Donald Rumsfeld, Author of Rumsfeld’s Rules, Is Laid to Rest

From a New York Times story by Mark Leibovich headlined “Donald Rumsfeld, Architect of War in Afghanistan, Is Laid to Rest”:

A horse-drawn caisson with a flag-draped coffin passed slowly through the gates of Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, a hushed tableau against a city loud with recriminations about the lost war in Afghanistan.

The cortege carried Donald H. Rumsfeld, the hard-charging, two-time secretary of defense and one of the war’s chief architects, whose burial on a sweltering August afternoon served as another coda to the 20-year conflict.

Mr. Rumsfeld died on June 29, at 88, of complications related to multiple myeloma. The date for his interment and an earlier private funeral service on Monday at Fort Myer, Va., had been set long before, but the timing meant that Mr. Rumsfeld was laid to rest during the same kind of shell shock as on Oct. 7, 2001, when the United States launched its first airstrikes in Afghanistan….

Say what you will about the man known as “Rummy,” and many have, harshly, for turning away from Afghanistan and waging a war in Iraq that left thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and ultimately wrecked the end of Mr. Rumsfeld’s political life. But at Memorial Chapel at Fort Myers, the eulogists recalled a different man.

“Our capital city has many familiar types,” former Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld’s longtime ally, recalled of his closest friends….“Yet in all my years around this company town, I have never heard anyone described as ‘the Rumsfeld type.’ There is no such thing because nothing about Don was typical or derivative or standard-issue.”

Mr. Cheney also brought up some of Mr. Rumsfeld’s signature maxims, which Mr. Rumsfeld would sometimes adapt from familiar Washington sayings. “Harry Truman supposedly said, ‘If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,’” Mr. Cheney said. “To this, Don added the Rumsfeld corollary: Get a small dog — he might turn on you.”

The words “Afghanistan” or “Iraq” were barely spoken by Mr. Cheney and a procession of other eulogists, among them Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the outset of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Victoria Clarke, Mr. Rumsfeld’s longtime communications aide at the Pentagon.

Victoria Clarke invoked one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s favorite sayings, or so-called Rumsfeld Rules. “Cemeteries are filled with irreplaceable people,” Ms. Clarke said before the burial, quoting her former boss, but amending the rule in his honor. “Arlington National Cemetery will soon have someone who is truly irreplaceable.”….
Also see part of a 2013 Washington Post story by Kai Bird headlined “Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life”:

Over the years, Rumsfeld made a habit of collecting hundreds of aphorisms that he found useful in guiding him through the corridors of power. Initially he jotted these down on index cards and stored them in a shoebox within handy reach of his standing desk. His ability to bring forth a pithy anecdote or maxim for every occasion so impressed Ford that the president asked Rumsfeld to type them up and pass them around to his White House staff. Ford dubbed them “Rumsfeld’s Rules.”

And now we common citizens can read them in a book annotated at length by the author. “They have been read by presidents, government officials, business leaders, diplomats, members of Congress, and a great many others,” Rumsfeld writes in his introduction. Dick Cheney, George P. Shultz and Henry A. Kissinger — all very bright men with long establishment resumes — endorse the book on the back cover. Cheney reveals that he was “an early practitioner of Rumsfeld’s Rules. . . . I came to regret it on the few occasions I violated them.”

I think I know a couple of the rules the former vice president violated. Rumsfeld has a long list of rules on dealing with the news media. The first one is: “Learn to say, ‘I don’t know.’ ” I don’t think I’ve ever heard Cheney utter those words. Another Rumsfeld rule: “Avoid both infatuation with or resentment of the press.”

Evidently, it is hard to abide by Rumsfeld’s Rules. Maybe this is only human nature.

Then again, even when rigidly adhered to, Rumsfeld’s Rules go far to explain some unfortunate events in his own public service. Remember when we invaded Baghdad without enough boots on the ground to prevent looters from ransacking the city’s archaeological museum? At the time, he famously quipped, “Stuff happens.” But as secretary of defense prior to the 2003 invasion, he was trying very hard to apply yet another rule: “The trick is to try to keep the number of support staff as low as possible.” Somehow, if he was going to invade Iraq, I wish he had forgotten that rule. Instead, he explained to reporters, “You go to war with the army you have — not the army you might wish to have.”

Here is a Rumsfeld Rule he completely forgot: When serving in the White House, one should remind the president, “It is easier to get into something than it is to get out of it.”

Still, Rumsfeld conveys a lot of common sense, and he does so with humor, some of it self-deprecating. He writes that his father once observed of his young son, “Don’s basic operating principle: ‘If it doesn’t go easy, force it.’ ” He cites the late congressman Mo Udall saying, “May the words I utter today be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.” And Lynne Cheney: “Dogs don’t bark at parked cars.” My favorite is still the Rumsfeld Rule on intelligence: “There are also unknown unknowns: the things you don’t know you don’t know.”

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