Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Documentary, Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘The Unknown Known’

Donald Rumsfeld

The conceptual appeal is unmissable: Having won an Oscar for his 2003 The Fog of War, a study of Vietnam War architect Robert McNamara, documentary giant Errol Morris would naturally turn to another controversial U.S. Secretary of Defense for a bookend project. The subject here is Donald Rumsfeld, who held the job during the commencement of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Rumsfeld became famous for his loquacious (at times downright hammy) press conferences, when the sound of his own voice would lead him through ever-expanding circles of rhetoric—a Yogi Berra elevated to a position of life and death. Thus his classic formulation: “There are known knowns . . . There are known unknowns . . . But there are also unknown unknowns.”

I always thought that was one of the more sensible of Rumsfeld’s puckish quotes. But—at the risk of sounding Rumsfeldian—it does give a glimpse into a mind in which even uncertainties are something to be certain about.

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