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Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld

Author: Donald Rumsfeld
Book title: Known and Unknown: A Memoir
ISBN10: 0142428388
ISBN13: 978-0142428382
Publisher: Penguin Audio; Unabridged edition (February 8, 2011)
Language: English
Size PDF: 1944 kb
Size FB2: 1378 kb
Size ePUB: 1449 kb
Rating: 4.4 ✯
Votes: 995
Subcategory: Leaders & Notable People

Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld

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.
Reviews (7)
I've always been a Donald Rumsfeld fan. I thought he was an excellent Secretary of Defense for President Bush. He was plain spoken to the point and very intuitive. He was commonsensical when much of that was missing from Washington. This book explains what happened from his point of view. It gives the reader his perspective without the politics of media or the political machine that thrives on destroying people's reputation. Their mantra, if it bleeds it leads.

The one thing missing in the book was the story about Secretary Rumsfeld sending form condolence letters to families of military KIA. The letters were purportedly computer signed by him and not an original signature. I did have a problem with that when the story broke. He admitted he was doing that and changed to original signatures after that.

Other than that, great book highly recommend. He served his country well.
Wake up America. Read this book! Donald Rumsfeld was the right man at the right place at the right time. He devoted his life to serving our nation. His leadership was and still is an unparalleled example of the skill, wisdom and guts necessary to fulfill the position of Secretary of Defense of the United States of America. In our uncertain times and unquestionable challenges, he made the difficult
decisions and proffered courses of action demanded of the world's only super power to ignore the misinformed and spiteful allegations of political hacks and conduct the moral and righteous guidance to wage our response to the despicable forces of evil that have sought to dominate the entire world. Our nation owes him our gratitude and respect. Thank you, Mr. Secretary!
Had to buy the book after buying the audio CDs! This incredible statesman has written the most comprehensive book about his experience in both public and private service. I loved the audio CDs, but now I can read and bookmark his words of wisdom. Trials and tribulations throughout his years, this memoir ought to be read by anyone thinking about entering politics as well as those who think they have been doing a good job. Thank you Mr. Rumsfeld for such an incredible look behind the curtain of the decades you have been serving this country!
1) Bought the book because I had heard a ton of bad stuff about Rumsfeld and wanted to read his thoughts.

2) I was very interested in how fast he climbed the ropes of government. Backing people he believed in, and working on things he felt were important paid off. This is a lesson for all. We might not end up as a high-ranking government official, but we would be happy we were working on what we thought was important.

3) Rumsfeld and others put in a lot of very long days in government service. You can't fault the folks in governments work ethic. I respect the effort.

4) I am interested in the idea of moving on and not spending a lot of time worrying about if decisions were right or not. I work hard to make good decisions and then spend some portion of time worrying if the decision was well received and was correct. I appreciate Rumsfeld focus on trying to make a great decision but not spending endless hours worrying about the decision after it had been made.

5) I may not agree with everything he did or said but I respect the work and the effort that went into doing what he thought was right for the country.
I titled my review of this book the way I did for a very specific reason. Donald Rumsfeld was, whether you liked him or not -- or, more specifically, whether you agreed with him or not -- a very important individual involved with the shaping of our country for the better part of half a century. Discounting his words would be a rather foolish position for anyone who fancies them self as a student of government or modern history.

As Rumsfeld is somewhat of a controversial figure, I think it's important to break the review into two separate parts: how it is written and then the content itself.

Readability: Judging the book based solely on the quality of writing, I would highly recommend this book. Rumsfeld writes in a very personable fashion -- much like the voice you would imagine he has in person. It is quite easy to see yourself being talked to in a manner that would reflect how he wrote his memoirs. Granted, this carries a negative connotation for some, as many saw him as brash and arrogant. Make no mistake, the arrogance is there, but not in the way most would assume it to be. He has the type of confidence that enabled him to be successful at some of the highest levels of government and private business, and that attitude certainly comes through in his writing. Though this is surely my own opinion, it does not come through in a way that suggests he believes himself to be better or smarter than anyone else; it comes through that he truly believes he did mostly the right things and that he was good at what he did -- namely, managing people.

Content: This leads me to the actual subject matter of the book. To properly address that, I think it is important to address one of the chief criticisms of the book -- that Rumsfeld supposedly never admits to ever doing anything wrong. This is flatly and demonstrably false. In my own opinion it shows that a person never read the book all the way through and, as such, their criticism should be dismissed. Rumsfeld, on more than one occasion, admits to mistakes and that things could have been done better by him during numerous points of his career.

It is on this very premise -- the notion of knowing or not knowing the right thing to do -- that the very title of the book is based. And it is from that seemingly-odd philosophical statement that provides a backdrop for most of Rumsfeld's life -- he simply did the best he could with what he knew and when it came to make a decision, he did so without dithering. If one proceeds through life with that philosophy, mistakes are inevitable. It is the dichotomy of leadership; making a decision could lead to negative consequences, but not making a decision almost assuredly will.

As mentioned above, it would be short-sighted for any student of history or government to ignore this book. Simply put, there aren't many events in the last half of the 20th century (as well as the first decade of the 21st) that Rumsfeld was not involved in. Naval aviator, Congressman, White House Chief of Staff, SecDef (twice), CEO of a major corporation; halfway through the book I would not have been the least bit shocked if Rummy wrote that he had been sitting with John, Paul, George and Ringo while they recorded "Rubber Soul." I have personally never read a memoir by anyone who has been involved in more history-shaping events than Donald Rumsfeld.

I can also say that I was personally involved with some of the events of this book, having joined the Army shortly after 9/11. What I was involved with is not important for the sake of the review, but it is important from the perspective that, while many disagree with what Rumsfeld did or did not do, his personal accounts make sense. They "jive," so to speak, with the reality of the situations described (at least insofar as the War on Terror). Again, whether you agree with him or not is not the point; it is to say that his decisions and courses of action followed a very logical pattern given the situation at the time.

I could go on in detail about the specifics, but I believe the most important thing to remember is that this is a tremendously important work in that it chronicles a very important figure's involvement with several seminal moments of the last 50+ years. I highly recommend it on that alone, and encourage anyone who has an interest in current events to read it with an open mind. Don't cast it aside simply because you belong to a different political party or because you believe "9/11 was an inside job, man!" Read it and appreciate it for what it is: a well-written memoir from an extremely important figure.

As a final note, I gave the book four stars instead of five for two reasons: One, I'm a slow reader and this is a really, really long book. I know that's a selfish reason, but hey, it's my review. And two, I can't go handing out five stars all the time, as it just wouldn't seem right, ya know?
A must read for anybody interested in late 20th century and early ought years. It us very intersting reading this in 2017 in the era of President Trump after eight not-so-transparent intermittent years. what lessons we've learned and what unknowns wait! Rumsfeld does a great job discussing his long years of public service and addressing the many controversies that came to life in those media reliant years. Very wisely written with commendable restraint - making Rumsfeld a real American statesman.

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