Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You're fired, Rosa Brooks...

Dear Ms. Brooks;

I have read with interest some of your back columns. They compel me to withdraw the offer of appointment I made to you.

Not because you seem to express contrary beliefs to suit your purpose. It might be risky to have someone on staff who can assert both

Bush remarked that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." ...This is lunacy in action.


the war in Iraq is a dangerous distraction from other pressing threats to U.S. security, such as nuclear proliferation and the rise of militant Islam worldwide.

But you are an opinion columnist, and any stick was good enough to hit President Bush.

But we can stand that. You have, your entire professional life, been a critic. You have, with the benefit of hindsight, told responsible people where they erred and how they ought to do things in the future. When you have been wrong, you have maybe caused the LA Times to lose a few subscribers.

What bothers me is the column of April 9. I may or may not agree with the ideas you mention about journalism. But I am very concerned about other comments- particularly

"Some might say I have a "new job," but because I'll be escaping a dying industry -- and your tax dollars will shortly be paying my salary -- I prefer to think of it as my personal government bailout."


"Of course, I'm not taking a government job only because I feel lucky to parachute out before some cost-cutter eliminates every last column. At this moment in history, I can't imagine anything more rewarding than being part of the new team that's shaping U.S. policy."

First, because I fear you will have serious problems committing to courses of conduct that go against your previously expressed opinions. It has become obvious to me since I came to DOD that there are things in the world of which I was ignorant. I have had to modify more than a few views I had which were based on that ignorance. I would hate for you to find yourself in a position where you had to, for example, make decisions about dealing with terror suspects in light of your columns. I would hope that you would be able to disregard your own advice in a proper case- but it would be difficult.

Secondly, what we do at the Department of Defense is really outside your experience.

We don't just say "you shouldn't have", and make suggestions. We actually do things.

I wonder what you would have said in December 2001 about an adviser to the undersecretary of defense for policy if she had written in, say, June that Al Quaeda was “an obscure group of extremist thugs, well financed and intermittently lethal but relatively limited in their global and regional political pull.” But I don't have to wonder very hard, do I?

As an adviser to the undersecretary of defense for policy, “Rosa Brooks” goes on recommendations of real policies, before the results happen. I used to mock that "I'm the decider" comment too- but it's not so funny now. No more working in a vacuum, no more costless mistakes. Everyone gets to be a critic now but you.

And most importantly, the comments I quoted reveal a basic confusion about what the things we do are.

Quoting an old boss of mine, I told you that here’s only one rule here- don’t f#*k up.

Because this is the Department of Defense. Our tool kit is destruction- explosives, fire, steel, and radioactive material.

Which means that every mistake, even the smallest, makes corpses, cripples, widows, and orphans.

Old corpses, baby cripples, innocent widows and orphans. You would probably know some of them before you end or shatter their lives. You would definitely attend some of their funerals.

That’s right, suffering YOU MADE will now exist. People will kill, on your recommendation. It’s not like losing a little market share.

Even when you are right, people will kill and die and suffer. But you'll never know if you WERE right, even when you are. There just isn't any way to know.

This isn't a job. It's not about rewarding you. And it certainly is not a bailout of any kind.

You see, here at DOD we have people who actually DO parachute. Over at the Air Force, "bailout" isn't such a giggle. And those Rangers and SEALs don't hit the ripcord to avoid poverty- they jump OUT of the safe place, and INTO danger. Real danger, not the tragedy of having to wait another year to be able to buy a new car.

When we last met, I told you that your words were mine now, and to not put me in the position of defending an opinion I don't even have.

I have to account for what you say, Ms. Brooks. And the next time I go to Walter Reed, I don't think I can honestly tell those people that you understand how serious real life is.

When I offered you this appointment, I said "Welcome to the sheepdog kennel, Ms. Brooks".

On reflection, I don't believe you belong here.

Good luck in your future efforts elsewhere.

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