The Memo & The Reaction

I briefly commented earlier on the Rumsfeld memo, and the related Parameters article attempting to evaluate the intellectual and philosophical grounding of the leadership of our military.

As was predictable, certain folks have seized on this as one that “emphasizes how the grim picture painted in it is at odds with Rumsfeld’s public ‘Shiny Happy Iraqi People’ public pronouncements.” Daschle said:

“Secretary Rumsfeld’s comments are an illustration of the concern that they have about the failure of their policies in Iraq so far. There can be no other description of those words than that.”

Personally, I was damn happy to see it.I am and have been critical of the Administration for doing the right thing – taking the Islamist threat seriously and responding – yet lacking (or at least not sharing) a clear vision of what we were doing, and downplaying the seriousness and difficulty of the conflict we have been handed.

This memo – and article – are glimmers of hope to me. First, they suggest that the Administration, which I have been convinced has pursued a somewhat closed-minded approach in the leadup to the war is willing to look at alternate paths. Next, and most critically important, it means they are asking the right core question – how do we know when we’re winning? How do we define ‘victory’ in this murky conflict?

I said, in talking about the economic success of the U.S.:

The success of the American economic model is built largely on failure.

It is built on our willingness as a people to try things and to risk failing; built on the fact that we accept failure as part of the price of ultimate success; and ultimately on our willingness to accept displacement and change as a natural part of our social and economic lives.

Our military success is founded on the incredible logistical and technological advantages that our economy has given us – and also on our willingness to apply the same principles to our warfighting; to learn, to adapt, to change.

If Rumsfeld hasn’t written this memo, he should have been fired, and I hope to God that the fact that so many Democrats are seizing on it is so much political spin, rather than sheer naive stupidity – which is what it is if they aren’t spinning.

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