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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Ivan Scott, WTOP-Radio, Washington, DC

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 30, 2004

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Ivan Scott, WTOP-Radio, Washington, DC

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, we’ve known each other for a number of years.  And I have known you to be highly intelligent, motivated, focused.  You don’t suffer fools easily and you’re a stern taskmaster.  If I were to pick only one English word to describe you, I would pick the same word that your former college roommates picked, which is “tenacious,” that you don’t like to quit in the middle of midstream. You don’t like to lose and you certainly want to get the job done.  I know you serve at the president’s pleasure, but would you like to stay on and finish the unfinished business of Iraq and the question of global terror and also the transformation of America’s military? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, Ivan, it’s true, we’ve known each other some time now.  And you know, as well as I do, that I’m not going to get into that subject because it strikes me that that is best addressed at a future time.  And I will say this, that the, it is a real privilege for me to be able to serve the country and this very fine president and to serve the men and women in uniform who are doing such noble work around the world and to be able to thank them and their families for what they do.  We just passed Thanksgiving.  Obviously, many of these folks weren’t home with their families and their families miss them.  And we’re approaching Christmas and it’s important, I think, for all of us to recognize the sacrifice they make to defend freedom.  So I feel privileged to have been able to serve over many years in many different ways and to be able to serve today. 

 

Q:  And I take it, you’re happy in what you’re doing and you may continue to serve. 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  I tell you, my view is that I’m going to kick that can down the road a little bit here and at some point, I’ll address it or the president will and we’ll leave it to that. 

 

Q:  When he was in his 60s, Ed Murrow once told me, quote, “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.” 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  [Laughs]

 

Q:  What does Don Rumsfeld want to do when he finally kicks the can and scores a goal? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  I’ll tell you, I have been so lucky that I have enjoyed everything I’ve ever done in my life.  I enjoyed school.  I enjoyed being a Navy pilot.  I enjoyed working in the Congress and being a congressman and serving as an ambassador and in the White House and at the Pentagon and business.  I feel very fortunate and I am sure that life is filled with the important things that people can do to contribute.   And as long as one feels they’re contributing something to the world and to the country, I think that’s about all anyone could ask. 

 

Q:  Finally, on this subject, would you think perhaps – and you’re a young man, compared to me – would you think, perhaps, of trying to get your old House seat back or run for the Senate?  How about elective office? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think that I’ve probably run for office for my last time.  I think there are other roles in life.  And we’re about the same age, if I’m not mistaken, Ivan. 

 

Q:  I think I’ve got you by three years.  And I refer to you quietly among friends as “the kid,” but that’s all right.

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  [Laughter]

 

Q:  Mr. Secretary, unfinished business, let’s look at Iraq, were you and the combatant commanders surprised at the level of resistance after the major fighting ended or were you blindsided?

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, I don’t know that I’d use either word.  Anyone who – once the decision was made by the president to invade Iraq and remove the regime, you know that predictability just isn’t what happens.  It’s unlikely that things will be perfectly predictable.  Certainly, the intelligence we received did not lay out the kind of a postwar environment that we’d be in.  On the other hand, I don’t know that anyone expected that you would get perfect predictability.  And so what we’re dealing with today is something that’s evolving and changing on the ground.  It is a tough situation and our folks out there are doing a superb job. 

 

If you think about it, Afghanistan just had their election and they’re going to inaugurate a president.  And people said, oh, it couldn’t be done, the Afghans aren’t ready for democracy, they couldn’t have an election, it’s too dangerous, the Al Qaeda and the Taliban are going to stop them.  Well, millions of people registered.  Millions of people voted.  The innauguration’s taking next week and it’s a wonderful accomplishment.  I think Iraq’s going to be a wonderful accomplishment.  Is it easy?  No, it’s very tough.  But they’re going to have elections in January, very likely.  I think it’s the 25th or 30th, the dates [Inaudible].

 

Q:  You don’t think it’ll be postponed? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don’t.  Why should it be postponed?  I mean, no elections are perfect and it is important that the Iraqi people want to vote.  They want elections.  They want to select the people to run that government and they deserve to have that chance.  And the Iraqi government has determined that they have that chance, the coalition forces are determined that they’re going to have that chance and I think that’s a good thing. 

 

Q:  I will not use your most hated word here among us at the Pentagon “quagmire” but it does seem that whoever is leading the terrorists and the insurgents, obviously is aware and truly well-schooled to be somebody using guerilla warfare.  They have these roadside bombs that are very effective.  They have suicide attacks, a chapter taken, I suppose, from the Israeli-Palestinian situation and also the spreading of terror by the beheadings.  How do you – with a structured force -- such as the United States, its force and the coalition -- how do you fight this kind of a thing over the long run?  When do you think you can declare victory? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, of course, it’s not a military problem as such.  It’s a problem that is complex.  It involves a political process, economic activity and as well as the military activity.  So when we point out that where the Iraqi people were a couple years ago, there was a vicious dictator in power.  Since then, 25 million people have been liberated.  The schools are open with new textbooks.  The hospitals are open.  The clinics are open.  They have a stock market.  The basic utilities are functioning.  They are developing their own security forces and their own security forces are going to take over security for that country.  I mean, the United States has – coalition forces have no desire to be there.  We have no desire to stay there.  We’re not interested in their oil and we’re interested only in having them succeed.  And the president said we’d stay there as long as necessary and not one day longer.  The task is to get those Iraqi security forces built up, get them in a position to take over responsibilities and then turn over responsibility to them. 

 

Q:  In this national assembly election coming up on January 30th – and we’re playing “what-if” here – but supposing a strong man, comparable to a Saddam Hussein emerges, supposing this man goes on to become president or prime minister, will the United States tolerate that? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  I’m not going to get into that – these hypothetical questions.  I mean, what if this, what if that.  Look, the people there know what a vicious dictator is.  The likelihood of their wanting to go back to one is about 10 percent and less than 10 percent.  And sure, there’s some extremists who want to do that.  Sure, there are people who’d like to be dictators.  Sure, there are a small handful of clerics who’d like to take over the country and rule it like they do in Iran, but that isn’t going to happen.  The bulk of the people, the great sweep of human history is for freedom and the people there understand that.  And look at all the newspapers -- that’s your business – it’s radio, newspaper, television.  They’re just blossoming out there.  And they’re free to be responsible and free to be irresponsible. 

 

Q:  I hope, perhaps, they’re more responsible than some of us, but…

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  [Laughter]

 

Q:  … going to one of your favorite subjects, if not your favorite subject here, the transformation of the U.S. military.  A couple of things and we don’t have a good deal of time left, unfortunately, but one, the role of the reserve and national guard, was this the anticipated, was this the way the reserve and guard were supposed to be used with this large call-up, some even going back for a second tour, albeit volunteer?  How do you view their role in the future, as you go down?  And secondly, are you revising your plan for transformation, based on what you’ve learned in Afghanistan and Iraq? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, first of all, the United States military was not well organized for the 21st century.  You go to war with what you have -- organized the way they are, equipped the way they are, and that’s life.  But was it well-organized and trained and equipped for the 21st century?  No, it wasn’t.  It’s a legacy for us.  It’s a force that had been restructured, as between the active force and the reserve component in a way that was an anachronism.  It was industrial age.  And it’s being revised.  Gen. Schoomaker, and now secretary of the Army Fran Harvey, are moving rapidly to restructure the Army and to rebalance the active force with the reserve components.  We have a great many people in the military today that are not accessible.  And as a result, there’s a stress on certain skill sets and we have to fix that and we’re well along in fixing that.  We’re shifting a lot of military positions that are filled by military people today to civilian positions because they’re perfectly able to do those jobs.  And we’re going to free up more military to be able to perform the kinds of functions they volunteered to perform.  So I feel very good about the progress taking place in the Army. 

 

Q:  The last part of my question and my last question for today.  What have you learned from Afghanistan and Iraq to perhaps shift in your transformation to change in what you originally set out to do? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, it isn’t that you’d change from what you set out to do.  We have put from the very first weeks here, we put a great deal of emphasis on our special forces.  Why?  Because obviously, in the 21st century, we’re going to need them.  We’ve put a premium on agility and deployability.  We’ve put a premium on modularity and interchangeability and interoperability, on jointness, on precision and all those things that are going to be and are today important in this new century.  The task...this Department of Defense was basically organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and big air forces.  Well, at the moment, we don’t have a lot of big armies, navies and air forces that are competing with us.  That’s fortunate, that’s a good thing.  And indeed, our capabilities in those areas are one of the reasons we don’t, because it’s a deterrent.  On the other hand, we are being tested with a whole series of asymmetrical challenges and it is our task to see that as rapidly as possible the armed forces of the United States adjust to meet those asymmetrical threats and to develop the kinds of skill sets and capabilities to do it most effectively. 

 

Q:  May I wish you and your wife Joyce and your family a most merry and blessed Christmas and the best of New Years and I hope we do this interview again next year and the year after and maybe in 3 ½ more years.  Thank you, sir.

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you, Ivan. 

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