Rumsfeld Review Takes Advantage of Unique Moment in History
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2001 The United States must take advantage of this moment in history to examine the state of the world and to review its defenses, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld, during an interview with American Forces Information Service, said the strategic review he is conducting has no preconceived notions and that any new strategy will be based on facts.
Rumsfeld said the review may or may not change the National Security Strategy of the United States. Last amended in 1995, the document is the blueprint for defending America and American interests.
"When (President Bush) said he wanted a review he didn't say he wanted a new strategy," Rumsfeld said. "He said he wanted a review, and that's what's happening. We have been engaged with the military and civilian side in reviewing ... the nature of the world, our circumstance in that world and the kinds of capabilities that we're going to need. Whether that will result in a new strategy or not depends on what comes out of that process."
He said any changes to the National Security Strategy would have an enormous impact and therefore would have to be carefully considered and done in conjunction with many government agencies and the Congress. For the past decade, for instance, the basis for the U.S. military's size is a requirement to be able to fight and win two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts.
"An awful lot has changed in the intervening period," Rumsfeld said. "Will we change that? I don't know. We're looking at those kinds of things now. It will be thought through very carefully and become part of the Quadrennial Defense Review. It would go through extensive interaction with Congress."
Rumsfeld sees some correlation between the turn of the 20th century and today. Those in power at the turn of the 20th century thought they had seen the end of war. They said the world was too interconnected, too liberal, too pacifist to contemplate war.
"Those who were complacent at the turn of the 20th century were wrong," he said. "They weren't wrong a little, they were wrong a lot, and millions of people died.
"When you get up in the morning in a country that's at peace and you're able to walk out the door and not have to look to the left or look to the right and see if someone's going to machine gun you or throw a grenade, you get used to that. You begin to feel that's the nature of things that's the way it's going to be, and we can relax and we can enjoy ourselves and not be concerned about threats to our freedom or threats to our lives."
But that would be a mistake, he said, because history demands constant vigilance. "But there is a difference today," Rumsfeld said. "The difference is the weapons are vastly more powerful, more deadly and more lethal. The reach of those weapons is vastly greater."
At the beginning of the 20th century, people worried about neighboring countries. With the reach of modern weapons, all people should be worried, he said. "Therefore, the penalty for being wrong is enormous," Rumsfeld said. "What we need to do as a country is recognize that and to recognize the difficulty of seeing the future."
He said that when Vice President Dick Cheney went through his conformation hearings to be defense secretary in 1989, "not a single senator asked him about Iraq. The word never came up. And a year later, we're at war with Iraq in the Persian Gulf.
"It made me wonder what name of a country or what word for a military capability wasn't mentioned during my confirmation hearings four months ago that within a year could come up and dominate our lives.
"(This is) the kind of thing that has happened every five- or 10-year period in my lifetime," he said. "The Shah of Iran was the regional power that we were helping and supporting and working closely with (in the 1970s). A year later, the Ayatollah was there and (Iran) was the center of anti-Western, anti-American hostility in the world."
These violent swings are breathtaking, he said, but, "If you think about it, the United States of America, for a very modest amount of money -- something like 3 or 3.5 percent of our gross national product -- can have an insurance policy (the military) that will enable our country to live in a peaceful and stable world.
"If we fail to provide that margin of safety, if we say, 'Well, we don't want to spend 3.5 percent or 3.2 percent (on the military), we want to spend 2.5 percent of our gross national product,' and we're wrong, the penalty is just enormous.
"The cost in human life to be wrong, the cost in hundreds of billions of dollars to be wrong -- that's not a mistake we want to make."