24 October 2003

Rumsfeld's war-on-terror memo

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions.

This is a much more important document than a certain speech in Canberra, because it is much more truthful on progress in the War against Terror. I might have been more moved by the Rumsfeld cost/benefit metrics if they had included the human, as well as material costs. I might have been more moved by the Bush address if it took any account of reality. Instead, as Fred Kaplan
writes :

It [the Rumsfeld memo] puts the lie to the Bush administration's PR campaign that postwar Iraq is progressing nicely and that the media are exaggerating the setbacks. (If the media are exaggerating, this memo indicates, then so, too, is Secretary Rumsfeld.) It reads eerily like some internal mid-'60s document from The Pentagon Papers that spelled out how badly things were going in Vietnam (just as President Lyndon B. Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, were publicly proclaiming tunnel light and victories). To use a phrase coined during LBJ's tenure to describe the ever-widening fissure between rhetoric and reality, Rumsfeld's memo marks the first unconcealable eruption of a 'credibility gap' in the wartime presidency of George W. Bush.

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