United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Business Week

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
December 21, 2001

Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2001

(Interview with Stan Crock and Paul Magnusson, Business Week)

Q: There are actually two stories we're working on. One is a profile of you. The other is a broader story on where we go from here, not in the sense of Somalia or Iraq, but the U.S. is in a rather enviable position right now with the military and diplomatic prowess that's been shown in Afghanistan. And the question is how the administration would use that leverage in the future in terms of relations with Europe, Russia, China, pushing for a forum of countries in the Middle East, working with India and Pakistan to make sure Kashmir doesn't blow up, sort of going around the globe.

How does the administration exploit the considerable leverage it has right now?

Wolfowitz: It's funny you use the word enviable. We just suffered the worst terrorist attack in history, actually, on any country so I wouldn't call it an enviable position. We have a lot of capability, a lot of strength, and the terrorists are learning that, but there is a huge job out there to be done. Arguably one that we should have started on a long time ago.

So I think we're really working through it. I do believe that when we're finished that the world will be a better place and a lot of people will be better off, but there's a lot of work to do. Somehow enviable isn't the word that comes to mind.

If you just take Afghanistan for starters, we've accomplished a lot there, but there is a lot still to be accomplished and a lot frankly to figure out about how to get to what we would like which is first and foremost an Afghanistan that is no longer, does not once again become a sanctuary for terrorists. I think that also means it has to be an Afghanistan where the people of the country enjoy a reasonable level of stability and at least by their standards a reasonable level of prosperity. Those are not going to be easy things to achieve, particularly since some of their neighbors are still quite eager to prevent them from getting there. That's just Afghanistan.

I'm very leery of phrases like new world orders. The world is much too complicated a place to have a blueprint for something as substantial as what I think it will look like when the countries that have been, the networks that have been sponsoring terrorism and the countries that have been sponsoring terrorism for many years get out of that business, but I do think it will be a better place.

Q: I was trying to look beyond the terrorism campaign, though.

Wolfowitz: That's a big thing to look beyond. Don't get into the pattern of well, we've taken Tora Bora, the war is over. But beyond it meaning?

Q: How do we use our leverage with India? We're forging a new relationship with India. We have a quite new relationship with Pakistan. How do we use that to try to limit the possibility that the attack on the Parliament will explode into something larger? What do we do about countries in the Arab world where reform might diminish the potential for terrorism? Sort of related to terrorism, but not, but a different order. We need reform -- political reform, economic reform -- to try to diminish that potential.

Wolfowitz: Of course it's a much bigger subject than just the Defense Department or for that matter any one department of the U.S. government.

Q: Sure.

Wolfowitz: I do think that we have opportunities because we've opened a new relationship with Pakistan, we have opportunities both to help that country dig out of the morass that it's gotten itself into over the last 20 years, and hopefully in the process also that we are building I think a new relationship with India to possibly, hopefully, use our influence for the two of them to at least somewhat dampen the tension between them.

I think overall as one looks around the world a lot of places, whether it's Ukraine and Russia or China and Taiwan or Israel and the Arabs, where people who don't get along with one another terribly well, I think the U.S. influence, while it doesn't solve all problems, does help to improve the chances of solutions.

But sort of more generally, I think the whole world including the United States does confront an issue in the Arab world, I think, a lack of economic progress which though it's not directly connected to the political stagnation I think there is a connection.

At the same time there's no question that these terrorist networks have made it very difficult for some regimes to reform, given other regimes an excuse not to reform.

I do believe as a general principle that most countries will do much better in the long term if they admit to gradual political opening up, and that when you fail to do that you sort of prepare the way for upheavals that are very destabilizing. I think Indonesia, where I was ambassador for three years, is an example of that. I think Soharto just kept putting off reform and putting off reform, and finally when [it] collapsed the country, though it's I think making a very brave effort, it's struggling with some huge problems that need not have been there.

Korea's a much better example, I think, of a country that evolved more gradually.

Q: In the rest of Asia do you see any possibility of persuading other countries such as Japan to take a more activist role given the U.S. leadership, given the example that was set by the cooperation in Afghanistan?

Wolfowitz: I think the Japanese want to take a more activist role. Japan, with all of its ills remains by far the strongest economy in Asia, and it's, I think not insignificantly it's been a pretty flourishing democracy for over 50 years. But the economic problems of Japan are a real drag on Japanese initiative and Japanese leadership and I'm not sure how they solve them. I do believe that it's a major interest of the United States for Japan to get its economy going again, and not just for economic reasons.

Q: It seems like every time there's an international effort of some sort led by the United States, the Japanese have pushed a little bit farther toward cooperation. The Gulf War was contributing money, now a few ships, some greater effort.

What can the U.S. do to keep that progress going on?

Wolfowitz: And by the way, I think they're also going to play a significant role in the leadership of the Afghan reconstruction effort which is going beyond just money. It's sort of helping to organize other people's contributions.

I think to keep doing what we've been doing which is to keep encouraging them in the direction they're going, I don't think either we or anyone else in Asia wants to see Japan have a sort of 150 degree course shift. I think steady movement in the direction they've been going for a couple of decades, steady movement piles up when you do it the way the Japanese do. They're clearly much more of a force to be reckoned with now than they were even ten years ago.

But as I say, a lot of that movement depends ultimately on Japan's economic strength. That is faltering and that is a concern.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how the nuclear posture was developed? I understand you developed it during the campaign.

Wolfowitz: I think the concepts were developed during the campaign. A lot of the details we've sort of been working out over the last eight months. But I think it was a sense that both on the offensive forces and the defensive forces that we were still kind of burdened down with Cold War concepts that said it is essential, the most important thing, in fact the phrase that one heard often was the cornerstone of strategic stability, was the ability of the Soviet Union and the United States to annihilate one another in 30 minutes, and if you think I misspoke when I said the Soviet Union, I said that deliberately. That was when the concept arose, and one can argue about whether we carried it to extremes during the Cold War, but there certainly was a strong argument that given the imminent threat of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe and our dependence on nuclear deterrence to prevent that, and in turn their anticipation of our nuclear deterrent and their own nuclear posture, that you really had to worry about people making very exaggerated calculations of advantage and trying to prevent that.

With the end of the Cold War, with the end of that Soviet threat, Western Europe -- the end of the Soviet Union, for that matter -- there simply was no reason to continue either the high level [development] of forces or the paranoia that very modest improvements in our ability to defend ourselves against limited attacks would somehow unhinge the U.S./Russian relationship.

As a matter of fact, to me one of the illustrative, maybe illustrative doesn't quite capture it, sort of to me a moment that really captured the difference was when we were in a congressional hearing and one of the senators asked General Kadish, who was the head of the Ballistic Missile Defense Office, wouldn't he be uncomfortable if the Russians had an ability to shoot down American missiles. Of course they do have an ability, by the way, which people forget. It's fairly substantial around Moscow.

But the general was kind of nervous, and he's a very enlightened, very forward-thinking general, but I pointed out that's a sign that even someone enlightened and forward-thinking is a big stuck in the past because frankly, I don't think we should be unhappy at all if the Russians have an ability to deal with limited missile attacks against Russia. In fact the only circumstances I can imagine, barring some major change in the world, that an American missile would be heading in Russia would be if some catastrophic mistake had been made. If some rogue nation fires at Russia I surely would like to be able to shoot it down. In fact if we had the capability to shoot it down we would want to.

And when you think about it that way and you realize no longer is the primary concern making sure that we each are deterred from deliberate nuclear attack on the other, to where you are much more concerned about preventing accidents or preventing hostile countries from provoking us possibly in a conflict, you come to a different view that puts less emphasis on offensive forces and more emphasis on defensive forces.

Q: If we're trying to get away from that, why go to 1700? Why not go to 17?

Wolfowitz: For one thing, 17 is the essence of man. When you have only 17 weapons then you really have no alternative except deliberately killing people as a means of trying to influence their leaders.

Q: It's retaliatory capability like China has.

Wolfowitz: One of the criticisms of the mutual assured destruction doctrine is that it really did elevate the deliberate targeting of civilians as an instrument of deterrence.

I think even at lower levels it's important to retain the ability to have a deterrent that doesn't depend for its effectiveness on deliberately targeting large population concentrations.

There are other reasons as well. Just because you are less concerned about the possibility of a deliberate nuclear exchange, you do have to be concerned about the security of your force. You do have to be concerned about its ability to survive an attack. Frankly, you get down to 17 weapons on one submarine, you have worry about what happens -- talk about a beautiful target for terrorists to take out the American nuclear deterrence.

The most important concept I think that remains from the past is the importance of having what you have be reasonably secure and have reasonably high confidence in it so that there isn't a temptation for some hostile country to target it, and there isn't the sense that you may have to take some extreme action in order to preserve it.

Q: We've been hearing the last few years about how exposure to American cultures really does have an effect on other countries, countries such as China. Yet in looking at chat rooms from China there are lots of vituperative comments about the United States, how we have this situation in which terrorists lived in this country for more than a year and yet hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings.

Have we perhaps exaggerated the effect of American culture, thinking that because of this everyone will love us, when in fact it could be almost the opposite?

Wolfowitz: I think anybody who thinks cultural exchange with nothing else will lead to a situation of permanent peace -- maybe several hundred years from now, but I don't think we can base planning on that.

I do think as a general proposition the better people know one another the more likely they are to have peaceful relations, provided you had another condition, and that is that the government should be responsive to what people want. And the existence of some nasty chat rooms in China doesn't indicate, I don't believe, the broad sentiment of the Chinese people which is first and foremost that they want to live a peaceful and prosperous life. And secondarily, I think most of them probably have a relatively positive view of the United States. Especially if the government would stop propagandizing them to the contrary, because a lot of what they read is from government media.

But I still think that it is important, that there needs to be some kind of balancing of military power so that people aren't tempted to go back to old notions and say the real way to prosperity is not peace, it's through the use of force.

And there are always going to be criminal types, even within our own society, without getting into the subject of terrorists we had killers at Columbine and other people who can't be understood and there clearly are criminal types who are now claiming to act in the name of a great religion. But once again, I was ambassador for three years in the largest country, the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, and I think most Indonesians, who are mostly Muslims, would be very happy, very happy in a world where Indonesia was at peace with its neighbors, at peace with the United States and benefiting from fruitful, close exchanges with us. I think that's an aspiration of hundreds of millions of people around the world. How we keep the criminals under control will remain a problem.

Q: You have talked about improved relations with Muslim countries like Indonesia, with Turkey. How far does that go, and how much does it matter how secular the state is? From what some people were portraying as horrendous relations, or a horrendous percent of the U.S. and the Islamic world, Kosovo being an exception because we were, not the only exception, we were fighting on behalf of them, but they have generally perceived us bombing Iraq, anti-Islamic.

How do you change that perception and build relations with other Islamic states [and improve them]?

Wolfowitz: By the way, there are a lot of propaganda mills that we need to do a better job of counteracting, because you mentioned Kosovo. The fact is that Afghanistan is now the sixth country in the last ten years where the United States has engaged military forces to either defend Muslims against aggression or to defend Muslims against war-induced famine in Somalia, Northern Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Afghanistan. This is not a war against Afghanistan. It was a war against the Taliban. I think it's absolutely clear what most Afghans now think of the Taliban. It doesn't mean that Afghanistan has suddenly become a paradise and everybody thinks that we're wonderful, but they certainly are happier to be rid of those people.

Some of the hostile opinion, as in the case of China, is generated by government-controlled media that really have a lot to answer for, in my opinion.

But I do think you take progress where you find it. My understanding, for example, is that Morocco is beginning to make some interesting strides forward both in economic development and in some political openings. As a matter of fact there's a slight chance that our new ambassador to Morocco, who is a woman by the way, Margaret Tutwiler is coming to see me this afternoon to talk about whether there are things we might be able to do there.

I do think that while I completely reject the notion that wealthy people like bin Laden of (inaudible) move to become terrorists because of poverty, it's just a joke on its face.

I do think it's important at the same time that we're working hard to defeat and punish our enemies that we do what we can to support our friends in the Muslim world. That includes moderate countries like Turkey and Indonesia, but it also includes countries like Morocco that are struggling against some pretty big problems to make progress.

Q: You were offered a job at the State Department. Why did you end up choosing to come here?

Wolfowitz: I was on the verge of taking it, actually, but it was, I had no idea of course that we'd be dealing with what we're dealing with now, but I think the challenge of trying to, I hate, I don't hate the word transform. Transform is a little overblown. But the opportunity to work on bringing the U.S. military into the 21st Century was too much to resist.

Q: How did you meet Secretary Rumsfeld?

Wolfowitz: Actually I met him almost 20 year ago when I was assistant secretary of State for East Asian affairs and we put together a U.S./Japan wise man's group chaired by David Packard on the American side and -- I'm having a senior moment here. I've forgotten the Japanese co-chairman. [Zabro Okita?], I think. And Rumsfeld was one of the eight Americans on the group. He was an old friend of Schulz's from the Ford administration, the Nixon administration, I guess. And I got to know him then.

Then again briefly during the Dole campaign. By that time I guess I knew him moderately well. He set up the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission and asked me to join. It was an incredible experience. There are very few commissions that have accomplished what he accomplished, and I say he because the rest of us were supportive participants, but if the chairman hadn't dug into the factual basis of what we were working on the way he did it probably would have been another one of these compromised reports where consensus is achieved by not saying anything. Instead we had nine people agreeing on a fairly radical -- radical's not the right word, but a hard edge set of conclusions that went against conventional wisdom. And it's, by the way, and I guess I bring it up because it's sort of characteristic of his style and everything I've seen including his conduct as secretary of war, that he is not satisfied with consensus answers and he's not satisfied with simply taking things on authority on its face. He really digs in and when people say something and it's muddy he will insist that they explain what they mean, and half the time it's because they didn't express themselves clearly. The other half of the time it's because they didn't really understand the problem very well. He just keeps pushing everyone to understand things better. I think it's the heart of why he's been so good in this job.

Q: I wonder if you saw the New York Times story on the front page today about Iraq. It postulated that there's movement within the Arab world, possible agreement that Iraq is perhaps the next target for American efforts to fight terrorism and even move on Saddam Hussein. It quoted no one by name. It quoted Arab diplomats and people within the administration and people within Turkey explaining that this consensus is forming, particularly among the Turks.

Wolfowitz: I don't believe half of what I read about the supposed arguments and discussions and plans inside the administration on that subject and some other related ones. But I think -- one of the things that's frustrating is people are acting as though the war in Afghanistan is just about to end. I would not be at all surprised if next spring or next summer we're still dealing with terrorists who are hiding out in remote areas of that country. It's a formidable problem. And obviously the president and everyone in the administration has emphasized that this is a problem that goes way beyond Afghanistan.

But I think we're not going to have a blueprint in advance of where we're going next. And of course part of it depends, in fact, on where the terrorists end up next. If some country makes the mistake of knowingly harboring bin Laden then I think we've found out where we're going next because clearly that's a major priority for us.

But the bottom line is what the president said to the joint session of Congress which is this is a broad campaign, it's going to take a long time, it's not going to be over tomorrow, and the goal is to eliminate all of these global terrorist networks and to end state support for terrorism. There are a variety of ways to get there and clearly Iraq is part of that picture. But I think we still haven't made any decisions on what comes next.

Q: Thank you very much.

Wolfowitz: You're welcome. When is your deadline for this?

Q: We write today.

Additional Links

Stay Connected