A “trained ape” could have done a better job than the Obama administration in handling relations with Afghanistan, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Fox News this week. He was commenting on Afghanistan’s turning its back on the United States and supporting the Russian takeover of Crimea.
“We have status of forces agreements probably with 100, 125 countries in the world,” he said Monday night on “On the Record with Greta van Susteren. “This administration, the White House and the State Department, have failed to get a status of forces agreement. A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement. It does not take a genius.”
Whether Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are geniuses is an open question, although it is reasonable to assume there aren’t too many geniuses running around in the State Dept., and apparently there are no apes there either.
If there were, Rumsfeld would have his candidate to handle American diplomacy, at least in Afghanistan, where he said relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai were good under the administration of George W. Bush but have gone “downhill like a toboggan” under President Barack Obama.
Officials in Washington “have trashed Karzai publicly over and over and over,” Rumsfeld said. “[Richard] Holbrooke, the special envoy did. Vice President [Joe] Biden did. Secretary Hillary Clinton has. The president has been unpleasant to him. And it seems to me they put him in a political box where he really has very little choice.”
Rumsfeld’s “trained ape” was not the first time he used that expression.
In 2001, when he was Secretary of Defense he said that with the growing ease in obtaining weapon technologies that could endanger the United States, “a trained ape can figure out that over the coming period, more people are going to have exceedingly powerful weapons, weapons more powerful than ever in the history of the world, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons.
In 2002, he again pulled out the cliché while discussing the war in Iraq and said, “There’s no debate in the world as to whether they have those weapons. We all know that. A trained ape knows that.”
Without suggesting that a trained ape would be better at the State Dept. than Kerry, not to mention his switching jobs and travelling with the circus, training leaders can be learned from how to train apes.
Palomar College Professor Keith Hill wrote two years ago that he learned a lesson while watching the movie “Planet of the Apes.”
“In the movie, the scientists, who did not know they were dealing with intelligent apes, hung a banana from the ceiling and motioned to a stack of boxes,” the professor wrote. “The scientists hoped that the apes would stack the boxes to reach the banana, thus demonstrating intelligence. One of the apes stacked the boxes, climbed them, and stared at the banana without touching it.
“The scientists were baffled, and asked out loud, ‘Why won’t she take the banana?’ The ape turned to them, and to their amazement, said very clearly, ‘Because I loathe bananas!’”
His point is that trainers teach apes – and people – to mimic behavior “without taking into consideration that people think and sometimes need to know the reason why what they are learning is important to both them and the organization.”
He said organizations and schools have to understand that people need to know why they are being fed certain information and how to apply it.
Failure to realize this “leads to fear of failure, decreased motivation to try, and a lack of importance placed on that subject,” he continued.