STEVE GILL: And good morning. This is “The Steve Gill Show.” And we are joined this morning by a very special guest, one of my favorite guys and one of the most respected men in the world, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. And secretary, we enjoyed having a visit with you at your house at the Pentagon a couple months ago. Appreciate the chance to visit with you and catch up again this morning.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s good to be with you.
STEVE GILL: You know, it has been a lot of change since we last talked. In Iraq, in particular, they’ve transitioned the government there to the Iraqi interim government, to the Iraqi people. You talked yesterday in your press conference about the changes that are taking place there. And a big change is not just the government of Iraq, but also the fact that the terrorists are now targeting the infrastructure. They are targeting their own people -- getting the targets, I guess, that they can, rather than the ones they’d like to hit.
SEC. RUMSFELD: You’re quite right. You know, they’re smart folks and they have brains and they watch what happens and they see us harden various targets and make it more difficult and so they slide off and go for softer targets and aim for things that they believe they can achieve with minimum loss to their team.
Now what’s happened is they’ve been killing a great many Iraqis – these terrorists and extremists have – and one of the side effects of that understandably is that the Iraqi people are getting tired of it and unhappy about it and that’s a good thing.
STEVE GILL: Well, then their anger’s increasingly being directed not just at the home-grown terrorists who are part of the former Saddam Hussein regime, but also the foreigners that are coming in stirring up the trouble.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That’s exactly right. There are really three categories. The largest group probably is former Saddam regime elements, the second-largest group probably is common criminals who are doing it for money or gain and the third group are a hard-core group of foreign terrorists who are organizing and funding a good deal of it.
STEVE GILL: You mentioned that we’ve hardened the targets, obviously made it more difficult for them to reach U.S. forces, reach our assets there. But in a country the size of California when as we’ve seen with the Philippines this week, you simply grab a truck driver off the road and you can bring, at least in that situation, a country to its knees. I think a lot of people in this country have a hard time understanding why they are so successful when the real focus ought to be how could they not be successful and being able to just grab one guy and have such a big impact.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, that’s true. There are always going to be people who will, when faced with terror and a hostage situation or a beheading – potential beheading of some kind – will decide that the proper thing to do is to acquiesce in that and let the terrorists have their way. Now the problem with that is all of history shows that that doesn’t end terrorism; it encourages it to the extent you reward behavior like that, you’ll get more of it. To the extent you penalize it, you’ll have less of it. And a sign of weakness provokes and encourages terrorists into doing more of it. And fortunately, a lot of our coalition partners have stood up – the Japanese, the Koreans, and others -- and said, “We’re not going to pull our troops out.” And they’re showing that they’re steadfast and resolute.
STEVE GILL: What about the other Arab countries? There’s been some talk from some of the other Arab countries – Jordan and others – about the possibility of sending troops in as peacekeeping forces at some point. Do you see that as necessary? Do you see that as something that’s going to happen sooner rather than later or it’s something kind of in the distant future?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we already have about 26 countries, I think, that are already in Iraq helping with forces and assistance of various types. There have been recent announcements that, with the new U.N. resolution and with the new Iraqi government that additional countries would come in and do several things. Some would come in and provide forces, others would come in and provide protection for the U.N. mission and effort that’s going to be taking place there. Still, others would come in closer towards the end of the year and provide assistance for the election as countries are doing, for example, in Afghanistan later this fall. And I think it’s a good thing. It relieves pressure on the current coalition countries. It supplements the rapidly growing Iraqi security forces, and it reduces the stress on our force.
STEVE GILL: You mentioned the stress on our force. And one of the other things that I know you’re focused on and your Defense Department is focused on is making sure that our troops not only get the resources, the materiel, the weapons and everything they need to get their job done, but to make sure that we don’t spread ourselves too thin, that they can’t also get the job done in an effective and efficient way. As you’re reforming the military, as you’re looking at trying to put us in a situation of dealing with the current threats and the future threats, rather than fighting the old Cold War, how do you balance that need to be quicker, to be able to get to where the hot spots are and also not have a huge standing army like we’ve had in the past when we dealt with the Cold War? How do you make those balancing acts work?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s a lot of steps we’re taking to make our force more deployable. The army under General Schoomaker is making it more modular so that we can mix and match, depending on what kinds of circumstances may exist in the world. We’re rearranging our footprint around the globe so that we have greater usability of our forces. That is to say they’re less in a static defense mode where they can’t be moved without causing a whole lot of, oh, concern politically or militarily. And we’re positioning them in ways that we can rapidly deploy them and move them around the world. We’ve also done, oh, 25 or 30 other things. We’re increasing the number of army brigades, for example, from 33 up to 43 or 48 and moving some of the division capabilities down to the brigade level so that we’ll have the right mix of forces at any given time.
STEVE GILL: With – Middle Tennessee – and by the way, we’re joined this morning by Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld. And Middle Tennessee, obviously with the 101st Airborne here at Fort Campbell, we’ve got that mix of specialized, full-time army. But we’ve also got a lot of National Guard and reservist units that are being called up and serving around the world as well. And I guess trying to balance that need for a ready reserve force, which is part of having a more effective and quick strike force, rather than a huge standing army, is going to put a lot more burden on those reserve and Guard units in the years to come.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t think so. I think what we’re going to be able to do, and I should have mentioned it earlier, is to rebalance the forces on active duty and in the reserve component – the Guard and the reserves. When I say rebalance, at the present time, we have some skill sets that are needed continuously or frequently, I should say, all in the Guard and the reserve. Well, now that’s nuts. We ought to have those forces on active duty, in some – not those people, but those skill sets on active duty, so that we don’t have to keep calling up the same people from the Guard and reserve.
By the same token, we’ve got some people in the active force, some skill sets, that we don’t have to use very often, but we may very well need to use at some point, in which case we ought to move some of those skill sets into the Guard and the reserve. And with that effort, it would reduce the strain on the Guard and reserve fairly considerably.
STEVE GILL: Change, obviously, is always difficult whether it’s in the military or in a country. Getting back to Iraq, we’ve seen some changes not just in the government structure where Paul Bremer and his team have been replaced now by Prime Minister Allawi and his team. They can do some things it seems to me, Mr. Secretary, that we weren’t able to do. Obviously, they’ve been able to execute a couple of the insurgents -- I think six or seven of them. We couldn’t do the same thing. And that tougher approach may bear dividends for them when we really couldn’t do it.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s a lot of things that an Iraqi government can do that we can’t do. They have, clearly -- foreign troops in your country are always inevitably going to be considered an occupation force and people worry about an occupation force. The Iraqi government is not an occupation force and it can do things and not have its motives questioned and it can be less likely to be criticized, even if they did exactly the same thing. But they are capable of doing things that really will reflect an Iraqi template, Iraqi solution to the problems in Iraq and that’s what they should do -- it’s their country.
STEVE GILL: Are you pleased with the progress that we’ve seen since they’ve taken over? I mean, obviously, we’re still working hand-in-glove with them, but they are in charge now and it has been about 30 to 40 days now.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I’m very pleased. I think that the new ministries, the way they’ve taken over is encouraging. I think that the leadership they are providing is encouraging. They’re working with their neighbors to try to improve security on the borders. They’ve taken a number of steps that I think will stand them in good stead.
STEVE GILL: You know, when our nation was founded a couple hundred years ago when our Founding Fathers said they were putting their lives, their honor and their fortunes on the line, they actually had guys in red coats that were willing to hang them from the nearest tree. They weren’t just good sound bites, they were really at risk. The same way that these brave men and women in Iraq are standing up. They are under threat of assassination and attack every day. And you got to be proud of their willingness to stand up for their country as well.
SEC. RUMSFELD: You’re so right. I mean, the courage that it takes in a country where there is not perfect security, where they are at risk and to stand up and say, “I’m willing to serve in the ministries, I’m willing to serve in the police or the Iraqi army and put my life at risk for the future of this country,” it is a wonderful thing to see. When we’ve got our wonderful young men and women from your state and other states going over there and putting their lives at risk, it adds a great deal to see the Iraqis joining us and putting their lives at risk, as well.
STEVE GILL: Briefly, as you look at the other hot spot that you’ve dealt with during your time, Afghanistan, we’re not hearing a lot about Afghanistan here in the national news media lately. That must mean things are going pretty well, Mr. Secretary? [Chuckles.]
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well…
STEVE GILL: When we don’t hear about, usually it means good news. [Laughs.]
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Chuckles.] You’ve got a point. There does tend to be an emphasis on the other. They’re making progress. They’ve got a constitution, they’re moving towards elections. They’ll have a heated contest for the leadership of the government over there. They still have some problems. They don’t have the kind of wealth that Iraq has in terms of oil or water. They’re landlocked and it is going to be a tough go for the Afghan government and they’ve got some neighbors that don’t wish them well. But they do have good leadership and the leadership is aggressive and they’re moving forward and they’re giving women the right to vote and women are showing the courage of going out and registering to vote. So I’m encouraged about Afghanistan. I look forward to seeing them really become a free and responsible nation in that part of the world.
STEVE GILL: The good news we don’t hear too often about – back here at home. One final question. There’s was a report in the news about some nuclear missiles being found in Iraq – three nuclear missiles. The interior minister for Iraq says it’s a stupid report. Can you update us? Anything on that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I can’t. I have not seen anything definitive.
STEVE GILL: Very good. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. We appreciate your being back with us. Come see us here in Nashville at the 101st or in downtown Nashville sometime. We look forward to visiting with you again.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you. I hope to do it.
STEVE GILL: Keep up the great work.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
STEVE GILL: Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld with us this morning.