reason for the invasion. It was both disingenuous and potentially alarming to non-democratic partners in the Middle East.

Rumsfeld describes his roles in the evolving GWOT, the move to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and his outrage when the Abu Ghraib abuses came to light. He also describes his disappointment with critics, especially in the media, who, from his perspective, misrepresented or distorted his position and that of the President on a number of national security issues.

This is a must-read memoir, rich in details, that should lead to a better understanding of how the United States ended up in two of the longest running conflicts in its history. Rumsfeld has now presented his side of the story in a number of events that led to serious criticism of his leadership, judgment, and decision making. A reader may draw a different set of conclusions on his role in the events described in this memoir; but Rumsfeld's view is, all the same, compelling.

Col. John Cirafici, USAF (Ret.), Milford, Delaware
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Author:Cirafici, John
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2011
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