Advancing a Free Society

Rumsfeld was the Iago to Bush’s Othello

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I had been hoping Donald Rumsfeld's memoir would fall like the proverbial tree in the forest, allowing conservatives to focus on the problems of today. But supportive coverage in the Wall Street Journal suggests the former defense secretary's revisionist "slice of history" is gaining credence and needs to be rebutted. Reading the Rumsfeld memoir was like watching the 2003 documentary about Robert McNamara: Both men are still so convinced they were superior that they are incapable of understanding just how damaging they were. But there should be no doubt that Donald Rumsfeld was the self-aggrandizing Iago to the president's Othello in the Bush administration.

Rumsfeld criticizes the consensus-building approach of Condoleezza Rice as national security advisor, and he's right that the administration attempted to operate collegially long after it was apparent that wasn't working. Yet it never occurs to him that this could be one of his "unknown unknowns" and that the national security advisor was carrying out the president's instructions. And he neglects to acknowledge that approach was unsuccessful because he himself would repudiate agreements reached, even after meetings at which the president presided. No decision was ever final unless it was the position taken by Rumsfeld. The Executive Steering Group (ESG) on Iraq he maligns was established to supervise DOD implementation of agreed policies because the White House lost confidence that Rumsfeld would carry them out. Even in the ESG, DOD was routinely represented by people who claimed no knowledge of agreed policy or professed themselves powerless to implement it because Rumsfeld disagreed.

Continue reading Kori Schake at Foreign Policy’s blog Shadow Government