Book Review: 'Rumsfeld's Rules' by Donald Rumsfeld

The former Defense secretary’s darkly funny and unexpectedly touching management tome

The first thing to understand about Rumsfeld’s Rules is that, as the introduction explains, “‘Rumsfeld’s Rules’ are not all Rumsfeld’s. Nor are they all rules.” So what is Rumsfeld’s Rules, exactly? It’s basically a collection of aphoristic life lessons, wrapped in a management/leadership manual, wrapped in a memoir, sort of. The rules in question—quotable nuggets, such as “When starting at the bottom, be willing to learn from those at the top” and “Don’t be afraid to see what you see”—have been collected by Rumsfeld over his lifetime, first in a file folder, then in an informal manual typed up at the request of Richard Nixon, then in a kind of samizdat manuscript passed around and read by “presidents, government officials, business leaders, diplomats, members of Congress, and a great many others.”

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