August 22, 2003
Rumsfeld's Rules.

During his 40 years in business and government, Rumsfeld assembled a folksy collection of principles for running a military-industrial complex. Called Rumsfeld's Rules , the document warmed the hearts of upper-level managers when it appeared in The Wall Street Journal just after its author took office. Some of the rules are his own, but many are respectfully quoted from sources he admires, including Winston Churchill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and, endearingly, his children.

Bruce Sterling in Wired

"Think ahead. Don't let day-to-day operations drive out planning." Bush's look-ahead routine crashed on September 11. Now what's the golden objective? The path ahead leads to war, economic decline, alienation from friends, and endless surveillance.

"If a prospective presidential approach can't be explained clearly enough to be understood well, it probably hasn't been thought through well enough." Americans can live with wars. All we need is an attack by a bad guy and a good, ringing slogan. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is about preemptive defense, UN credibility, worldwide unilateralism, and Arab democracy - four oxymorons.

"Visit with your predecessors from previous administrations. Try to make original mistakes, rather than needlessly repeating theirs." What year is this, exactly? 1914? 1929? 1964, year of the Tonkin Gulf resolution? The energy crisis of the 1970s? Let's hope it's not 1989, with the US playing the Soviet Union.

"From where you sit, the White House may look as untidy as the inside of a stomach. Don't let that panic you. Things may be going better than they look from the inside." It was Rumsfeld's great insight that September 11 was the harbinger of a new kind of war that could destroy America: nuclear guerrilla war. Faced with potential annihilation, the administration panicked. That's why it's violating Rumsfeld's rules.

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." The threat from weapons of mass destruction is so vast in scope that it has overwhelmed common sense. The new political algebra divides by infinity: Everything equals everything. Job one and job only is to avoid having the nation's capital turned into a sea of ashes. So forget the economy, the UN, NATO, Congress, the multitudes in the streets. The '90s prosperity bubble was a phantom. The terror bubble is the new, bitter reality.

"The price of being close to the president is delivering bad news. You fail him if you don't tell him the truth." The bad news is that Washington could get truck-nuked and there's very little the US, daffy Swedish inspectors, or anyone else can do about it. It might be possible to invent global political and technical structures that would forestall such a fate, but every time someone comes up with a plan, it gets vetoed or abrogated.

"If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact, not to be solved, but to be coped with over time." How are we coping? By killing one part of the Axis of Evil in cold blood, so as to discourage the others. Now, if only Iran and North Korea would start looking discouraged.

"Victory is never final. Defeat is never fatal. It is courage that counts." A nonexistent Washington, DC, is not the end of history. It's not even a worst-case scenario. It's just the usual terminus of Cold War thinking. True defeat would be DC in flames while people who once loved America caper in the streets with glee. When the planet honors Washington's destroyers as liberators, that is defeat.

"If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it." The problem is that we lack security. We're not achieving it through the UN, NATO, or any other pre-globalized institution. These outfits just don't work in today's circumstances. We need genuinely new, truly practical institutions. But we're not creating them. Instead, we're feverishly demolishing Rumsfeld's rules.

"Know your customers!" World-class futurists with executive skills are rare. Rumsfeld is the best and most able functionary the administration has. But the man is 70 years old. This is just not his century.

Posted by tstubbs at August 22, 2003 09:17 PM | Trackback
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