Yesterday’s Thoughts

June 23, 2005

Rumsfeldian Logic

Donald Rumsfeld spoke to congressional committees today. In his prepared statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee he said,

Timing in war is never predictable — there are no guarantees. We can and will prevail, but only if we persevere.

Rumsfeld has this habit of making statements that are simply internally contradictory. If there are no guarantees in war, how is he guaranteeing that we will prevail?

In case you think that I am taking his words out of context, here is the whole paragraph:

Let me be clear: the United States made a commitment to finish the job and we must do so. Timing in war is never predictable — there are no guarantees. We can and will prevail, but only if we persevere. Any who say we have lost or are losing are flat wrong. We are not.

I admit that’s not a very substantial paragraph, but the paragraphs before and after do not add significant context. The document itself is more of a press release than an argument. There are five pages of text, but spread through that are two full pages of bullet points.

In my mind the most famous of the Rumsfeld quotes, this is from memory:

We’ll have democracy in Iraq. No Baathist will be elected. No it won’t be a theocracy.

This was the first statement that made me suspicious of the administrations intentions, or clarity of purpose. How could Rumsfeld possibly know what kind of government would be chosen by the Iraqis in a democratic process?

If you can’t do better than to contradict yourself within the space of two sentences, you shouldn’t be making statements or setting policy for the most powerful government on the planet.

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