Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with WAPI-AM Radio, Richard Dixon, Birmingham, Alabama
Q: Greetings, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Richard Dixon here, “Big Talk 1070 WAPI in Birmingham, Alabama.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Terrific. This is Donald Rumsfeld here, Mr. Richard Dixon, and I’m delighted to be with you.
Q: Well, you know, I appreciate anybody who can get things done. And you seem to be a guy who is able to get things done and do so rather rapidly and without taking into account a lot of the critics. You don’t really seem to be flapped or flustered by them at all and you’re not changing your path as a result of people who criticize you, which brings me to my first question. When you went into Afghanistan – when the United States went into Afghanistan, we seem to be starting with this newer faster fighting technique, this rather lightning streak through the country. And I remember one city after another falling. And then that seemed to be perfected when we went into Iraq or maybe it’s not perfect yet, I don’t know, you may have a few more tricks up your sleeve. What was the genesis of that concept and why is now the right time for it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I can remember -- first of all, I play squash, whenever I get a chance. And if you get into a certain rhythm and the speed’s a certain pace – fast, but just that pace and it’s regular – and all of a sudden, you increase the pace, it’s disorienting. And I used to say speed kills, when I win a point playing squash [Chuckles]. And visiting with Tommy Franks, we got talking about that and the ability of the United States of America today to use precision weapons and to move rapidly is distinctly different from earlier periods. And in earlier periods, you simply had to have large mass and that is how you would overcome the opposition. Today, speed and agility and precision can take the place of mass and that’s a very good thing for our country and it certainly did work, as you pointed out, in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
Q: OK, good. Good. I’m glad to hear that. All right. Well, listen in the midst of the last answer is when we lost you. You were talking about how we used to have to have gigantic massive forces to overcome the enemy. And now, and just as you said that – boom -- we lost you. I assume you were going to say speed is what takes us through their lines and onto the next objective.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Indeed. Speed and precision and agility can substitute for mass. And one of the interesting things in the backdrop – and it’s a very good question – the neighbors into Iraq, particularly, were deeply worried about a long war. And they were afraid that they would have a lot of agitation in their populations and the faster that could be done was – every single one of the neighboring countries were concerned that whatever was done, be done fast and be over. And as a result, Gen. Franks designed his war plan to take advantage of the speed, precision, and agility that we have.
Q: Did we anticipate two weeks, 2½ weeks? I mean, it was lightning fast. I mean, one day, it’s going gangbusters. I heard – I don’t know if you heard this – I heard we were in a quagmire.
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughter] We were in a quagmire in Afghanistan, too, I heard that.
Q: Exactly. And the next thing you know, you turn around and it’s over and statues of Saddam Hussein are being pulled down.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Right. At one point, I heard various knowledgeable people on the inside here estimate. And the estimates were anywhere from two weeks to six weeks. And it turned out to be very rapid.
Q: Whoever had 2½ in the office pool became a very wealthy man. OK. So this was something that was designed specifically for Afghanistan and then put seriously into practice in Iraq. And do you foresee – I mean, as you say, we fought wars the same way, year upon year upon year upon year. And now this is a completely new and different way of fighting a war. Obviously, we got some men of vision in there who have ideas of, you know, don’t just go back at it the same old way. And I see that in George W. Bush, I see that in you, I see it in Colin Powell, I see it in Dick Cheney. I see a lot of new and different ideas. There seems to be a lot of resistance to these out there from a lot of different people. Is it just the concept of new ideas that people don’t like?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it is. Change is hard for people. If you go through school and you learn one thing and you spend your whole life getting good at it and then, all of a sudden, the world’s changed and you’ve got to – the priority is on being able to do other things very well, that’s disturbing. And there’s just a natural resistance to change on the part of people. I tend to be impatient. I like to see things get done and get done as fast as humanly possible. And when you see the world change, as we’ve seen the world change, we know we’re not going to be fighting in place in static defense locations, in Germany, for example, waiting for a tank attack from the Soviet Union across the north German plain, it’s just not going to happen. Therefore, our forces -- we’re now in the process of transforming the Department of Defense and repositioning our forces around the world, moving them out of static defense locations and moving them into positions where we will have the ability to use them for the kinds of challenges that we see ahead.
Q: Which strikes me -- we’re chatting with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – strikes me as no-brainer, this whole concept of picking up and moving out of Germany, moving a lot of troops out of Germany, moving a lot of troops out of Eastern Europe. It strikes me as a no-brainer. I mean, were we waiting for the Cold War to start back up again? Why were those guys there for so long?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, you get comfortable with what is. The people there like having them there. They liked being there and the problem was that it just wasn’t efficient from the standpoint of the American taxpayer or from the standpoint of the Armed Forces, so we had to just kind of – they were basically where they were at the end of the Cold War in smaller numbers, but the same places. And we just simply had to face the reality that we’re going to have to get positioned in places – clearly, places where we’re wanted, places where we can use those forces and move them rapidly, places where we had training facilities, places where we can work with other countries, so we can have interoperability and close coordination. And the net of it will be that we’ll be bringing something like some 70,000 American service people home from various countries and over 100,000 dependents, and going from about 560 installations around the world, down to about 360.
Q: That’s quite a remarkable change. What about the DMZ between North and South Korea? What’s the situation there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there again, our forces were basically where they were when the Korean War ended. They were right up along the demilitarized zone. They were north of the Han River and they were heavily populated in the capitol city of Seoul, Korea, in the most expensive real estate that exists in the entire country and we just looked at it and said, look, we need to move our forces into a couple of hubs -- a sea hub and an air hub -- and we need to pass over some responsibilities to the South Korean forces. They’ve got a very capable military.
When we kept our forces there after the Korean War, South Korea was a devastated poor country. Today it’s a vibrant democracy. It’s got a robust economy. It’s got an economy that’s – I don’t know – what, 15, 20 times what the North Koreans have. And they’re ready to take over some more of these responsibilities and that’s a good thing.
Q: Free us up a little bit. All right. We’re starting with a very long and very painful IRS audit, if I asked you any political question at all, so I’m hoping this isn’t a political question. If George W. Bush has a second term, you’re going to stick around for another four years?
He’s thinking about it.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I didn’t hear the question.
Q: Oh, I’m sorry.
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I did hear it, but I didn’t hear it.
Q: [Laughter] Oh, OK. All right. Not actually answering that one.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t know. You know, those are the kinds of things that you think about down the road Adlai Stevenson, my former governor in Illinois had this quote he said, “I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it.”
Q: [Laughs] That’s very funny. That’s a good…
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughs]
Q: … that’s a good plan for you, sir. All right, so you did mention briefly – earlier you mentioned a little bit about this – some of the new modern technology that we have. And years ago when George W. Bush first took office, he was talking about some leap frog technology that is getting past what’s now to get to what’s next. Why buy and waste money on what’s now, when all we’re going to do is trash it later to get to what’s next? Now that whole concept sort of died out. We did it in some areas. We didn’t do it in some areas. Where do we stand, in terms of the leap frog on technology?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s two ways to do it. If it takes so long to develop something that by the time you get it in place and start producing it and using it, the technology is a generation or two old -- and that’s happened in some instances -- then you have to ask the question, does that makes sense? And in some instances, it is advisable to skip a generation of technology, although the risk is you don’t want to skip a generation if you’re going to be meeting that in the interim period. So you have to know what it is you’re doing. Sometimes you don’t skip in a straight line a generation of technology. You may go offset and do something that’s distinctly different. For example, the difference between a dumb bomb, where you’d have to use 10 to hit a target, and a smart bomb, where you can go out with a single aircraft and hit four our five targets is they’re both bombs, but they’re very different. They’re just totally different.
The other thing you can do is to use what’s called spiral technology and instead of waiting a long time to get a developmental program out into the field, you just take a snapshot and say we’re going to stop at this point and put out what we have, because the technology is needed now and we’ll then keep developing the technology and maybe in five years, we’ll come up with an upgrade that will take advantage of the technology that’s evolved in the intervening period.
Q: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, thanks very much for spending some time with us today. We very much appreciate it. And good luck in future endeavors, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you so much. It was good to visit with you.