Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Frank Sesno, CNN
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 30, 2006
MR. SESNO: An awful lot of people familiar with the Middle East, with its people and its cultures, are worried now that we're seeing a deepening secular divide across the region, a rise in the influence of Iran, groups like Hamas and Hezbollah that are really flexing their muscles, the growth of terrorism potentially, and increasing hostility toward the United States.
What does Donald Rumsfeld see when he looks out that window?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we certainly see all of those things. They, in fact, are occurring. We do see a situation in the Middle East where you see every day on television manifestations of a divide, of differences. Certainly what is taking place in Israel and has been taking place in Israel and Lebanon is worrisome.
On the other hand, we've seen these things over many, many years. I was a Middle East envoy for President Reagan back in the mid '80s, early '80s, 1980s, and it was a difficult time then as well -- 241 Marines killed in the barracks there in Lebanon.
But these things tend to come and go. And the fact that there are differences within the Muslim faith is a reality.
MR. SESNO: The question is, is it getting --
SEC. RUMSFELD: The Shi'a effort that Iran represents is something that is of concern in the Sunni community, and we see that every day, one way or another. So it is a complicated part of the world. It has been. And I suspect it will remain so.
What we're facing, however, is this struggle within that faith, from a very small minority of violent extremists who attempt to impose their will on everyone else in the Muslim faith. The overwhelming majority are not violent extremists. And that struggle is taking place and playing out in a very violent way in many parts of the world.
MR. SESNO: The question is, is it getting a lot worse? And do we face a very worrisome regional war?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it certainly is not getting better, the split within that faith. And as weapons are increasingly lethal and available, you could say it's worse because the carnage can grow and more people can be killed. It doesn't take a genius to blow up people and to kill large numbers of innocent men, women and children.
Of course, the overwhelming majority of the people being killed are Muslims, and they're being killed by Muslims. And I have to believe that the overwhelming majority in that faith are getting tired of it and don't like it and are tired of seeing their families killed by extremists.
MR. SESNO: You and your generals have said that there is a possibility of civil war in Iraq. Some think that's already happening; not inevitable but possible is the way it's being put by you and others.
How are you preparing? What's plan B?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Needless to say, there are always various directions that conflict can take. And the commands that have responsibilities have an obligation to think those courses through very carefully and consider the kinds of options that our country and our coalition and our friends and allies would have in the event that events take a certain turn. And they have done that and are doing that. It's an appropriate responsibility of people in those positions.
MR. SESNO: Is there a plan B? I mean, if it really were to break out and become worse than it is and be a definable civil war, does the United States stay in the middle of that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there are obviously any number of courses that we could take, and it would depend on the facts at the time.
MR. SESNO: Do we stay in the middle of that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't think we are in the middle of a civil war with our forces today. The people I talk to, for the most part -- I just met with -- I think with General Chiarelli, and talk to General Abizaid and General Casey regularly, and you know what they've said. They've said there is that possibility. But at the moment they believe they're not in that circumstance.
As I say, they obviously have thought through the kinds of steps and options that they would have in the event that things take a turn one way or another.
MR. SESNO: I've talked to a lot of people about you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
MR. SESNO: And what I hear again and again is, "The guy's tough. He's the wrestler, and he asks tough, piercing questions." What are the questions you're asking now, as you look at Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I do ask a lot of questions. I don't suppose there's anybody who's ever been in this job who knows enough or has done enough things or experienced a sufficient number of things in their lives that they would know the answers to these things, because there isn't a playbook. It's not a science that you can go back and look it up. It is a series of very difficult challenges and tests and tasks that face our country.
And I find that asking a lot of questions is a useful thing to do. And I've been doing it, I guess, a good chunk of my life. And I find that I learn. And the fellows in the room are stimulated to ask their questions and to offer comments. And out of that comes a process where all of us learn more than we knew when we went into it.
MR. SESNO: So with the violence now, with the situation now in Iraq, what are the questions that Donald Rumsfeld is asking?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I'm not focused just on Iraq. This is really part of a broader struggle, what's taking place in the world, and very much in that part of the world, within that faith. And it's something that's going to take time, without question. It is something that's very difficult to define, because it changes and evolves. It's adjusted over time.
You know the story that I guess General Eisenhower said, that what's important is the planning, not the plan, because the first contact with the enemy, things change and adjust. And one must be flexible and have the ability to adapt and be agile. And our folks are doing that. They're constantly making adjustments.
I wrote a memo several years ago that ended up in the press, much to my amazement. But it asked a very fundamental question that goes to the heart of what we're struggling with today, and that it is not the military problem you're dealing with today. It is in part military, to be sure, but it's political, it's economic and it's philosophical, ideological. And the solution to it is not a purely military solution. As the president has said, it's going to take all elements of our country, working with many, many other countries, to see that we turn this in a way that's positive.
The memo I mentioned said we can't know how many people are being brought into the intake, into a radical madrassa school, and taught to go out and kill people instead of to learn a language or to learn a trade and to be a constructive part of the world community.
And the test we constantly have to ask ourselves is, are we making progress or are there more people coming into that intake than are being led out of it one way or another, whether being captured or killed or persuaded to the contrary, all of which are taking place.
MR. SESNO: So that's a question you're still asking.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, you bet. And there aren't metrics for it. It's not knowable. The answer is not knowable, so I don't ask it overtly. On the other hand, we do look at what we're doing as a country with our friends and allies around the world, to see are we doing enough of the things that ought to be reducing the number of people attracted to those radical madrassa leaders?
MR. SESNO: Let me take you to Iraq for a moment. I know it's a larger question, but that's where we're fighting. That's one place; that's a big place we're fighting. That's what the public and much of the world is looking at, and it's what a lot of people say you're going to be judged on, ultimately.
To Iraq, given the last several months of violence and the developments there, are we winning? How do you measure it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You can look at the things that are on the plus side. You can look at the things that are on the minus side.
MR. SESNO: But take it as a whole.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Each person has to look at it in the aggregate and say what they think about it.
MR. SESNO: Okay, on the whole, on the aggregate.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, as I say, I've been tracking progress in the city of Baghdad since the effort was increased there. And there's no question but that all the indicators are that after -- I guess it's probably close to a month of effort now with the increased forces, that progress is being made and that the numbers of killings are down and the number of assassinations are down and the violence is down.
Now, one robin does not a spring make, as they say. So who knows what'll be in the next month or the month after that? But the people there feel that progress is, in fact, being made in that one isolated aspect, but very important aspect, of what's taking place in that country.
MR. SESNO: Let me go back, if I may, in terms of this -- as I say, I've talked to a lot of people. One of them is General Jack Keane, a very smart, good man. And he said a lot of assumptions going into Iraq were based on the belief that the Americans would be greeted as liberators and that there were no real plans to deal with the insurgency. His words: "We were dead wrong. We did not seriously consider it; therefore we had no plan to deal with it." Is he right?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think that anyone who looks at it with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight has to say that there was not an anticipation that the level of the insurgency would be anything approximating what it is.
MR. SESNO: All right. What happened to the memo with the 35 --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Things that could go wrong? It was one of them.
MR. SESNO: Why wasn't that question -- I mean, you were in that White House in the middle of Vietnam. We have all this experience. Why wasn't that question asked?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it was asked and it was on the memo. And there are a great many things that were asked.
MR. SESNO: Why weren't we more prepared?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It became very clear, I think -- it is clear today, in this world of ours, that the United States is unlikely to be contested with big armies, big navies and big air forces in the period immediately ahead. We have the capability to put so much power on armies, navies and air forces that it is an incentive for people to look for asymmetrical, irregular ways of competing against the United States and against coalition countries.
And we knew that. That was anticipated that that would be one of the things that would be done. But you can look back and say, "Well, why are you -- why is the United States not sufficiently successful against that insurgency?" And I guess the short answer is that insurgencies are historically very difficult things. They take time. They take anywhere from five, eight, 10, 12, 15 years. And go back to the Philippines or Algeria or any number of other countries.
The United States does know how to deal with them, but there isn't a silver bullet. There's not something that you do that ends it, not a single big battle. And it takes the development of that government, because in the last analysis that insurgency is going to be held within Iraq by the Iraqi people, by the success of that government, and over time. It isn't going to be dealt with by foreigners, in my view. And our task is to see that they have sufficient security forces that they can in fact achieve their goal of a reasonably stable environment so that they can move forward as a country.
MR. SESNO: Another one from the past, and then I want to move into the future. One of your harshest critics -- there are many -- but one of your harshest critics, John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, says he asked for more troops while he was there and he didn't get them. And he says if he had them he could have secured the Iranian border, the oil infrastructure, been more effective, he said in intimidating and crushing the insurgency. Were you aware that he felt that way or that request was out there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I wasn't.
MR. SESNO: Should you have been?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I'm certainly aware that in any given location, in any part of the world or in any part of that country, that at any given moment someone down the line feels they need more of something, and that that's -- that's the nature of big, complex activities. I'm also aware that the military commanders that he reported to had exactly the number of troops they asked for and wanted, and assured us were appropriate. General Abizaid, General Casey, General Pace and the Joint Chiefs -- the president went around the room, I went around the room and asked, "Do you have everything you need?" The answer was yes. Now, that doesn't mean that there may not have been a shortage in one location or another -- and that's an allocation question. But the senior military commanders, contrary to that particular general's views, were just to the contrary. They never were turned down anything they asked for in terms of the military capabilities that they wanted.
MR. SESNO: So when you look back and you think about what's gone right, what's gone wrong, lessons learned, troop strength is not something that you think about?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think that the -- it's understandable people have different views on that. Some people think there should be more; some people think there should be far fewer. And the reason for that is because there's a natural tension there. There's a desirability to have sufficient forces that the security situation is such that the political and the economic work can go forward.
On the contrary, the opposite side of the argument is if you have too many forces you begin to look like an occupation force, you begin to leave the impression that you are in fact there to take their oil or to stay for a long period; and you also run the risk of creating a dependency on the part of the Iraqis. Instead of having them do things for themselves you do things for them. And so it's that tension that General Abizaid and General Casey had been managing and trying to balance as well as they can. And I think they've done a pretty darn good job. And yet I can understand some people saying, gee, there ought to be more, or there ought to be fewer. And that's understandable.
MR. SESNO: And that's a hard balance.
SEC. RUMSFELD: It is.
MR. SESNO: You're dead right on that. I guess the question is: Does it get to you that you've got generals and experts and others who say, oh, if there had been more troops, if there had been a better troop strength, some of this wouldn't be happening today.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I guess that goes with the territory. There are always going to be people who look at it and have a different opinion, and I understand that. I don't think there's ever been a conflict in the history of our country where people, where critics didn't disagree with what was being done, and that's fair enough -- they can have those views. I happen to be very comfortable with the leadership that General Abizaid and General Casey have been providing and are providing today.
MR. SESNO: In the midst of all this, you set as a goal transforming the way this building and this military operate -- something you've been working on since the very beginning.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, actually President Bush at The Citadel announced that that was one of his intentions as president --
MR. SESNO: Right, and that was a challenge to you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- the instructions I was given.
MR. SESNO: So as you look around now, what's the most significant change in the way this building and this institution does business?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's interesting. The president asked General Pace that the other day, and General Pace's answer was that he would say in terms of attitude we were at about an eight out of ten that the mind-set, the recognition on the part of the professional military of the need to transform, that it was a process that goes on over time. You don't start untransformed and end up transformed. It's a process, it's away of thinking -- it's a culture that recognizes that we're living in a time that's dynamic, not static, and transformation actually began well before President Bush's administration of course. There were lots of people in Congress and the executive branch who were concerned about things. And so our military has really pretty much in the same posture it was at the end of the Cold War, although somewhat reduced in size. But located in the world in ways that were more static and defensive Cold War posture rather than agile and the ability to project force around the world where needed.
MR. SESNO: But if you were having coffee with somebody in Toledo and they're not in the military, and they said to you, "Mr. Secretary, what's the biggest change that's taken place? What do we got to show for transformation?"
SEC. RUMSFELD: I would say attitude on the part of the leadership and the military in this department.
MR. SESNO: What does that mean? How does that translate into the battlefield?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the translation to the battlefield results from a whole lot of things, but basically it results in leadership of the senior military people in this department. This is a big place. Like any big institution, it's resistant to change. Change is hard for people, and there have been a lot of squealing and screeching and complaints as the change took place in this department. And I would say that it's attitude and culture as much as anything else. It also happens that we've rearranged our force posture around the world in Japan and Korea and in Europe in a way that is notably different from the Cold War posture. We've tried to increase the tooth part of the equation as opposed to the tail, and reduced the size of the institutional services and increased the operational services. We've made them, I think, more -- I mean, the transformation taking place in the Navy is just significant -- what Vern Clark and Gordon England did there -- and they're still doing.
In the Army, General Schoomaker and Fran Harvey are doing a terrific job of moving from division orientation down to brigade orientation, modularizing the force so that you can deploy more rapidly and interchangeably. I think the -- there's another thing that's been different, and that is we recognize that in a big department like this you really lead by persuasion, not by command. And so we also recognize that if the departments are pulling together, then you can do a great deal. And if it's pulling in different directions, each service going its own way, not much good can happen.
And we've created the Senior Level Review Group, where the service chiefs and the vice chiefs and the combatant commanders meet regularly. And these big issues are all put up on the table, and everybody has a chance to talk about them and discuss them. And the effect of the Senior Level Review Group -- which sounds bureaucratic -- it isn't at all -- it is a very free-flowing discussion. And that fact, I think, is what's been leading to the cohesion that is existing.
Now, it's hard for people outside the building to understand -- retired people sometimes don't understand how that's working. But there isn't anyone sitting around with a black box coming up with answers; it is the senior people in this department sitting down in a serious way, professional people who have spent 23 years of their lives in discussing these things -- and then developing a direction and a course. And that's what provides the momentum.
Now, you suggested, gee, in the middle of a global struggle against extremists, how can you transform? The answer is that it actually provides an impetus to the transformation.
MR. SESNO: All right --
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- a little more because of the sense of urgency that people feel about getting up every morning and knowing our job is to try to help protect the American people.
MR. SESNO: So if you get it right, 10 years from now, what's the military look like? What's different?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I mean, just the change in the national security personnel system. If we can fix the civilian -- hundreds of thousands of civilians who work in the Department of Defense, and have that so that you can actually pay for performance as opposed to seniority or just being around and existing, that would be a big accomplishment. The difference will be in terms of lessons learned from Afghanistan, from Iraq and from the global struggle against the violent extremists. I think those lessons are constantly being fed into the training and the doctrine of this department at a very rapid clip.
MR. SESNO: I was talking with General Pace, and we were talking about a lot of things. But one of the things I asked him about, because it's out there of course, is how does Donald Rumsfeld run this place? Part of the rap on Donald Rumsfeld is he's tough, he intimidates, he wants to be surrounded by yes-men. And General Pace said people don't know this guy. Who is the real Donald Rumsfeld?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, what you see is what you get. I'm it, and we have an enormous number of talented people in this department who have accomplished really significant things. I mean, I think of what Richard Lawless and General LaPorte and General B.B. Bell are doing in Korea is significant; the work that's been done in Central Asia with Jim MacDougall and John Abizaid and those civilian military working together to improve our circumstance in that part of the world.
You know, I wouldn't even know how to answer the question, except that there are tough -- we're facing tough issues in the world. There are a lot of us here who every day is kind of like September 12th, 2001, the day after. And we look ahead and say in six months, what if there were another 9/11, or twice that or three times that? What should we be doing today -- every minute, every hour, every week -- to see that that doesn't happen and help protect the American people? And that is our challenge. And so there is a sense of urgency that we feel.
MR. SESNO: When you came in here some said you came in as a CEO secretary, looking at a vast enterprise that desperately needed to be transformed and to be changed. And in doing that you were going to have to break some heads and scramble some eggs, because the culture had to change. Is that accurate?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No. I mean, the Department of Defense is very different from a corporation, and I don't think of myself as a chief executive officer in that sense. The dynamics are totally different. Basically the president wanted things changed. I understand his instructions, and we have set about that task. I also understand that when you do change things that it's hard for people. People get comfortable doing what they were doing and they don't like change. And people outside looking in are uncomfortable. People in the Congress are uncomfortable with change. People in the defense industry are uncomfortable with change. People in the bureaucracy are uncomfortable with change.
MR. SESNO: You're comfortable with change?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I am, always have been.
MR. SESNO: -- change?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet.
MR. SESNO: And if it makes people uncomfortable, too bad?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's unfortunate, but life has to go on and the things have to get down and the American people have to be protected.
MR. SESNO: Let me ask another couple questions here. Is there any doubt in your mind that Iran is meddling in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, of course they are -- in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon.
MR. SESNO: Is there any doubt in your mind that they have nuclear ambitions?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness. I'm not going to get into that. They've expressed an interest publicly in having a nuclear capability.
MR. SESNO: There are those who say that Iran is the real threat down the line -- that's what we need to be worrying about; that's what we need to be focusing on. True?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think there are -- understandably, there are people in the world who recognize that if you have a large country, a country that's important historically, a country that has wealth, and is one of the principal sponsors of terrorism in the world, supporting Hezbollah among others, and is simultaneously announcing that the world would be better off without Israel and the United States, and simultaneously indicating a determination to have a nuclear capability of some sort, that those are the ingredients that ought to cause people to be concerned.
MR. SESNO: We're running out of time, but one or two quick --
SEC. RUMSFELD: The idea of putting those kinds of capabilities in the hands of terrorist networks would be something that I think understandably people in the world would be concerned about.
MR. SESNO: You have talked about this as a long war; it's going to go on possibly as long as the Cold War -- could be decades. America could find itself in Iraq for years to come --
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, no, no, no, no, no. No. The long war is not Iran, and --
MR. SESNO: No, I know that. I know that.
SEC. RUMSFELD: And it's not keeping Americans in Iraq for a long time. There's no one with that intention. The struggle within the Muslim faith is probably going to be a long war, and it is something that will be manifested in different ways at different times.
But the insurgency that's taking place inside Iraq is something that ultimately is going to be dealt with by the Iraqi government, by the Iraqi people, and by the Iraqi security forces, not by the United States of America, not by any foreign force that's in there fighting them.
MR. SESNO: When you talk about the long war, though, you're also talking about forces of terrorism that want to confront the United States and the West.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes, but I'm not talking about Iraq.
MR. SESNO: I understand that, but they're connected.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure, they are.
MR. SESNO: All right. My question to you is, how -- when you see the public opinion polls going the way they are, how do you keep public support focused at a time when you've got this long war and the controversy, and yet at home, for now anyway, an appearance of normalcy?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It's not easy. On the other hand, if you look at our history as a country -- go back to the Cold War, 50 years. There wasn't a period in there when there wasn't a question as to whether what was being done was right. There were amendments in Congress to bring the troops home from Europe. Euro-communism was in vogue. People were saying, "Oh, it's different than the Soviet version. It's the soft kind. It'll be fine -- not to worry."
But that's been true. I was alive during World War II, and I remember a great many people in the Midwest who didn't want to have anything to do with that. And I was in a courtyard in California when it was announced that Franklin Roosevelt had died, and somebody just cheered, because that was the attitude that existed.
Wars are never popular. Things that take a long time, in the television age, where everything's solved in 28 minutes plus commercials, are particularly difficult for people. But on the other hand, we've got a good body politic in our country. The American people have good sense. They have a good center of gravity, and they --
MR. SESNO: The American people seem to not support this war anymore. A majority of them say --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it comes and it goes. It comes and it goes. But on big things, over time, the American people have been right. If they're not, they would have tossed in the towel on the Revolutionary War and we wouldn't have had a country. Think of the people who were telling Abraham Lincoln not to even have a civil war, and throughout it, to stop it. We wouldn't have had the United States of America today if he'd believed that.
MR. SESNO: If that's the case, how do you explain the polling? If the American people are right and they've watched this war for years --
SEC. RUMSFELD: I've watched polling go from zero to 55 percent to 12 percent in six weeks. What's important is what's right. What's important is what makes sense. And over time, the American people find their way to right decisions. If people believe today that the problem of terrorism in this world is a law enforcement problem, like somebody stealing their car or killing somebody in one of the metropolitan areas, that the task then is to punish them and put them in jail, they're wrong. And over time they see that.
There's too many people being killed by terrorists. And the capabilities of terrorists are growing and the lethality of their weapons are growing, and the threat against the American people is growing and is a serious one. And the government of the United States just simply cannot sit there and take the attack. They have to go out and find them and work with other countries to achieve that.
And I believe the American people understand that message. I believe that they do have staying power and perseverance. And I think that, over time, it will be seen. And I think you'll see the polls go up and down, depending on what the news of the day happens to be in any given moment. But I've got a lot of confidence in the American people.
MR. SESNO: Do I have time for one more before we go across the hall?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure.
MR. SESNO: I've talked to, as I mentioned to you, a lot of people. And a lot of people say, "We've got to do what we're doing. We've got to stay the course for that very reason. The stakes are way too high."
A lot of other people say, "When you get in there with Donald Rumsfeld, give him hell." They say, "How could we -- you know, he was around in Vietnam. Where was phase four? Why didn't we have more troops? If he's so tough, why wasn't he doing that?" What do you say to those people?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, it is awfully easy to be on the outside and to opine on this and opine on that and critique this. If you go back and check the people who've been offering opinions, they've been wrong as many times as they've been right. They change their views without any penalty or accountability. And I just smile and say, "Fair enough. Keep raising your questions. Keep offering your opinions." And the American people will synthesize all that, digest it, and then make their adjustments.
MR. SESNO: Could you tell them you've learned something from this process, that you've learned --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, I hope I learn something every day of my life.
MR. SESNO: What have you learned?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I've -- what have I learned? I've learned so many things in -- what is it now? -- 74 years.
MR. SESNO: I'm talking about the last five.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I'll give you one example of what we've learned. If you go back to the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, we were at a juncture in our country's history when things were different. And during the Truman administration, in large measure, a whole lot of new institutions were fashioned -- the CIA and the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the IMF, the World Bank, the U.N., NATO and what have you. A whole lot of things were fashioned. And they have served us pretty darn well over a period of a number of decades.
We are at the juncture of the end of the Cold War still and the entrance into the 21st century where the challenges will be, in large measure, asymmetric and irregular, as opposed to conventional. We're conducting the first war in the 21st century at a time when these new media realities exist. You've got 24-hour talk radio. You've got bloggers. You've got the Internet. You've got e-mails. You've got digital cameras. You've got Sonycams. And everyone knows everything instantaneously. Only it isn't everything, because it's out of context. It is scraps and pieces that then they have to digest; the world has to digest and take aboard.
That is a new experience for everyone. And as I say, there isn't a road map for how you do it in there. But one thing's pretty clear to me, that some of those institutions and some of those arrangements that we have need to be changed if we're going to do well in the 21st century. They served us well throughout that period from the '50s on, but it's a different world today. It's a very dynamic world. It's a fast-moving world. And we're going to have to have adjustments made to those institutions.
We've been making them, for example, in NATO. We're helping to transform NATO. We have a NATO response force for the first time. We've reduced the number of headquarters from 22 down to 11. We provide some energy by expanding it and bringing countries into it that have a recent experience with the absence of freedom and liberty, and they value it highly. And that's added a new energy and spark to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But I think that we as a country are going to have to recognize that the institutions that we have benefited so much from need to be calibrated and adjusted and fashioned to fit the 21st century, because the 21st century is a much more fascinating and dynamic time than we've been living in in past decades.
MR. SESNO: I guess back to the public opinion and the war thing that you mentioned. During World War II, there was solid support, particularly when we were fighting that war, for that war. Are you concerned that in the midst of this war, with everything at stake that you talked about, that still you've got 61 percent of the American people saying they don't support this war?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's a very different period. We had the major portion of our federal budget went to that war. The major portion of our gross domestic product went to that war. The draft drew in millions of people from every town and county and township and village in America. And, I mean, I can remember having victory gardens and picking up hangers and selling them for scrap metal.
MR. SESNO: We don't have any of that now.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Of course not. It's a different world.
MR. SESNO: And so people are disconnected from what's going on.
SEC. RUMSFELD: On the other hand, September 11th brought it home. And what's gone on in Madrid and London and Bali and other places around the world also bring it home. It's a different time. The Cold War was different than World War II. Does that mean that we're not capable of accepting the differences, learning from them and adjusting and showing the kind of perseverance that previous generations have shown? I don't think it means that at all. It is different, quite so.
I mean, if you go back to that period, I can remember going to a movie in World War II and everyone started with 15 or 20 minutes of -- (inaudible) -- news or Paramount news about the war. And the movies were all positive about the war.
MR. SESNO: So how do you measure your success out of this?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't worry about me.
MR. SESNO: You've got to worry about you. You've got a job to do. You want to succeed at it.
SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet your life we do, and we've got a lot of wonderful people helping to do it. And if you think -- I just talked very recently with General Chiarelli, who's out there in Iraq, in charge of the military operation. And he talked about the troops and what an absolutely amazing job they are doing and how dedicated they are and how patriotic they are, how proud they are of what they're doing and how convinced they are that they're making progress. And they see it and they feel it. And there's 138,000 of them over there right now, and they're sending e-mails back to their families all the time explaining what they're doing.
And so, notwithstanding what you may see on television or what you may see in the newspaper, the American people are hearing from the troops. And that is a good thing, I think. So while it's different, we can accept differences. But the men and women in uniform are all volunteers. They're there because they want to be there. And they're darn proud of what they're doing, and they ought to be proud.
MR. SESNO: I still want to know how you define your own success.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't worry about me. I really don't. I get up in the morning, and Joyce rolls over and says, "If those troops can do what they're doing, you can do what you're doing. Get out there and do it." (Laughs.)
MR. SESNO: Let's cross over to your office for a couple of minutes. I've taken more time here than I should have, I'm sure. Thank you very much.
Office tour with Sesno:
MR. SESNO: I was going to ask you about 9/11 and that day for you and how that -- (off mike).
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Off mike.) It focuses the mind. (Off mike) -- of the airplanes going into the twin towers and -- (off mike).
Here's a great lesson for people, I think. This is the Korean Peninsula, a satellite photo taken at night, demilitarized zone, same population north and south, the same people, the same resources. The only difference is the south has a free political system and free economic system, and they have a command economy and a dictatorship. Here's capital, Pyongyang -- (off mike) -- of light. And these people are now the 10th or 12th largest economy on the face of the earth -- successful, contributing in the world. (Off mike.)
MR. SESNO: You know, it strikes me that this desk almost speaks to transformation, the way we were talking about a moment ago, because the military has to be able to respond to that and to foster that and to imagine any number of other challenges that could come along like that.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's right. We've got folks now on the border helping with the border police and security there. We recently did the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake, moved 15,000 people out of Lebanon in the matter of a week or so. (Off mike) -- 15,000 human beings --
MR. SESNO: In a week.
SEC. RUMSFELD: In a week, with nobody telling you beforehand that that was going to happen. Here's a mosque in An Najaf, that was the kind of religious instrument they used in -- (off mike).
MR. SESNO: Is this sustainable, to do all these things, for the American military, the funding levels -- (off mike)?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No. You know, we're down very low. We're down at 3.7 percent of gross domestic product. When I came to Washington in 1957 out of the Navy, Eisenhower and Kennedy era, we were spending 10 percent of gross domestic product. When I was secretary last time, we spent 4 or 5 -- 5 or 6 percent of GDP. And today we're down to 3.7. It's a lot of money anyway, but we have responsibilities in the world that as a country we can afford to do. If you think that that -- (off mike) -- moved around the department and government so people have an understanding that you really do have to -- (off mike) --
MR. SESNO: Are the American people aware of that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Obviously -- (off mike) -- but I think that there's an understanding of the dangers that we face in the world and an appreciation for the fact that so many young men and women are willing to volunteer to serve their country and put their lives at risk.
(Cross talk, laughter.)
MR. SESNO: I've got to ask you this question: Why does a 70-something-year-old guy who could be spending a lot of time in New Mexico want to stand for hours on end, take the brickbats that come after him day after day after day that you're doing this job? How many hours a day do you work?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I get up at 5:00 and I tend to get home around 7:00, and --
MR. SESNO: You take work home?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, sure; work an hour or two at home, yeah.
MR. SESNO: How many days a week?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I work -- (off mike). My kids are grown -- (inaudible) -- and I've got a great wife. And I enjoy working. I don't feel -- (off mike). I wouldn't work as hard as I do if I didn't enjoy it and know we were making a contribution.
MR. SESNO: Do you ever come out of some meetings or get beat up on the House -- "someday" --
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) Oh, goodness, there'll be plenty of time for that.
MR. SESNO: Are you still a wrestler?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, gosh, you know, that's a young man's sport. I wrestled for 12 years.
MR. SESNO: (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) There's Teddy Roosevelt over there.
MR. SESNO: You're not answering my question. (Laughs.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: I really enjoy competition. I mean, I like to play tennis and squash and -- (off mike). I like life. I feel very fortunate.
MR. SESNO: (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: I tried to figure out, how do you explain -- (off mike)? And I stopped using the word "transformation" and I ended up saying that it's really a shift in emphasis -- (off mike) -- as you can see. (Off mike.) It shows that you're not finished (when ?) you're going from here to there in terms of -- (off mike) -- more accurate way of characterizing it.
MR. SESNO: While I've got you here -- (off mike) -- and I'm sorry for this --
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Inaudible.)
MR. SESNO: That's okay -- and that is, people walk into your office saying, "Hey, boss, I just disagree; you're just wrong about that." And all the stuff about that Don Rumsfeld throws people out of the office if they disagree with him. (Off mike.) And you say?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I say, "Why?" Explain to me. Make your case. Let's hear it. I've got no problem with that. I've been -- you know -- (inaudible). I think more people come in and do that and say: "Look, we've gone through this. You simply -- you need to understand this. My view of this is this; your view is that. And I -- (off mike) -- tell me about it." (Off mike.)
MR. SESNO: Look, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.