United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Secretary Rumsfeld Availability at the Munich Conference on Security Policy

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 07, 2004
Secretary Rumsfeld Availability at the Munich Conference on Security Policy

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, there is probably too little time to expect you to already answer the proposals made by the German foreign minister this morning, but he also expressed something that is of general concern to us here in Europe.  The question is, how can NATO again become a place where the strategic issues that affect us on both sides of the Atlantic can be discussed before they become military issues, and here the decisive point will be whether the U.S. administration is prepared to make NATO again a place where such discussion can take place.  Could you perhaps comment on that?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Certainly.  I think NATO is a place where important issues are being discussed; indeed I see NATO today with a good deal of energy and life and opportunity.   The United States went to NATO immediately before Afghanistan and before Iraq and discussed what was taking place in the world.  NATO responded instantaneously and invoked Article 5 and provided AWACS assistance to the United States, as you may recall.  I think the test is, someone mentioned intelligence earlier here today and the fact that NATO does not have common intelligence, if you will. 

 

     To the extent we are all working off the same set of facts, or roughly the same set of facts, the people from our respective countries tend to come to roughly the same conclusions, and to the extent we’re not working off the same set of facts, we tend not to; and it seems to me that it may very well be that one thing NATO might do would be to do a better job of seeing that the intelligence capabilities of the respective countries are brought together and that the people in NATO and the capitals of NATO countries are kept tuned into those threats and the kinds of capabilities that we as free people face.  We’re much more likely to get a faster common understanding to the extent we have a reasonably similar perspective with respect to what the facts are.

 

     Q [Member of the German Parliament]:  I’m grateful for your remarks and my question is, if it is right that the Europeans should have a high interest in good transatlantic relations and in particular in an effective NATO.  Over the last two years one has had the impression that the United States does not have an equally strong interest because they acted in different constellations.  My question is, if there is a stronger interest now again on the part of the United States, does that have to do with the need for seeking allies for a specific scenario or is there a longer term, strategic interest of the United States in a reliable and binding NATO?  The second question that follows the first one immediately is, if it is right that the European Union is becoming increasingly a political union and makes security a matter of its discussions -- and I’m quite sure that this will be the case --now, if that is so, will the United States be prepared to deal with the Europeans in NATO so that they have a common position and would the United States be prepared to accept a European caucus? 

 

     Rumsfeld:  You know, I’m 71 years old and I watched NATO for a whale of a long time. And I have seen the relationship go through the skybolt and through the gas pipeline problems and Bosnia and goodness gracious, what else?  Oh, the Pershing missiles and the Kissinger-Michel Jobert discussions, debates, whatever you want to call them.  France pulling out of NATO’s integrated military command, throwing NATO out of France.  What’s going on is that you’re seeing our world go through a period of changes in the security situation, and what you see as the groans and the creaks is this institution of NATO adjusting to those changes in the security situation.  We ought not to be surprised.  Last year was not unique in the history of this alliance.  It’s been a pattern, it goes like this.  It always has. 

 

     Now, what about the U.S. role.  The implication of your comment was that we were less interested last year and more interested this year -- is that because we need something?  No! First of all that’s an incorrect assessment, in my modest opinion, and of course I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’m wrong.  [Laughter.]  In this case I think I’m right and let me tell you why.  It has been the United States that has been consistently suggesting new initiatives in NATO over and over.   Where did the NATO response force come from?  Where did the Chem-Bio idea come from?  Where did some of these other ideas in NATO come from?  Where did the idea of fixing the command structure come from, and making it more relevant?  We have been engaged in that institution.  We believe in it.  Now is it tactical or is it strategic you ask, something like that --sometimes I overstate for emphasis.  It’s obviously strategic, it’s long-term.  Any monkey looking down from Mars on Earth knows that the countries in NATO and North America are the bulk of the countries on the face of the earth that have the same values, the same concerns, the same hopes and aspirations for the world, the same lack of a desire to impose their will on somebody else and take their real estate and seize it.  We don’t do that.  We’re the bulk of democracies in the world and we have common interests and that is what the interest of the United States has been and is today.

 

     Q [U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina]:  You may need a translator because I speak southern English, but we will give it a go.  Mr. Secretary, you made a very passionate argument about the war, but as I was here last year, I was very firm in my beliefs that Iraq was part of the problem, not the solution when it came to terrorism.  I am disappointed about the weapons of mass destruction, I want to know why, if we were wrong.  I think it’s important that my country, Senator McCain, President Bush and all of us will find out if we were wrong at all, and I think it’s important that we look at that aspect of our intelligence.  But I do believe the war was just.  I do believe it was right, but here is the problem.  If  I’m a European or Russian, the doctrine of preemption would make me uncomfortable.  I can understand that.  But what I would say to our allies: that after 9/11 the doctrine of preemption, I think, is necessary.  In the Cold War, the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction was a very serious doctrine, and it was that if you strike us, you will not survive.  Rationality won out; the belief was that you would not forfeit your life to try to get an advantage, because we have the capability to take your life.  In terrorism, that does not work.  So, Mr. Secretary, if you could, could you please explain from your point of view, why the doctrine of preemption is a rational doctrine in the war on terrorism and how we can better integrate that doctrine with our allies?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I’ll try.  This is a poor quote from somebody, and I forgot who said it, but somebody once said that "a defender has to be right every time, and an attacker, a terrorist, only has to be lucky once in a while." 

 

     Now the problem -- what did we do in Afghanistan?  Here was a country where we made a conscious decision to preemptively, to use the word, go after the Taliban and the al Qaeda in that country because we concluded, only after we’d lost 3000 people, many from your countries as well as ours, that the training and the support for that was reasonably centered there, although not exclusively.  That was different; it was a different thing. 

 

     If someone is going to throw a snowball at you, you may not want to act preemptively; you can afford to take the blow and live with it and do something after the fact.  As you go up the scale from a snowball to a weapon of mass destruction, at some point, where the risk gets high enough that it is not going to be a snowball in your face, but it could be a biological weapon that could kill tens of thousands of human beings; and then you ask yourself, do you have an obligation to take the blow and then do something about it afterwards?  Or if you’ve got at risk, not 3,000, but 30,000, or 300,000 --  whatever -- or do you have an obligation in that case to act somewhat differently?  And it seems to me that when one is looking at the idea of preempting -- I mean think back in history.   If one is looking across a border and they see the enemy massing on the other side of the border, people tended not to wait until the enemy came in and attacked the country; they tended to go after the massing forces before they came in to your country.  So preemption is not something that is new, and it is something in my mind that has to be weighed and considered by all of us with respect to what is the potential loss. 

 

     What is at risk?  That, it seems to me, is something that we all, collectively, individually, are going to have to think through as we go through this period.  What we’ve seen in the press is a network that exists -- a private network in some instances that exists who is moving around weapons of mass destruction and the abilities to produce them.  If that’s happening as we’ve been reading in the press, one has to say, we know there’s an appetite on the part of terrorists to kill people.  They're training.  People are being trained in schools to do that.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that at some point these private networks and these terrorist networks are going to connect, and at that moment people are going to have to face up to the realities of the 21st century.

 

     Q [Dr. Saleh Rusheidat, ambassador of Jordan to Germany]:  Thank you Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency.  We believe without solving the problem in the Middle East, I mean the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the whole region will be under stress and maybe Europe, and we know that a lot of initiatives were launched for the last thirty years.  Some of the Israelis, the officials, they said they need 20 years more to solve this problem.  My question to you, what should be done to solve this problem?  How much time do we have to wait?  Thank you.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, there are just an awful lot of wonderful people who spend big chunks of their lives worrying with that problem in the Middle East.  For a variety of reasons, it’s almost like two dancers.  When one leans forward, the other one leans back, and when one leans back, the other one leans forward, and it hasn’t been solved.  It seems to me that to be solved there has to be interlocutors that can deliver on security, because what one is looking for is peace in that part of the world. 

 

     You ask how much longer?  I suppose it’s a matter to some extent of the -- oh, what’s the right word -- the desire on the part of the people in the region to solve it.  People in the region tend to look outside the region and say, my goodness, why doesn’t somebody come in and solve that? Why don’t they grab people by the scruff of the neck, push them together and make them agree?  That lasts about five minutes and then they pull back apart, and I think that ultimately the solution:  the United States needs to be working on it, we need to continue to work on it, Europe needs to work on it and continue to working on it, but in the last analysis, a lasting solution in that part of the world is going to come because people are exasperated, exhausted and tired of seeing their opportunities for prosperity go down the drain and tired of listening to people shoot off their mouths and people shoot off their weapons and fire bullets and no one deliver a dad-burned thing for the people.

 

     Q [Wolfgang Ischinger, German ambassador to the United States]:  Mr. Secretary, You said that the success of the coalition last year was very positive, but now, unfortunately, the standing of the United States in that same period of time has not improved worldwide but it has deteriorated dramatically.  There are comments made by U.S. government officials in the last few days who have expressed great concern about this.  There are people who would even go as far as to suggest that this poor standing of the United States could be harmful for a strategy for the greater Middle East as presented by Minister Fisher this morning and it could almost be an obstacle to such a strategy.  My question is, do you share these concerns, how seriously do you take these concerns, and if you do take them seriously, Secretary, what ways would you suggest to improve the image of the United States, not here in Europe but also in those countries outside of Europe which are represented here?  Thank you.

 

     Rumsfeld:  That’s a tough question.  The perspective of the United States has gone up and down over the decades.  I suppose it will over the period ahead.  The problem in the Middle East is a serious one.  When you have Al Jazeera and Al Arabia and some of the networks in that area that people watch, constantly, daily putting out information that is biased and untrue.  It ought not to be a great surprise to find that an awful lot of that people in that area have an impression of the coalition and the United States that is a highly negative one.  What does one do about that? 

 

     Well, I guess they try to find ways to see that the messages are communicated more accurately.  They try to constantly behave in a way that will bring credit to them rather than to lead people to be disparaging of them.  I know in my heart and my brain that America ain’t what’s wrong with the world.  To the extent that that concept is promoted, as it is, and in this country in television as well -- to the extent that’s the case, only time, I guess, will deal with that.  But if you think of what was going on in Iraq a year ago, with people being tortured, rape rooms, mass graves, gross corruption, a country that had used chemical weapons on its own people, used them on their neighbors, defiant to the United Nations through 17 UN Security Council resolutions -- and look at the way it was treated in the press.  I mean there were prominent people who represent countries in this room that opined that they didn’t really think it made a hell of a lot a difference who won. 

 

     Think of that.  Equating the countries in the coalition with what was going on in that country, publicly.  Shocking, absolutely shocking.  Now, is the United States perfect?  No. Goodness no!  Do we make mistakes?  You bet!  But if there were a simple, easy answer to this I guess it wouldn’t be a problem.  I don’t know what the simple easy answer is.  You live in the United States.  Maybe someone like you can help. (Laughter.)

 

     Moderator:  By accident, the next question comes from a journalist.

 

     Q [Joseph Joffe, chief editor of German weekly magazine “Die Zeit”]:  Mr. Secretary, since you are a modest man, I would like to ask a modest question. 

 

     Rumsfeld:  Zip up your pockets, folks!  (Laughter.)

 

     Q:  No. I have no gun in my pocket!  But I want to ask a question about guns in pockets.  My question follows on the question posed here by Senator Graham, and it has to do with preemption and intelligence.  I agree with you that you can’t wait to absorb the first blow when the other side isn’t throwing snowballs but something much heftier.  But it follows therefrom that we have to have very, very good intelligence.  I’ve got to make sure before I train my M-16 on the other guy that what he has in his pocket is actually a gun and he is not fondling his pipe.  Now the problem -- and this is not just a problem of the United States, it’s a problem of the intelligence services in Britain, in Germany, even in Israel, which has a great local advantage -- that they all did not produce, say, extremely good intelligence on Iraq.  And the question now is, it’s in no way the same question that Senator Graham poses.  What are we going to about intelligence in a situation where first-rate intelligence is absolutely vital, so we don’t shoot he wrong guy?  Let’s start with the CIA and NSA.

 

     Rumsfeld:  That is a critically important question.  If you are going to live in this world, and it’s a dangerous world, you do have to have elegant intelligence, and it is tough.  When you’re dealing with closed societies, where we don’t know what we need to know, and they now precisely what it is they want to hide from us, and they’re good at it, and people are proliferating not just weapons, they’re proliferating techniques to deal with denial and deception, to avoid being found as to what you’re doing.  The tunneling that’s taking place on this globe makes life complicated.  Fiberoptics makes life complicated, cuts in intelligence budgets makes life more complicated.  The complexity of the fact that we now don’t have one target, we’ve got multiple targets that we have to be thinking about and looking at.  It is a very difficult thing to do. 

 

     I’m very pleased that the President has formed a commission that -- and Senator McCain here is one of the distinguished members, nine members -- they are going to take a look at the successes of the intelligence community -- and there are a lot of them -- and they are going to look at the failures of the intelligence community, and they are going to ask what caused the successes, what caused the failures.  Iraq, to be sure, but also Libya, other things as well. And then they are going to look at the threats of the 21st century and say, what can we learn, what are the lessons learned from this that we can then apply, we, meaning the United States with our friends and allies, that we have very close, intimate intelligence co-operation with.  What can we then learn from that that we can better arrange ourselves for the future?  And I think it will be a constructive effort, and I am delighted the President made the decision, and we all have to figure out ways that we can better protect the people that we represent.

 

     Q [Professor Karl Kaiser, visiting professor at Harvard University]:  Mr. Secretary, the doctrine of preemption has been greatly criticized all over the world, but you rightly point out that under conditions of weapons of mass destructions and terrorism, our old criteria of defining the legitimacy of defense, of course, is to be reviewed.  And it is an absolutely central rule of international law, I’m referring to Article 51, which makes the use of force legitimate.  My question to you now is:  should we not leave the redefinition of the criteria just to the accidents of the moment?  Shouldn’t we all sit together and redefine the criteria of when defense is legitimate under these circumstances?  And secondly, where should we do it, in your opinion?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I think it’s a good idea.  I’ll leave it to experts and diplomats to figure out where it ought to be done.  My guess is it needs to be done in multiple locations.  It’s such a central issue that needs to be addressed, and it should be done in academia, it should be done in the think tanks, it ought to be done inside governments and it ought to be done among and between governments.  It is enormously important.  We did an exercise, I didn’t, but some people in the United States did, I think it was Johns Hopkins on, they called it "Dark Winter," and they looked at smallpox, I believe, and put it in two or three locations in the United States and watched what happened.  And the numbers immediately, very rapidly, ran into the hundreds of thousands of dead.   You think what we’ve done for decades, when I was a child, even then we preempted.  If someone got smallpox they were quarantined; they had not given that to anybody else yet, but they were stopped and they were not allowed to give it to anybody else and -- why?  Because so many people could be killed by smallpox was the reason.  The state stepped in and said, we are going to preemptively stop you from hurting somebody else even though you don’t want to, you have no intention to, and there is not any certainty you even would -- but we’re going to stop you.  I think you’re right, I think it’s something that merits our attention, and I suspect when with discussions and debates are completed we’ll find that it fits something like I suggested:  the more powerful, the greater the risk and the danger, the lower the threshold for action.

 

     Moderator:  One last question.

   

     Q [Palestinian general]:  Mr. Secretary, You talked about countries that were trying to produce weapons of mass destruction.  You talked about Iraq and you talked about Iran and North Korea.  I have a question, a direct question to you.  What are you doing with Israel?  As far as Israel is concerned, Israel has more atomic weapons in the region than any other country.  Why do you remain silent in regard to Israel?  I think it’s important to answer this question because this has to do with the world, the strategy that we are pursuing today.  I think that if the position towards Israel were different then the situation would be different in the Near East, and this is a great problem.

 

     Rumsfeld:  You know the answer before I give it, I’m sure.  The world knows the answer.  We take the world like you find it; and Israel is a small state with a small population.  It’s a democracy and it exists in a neighborhood that in many -- over a period of time has opined from time to time that they’d prefer it not be there and they’d like it to be put in the sea.  And Israel has opined that it would prefer not to get put in the sea, and as a result, over a period of decades, it has arranged itself so it hasn’t been put in the sea.

 

     Thank you very much.


Q:  Mr. Secretary, there is probably too little time to expect you to already answer the proposals made by the German foreign minister this morning, but he also expressed something that is of general concern to us here in Europe.  The question is, how can NATO again become a place where the strategic issues that affect us on both sides of the Atlantic can be discussed before they become military issues, and here the decisive point will be whether the U.S. administration is prepared to make NATO again a place where such discussion can take place.  Could you perhaps comment on that?

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  Certainly.  I think NATO is a place where important issues are being discussed; indeed I see NATO today with a good deal of energy and life and opportunity.  The United States went to NATO immediately before Afghanistan and before Iraq and discussed what was taking place in the world.  NATO responded instantaneously and invoked Article 5 and provided AWACS assistance to the United States, as you may recall.  I think the test is, someone mentioned intelligence earlier here today and the fact that NATO does not have common intelligence, if you will. 

 

To the extent we are all working off the same set of facts, or roughly the same set of facts, the people from our respective countries tend to come to roughly the same conclusions, and to the extent we’re not working off the same set of facts, we tend not to; and it seems to me that it may very well be that one thing NATO might do would be to do a better job of seeing that the intelligence capabilities of the respective countries are brought together and that the people in NATO and the capitals of NATO countries are kept tuned into those threats and the kinds of capabilities that we as free people face.  We’re much more likely to get a faster common understanding to the extent we have a reasonably similar perspective with respect to what the facts are.

 

Q: (Member of the German Parliament) I’m grateful for your remarks and my question is, if it is right that the Europeans should have a high interest in good transatlantic relations and in particular in an effective NATO.  Over the last two years one has had the impression that the United States does not have an equally strong interest because they acted in different constellations.  My question is, if there is a stronger interest now again on the part of the United States, does that have to do with the need for seeking allies for a specific scenario or is there a longer term, strategic interest of the United States in a reliable and binding NATO?  The second question that follows the first one immediately is, if it is right that the European Union is becoming increasingly a political union and makes security a matter of its discussions -- and I’m quite sure that this will be the case --now, if that is so, will the United States be prepared to deal with the Europeans in NATO so that they have a common position and would the United States be prepared to accept a European caucus? 

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  You know, I’m 71 years old and I watched NATO for a whale of a long time. And I have seen the relationship go through the skybolt and through the gas pipeline problems and Bosnia and goodness gracious, what else?  Oh, the Pershing missiles and the Kissinger-Michel Jobert discussions, debates, whatever you want to call them.  France pulling out of NATO’s integrated military command, throwing NATO out of France.  What’s going on is that you’re seeing our world go through a period of changes in the security situation, and what you see as the groans and the creaks is this institution of NATO adjusting to those changes in the security situation.  We ought not to be surprised.  Last year was not unique in the history of this alliance.  It’s been a pattern, it goes like this.  It always has. 

 

Now, what about the U.S. role.  The implication of your comment was that we were less interested last year and more interested this year -- is that because we need something?  No! First of all that’s an incorrect assessment, in my modest opinion, and of course I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’m wrong.  [Laughter.]  In this case I think I’m right and let me tell you why.  It has been the United States that has been consistently suggesting new initiatives in NATO over and over.   Where did the NATO response force come from?  Where did the Chem-Bio idea come from?  Where did some of these other ideas in NATO come from?  Where did the idea of fixing the command structure come from, and making it more relevant?  We have been engaged in that institution.  We believe in it.  Now is it tactical or is it strategic you ask, something like that --sometimes I overstate for emphasis.  It’s obviously strategic, it’s long-term.  Any monkey looking down from Mars on Earth knows that the countries in NATO and North America are the bulk of the countries on the face of the earth that have the same values, the same concerns, the same hopes and aspirations for the world, the same lack of a desire to impose their will on somebody else and take their real estate and seize it.  We don’t do that.  We’re the bulk of democracies in the world and we have common interests and that is what the interest of the United States has been and is today.

 

Q:  (Senator Graham) You may need a translator because I speak southern English, but we will give it a go.  Mr. Secretary, you made a very passionate argument about the war, but as I was here last year, I was very firm in my beliefs that Iraq was part of the problem, not the solution when it came to terrorism.  I am disappointed about the weapons of mass destruction, I want to know why, if we were wrong.  I think it’s important that my country, Senator McCain, President Bush and all of us will find out if we were wrong at all, and I think it’s important that we look at that aspect of our intelligence.  But I do believe the war was just.  I do believe it was right, but here is the problem.  If  I’m a European or Russian, the doctrine of preemption would make me uncomfortable.  I can understand that.  But what I would say to our allies: that after 9/11 the doctrine of preemption, I think, is necessary.  In the Cold War, the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction was a very serious doctrine, and it was that if you strike us, you will not survive.  Rationality won out; the belief was that you would not forfeit your life to try to get an advantage, because we have the capability to take your life.  In terrorism, that does not work.  So, Mr. Secretary, if you could, could you please explain from your point of view, why the doctrine of preemption is a rational doctrine in the war on terrorism and how we can better integrate that doctrine with our allies?

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  I’ll try.  This is a poor quote from somebody, and I forgot who said it, but somebody once said that "a defender has to be right every time, and an attacker, a terrorist, only has to be lucky once in a while." 

 

Now the problem -- what did we do in Afghanistan?  Here was a country where we made a conscious decision to preemptively, to use the word, go after the Taliban and the Al Qaida in that country because we concluded, only after we’d lost 3000 people, many from your countries as well as ours, that the training and the support for that was reasonably centered there, although not exclusively.  That was different; it was a different thing. 

 

If someone is going to throw a snowball at you, you may not want to act preemptively; you can afford to take the blow and live with it and do something after the fact.  As you go up the scale from a snowball to a weapon of mass destruction, at some point, where the risk gets high enough that it is not going to be a snowball in your face, but it could be a biological weapon that could kill tens of thousands of human beings; and then you ask yourself, do you have an obligation to take the blow and then do something about it afterwards?  Or if you’ve got at risk, not 3,000, but 30,000, or 300,000 --  whatever -- or do you have an obligation in that case to act somewhat differently?  And it seems to me that when one is looking at the idea of preempting -- I mean think back in history.   If one is looking across a border and they see the enemy massing on the other side of the border, people tended not to wait until the enemy came in and attacked the country; they tended to go after the massing forces before they came in to your country.  So preemption is not something that is new, and it is something in my mind that has to be weighed and considered by all of us with respect to what is the potential loss. 

 

What is at risk?  That, it seems to me, is something that we all, collectively, individually, are going to have to think through as we go through this period.  What we’ve seen in the press is a network that exists -- a private network in some instances that exists who is moving around weapons of mass destruction and the abilities to produce them.  If that’s happening as we’ve been reading in the press, one has to say, we know there’s an appetite on the part of terrorists to kill people.  They're training.  People are being trained in schools to do that.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that at some point these private networks and these terrorist networks are going to connect, and at that moment people are going to have to face up to the realities of the 21st century.

 

Q: (Jordan Ambassador to Germany) Thank you Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency.  We believe without solving the problem in the Middle East, I mean the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the whole region will be under stress and maybe Europe, and we know that a lot of initiatives were launched for the last thirty years.  Some of the Israelis, the officials, they said they need 20 years more to solve this problem.  My question to you, what should be done to solve this problem?  How much time  do we have to wait?  Thank you.

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  Well, there are just an awful lot of wonderful people who spend big chunks of their lives worrying with that problem in the Middle East.  For a variety of reasons, it’s almost like two dancers.  When one leans forward, the other one leans back, and when one leans back, the other one leans forward, and it hasn’t been solved.  It seems to me that to be solved there has to be interlocutors that can deliver on security, because what one is looking for is peace in that part of the world. 

 

You ask how much longer?  I suppose it’s a matter to some extent of the – oh, what’s the right word – the desire on the part of the people in the region to solve it.  People in the region tend to look outside the region and say, my goodness, why doesn’t somebody come in and solve that? Why don’t they grab people by the scruff of the neck, push them together and make them agree?  That lasts about five minutes and then they pull back apart, and I think that ultimately the solution:  the United States needs to be working on it, we need to continue to work on it, Europe needs to work on it and continue to working on it, but in the last analysis, a lasting solution in that part of the world is going to come because people are exasperated, exhausted and tired of seeing their opportunities for prosperity go down the drain and tired of listening to people shoot off their mouths and people shoot off their weapons and fire bullets and no one deliver a dad-burned thing for the people.

 

Q:  (German Ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Ischinger)  Mr. Secretary, You said that the success of the coalition last year was very positive, but now, unfortunately, the standing of the United States in that same period of time has not improved worldwide but it has deteriorated dramatically.  There are comments made by U.S. government officials in the last few days who have expressed great concern about this.  There are people who would even go as far as to suggest that this poor standing of the United States could be harmful for a strategy for the greater Middle East as presented by Minister Fisher this morning and it could almost be an obstacle to such a strategy.  My question is, do you share these concerns, how seriously do you take these concerns, and if you do take them seriously, Secretary, what ways would you suggest to improve the image of the United States, not here in Europe but also in those countries outside of Europe which are represented here?  Thank you.

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  That’s a tough question.  The perspective of the United States has gone up and down over the decades.  I suppose it will over the period ahead.  The problem in the Middle East is a serious one.  When you have Al Jazeera and Al Arabia and some of the networks in that area that people watch, constantly, daily putting out information that is biased and untrue.  It ought not to be a great surprise to find that an awful lot of that people in that area have an impression of the coalition and the United States that is a highly negative one.  What does one do about that? 

 

Well, I guess they try to find ways to see that the messages are communicated more accurately.  They try to constantly behave in a way that will bring credit to them rather than to lead people to be disparaging of them.  I know in my heart and my brain that America ain’t what’s wrong with the world.  To the extent that that concept is promoted, as it is, and in this country in television as well -- to the extent that’s the case, only time, I guess, will deal with that.  But if you think of what was going on in Iraq a year ago, with people being tortured, rape rooms, mass graves, gross corruption, a country that had used chemical weapons on its own people, used them on their neighbors, defiant to the United Nations through 17 UN Security Council resolutions -- and look at the way it was treated in the press.  I mean there were prominent people who represent countries in this room that opined that they didn’t really think it made a hell of a lot a difference who won. 

 

Think of that.  Equating the countries in the coalition with what was going on in that country, publicly.  Shocking, absolutely shocking.  Now, is the United States perfect?  No. Goodness no!  Do we make mistakes?  You bet!  But if there were a simple, easy answer to this I guess it wouldn’t be a problem.  I don’t know what the simple easy answer is.  You live in the United States.  Maybe someone like you can help. (Laughter.)

 

Moderator:  By accident, the next question comes from a journalist.

 

Q:  (Joseph Joffe, chief editor of German weekly magazine “Die Zeit”)  Mr. Secretary, since you are a modest man, I would like to ask a modest question. 

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  Zip up your pockets, folks!  (Laughter.)

 

Q:  No. I have no gun in my pocket!  But I want to ask a question about guns in pockets.  My question follows on the question posed here by Senator Graham, and it has to do with preemption and intelligence.  I agree with you that you can’t wait to absorb the first blow when the other side isn’t throwing snowballs but something much heftier.  But it follows therefrom that we have to have very, very good intelligence.  I’ve got to make sure before I train my M-16 on the other guy that what he has in his pocket is actually a gun and he is not fondling his pipe.  Now the problem -- and this is not just a problem of the United States, it’s a problem of the intelligence services in Britain, in Germany, even in Israel, which has a great local advantage -- that they all did not produce, say, extremely good intelligence on Iraq.  And the question now is, it’s in no way the same question that Senator Graham poses.  What are we going to about intelligence in a situation where first-rate intelligence is absolutely vital, so we don’t shoot he wrong guy?  Let’s start with the CIA and NSA.

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  That is a critically important question.  If you are going to live in this world, and it’s a dangerous world, you do have to have elegant intelligence, and it is tough.  When you’re dealing with closed societies, where we don’t know what we need to know, and they now precisely what it is they want to hide from us, and they’re good at it, and people are proliferating not just weapons, they’re proliferating techniques to deal with denial and deception, to avoid being found as to what you’re doing.  The tunneling that’s taking place on this globe makes life complicated.  Fiberoptics makes life complicated, cuts in intelligence budgets makes life more complicated.  The complexity of the fact that we now don’t have one target, we’ve got multiple targets that we have to be thinking about and looking at.  It is a very difficult thing to do. 

 

I’m very pleased that the President has formed a commission that -- and Senator McCain here is one of the distinguished members, nine members -- they are going to take a look at the successes of the intelligence community -- and there are a lot of them -- and they are going to look at the failures of the intelligence community, and they are going to ask what caused the successes, what caused the failures.  Iraq, to be sure, but also Libya, other things as well. And then they are going to look at the threats of the 21st century and say, what can we learn, what are the lessons learned from this that we can then apply, we, meaning the United States with our friends and allies, that we have very close, intimate intelligence co-operation with.  What can we then learn from that that we can better arrange ourselves for the future?  And I think it will be a constructive effort, and I am delighted the President made the decision, and we all have to figure out ways that we can better protect the people that we represent.

 

Q:   (Prof. Karl Kaiser, visiting professor at Harvard University)  Mr. Secretary, the doctrine of preemption has been greatly criticized all over the world, but you rightly point out that under conditions of weapons of mass destructions and terrorism, our old criteria of defining the legitimacy of defense, of course, is to be reviewed.  And it is an absolutely central rule of international law, I’m referring to Article 51, which makes the use of force legitimate.  My question to you now is:  should we not leave the redefinition of the criteria just to the accidents of the moment?  Shouldn’t we all sit together and redefine the criteria of when defense is legitimate under these circumstances?  And secondly, where should we do it, in your opinion?

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  I think it’s a good idea.  I’ll leave it to experts and diplomats to figure out where it ought to be done.  My guess is it needs to be done in multiple locations.  It’s such a central issue that needs to be addressed, and it should be done in academia, it should be done in the think tanks, it ought to be done inside governments and it ought to be done among and between governments.  It is enormously important.  We did an exercise, I didn’t, but some people in the United States did, I think it was Johns Hopkins on, they called it "Dark Winter," and they looked at smallpox, I believe, and put it in two or three locations in the United States and watched what happened.  And the numbers immediately, very rapidly, ran into the hundreds of thousands of dead.  You think what we’ve done for decades, when I was a child, even then we preempted.  If someone got smallpox they were quarantined; they had not given that to anybody else yet, but they were stopped and they were not allowed to give it to anybody else and -- why?  Because so many people could be killed by smallpox was the reason.  The state stepped in and said, we are going to preemptively stop you from hurting somebody else even though you don’t want to, you have no intention to, and there is not any certainty you even would -- but we’re going to stop you.  I think you’re right, I think it’s something that merits our attention, and I suspect when with discussions and debates are completed we’ll find that it fits something like I suggested:  the more powerful, the greater the risk and the danger, the lower the threshold for action.

 

Moderator:  One last question.

 

Q:  (Palestinian General) Mr. Secretary, You talked about countries that were trying to produce weapons of mass destruction.  You talked about Iraq and you talked about Iran and North Korea.  I have a question, a direct question to you.  What are you doing with Israel?  As far as Israel is concerned, Israel has more atomic weapons in the region than any other country.  Why do you remain silent in regard to Israel?  I think it’s important to answer this question because this has to do with the world, the strategy that we are pursuing today.  I think that if the position towards Israel were different then the situation would be different in the Near East, and this is a great problem.

 

Secretary Rumsfeld:  You know the answer before I give it, I’m sure.  The world knows the answer. We take the world like you find it; and Israel is a small state with a small population.  It’s a democracy and it exists in a neighborhood that in many – over a period of time has opined from time to time that they’d prefer it not be there and they’d like it to be put in the sea.  And Israel has opined that it would prefer not to get put in the sea, and as a result, over a period of decades, it has arranged itself so it hasn’t been put in the sea.

 

Thank you very much.

 


Additional Links

Stay Connected