Why They/We Fail, Part III
July 15, 2012
An example of blindness: “He [Rumsfeld] still thought that if the anti-terrorism campaign stalled in Afghanistan, U.S. forces could and should do something elsewhere.” [By His How Rules, Bradley Graham, p. 301]
This reminds me of the old joke of the man who is looking around for something at night and another man asks him what he is looking for. “I lost my car keys,” the man says. “Where did you lose them?” the second man asks. “Well, over there on the other sidewalk.” “Well,” the second man asks. “Why are you looking for them over here then?” “Well,” the first man responds. “This is where the street light is.”
Rumsfeld is so blind that he thinks it makes sense that if our military actions fail in Afghanistan, we should attack somewhere else. Where? Well, who knows but somewhere! “’If the initial U.S. military action is not confidence-inspiring, it could undermine our entire effort,’ [Rumsfeld’s] memo warned. U.S. strikes should be designed to produce ‘impressive results.’ Expressing doubts about the quality of available information and analysis for Afghanistan, the memo suggested targeting al Qaeda forces and assets ‘in more than one country, including some outside the Middle East.’ It also advised hitting ‘at least one non-al Qaeda target.’ Iraq was mentioned as an example.” [p. 293] If this is not evidence of blindness, it would be hard to say what would be.
As this biography makes clear, Rumsfeld had no idea that an attack like that of 9/11 was forthcoming. “In the months before September 11, Rumsfeld had talked a lot about terrorism. In congressional testimony, news conferences, and other forums, he had regularly cited it as one of the new threats that the Defense Department wasn’t adequately organized or prepared to deal with. And yet he hadn’t made counterterrorism operations a priority, even in the face of warnings by top CIA officials that al Qaeda might be about to launch a damaging attack.” [p. 286]
As we use to say in New Jersey, talk is cheap, at least until you hire an attorney. And of course those with insight would not have wasted time talking about terrorism; they would have acted. Some might even have begun to wonder how our actions were contributing to terrorism.
And then there is this from Tom Robbins, a novelist sometimes cited here. Consider the following quote cited in an earlier blog:
“I happen to have been in the air on the morning of September 11, flying out of New Orleans. When the pilot announced that we couldn’t be assigned a gate in Atlanta due to ‘an aircraft accident in New York,’ I instantly turned to my paramour and said, ‘Terrorists!’ Just blurted it out. Our foreign policy made such an attack inevitable, and that may have been its most tragic aspect: it was entirely preventable – not by better intelligence gathering but by a more honorable, less arrogant American role in foreign affairs.” [pp. 124-25, Conversations with Tom Robbins]
Isn’t it interesting that even without all the information that Rumsfeld and others had that Robbins was not surprised by the attacks of 9/11 at all. “Our foreign policy made such an attack inevitable….” This might be classified as insight and we might begin to wonder why a novelist and not the well informed Secretary of Defense would possess this. Perhaps, as suggested in an earlier blog in this series, information is more blinding than illuminating, that it is imagination that makes insight possible. Nor is Robbins the only example of this phenomenon. Graham Greene in the early 50s saw America’s involvement in Vietnam, what its character would be like [My Lai included], and what its denouement would be. As Voegelin wrote: “Pragmatic rationality of action, disregarding the participation in right order, is a dangerous indulgence….”
Indeed, that would seem to be the case for Rumsfeld who was reduced, after the attacks of 9/11, to recommending bombing, somewhere, sometime, perhaps even Iraq. Just attack, just bomb, somewhere and quickly. And this is called strategy and Rumsfeld is considered a “realist.” Wow!