Tuesday, June 20, 2006

One Percent Rules

Author and Journalist Ron Suskind's new book, 'The One Percent Doctrine', was reviewed by the New York Times, and excerpted in TIME. See also, the Washington Post review, The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light. In 2003, Suskind wrote about John DiIluio in Esquire, Why are These Men Laughing, and 2004, he wrote about Bush's "faith based presidency" in Without A Doubt. The NY Times review notes:

The title of Ron Suskind's riveting new book, "The One Percent Doctrine," refers to an operating principle that he says Vice President Dick Cheney articulated shortly after 9/11: in Mr. Suskind's words, "if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction — and there has been a small probability of such an occurrence for some time — the United States must now act as if it were a certainty." He quotes Mr. Cheney saying that it's not about "our analysis," it's about "our response," and argues that this conviction effectively sidelines the traditional policymaking process of analysis and debate, making suspicion, not evidence, the new threshold for action.

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"The One Percent Doctrine" amplifies an emerging portrait of the administration (depicted in a flurry of recent books by authors as disparate as the Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett and the former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Larry Diamond) as one eager to circumvent traditional processes of policy development and policy review, and determined to use experts (whether in the C.I.A., the Treasury Department or the military) not to help formulate policy, but simply to sell predetermined initiatives to the American public.

Mr. Suskind writes that the war on terror gave the president and vice president "vast, creative prerogatives": "to do what they want, when they want to, for whatever reason they decide" and to "create whatever reality was convenient." The potent wartime authority granted the White House in the wake of 9/11, he says, dovetailed with the administration's pre-9/11 desire to amp up executive power (diminished, Mr. Cheney and others believed, by Watergate) and to impose "message discipline" on government staffers.

"The public, and Congress, acquiesced," Mr. Suskind notes, "with little real resistance, to a 'need to know' status — told only what they needed to know, with that determination made exclusively, and narrowly, by the White House."

Dick Polman also discussed Suskind's book, in a post at American Debate, The doctrine of "plausible deniability". He focuses on the twin denials -- plausible and willful, also known as Bush and Cheney. As he explains:
It is an article of faith among President Bush's critics that he lied us into a war in Iraq (a charge that Bush's defenders categorically dismiss). But now comes author Ron Suskind, with a new book about the Bush administration, entitled The One Percent Doctrine, with a different take on that accusation:

He basically argues that Bush didn't literally lie (a liar is somebody who has true knowledge, then consciously falsifies it). Rather, Suskind says that Bush was allowed to tell the truth as he saw it, based only on the partial information with which he was provided.

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Here's a money quote from Suskind: "Keeping certain knowledge from Bush -- much of it shrouded, as well, by classification -- meant that the president, whose each word circles the globe, could advance various strategies by saying whatever was needed. He could essentially be 'deniable' about his own statements...Whether Cheney's innovations were tailored to match Bush's inclinations, or vice versa, is almost immaterial. It was a firm fit. Under this strategic model, reading the entire NIE would be problematic for Bush: it could hem in the president's rhetoric, a key weapon in the march to war. He would know too much."

All told, Suskind said this morning on NBC's Today Show, "Bush is an action-based man, but he operates within a framework that Cheney largely designed."

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Meanwhile, we also have Dick Cheney's doctrine of wilfull deniability. Yesterday, during an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, he insisted again that the insurgency is in its "last throes" (a view contradicted by the reality-based stats collected by the Brookings Institution; its latest index reports that the number of insurgents has risen by 25 percent since May 2005, and that the number of daily attacks by insurgents have risen by 28 percent since May 2005).

Cheney also stated yesterday: "I don’t think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we have encountered." The Associated Press dutifully quoted that remark without fact-checking it, thereby leaving the impression that Cheney was right.

But Cheney was wrong. Many prewar reports anticipated serious insurgent violence.

Suskind was interviewed on both the Situation Room and Fresh Air on 'NPR, Inside the War on Terror.

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