Known and Unknown: A Memoir

Known and Unknown: A Memoir

2.9 162
by Donald Rumsfeld
     
 

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Few Americans have spent more time near the center of power than Donald Rumsfeld, whose widely commented-on memoir offers many previously undisclosed details about his service with four U.S. presidents. We follow his rise from a middle-class childhood to the Navy to a seat in the U.S. Congress at age thirty, and his experiences there during the Vietnam War and the

Overview

Few Americans have spent more time near the center of power than Donald Rumsfeld, whose widely commented-on memoir offers many previously undisclosed details about his service with four U.S. presidents. We follow his rise from a middle-class childhood to the Navy to a seat in the U.S. Congress at age thirty, and his experiences there during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era. We also get his unique perspective as a cabinet-level member of the Nixon and Ford administrations, as CEO of two Fortune 500 companies, and as a special envoy to the Middle East for President Reagan.
 
Rumsfeld also addresses the challenges and controversies of his time as Secretary of Defense during the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He includes candid observations on the differences of views within the Pentagon and with other members of President George W. Bush’s National Security Council.
 
In a famous press briefing, Rumsfeld once said that “There are also unknown unknowns . . . things we do not know we don’t know.” His book makes us realize just how much we didn’t know.

Editorial Reviews

Newsweek-The Daily Beast
"The battle is joined. After a long silence, Donald Rumsfeld opened both barrels Tuesday, releasing his memoir, Known and Unknown . Early leaks of the book's defiant take on his life, times, and conduct of the Iraq War drew howls from some of the targets of his score-settling…But Rumsfeld battles on, taking his unapologetic account to the public."--( John Barry)
Wall Street Journal
"Readers might be appreciative to find themselves in possession of a serious memoir, more in keeping with the older Washington tradition of Dean Acheson or Henry Kissinger. As might the historians." --(Kimberly Strassel)
Businessweek
"Known and Unknown is a meaty, well-written book that will be a primary source for historians…this power memoir deserves to be read with the care that went into writing it." --(Christopher Buckley)
Foreign Policy
"The book places the reader in Rumsfeld's chair and is a serious stab at telling the history of a consequential period in America through the eyes of one of its most consequential players. It will be an important addition to the history of our time." --(Peter Baker (New York Times White House correspondent))
Line of Departure
"‘Dismissive' is a word often used to describe Rumsfeld, but ‘dismissive' perfectly describes his critics, who are unwilling or unable to re-examine their own assumptions in the light of new or overlooked information and fresh perspective provided by Rumsfeld, in his exceedingly well-documented work. With its hundreds of annotations and supplementary documents, Known and Unknown is a significant contribution to the historical record. It is, as Rumsfeld once noted about similar memoirs, ‘only from one perspective,' but it's a unique and valuable perspective, a serious work that deserves consideration by any serious student of recent history." --(Jamie McIntyre (former CNN Pentagon correspondent))
From the Publisher
“A serious stab at telling the history of a consequential period in America through the eyes of one of its most consequential players.”
—PETER BAKER, The New York Times
 
“I don’t care whether you’re . . . a liberal or a conservative or something else: If you’re interested in this period of history, the book is a total feast.”
—JAY NORDLINGER, National Review
 
“A meaty, well-written book that will be a primary source for historians . . . This power memoir deserves to be read with the care that went into writing it.”
—CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY, BusinessWeek

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595230676
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/08/2011
Pages:
832
Sales rank:
229,160
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 14
Unfinished Business

I was still serving as White House chief of staff on April 29, 1975, when America’s long and vexing involvement in Vietnam came to a close. A few weeks earlier President Ford had implored the Democratic-controlled Congress to authorize aid to our ally, the beleaguered South Vietnamese. He and Kissinger hoped the funds could bolster the South enough so it could arrange some sort of a truce with the North Vietnamese. But the U.S. Congress had had enough of Vietnam.

When Ford heard that Congress had rejected his request, he was furious. “Those bastards,” he snapped. An evacuation of all of our forces was now inevitable.

Vietnam was the first war in our history that the American people were able to watch unfold on television. That fact made a big difference. As such, we were all witnesses to the heartbreaking scene of U.S. forces executing a humiliating exit while our Vietnamese allies of more than a decade of war faced an uncertain future at the hands of the triumphant Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.

Throughout that long, sad day, I was with President Ford at the White House as he monitored the withdrawal. The American ambassador to Vietnam, Graham Martin, updated us on the number of Americans still waiting to evacuate, as well as the number of Vietnamese clamoring to leave. The second number kept growing.

Many of the Vietnamese who had worked with our forces were understandably desperate to flee from the advancing Northern forces, making use of rafts, small boats, whatever they could find to escape. When our Marines temporarily opened the gates to the embassy in Saigon, thousands of local citizens tried to force their way in, only to be physically pushed back. Martin and his team understandably found it difficult to turn our Vietnamese allies away.

As Martin’s wife departed by helicopter, she reportedly abandoned her suitcase so that space could be made for one more South Vietnamese woman to squeeze onboard.

Eventually it was decided that only American citizens could be airlifted in the short time remaining. The indelible image from that day is the heartbreaking photograph of desperate Vietnamese at a building across from the American embassy, trying to crowd aboard a helicopter departing from its roof. Those who had helped America during the war knew what was coming for them. It was an ignominious retreat for the world’s leading superpower.

David Kennerly, the White House photographer who had earned a Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam War photography and understood the power of images as well as anyone, put it succinctly to those of us gathered in the Oval Office with the President that day. “The good news is the war is over,” he said. “The bad news is we lost.”

Secretary of State Kissinger believed that Ambassador Martin would be the last American to leave the country. After word was received that Martin had been airlifted out of the South Vietnamese capital, Kissinger announced to reporters,“Our ambassador has left, and the evacuation can be said to be completed.”

As it turned out, that wasn’t quite true.

After hearing Kissinger’s statement, Secretary of Defense Schlesinger advised us of the problem. The contingent of U.S. Marines assigned to prevent the panicking Vietnamese from flooding our embassy was still on the ground. Somehow there had been a misunderstanding. Kissinger and Schlesinger each considered the other’s department responsible for the miscommunication. The President felt Schlesinger bore responsibility and said he was “damn mad” about it. The last thing Ford needed was another public disagreement between his two top national security cabinet officials.

I discussed the issue in the Oval Office with Ford, Kissinger, and Ron Nessen, the White House press secretary. A few in the room felt we should not issue a correction because the Marines were expected to be airlifted out soon, at which point Kissinger’s statement would be accurate. I disagreed. What if the Marines were overrun and unable to get out? In any event, what we had told the American people simply was not true. That mattered.

“This war has been marked by so many lies and evasions,” I said, “that it is not right to have the war end with one last lie.”

The President agreed. He sent Nessen down to the press room to issue a statement saying that the evacuation had not been completed after all.

Kissinger was not pleased about the correction and again vented his anger at Schlesinger. He wanted the Defense Department to be blamed publicly for the miscommunication.* So the war in Vietnam ended in much the way it had been carried out—with recriminations and regret.

Since my years in Congress, I had had concerns about our country’s involvement in Vietnam—to the point that both President Nixon and Kissinger viewed me as something of a dove on the subject. I hoped they would find a way to bring the war to an orderly close. It seemed to me that we had lost opportunities to actually win the war. During the Nixon administration, I supported the President’s and Defense Secretary Mel Laird’s policy of Vietnamization, which put the emphasis on enabling the Vietnamese to take charge of their own affairs. Even in the final days of the war, there was at least a possibility that we might have been able to salvage something worthwhile from the effort had Congress approved the resources to support the South Vietnamese government—and particularly to fund its army—for a longer period. But Congress was not ready to go against the strong antiwar sentiment in the country.

With the war’s unfortunate end, a great many in our military and among the American people swore they would never again get involved in the tough, bloody business of counterinsurgency. Many wanted to turn inward, ignoring conflicts waged by the Soviet Union and its proxies. Instead of bringing us peace, I feared the chaotic conclusion of Vietnam could result in an even more deadly escalation of the broader Cold War struggle. The withdrawal from Vietnam became a symbol of American weakness—a weakness our adversaries would highlight for years—and an invitation to further aggression.

Even after the pullout from Vietnam, President Ford pleaded with Congress to at least provide military aid to the anticommunists in the region so they could defend themselves. Those pleas, too, were rebuffed. As such, the victory of the Viet Cong was accompanied by the rise of Communist forces in neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

* By the next day Kissinger had cooled down. After a meeting with the President, he said, “Don, I want you to know that I believe you handled the matter last night just right. . . . We would have ended up in a pissing match within the government, and we don’t need that.” He concluded saying, “I owed you that and wanted you to know it.” Kissinger could be a fierce bureaucratic battler, but he also was a man of integrity who would admit when he had erred.

Videos

What People are saying about this

Rush Limbaugh
"I would heartily recommend it. I don't think anybody could go buy a book written by anybody who has been more intimately involved, closer to power, for as many years, has been through as much, has known all of the power players as you have. It is amazing." --(Rush Limbaugh (interview transcript)/2/8/2001)
John Barry
"The battle is joined. After a long silence, Donald Rumsfeld opened both barrels Tuesday, releasing his memoir, Known and Unknown . Early leaks of the book's defiant take on his life, times, and conduct of the Iraq War drew howls from some of the targets of his score-settling…But Rumsfeld battles on, taking his unapologetic account to the public."--( John Barry/Newsweek-The Daily Beast/2/8/2011)
From the Publisher
"I would heartily recommend it. I don't think anybody could go buy a book written by anybody who has been more intimately involved, closer to power, for as many years, has been through as much, has known all of the power players as you have. It is amazing."
-Rush Limbaugh (interview transcript)/2/8/2001

"Readers might be appreciative to find themselves in possession of a serious memoir, more in keeping with the older Washington tradition of Dean Acheson or Henry Kissinger. As might the historians."
-Kimberly Strassel/Wall Street Journal/2/8/2011

"The battle is joined. After a long silence, Donald Rumsfeld opened both barrels Tuesday, releasing his memoir, Known and Unknown . Early leaks of the book's defiant take on his life, times, and conduct of the Iraq War drew howls from some of the targets of his score-settling...But Rumsfeld battles on, taking his unapologetic account to the public."
-John Barry/Newsweek-The Daily Beast/2/8/2011

"The book places the reader in Rumsfeld's chair and is a serious stab at telling the history of a consequential period in America through the eyes of one of its most consequential players. It will be an important addition to the history of our time."
-Peter Baker (New York Times White House correspondent)/Foreign Policy/2/9/2011

Rumsfeld "describes the highs and lows of a long and dramatic career and discloses some behind the scenes details that may shock you."
-Sean Hannity (interview transcript)/2/9/2011

"Known and Unknown is a meaty, well-written book that will be a primary source for historians...this power memoir deserves to be read with the care that went into writing it."
-Christopher Buckley/Businessweek/2/10/2011

"'Dismissive' is a word often used to describe Rumsfeld, but 'dismissive' perfectly describes his critics, who are unwilling or unable to re-examine their own assumptions in the light of new or overlooked information and fresh perspective provided by Rumsfeld, in his exceedingly well-documented work. With its hundreds of annotations and supplementary documents, Known and Unknown is a significant contribution to the historical record. It is, as Rumsfeld once noted about similar memoirs, 'only from one perspective,' but it's a unique and valuable perspective, a serious work that deserves consideration by any serious student of recent history."
-Jamie McIntyre (former CNN Pentagon correspondent)/Line of Departure/2/10/2011

"It is a terrific book...Let me tell you something, it is absolutely fascinating. He's very blunt in talking about people and issues and so forth, you'll really enjoy it, in my humble opinion."
-Mark Levin (interview transcript)/2/10/2011

Mark Levin
"It is a terrific book…Let me tell you something, it is absolutely fascinating. He's very blunt in talking about people and issues and so forth, you'll really enjoy it, in my humble opinion." --(Mark Levin (interview transcript)/2/10/2011)

Meet the Author

Donald Rumsfeld was the 13th and 21st U.S. Secretary of Defense. He currently chairs the Rumsfeld Foundation, which supports leadership and public service at home and the growth of free political and free economic systems abroad. The Rumsfeld Foundation funds microfinance development projects, fellowships for graduate students interested in public service, the development of young leaders from Central Asia and the Caucasus, and charitable causes that benefit the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and their families.

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Known and Unknown 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 161 reviews.
VoraciousPager More than 1 year ago
Sadly I have no idea if Don Rumsfeld's book is great or garbage. All but one of 21 reviews is a complaint about the eBook price! As a veteran Nook owner, I TOTALLY agree with the other "reviewers" -- when the hard cover of a new release is less expensive than the eBook version, that's just assine. I'll wait for sanity to prevail to buy the electronic version, or I'll sign up on the library waiting list. I'm stopping my annual membership with B&N since no discounts ever apply to ebooks either; what's the point? Come on B&N, wise up. You insult the intelligence of your eCustomers. The unit cost for an eBook is miniscule, quit trying to gore the ox here!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"known and unknown" is very hard to put down gives a great perspective on the war on terror. donald rumsfeld was at george w bushs side during 911 whean america faced its toughest challenges this intresting cabinate member gives intresting insights into some of the most historic figures who have shaped world history and world affairs I have found this to be a very intresting memoir rumsfeld has served with many presidents and world leaders lots of fasinating and intresting details. great gift idea for a friend or family member.
RA5125 More than 1 year ago
I am sooooo disappointed with the price of nookbooks. I like using my nook but will go back to buying the hard copy at Amazon since they are usually less expensive than nookbooks.
DonCole More than 1 year ago
I have complained several times about the NOOK Prices. Too high. They have less expense with Nook yet charge us more. Higher prices, less sales. DonCole
SmittyII More than 1 year ago
Watch out people! This version is ONLY readable on the color nook!! I just purchased for use on my iPad nook reader and it won't even download. This is unacceptable!
BlackBogey More than 1 year ago
Have been anxious to read this book, but at $20, have no interest - very dissapointed that my Nook is unable to provide the inherent cost savings associated with technology. Since Review requires a Rating, can only give one star as hve not yet read the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointed in the price. I can do better at a wholesale store. A book on Nook saves so much. Where is the user's discount on this one? Sad Sherry
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It very hard to put down. It gives a great perspective on the war on terror. Donald Rumsfeld was at President George W Bushs side during 911 when America faced some really tough challenges. He tells us first hand what went on in the White House During these trying times. Great book...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Want to buy - price is too high for Nook edition. No printing, paper, shipping, or profit to brick and mortar store. Why is the price so high? Makes me sorry I bought a Nook.
stevegil More than 1 year ago
Those who have a point of view, positive or negative, about the actions and events of which he was a part, owe it to themselves to "hear" Rumsfeld's point of view. He gives enough of who said what to whom to satisfy the voyeur in us or to fuel our righteous instincts about who we thought were the "bad guys" or to generate some screeching about how he has selected memos or events to support his view and memory to the disadvantage of others. Rumsfeld's stated purpose is to contribute to history so that we are not doomed to repeat what we should not and to help with a better understanding of how things really do work in the government -- at least the parts in which he toiled -- so that we can participate in or advocate improvement. Rumsfeld succeeds in these goals; but I would have liked a lot more elucidation of his views and conclusions. For example, as shown here the history of the American media's contribution to understanding our international challenges and involvements is bleak and a dangerous problem for a population as parochial as we are. Similarly, as this books documents, the history of results when Congress has taken it upon itself to direct how and what we should do overseas is pretty discouraging. The Army went through much soul-searching after the Vietnam war demonstrated its terrible inadequacies and rebuilt itself to what may have been one of the best-managed organizations in the world (some of this encapsulated in the book "Hope is Not A Method"). But Rumsfeld, almost despite himself, reveals that it is yet again unable to see the changing nature of the world and the inadequacies and mistakes of structure and weapons which would be completely wrong for tomorrow's conflict. Is there a solution for this or is it a fatal flaw of a military environment? Of course, the big kahuna issue here is how does and should the President get his information, vet his options, and communicate his philosophies and orders. Some will focus on Rumsfeld's fairly specific criticisms of the Nast approach; but he is also critical of the Haldeman-Kissinger model. For this reader the most scathing revelations are the inadequacies of the State Department. Apparently, we were unable to meet our commitments in Afghanistan and Irag in many areas because our State Department employees didn't want to go to nasty, dangerous places and the leadership was unable or unwilling to tell their employees to go where they are needed to get another job. Maybe there is a connection to the fact that, if Rumsfeld is accurate, the State Department (and Congress) has been on the wrong side of about every decision and position in the middle east for the past 20 years or so. This thought-provoking book is a good contribution to understanding what we are asking our public officials to do; to assessing how well they are doing it; and, importantly, to helping us be less susceptible to the growing culture of partisanship and disinformation malcontents and critics of any given approach are taking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Known and Unknown" is a FASCINATING and WELL WRITTEN account of Rumsfeld's journey through the political world of the past five decades. His accounts of personal relationships and interactions with players on the world stage are intriguing. I found his viewpoints enlightening, his opinions strong but balanced, and his Realpolitik view of the political realities of the world refreshing and comforting. One of the things I liked best about the book, and I suspect I'd like about the man, is that presidents and others are best served by someone who isn't afraid to tell them the unvarnished truth as he sees it. He comes across as the man one would expect--straightforward, no nonsense, and a man of integrity. This country is fortunate to have had him on the political scene for as long as we did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't be influenced by the number of pages - the last 200+ are reference notes and captioned pictures. This book reflects involvement in public service across numerous administrations. It includes his time as a Congressman from Illinois, US rep to NATO, two stints as Secretary of Defense, chief of staff to President Ford, and several positons. Rumsfeld names names. Much is covered about the tensions between State(Powell & Rice) and Defense, State and the NSC (Rice), and how all that played with our engagements in 2 wars. While lengthy, I found this book a good read for the most part. There are numerous pictures that would have been better viewed in color, and perhaps in a larger format.
ChanFan More than 1 year ago
Many thanks to Secretary Rumsfeld for giving us outsiders a glimpse into the challenges of the highly-complex position of Secretary of Defense. I can't think of a better man to have had at that position while our country took a stand against radical Islamic fundamentalists. In the closing pages of the book, Secretary Rumsfeld warns our country that we'd better take a much harder stance against the insidious threat that radicalism "rooted in Islam" poses to the freedoms that we so cherish.
Deanna McPherson More than 1 year ago
first of all this book is 800 pages long so for you cheap skates complaining about the price, well thats why it costs more...... its the length of 4 books!!!!!! grow up! this is not the place to complain about prices for gods sake!. having said that you will love this book and not be able to put it down. you will have a better understanding of the things he grappled with during his tenure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book comes to life with the addition of many sections of pictures which help the reader to put faces/names/events together. This book encompasses a myriad of administrations and provides some provocative thought on the actions of our elected.
StevenC60 More than 1 year ago
And while I don't like the idea of a criminal profitting from his crimes, I did find the book interesting and well-written. I should have borrowed, rather than buy it. But like it or not Rummy is a part of US History. And thus his observations and words are important.
NookBooks-Are-Ripoffs More than 1 year ago
Overpriced. By A LOT! Unfortunately this is becoming a trend I hear from NC owners all over the web. Barnes and Noble has a truly impressive offering and yet it's most definitely going to fail in the long run if they keep doing things the way they have been. People expect a certain amount of savings when purchasing digital versions of normally printed products.
gullagej More than 1 year ago
An interesting story of Rumsfeld's years- mostly in politics. He gives the inside story on some of the snakes in the various administrations over the years. I highly recommend
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