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Known and Unknown: A Memoir Paperback – May 29, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 236 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

Review

"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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Sentinel; Reprint edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159523084X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595230843
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #802,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Kloss on January 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
After reading George W. Bush's Decision Points and Dick Cheney's In My Time, I decided to read Rumsfeld's memoirs Known and Unknown which, like the other two works, is simply outstanding. It's hard to believe that I would say this, because during Bush's tenure, I was not a fan of any of the three. But Rumsfeld has had an amazing life and career, and this book, like Cheney's memoirs, will take the reader through nearly four decades of very interesting, highly eventful American history. Rumsfeld is on a short list of Americans who has had this kind of rare, front-row seat to the world events he experienced. These memoirs are a clear, factual presentation of Rumsfeld's career. Read and enjoy them as a fair addendum to everything else that's been said about him.
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Format: Hardcover
My intentions going into this book were to simply read what Rumsfeld believes, what he remembers. With a critical eye, however, I also planned on looking for any inconsistencies, any contradictions, during his storied political years of experience. What I found led me to the title of the review; Rumsfeld's memoirs are from naturally from his perspective, but provide little to truly argue with other than anecdotal information, which can be very difficult to prove or disprove. Naturally, all can't be covered in the confines of this review (which is gigantic to begin with), but I found two primary recurring themes while reading these memoirs (which are, incidentally, very interesting), and one topic of discussion that is sure to draw the most ire:

1) Bipartisanship - In terms of thought as well as allegiance, Rumsfeld was not always unary.

2) National Defense - Throughout an illustrious career, he has held many positions that all eventually deal with national defense. His thoughts and actions are truly eye-opening.

3) The Bush Years - There will be the most disagreement with this portion of his recollections, but his recounting of events is infallible unless one allows political dogma to overrule reason.

BIPARTISANSHIP

What struck me most of all while reading Rumsfeld's memoirs were his extensive private and public sector experiences, and how evenly he managed to deal with nearly all he encountered. Obviously a lifelong Republican, his admiration for Reagan and Nixon are apparent during their respective historical chapters/sections, his praise was measured and fair. While he appreciated Gerald Ford's steadfastness, he also noted the naïvety shown by Ford and JFK while younger.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
His career ended in controversy equivalent to what Robert McNamara absorbed when his tenure came to an end as Defense Secretary during the Viet Nam War. Both men probably feel considerable remorse at actions not taken, and paths not followed. That is the nature of war. General Eisenhower during the Normandy invasion was quoted as saying the most important thing in war is planning, and then after the first contact with the enemy, you are basically improvising.

I think like most Americans, I have my own issues with Rumsfeld, and still have quite a few of them. This book goes a long way towards clarifying the reader's understanding of government, the role of government, and the participants in that government. After 726 pages of narrative I found no great surprises, but if your goal is to fill in your understanding of this period in American history from the 1960's through the present, than we both have come to the right place. Rumsfeld possesses a finely tuned mind, and the unflinching ability to make a decision right or wrong, and then EXECUTE BRILLIANTLY. One of the issues for this man is to what extent he executed BAD decisions BRILLIANTLY.

No one who reads this autobiography will question the man's patriotism, or desire to see America continue to dominate the world scene as the world's sole remaining superpower. We will all question his judgments, and how he executed those decisions when he was the point man making the decisions. This book covers Donald Rumsfeld's entire life, and it is an extraordinary life, and very much worth studying.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Rumsfeld was a pivotal Washington insider in four presidential administrations (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush2) and his memoir would be expected to be a fascinating look behind the scenes at historical events. Unfortunately, that behind-the-scenes view is spotty and heavily overlain with Rumsfeld's constant editorializing and justifications, especially in the later years when the critics multiplied. The first few chapters start off okay with interesting insights about the Lebanon crisis during the Reagan administration, the Nixon administration Watergate scandal, and the transfer of power to the Ford administration. The later chapters become a heavier and heavier slog as the memories become fresher and the critics become more numerous. With each recollection, Rumsfeld recalls more of the criticisms in the press, the attacks by other players, and the mistakes that others made, and then justifies whatever he did or said. He quotes himself frequently in excruciating detail, often as an attempt to respond to some attack where a portion of his quote was taken out of context and used to bash him. There is not a lot of interesting detail or insight here, even though Rumsfeld was unquestionably present at many major events. In the end, the book becomes more of a portrayal of Rumsfeld's thought processes than it does of a memoir of historical events and the result is not pleasant to read. Rumsfeld comes across as a very selfish, self-centered man who lacks an internal moral compass and makes decisions based on what others will say, think, and do. As an example, after the fall of Baghdad, the Army was responsible for the governing of Iraq and Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense.Read more ›
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