Rumsfeld’s memoir is an interesting if a bit too voluminous account of outstanding bureaucrat, better then average politician, and underachieving family man.
The account of events he provides does not uncover anything new and dramatic, but is interesting mainly by demonstrating the mechanisms of political / bureaucratic corruption that was established at the very beginning of republic and grew extensively over next 200+ years currently consuming more then a half of country economy and bringing it to a grinding slowdown.
Actually American corruption is a lot more benign then corruption in other countries mainly because it is relatively open for everybody to see thanks to the first amendment, free press, and most of all to the democratic process when two approximately equal groups of politicians and bureaucrats fight via nonviolent election process for the place at the controls when they can satisfy their needs and wishes both material and immaterial.
The nice description of this process is provided in details when Rumsfeld gets out of politics due to the republican defeat in mid 70s and goes to work and make his fortune in private business. It is kind of touching to see that he does not recognize that there is something wrong with the system when the entry level job for politician out of office and without any business experience whatsoever is CEO of big pharmaceutical company. Actually he dedicates quite a bit of time proving that he was a big asset for the company and his appointment paid to shareholders a big time. This is absolutely correct. The story is simple – company developed a new product (sugar substitute) which it could not sell without government approval. After years of delay, the hiring of experienced politician out of office allows company to obtain the approval it seeks and make billions from the selling its product. In my opinion Rumsfeld absolutely deserves money that he made from this transaction and I am sure he learned business quick and well. However the fact that company had to hire politician to get a good product to the market says a volumes about whose interests government (politicians and bureaucrats) serves. Actually I think that Rumsfeld “politics to private business” story is a wonderful argument against decision making by politicians/bureaucrats and for limiting government to only advisory role in business.
Another interesting feature of the book is detailed discussion of events after 9/11/2001. Here again Rumsfeld demonstrate his quality of outstanding bureaucrat with clear thinking and abilities to get things done. His account of events includes insistence on defining response not as vacuous “war on terror”, but as war against militant Islam. By the same pattern this clear thinking bureaucrat would limit war in Iraq to quick removal of Saddam, transfer power to Iraqis of whatever political inclinations they are with only one caveat to remain friendly to USA and quick decrease in forces to minimum necessary to assure that Iraqis remain friendly and troops situated out of cities and out of view of Iraqi population. Too bad he was overruled by old bosses’ son Bush. This is another old feature of American system – nepotism common for both private business and government and often harmful for both.
Rumsfeld is competent and effective bureaucrat and he would make a great president at this point in history. Too bad those republicans choose family connections and political competence of Bush over abilities and experience in governing of Rumsfeld.