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[Opinion] Deep Denial

Posted November. 14, 2006 07:43,   


Donald Rumsfeld (74) is a man who has marched up the highway of success until U.S. President George W. Bush made him a scapegoat for the defeat of the Republican Party in the midterm election.

After he graduated from Princeton University, he entered the politics at the age of thirty as a congressman and enjoyed a splendid career path in and out of the political and business world for more than 40 years. He was appointed presidential secretary at 42 and served as America’s youngest defense secretary at 43. On top of that, he continued to ornament his career as a CEO in many prominent companies and came back to the Defense Ministry in 2001 as the oldest defense secretary ever in the U.S. history, and was given command of the war on terrorism.

Kenneth Adelman, assistant to the defense secretary, said in an interview with the New Yorker magazine that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was engaged in ‘deep denial’ regarding the Iraq war. When he gave advice to Rumsfeld last summer that “The U.S. was losing the war in Iraq and we needed a new strategy,” Rumsfeld was mumbling to himself and said that “We might lose a war staged in America, but we would never lose the one in Iraq.” He said that “He and Rumsfeld have been friends for thirty-six years, but the Defense Secretary was not the man who he was in the past.”

‘Deep denial’ refers to a negative psychological status where one may want to deny one’s failures or mistakes. Human beings unconsciously use defense mechanisms to deny something that they want to contradict, especially when squarely acknowledging their fault causes intolerable pain. Justifying one’s own words or acts and quibbling over a small matter can be examples of deep denial. In this regard, it must be painful for Mr. Rumsfeld to face his bruised ego by admitting that his Iraq policy has fizzled, even though he had said that, “He would let the history judge his legacy.”

It is highly probable that the Roh administration will be labeled as a botched government in Korean history as well, based on its lack of successful policies over its five-year tenure. However, blowing his own horn, Lee Hae-chan, the former prime minister and a well-known power in the Roh administration, said that the Roh administration, what is called the participatory government, is the best government ever as far as a stable policy system is concerned. But one may see the remark as a good example of ‘deep denial.’ As President Roh does not reproach his aides and ministers for policy failures in foreign affairs, security matters and real estate issues, he is no exception to such criticism. Problems cannot be solved by just shying away from reality.

Gwon Sun-taek, Editorial Writer, maypole@donga.com