September 7, 2006: Vol. 2, Issue No. 66

Dada Rumsfeld: Absurd Words From Washington’s Highest-Profile Loser
In business and in war, doing it on the cheap is dangerous

Rumsfeld Says War Critics Haven’t Learned Lessons of History SALT LAKE CITY, Aug. 29—Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that critics of the war in Iraq and the campaign against terror groups “seem not to have learned history’s lessons,” and he alluded to those in the 1930’s who advocated appeasing Nazi Germany. —David S. Cloud, The New York Times, August 29, 2006 Dadaism was a wacko cultural movement dreamed up by artists, writers and musicians. First announced in neutral Zurich on Bastille Day, July 14, 1916, in the middle of World War I, it was the “reaction to what many of these artists saw as nothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide.”

Dadaism quickly spread across Europe and came to New York, its main proponents being avant-garde photographer Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, whose iconic “Nude Descending Staircase” is featured in every art history course that deals with the modern era.

The basic tenet of the Dada art, music and literature was screaming, wrenching, fingernails-on-the-blackboard absurdism.

Rumsfeld is a modern-day Dada absurdist—a man who totally ignored the lessons of history and then bitterly complained that critics of his work “seem not to have learned history’s lessons.”

Rumsfeld and History
The U.S. military has been in the war business for more than 250 years. It has an institutional memory. Its commanders—from Washington and Grant to Pershing, Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Colin Powell—knew their military history and strategy. They understood how wars work.

Rumsfeld opted to ignore history and mount a radical new and untested war. In The National Review Online of March 31, 2003, Stanley Kurtz wrote:

Secretary Rumsfeld is an advocate of military “transformation”—the use of advanced technologies (smart bombs, night vision, surveillance drones, etc.) to achieve victory without the need for large numbers of ground troops.

The upshot: Rumsfeld’s Iraq campaign broke hundred-year-old rules of warfare. An invading army needs large numbers of support troops to follow it—civil affairs specialists, military police, medical and engineering units, as well as supply companies—to maintain order, deal with prisoners of war and administer the newly conquered territory.

The most egregious failure of Rumsfeld’s theory—indeed criminal negligence—was a dearth of troops to secure the vast Iraqi weapons caches and ammunition dumps that were allowed to be looted by the insurgents and are directly responsible for the three-year killing spree.

Rumsfeld had plenty of warning.

On Feb. 25, 2003, Army Chief of Staff General Erik Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point—something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers—are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.”

“Several hundred thousand” meant somewhere around 400,000.

A Rand Corp. study came up with roughly the same number. Powell questioned the paucity of troops.

Shinseki was replaced and all those who questioned the strategy were contemptuously blown off by Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. Instead of the recommended 400,000 ground troops, the military was forced to make a dagger thrust to Baghdad on the cheap with one-third that number—a virtual skeleton force. “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators,” Vice President Cheney boasted to Tim Russert on “Meet the Press.

Rather than fight, the Iraqi army melted into the countryside with their weapons and awaited developments. Within days of the allies taking Baghdad, widespread looting went unchecked. The skeleton coalition force was powerless to stop it, and the Iraqis immediately saw that the invaders were a paper tiger.

“Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things,” Rumsfeld told a press conference. “They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here.”

This error was exacerbated by the American decision to disband the Iraqi army and police that served under Saddam Hussein. These fierce, proud and highly trained men who had been in power were suddenly out of work and out on the street.

They became the insurgents—snipers, criminal assassins, kidnappers, death squads, murderers, demolition experts and members of private militias. They joined with al-Qaeda to welcome and train angry Muslim extremists pouring across the borders looking for martyrdom. So far 21,976 American servicemen and women have been killed and wounded. In addition, an average of 100 Iraqi civilians a week are being killed—innocent men, women and children from the tiniest babies to the most elderly.

The New York Times op-ed columnist, Thomas Friedman, an Arabist and student of history, wrote the following open letter to Vice President Cheney on Aug. 15, 2006:

Well, I just have one question for Mr. Cheney: If we’re in such a titanic struggle with radical Islam, and if getting Iraq right is at the center of that struggle, why did you “tough guys” fight the Iraq war with the Rumsfeld Doctrine—just enough troops to lose—and not the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force to create the necessary foundation of any democracy-building project, which is security?

Six retired generals, two of whom commanded troops on the ground in Iraq, questioned Rumsfeld’s competency and called for his resignation.

While the administration was exhorting America to “stay the course,” the top commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Aug. 3:

I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war.

Last week the Pentagon issued “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” a horrific 66-page assessment of the situation. A sample incendiary paragraph:

Setbacks in the levels and nature of violence in Iraq affect all other measures of stability, reconstruction, and transition. Sectarian tensions increased over the past quarter, manifested in an increasing number of execution-style killings, kidnappings, and attacks on civilians, and increasing numbers of internally displaced persons. Sunni and Shi’a extremists, particularly al-Qaeda in Iraq and rogue elements of Jaysh al Mahdi (JAM), are increasingly interlocked in retaliatory violence and are contesting control of ethnically mixed areas to expand their existing areas of influence. Concern about civil war within the Iraqi civilian population and among some defense analysts has increased in recent months. Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq. Nevertheless, the current violence is not a civil war, and movement toward civil war can be prevented. Breaking the cycle of violence is the most pressing goal of Coalition and Iraqi operations.

I remember when President Truman and the Pentagon tried to pawn the Korean War off on the American people as a “police action.” At the time more than 5 million men and women were serving in the armed forces, and 137,025 Americans were killed and wounded in that action.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich takes the Iraq conflict and the war on terrorism far beyond civil war. He told David Postman of The Seattle Times that we’re engaged in World War III.

And since Rumsfeld compared Americans who want a timed withdrawal of troops from Iraq to those in the 1930s who advocated appeasing Nazi Germany, the Pentagon is thinking World War III.

If this is World War III, it’s being fought with an army made up of less than 500,000 active duty personnel—lower than at any time in the past 50 years—where senior military strategists called for 400,000 for the Iraq invasion alone.

In addition, reservists and National Guard troops have been pressed into fighting World War III, many of whom signed up expecting at worst to patrol the Mexican border or help hurricane victims. These men and women are being continually recycled to Iraq over and over again, with the result that thousands of careers and family finances are in ruins, and marriages at risk. The American military is being victimized by the Pentagon and the politicians just as surely as Iraqi prisoners were victimized at Abu Ghraib.

For example, this past weekend the Pentagon announced that Battalion Three-Four of the First Marine Division stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., is being recycled to Iraq for its FOURTH tour of duty.

America is pinning its hopes on the vague possibility that the 300,000 needed additional fighters will magically appear in the form of an Iraqi army—30-day wonders trained by the Americans—to take over for our troops now stretched to the breaking point.

Meanwhile, the United States is reviled throughout the Middle East. Two years ago—long before the recent Hezbollah-Israeli dust-up—ex-CIA operative Michael Scheuer, author of “Imperial Hubris,” told The American Conservative editors Philip Giraldi, Kara Hopkins and Scott McConnell: While we’re beating the hell out of the Iraqis, Sharon and the Israelis are beating the hell out of the Palestinians every day. So we have an overwhelming media flow into the Muslim world of infidels killing Muslims. It’s a one-sided view, but it’s their perception. Unless you deal with what they think, you’re never going to understand what we’re up against.

So last week, Walter Pincus wrote in The Washington Post:

U.S. military leaders in Baghdad have put out for bid a two-year $20 million public relations contract that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq.

To paraphrase a MasterCard television spot:

Cost of the Iraq War (so far):
$312 billion.

Cost of a Madison Avenue pygmy PR campaign to reverse America’s fortunes:
$20 million.

Cost of coalition and Iraqi lives lost—and American prestige worldwide in tatters because we’re doing everything on the cheap:

The carnage continues. Last week the tally of murdered Iraqi civilians tripled. This past Tuesday, Louise Roug wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

At least 334 people, including 23 women, were slain in Baghdad between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2, according to morgue figures provided by Health Ministry officials. Most of the victims had been kidnapped, tortured, hogtied and shot.

P.S. Whenever I stray from marketing and direct marketing and get into world affairs, I get an occasional irate letter from a subscriber canceling Business Common Sense.

I also got an e-mail from a reader who said, “I love it when you get political. It gives me a chance to vent.”

I’ve outlined the most pressing problem for the United States so far in the 21st century. Rather than vent, you’re cordially invited to look at this situation as a business challenge and share your ideas on how to turn lemons into lemonade. For example:

  • Should Rumsfeld be fired?
  • Should the draft be activated?
  • Should Iraq be split into three provinces—Sunni, Shi’a and Kurd—each sharing in the oil revenues?
  • Should the United States try to buy the hearts and minds of Islam by giving as much foreign aid to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan as it gives to Israel ($2.8 billion a year)?
  • Should the United States cut and run? *
  • All of the above? None of the above?

What are your thoughts? Maybe your breakthrough ideas will reach higher-ups with positive results.

This could be one of the most important discussions of our lives.

Takeaway Points to Consider:
About Doing It on the Cheap

  • If Donald Rumsfeld were a direct marketer, he would have ingrained in his bones the principle that it’s madness to summarily trash a control. Test out of a control slowly and carefully and continually back test all along the way.

  • Recently an enormously capable executive I know was ordered to take over a marginal division in his corporation that had been running on fumes, visionless and woefully understaffed for years. He was told to cut costs and make it profitable. He refused the assignment, telling management that if the company didn’t believe in the potential of this division—and was willing to invest in its future—fold it. Come up with a plan, he was told. He did, management liked what it saw, and he has a fledgling, and potentially profitable, business.

  • In business, if you cut your costs, you’ll cut your losses and possibly increase profits. Few businesses have grown simply by cutting costs.

  • In business and in war, either you believe in what you’re doing and invest whatever it takes to be successful, or bail out.

  • Staying the course with a losing proposition is a losing proposition.

  • In business and in war, the most important thing to avoid is surprises.

  • In last week’s column on the business model of satellite radio, I promised to do a future story on the mechanics and arithmetic of dry testing. My background is in startup magazines. Consultant Paul Goldberg and I worked on a number of magazine startups in the 1970s and 1980s, many of which were financed by venture capitalists (VCs), who invested just enough money for a dry test and printing the first issue. With a magazine launch, full funding for at least three years is essential. Just as these publications were on the threshold of viability, the VCs called in their marketers, fired the founders and sold the properties to big publishers for a fat profit—sending many talented, committed people into the street. For example, it took Sports Illustrated 10 years to become profitable after Henry Luce founded it in 1954.

Web Sites Related to Today's Edition:
Cost of the Iraq War

Iraq Coalition Casualties

Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, August 2006

Rumsfeld’s Complete Rules

* "Cut and run" is used as a derogatory term by those who support the war. It might be well to consider that if we hadn't "cut and run" in Viet Nam, we could still be there. ..brw