Donald Rumsfeld’s long, hard slog of cost efficiency

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[Editor’s Note: I’m taking off for the weekend, but on my way out tomorrow I’m releasing an important Tomgram — a not-to-be-missed excerpt from Noam Chomsky’s new book Hegemony or Survival. It’s a web exclusive. Don’t miss it. And Sunday evening, on return, I have another Tomgram surprise to release. The next dispatch will not be until perhaps Tuesday.]

Quote of the day:The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists’ costs of millions.” (From Donald Rumsfeld’s leaked memo. The full memo is included below.)

Quote of the day (2):‘It boggles my mind how a memo to four people ends up on the front page of a newspaper,’ a senior defense official said.” (Official: Rumsfeld ‘Livid’ Over Memo Leak, Fox News):

So Donald Rumsfeld is “livid” and a “senior defense official” boggled and we’re all deeply shocked that a memo Rumsfeld wrote to a private foursome (Richard Meyers, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and Gen. Peter Pace) somehow – this is Washington remember – made it into USA Today and then all over the media. Oh yes, and Dave Moniz and Tom Squitieri of USA Today report (After grim Rumsfeld memo, White House supports him) that “three members of Congress who met with Rumsfeld Wednesday morning said the defense secretary gave them copies of the memo and discussed it with them” — Congress being another well-known leak-proof group. Then, according to Fox News, “Privately, defense officials said one of the four officials’ staff made photocopies for internal distribution in an attempt to prompt some office-wide thinking. Officials said they believe the memo may have slipped out from someone on that staff, and the assumption for now is that the leak was ‘not malicious.'”

Not malicious. Hmmm. The Secretary of Defense essentially attacks his own operation as a slow-witted blunderbuss of an organization (“DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror”) and then, having already set up his own separate intelligence outfit, the Office of Special Plans, in the Pentagon, calls for the possible creation of a new counter-terror fighting interdepartmental agency that could move faster. (“an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution either within DoD or elsewhere – one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.”) What would it be called, the mini-Pentagon? The Triangle?

By the way, I love that “seamlessly,” another fabulous example of utopian thinking in the Bush administration, and what a great idea in any case, to side-step the slow-moving Pentagon by creating another bureaucratic agency elsewhere. But we always knew that this was an administration for which proliferation was policy.

Rumsfeld then goes on in his memo to paint a gloomy picture of the Iraq and Afghan situations (that “long, hard slog” to success), quite out of whack with the sunny picture of progress being fostered via the administration’s new publicity blitz; and offers an analysis of the war on terrorism no less out of whack with the latest administration line on the subject, one that came most recently from no less of an eminence grise than the vice president. (“On Monday Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, told a Republican fund-raising meeting: ‘We are rolling back the terrorist threat at the very heart of its power, in the Middle East.’ Julian Borger, the Guardian). Next he hands the memo around, knowing that some of his past private memos have also become public property, and then he’s “livid” when it leaks.

Throw in the fact that Rumsfeld’s name is now at the top of the rumor list for a “resignation” before the 2004 election as well as that the White House recently attempted to take some power over Iraq policy out of his mitts and put it in the none-too-steady hands of Condoleeza Rice, throw in a few factors I can’t faintly know about, stir, and you seem to have quite an explosive mix in Washington.

Esther Schrader and Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times offer this insider comment from one of the thousands of unnamed officials of every stripe who pop up at moments like this, now that this administration is leaking like a badly broken dam (Rumsfeld Questions Terrorism Strategy):

“A military intelligence official said the memo reflected Rumsfeld’s rising frustration with events in Iraq as well as a spate of setbacks in Afghanistan, where remnants of the Taliban have regrouped and launched attacks on American troops and the interim Afghan government.

“The secretary is also feeling new pressure from the White House, said the official, citing the recent decision to give national security advisor Condoleezza
Rice a larger role in managing postwar Iraq. ‘Why would he be in position to be outmaneuvered’ unless there was dissatisfaction elsewhere in the administration? the official asked.”

And though it wasn’t the line most quoted in the media, you also have the Secretary of Defense talking about the “cost-benefit ratios” of terrorism. Before we’re done, we’ll have a true soap opera here and before you know it, Don Rumsfeld may actually be morphing into that famed cost-benefit kinda guy, Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense of Vietnam era fame, who finally cracked and was sent off to run the World Bank by Lyndon Johnson. (A historian friend of mine suggests that McNamara’s ghost has long hovered over Rumsfeld’s Pentagon.)

Not that I think the gored Secretary of Defense is likely at this point to set up his own “Triangle,” nor even an interagency counter-terrorism hut next to the Pentagon, but I do think – whatever may be happening in Iraq – we’re seeing this administration slowly fray as the knives come out.

Off on his imperial processional through the tributary states of Asia, the President stopped for a moment to offer “support” for his Secretary of Defense in the form of a meaninglessly bland sentence or two. His traveling party was, however, described by the Washington Post as “surprised,” as in taken off guard, by the memo. (“Surprised by the release of the document, Pentagon and White House officials sought to depict it as evidence simply of Rumsfeld doing his job to compel the armed forces to adapt to new threats.”) The President’s main accomplishment in the war against terror this week seems to have been to gridlock whole nations as he swept through each for a few hours at a stop. Whole foreign cities shut down for his well-guarded arrival. He’s now in Australia, thanking the mates for their support, and being jeered by the odd legislator there.

“Heckled inside and outside Australia’s parliament” today, he praised the Australian Prime Minister John Howard as a “man of steel” and dubbed Australia a “regional sheriff” (assumedly out on the distant and dangerous frontier of Southeast Asia enforcing Washington’s law). In what the Washington Post calls an “unprecedented step” the public was barred from Parliament (Bush Thanks Australia for Support in Iraq). Take no chances, I say, with restless natives in frontier towns. (Or was there some other lesson in High Noon?)

Meanwhile, back in Washington, let’s not forget that the fertile brain of our Secretary of Defense churned out in that single memo not just one but two new suggested institutions — both evidently imagined as somehow part of his purview. Rumsfeld wants us to consider creating “a private foundation to entice radical madrassas [Islamic schools] to a more moderate course.” I have little doubt that it would be named the General Jerry Boykin Foundation for Encouraging Islamic Moderation — or do I mean Conversion? What better way to move the embarrassing general to a new post? The problem, as the “Don” puts it, is: “Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?”

Ah, that next generation. Perhaps it will be his new mini-Pentagon against a new baby al-Qaeda, or perhaps in his next memo Rumsfeld will call on DARPA, his advanced R&D outfit, to look into what kind of futuristic weaponry can be created to take out whole new generations of baby terrorists? None of this will be necessary of course if the Boykin Foundation is a hit.

In one of those classic last paragraphs in the mainstream press, Bradley Graham of the Washington Post (Rumsfeld Questions Anti-Terrorism Efforts) ends his piece by picking up the most curious line in the Rumsfeld memo: “In one particularly cryptic line near the end of the memo, Rumsfeld asked: ‘Does the CIA need a new finding?’ A finding, signed by the president, provides authority to conduct whatever covert activity is stipulated. Rumsfeld did not indicate the covert activity he had in mind.”

Rumsfeld and the CIA have been at one another’s throats for a while. Schrader and Miller of the LA Times comment: “Portions of Rumsfeld’s memo seemed aimed at the CIA, giving middling marks to the effort to capture terrorist leaders and raising questions about whether the agency has the authority it needs to do the job.”

On the memo itself, Josh Marshall of the talkingpointsmemo website comments on one of its missing elements:

“All this aside, what’s missing here, what’s troubling about this memo is that it really does seem to be a candid appraisal meant only for his top advisors. And even in that context there’s apparently no sense that any of the key strategic decisions in the war on terror might have been flawed or misguided.

“Yes, there’s pessimism. But it’s pessimism of a certain sort. The theme of the memo isn’t that there might have been too much of X or too much of Y, but that they need to consider 2X or 2Y. And perhaps if things get really freaky, Y squared or even cubed.”

But let’s remember, being in this administration means never having to say you’re sorry.

Meanwhile, back in the world:

On the very day of the memo “leak,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Pentagon set to deploy 30,000 GIs), yet more painful plans were in progress:

“After failing to attract large numbers of foreign peacekeepers to Iraq, the Pentagon is drawing up plans to rotate in as many as 30,000 more reservists early next year, despite growing worries in Congress about strains on the force, defense officials said Tuesday.

“These troops would join three, 5,000-member Army National Guard brigades already in line to go to Iraq as part of an expected yearlong rotation to replace U.S. troops now there. U.S. Marines also may be sent back into Iraq by February to ease the burden on overstretched Army forces that normally shoulder U.S. peacekeeping duties.

“Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to discuss Tuesday how many more reservists might be needed next year, saying no final decisions had been made, but other officials described the planning for a reserves call-up on condition of anonymity.”

How about a memo on this, Don?

And of course, there’s that conference for potential international donors just opening in Madrid to extort more money from the world for Iraq’s “reconstruction.” The single best piece I’ve seen on who’s likely to pay and who’s likely to gain from all this appeared today in the Asia Times (see below). The losers are, unsurprisingly, first and foremost the dead and wounded Iraqis and Americans, military and civilian; next the Iraqis whose present and future is being mortgaged to someone else’s idea of economic well-being; then American taxpayers (each of us ponying up an estimated $300 for the occupation), followed by the taxpaying citizens of England, Spain, Japan and other contributing countries, according to Herbert Docena.

The winners well, put in a nutshell:

“Smiling McDonald’s attendants may start ushering in customers to their branch in Iraq next year – but only after Bechtel had switched back the lights, Halliburton had rebuilt the bridges, Fluor had paved the roads, MCI had set up the mobile network system, Research Triangle Institute had trained the managers and bureaucrats, Abt Associates had restored the hospitals, the military-industrial complex and the private armies had restored security, and the multinational force had pacified the resistance.”

Docena’s rundown on these companies is devastating. But read the piece yourself.

And someone, at least, is beginning to wonder where all the money already in Iraq actually went. Is it possible that $4 billion has gone missing in the black hole of Baghad? Check this out from the BBC – and on the very eve of the Madrid meeting (Charity says $4B ‘missing’ in Iraq):

“A British charity has accused the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq of failing to account for $4bn meant to help rebuild the country. The charity, Christian Aid, said in a report that the authority had not publicly disclosed its accounts since Saddam Hussein was ousted in April. The report’s authors calculated that the CPA had received at least $5bn in oil revenues and assets seized from Saddam Hussein’s government.

“However, only $1bn of this could be traced, while the rest had simply vanished into a ‘financial black hole’, said the report. ‘For all the talk of freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people before, during and after the war which toppled Saddam Hussein,’ said the report, ‘there is no way of knowing how the vast majority of this money has been spent’…

“One of the report’s authors, Dominic Nutt, said it was possible that the money had been spent in a perfectly legitimate way, but the authority had not demonstrated this as it was obliged to do by the terms of its United Nations mandate.”


Rumsfeld’s war-on-terror memo
October 16, 2003

Gen. Dick Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Pete Pace, Doug Feith

Donald Rumsfeld

Global War on Terrorism

The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?

DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere – one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be:
We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put considerable pressure on them – nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis.

USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban – Omar, Hekmatyar, etc.

With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started.

Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?

Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?

Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?
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.

Do we need a new organization?

How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools?
Is our current situation such that “the harder we work, the behinder we get”?
It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.

Does CIA need a new finding?

Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madradssas to a more moderate course?

What else should we be considering?

Please be prepared to discuss this at our meeting on Saturday or Monday.


Dying for a McDonald’s in Iraq
By Herbert Docena
The Asia Times
October 23, 2003

MADRID – In London on October 13, an investors’ conference entitled “Doing Business in Iraq: Kickstarting the Private Sector” was agog with reports that McDonald’s, among other corporations, may begin selling burgers and fries in Iraq by next year. Attracting up to 145 multinational prospectors, the London conference was held less than a month after the United States announced its economic masterplan for Iraq, a blueprint which The Economist heralded as a “capitalist dream” that fulfills the “wish list of international investors”.

Whether Ronald McDonald cuts the ribbon in time and makes the dream come true, however, will depend to a large extent on the outcome of a US-convened donor’s conference that was scheduled to open in Madrid on Thursday.

To read more Docena click here