Donald Rumsfeld’s new book, Known and Unknown, is both an engaging personal narrative and a serious work of history. Rumsfeld has been working on it since he left the government four years ago, and it shows. The book is detailed and copiously sourced, and it is a fascinating account of Rumsfeld’s long career in public service. Inevitably, though, the major focus of Known and Unknown is the events that followed September 11, especially the war in Iraq.
Today I was part of a group of seven or eight online journalists who had lunch with Rumsfeld to talk about his book and his career. It was a delightful event. Rumsfeld answered questions, mostly on the record, occasionally off. He was friendly and often funny. Rumsfeld played an important role in public affairs for fifty years, and few if any can match his knowledge of Washington.
In the video clip below, Rumsfeld answers a question about troop levels in Iraq, and whether they were, as frequently charged, too low. He also comments on the surge and the factors that made it a success:
When we were finished with lunch and Rumsfeld had answered questions for an hour or so, he took us on an impromptu tour of his office. He has an extraordinary collection of photos and artifacts, dating back to a picture with Charles Lindbergh. Here he showed us ballots from Iraq and Afghanistan, signed by Karzai and (I think) Allawi:
It was a fun experience and a glimpse into the formidable mind of one of America’s greatest public servants of the last half-century. You will find Known and Unknown as revealing as it is entertaining.