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Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Laura Ingraham Show

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 12, 2006 11:35 AM EDT
INGRAHAM: You're listening to the Laura Ingraham Show, 25 minutes before the hour. In his only live interview before he leaves the Pentagon, we are joined now by the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for being with us.

SEC. RUMSFELD: …Greetings!

INGRAHAM: Wait a second. This is a trend this week, because I was late to my own show earlier this week.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, that's what everyone said! Everyone's talking about the fact that you were late. (Chuckles.)

INGRAHAM: (Clearing her throat.) Very amusing. We thought like Jack Murtha had gotten into the phone lines here or something and mucked up the interview. So we're delighted that you're with us. (Laughs.)

Mr. Secretary, there's a lot to get to, obviously, and we really appreciate this opportunity. As you know, Robert Gates told the Senate panel during his confirmation hearings just a week or so ago that the U.S. forces are not winning in Iraq and that he thought more troops were needed after we invaded. Do you agree?

SEC. RUMSFELD: He also said we were not losing, I think -- just to make sure the context is there for Mr. Gates' remarks.

With respect to the troops at the beginning, you know, the generals in charge recommended the numbers of troops. I considered it and agreed with them, recommended it to the president, and the president agreed. And he went around the room asking each one of them: Do you have everything you need? And they all said they did.

So I think in retrospect, you know, the truth is it's a -- it's an art, not a science. There's no guidebook, mathematical calculation one can come to as to exactly what the right numbers might be. We had a process whereby we were prepared to go up to between 400(000) and 500,000, they were already in train, and the general in charge decided that he was -- he had sufficient forces and decided to not go that high.

INGRAHAM: Well, Army Major General, I think, it was Eaton recently, Paul Eaton, who was the one in charge of training the Iraqi troops until recently, he said that he believed we were at least 60,000 troops short. And I understand what you are saying, this is the advice from the generals at the time, and I know there were some generals that might have said something different and Colin Powell might have said something different. But that having been said, given the security situation as we see it inside Baghdad, Mr. Secretary, can we now say that it would have been better if we had more troops to secure at least Baghdad, and then we can move out from there?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't recall ever hearing from any of the people you have just mentioned that more troops would be required at the time. You know, I suppose -- who knows what they may have said to somebody else. But the generals and the Joint Chiefs and the combatant commanders determined the number of troops. I agreed with them and the president agreed with them, and I think, in retrospect, they were correct.

The question then comes -- further, the fellow you mentioned did not manage the training of those troops for this period. After he completed what he did, I think General Petraeus went in and was in charge of training and equipping the troops. And currently, General Dempsey is in charge of training and equipping the troops. And they've done a darn good job, Petraeus and Dempsey. They now have something in excess, I believe, of 325,000. They didn't get the responsibility to train the police until very late, I think, last year, and that was the responsibility of the State Department. We had the responsibility for the Ministry of Defense forces and our folks, I believe --


SE. RUMSFELD: -- did a darn good job, and that the Iraqi army is performing well.

INGRAHAM: Well, you know -- that's right.

SEC. RUMSFELD: The police have been performing very unevenly, as you may have read.

INGRAHAM: Yeah. Well, you know, obviously, how much I respect and support the troops, and I just want -- I want victory. I want absolute victory in Iraq. I always have.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Chuckles.) Absolutely.

INGRAHAM: You know, I know it's not -- a lot of people are saying victory is not possible and so forth. But if it's not the number of troops that was the problem in securing Baghdad and restoring security to Baghdad, Mr. Secretary, then that begs the question of, is it just that this region of the world is really hard to get control of, period? Was the mission from the beginning strategically undertaken in the wrong way? I mean, it's got to be one or the other. We haven't secured Baghdad, and that's pretty important.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think, ultimately, the Iraqi people will secure Baghdad and secure their country. And it takes political -- a political process where people become persuaded that it's in their interest to support the government. And for that to be achieved in Iraq, it's going to require a reconciliation process, which the government of Iraq has not thus far been able to move forward at a pace that's appropriate.

INGRAHAM: Well, why do you think?

SEC. RUMSFELD: The idea that this is a military problem alone, I think is a misunderstanding and it's a reflection of the reality that this first war of the 21st century is unfamiliar. It's new. It's complex. There are not major armies, navies and air forces to be contested. It is asymmetric and irregular as opposed to conventional. And therefore, people are going to have to get comfortable with that and understand the nature of it, and not expect there to be a battle for Iwo Jima at the end of which you have an island and it's over, it's subdued.

INGRAHAM: Well, people seem to want it to be over, that's the problem.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. Sure.

INGRAHAM: I understand exactly what you're saying, Mr. Secretary, I really do. But the reality at home, the political reality came home to roost on Election Day and also, obviously, with your departure, which we didn't like the handling of your departure, and I know you won't comment on that, but we didn't like it all, the timing of it. And how long can you continue to conduct a war that's unpopular at home? I mean, you have to ask that question.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It's a fair question, and certainly, you're correct. Normally, the center of gravity of a war is on the battlefield, but in this case, we can't lose a battle, and it's not possible for the military alone to win the struggle because it's a long struggle, and it'll take time.

And you think of the insurgency in -- in -- oh, Algeria, for example, I'm trying to remember, I think it was 10 or 12 years long. And that's the nature of it. And it was the Algerian people, ultimately, that put it down and that will be the case here. Our task is to help the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces get to the point where they can provide for their own security.

Now, you say how long can you have an unpopular war? It's -- and I say it's a very good question. But the Revolutionary War was divisive and unpopular. The Civil War, my goodness gracious, was divisive and unpopular. Both wars --

INGRAHAM: We didn't have the media we have today though, right? I mean, we have a different world.

SEC. RUMSFELD: That's true. You're quite right. But no war is popular except in retrospect, after it's over and won. And the Cold War -- my goodness, there were millions of people demonstrating not against the Soviet Union but against us! And Eurocommunism was popular and in vogue.

And so the question you pose is I don't have an answer to how long it can be. But I think the people generally have a pretty good center of gravity, and they tend to find their way to write judgments over time. And this is going to take time. It's going to take perseverance. It's not going to take us to be there for 12 years, but it is going to take some time for us to get the Iraqi and the Afghan capabilities sufficient. And the real difficulty with it is people are putting it in the context of Iraq period or Afghanistan period instead of this global struggle against violent extremists, and that is the real issue.

This president is really almost a victim of his own success. There's not been another attack in the United States since September 11th.

INGRAHAM: Absolutely.


INGRAHAM: And I think that is one issue that he and you and others in this administration have gotten virtually no credit for and, you know, if there had been an attack, you'd get all the blame for sure.

Mr. Secretary, we're going to take just like a couple of minutes as a break. We have to take a break for our stations. When we come back, we're going to talk about Iran, your plan for the future, that leaked memo that came out with all the different options that you put forward for new strategies in Iraq, Russia, China. We'll hit it all.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Terrific. Just don't be late coming back, Laura.

(Commercial break.)

INGRAHAM: All right. This is the Laura Ingraham Show, our exclusive with the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The timing of the memo that you wrote, Mr. Secretary, you drafted it before the election and it was leaked after the election. I wonder if you'd address the timing of that.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, actually, I'd been developing it for, oh goodness, the better part of a month. It had been given to John Abizaid and General Casey to consider it. It had been worked. Pete Pace had used it as a discussion piece with the Joint Chiefs to get their thinking going.

What I did was I used the old Dr. Herman Kahn technique where you put a whole series of options down, and you put the ones that you seem to think might be considered above the line, and you put others below the line where you think they are less attractive, and you do it so that it's clear that they were at least considered and then put below the line. And the purpose of it, as I say, was as a discussion piece. I sent it over to the president and, regrettably, it leaked, and even more regrettably, it leaked without the cover memo, which explained the purpose and the context of it.

INGRAHAM: Do you have any idea who leaked that?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, no. You know, with all we've got to do in these jobs --


SEC. RUMSFELD: -- trying to figure out who in the world is the kind of a person who thinks that that's useful, I just can't imagine.

INGRAHAM: Leaking epidemic in Washington.

Your friend, George Will, said of your memo that it urged the policy to essentially go minimalist. And then you said that it was illustrative of new courses of action, but it looked a little bit to him like 1960s Great Society confidence and government-engineered behavior modification.

What do you make of that?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I didn't read the article, and I couldn't imagine what that might mean.

INGRAHAM: Well, that's what George Will took from your variety of ways of looking at the war.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Huh. No, I didn't see it.

INGRAHAM: Mr. Secretary, Iran and Syria -- obviously, the ISG report's recommendation that we might pursue a conversation with Iran or Syria. When I was in Iraq just for, you know, eight days, nine days last February, I asked General Casey about the Iranian influence and he kind of downplayed it a little bit, not completely, but a little bit.

My question to you is: How do you talk to Iran and Syria when Iran, itself, is so much part of the problem today in Iraq?

SEC. RUMSFELD: The situation since you visited with General Casey has gotten much worse. The Iranian involvement is harmful, it is clear, and it is costing lives, and it's making the task of the Iraqi government vastly more difficult.

The answer to your question is, you know, if you're going to sit down and talk with somebody, you have to have some basis to believe that they have some reason to want to cooperate or be helpful. And given the [inaudible] of the Iranian leadership, I can't quite figure out exactly what it would be that would make us think that they want to be cooperative and helpful.

INGRAHAM: They don't even believe the Holocaust existed, for goodness' sake.


INGRAHAM: I mean, it's hard to imagine.

On the issue of international cooperation -- and I know you and I have talked about this before -- but, you know, the conservatives are always very suspicious of these international organizations and international law and so forth, but given the complexity of this war against the Islamists and the terrorism that we're seeing across the globe, how do we go into another major conflict without, let's say, the support of countries like Russia, China and most of the EU? Doesn't it make our job very, very difficult without any of their support?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. It -- obviously, it's always helpful to have a lot of support and it's harmful if you don't. On the other hand, if you think about it, the president has fashioned a coalition of some 80 plus countries in the global struggle against these violent extremists that are trying to kill --

INGRAHAM: But we're doing the heavy lifting for the most part, Mr. Secretary.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, but wait a second.

INGRAHAM: We're doing the heavy lifting.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, sure we are. Look at our country. We're the largest. We've got the biggest economy. We've got the most powerful military on the face of the Earth.

INGRAHAM: We're carrying the whole load, though.

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, we're not. In Iraq, there's 28 other countries. In Afghanistan, there's 38 other countries, and in the Proliferation Security Initiative, we've got 60 countries.

This allegation that the president is unilateralist, I think, is a copout on the part of people who suggest that he is doing things that the U.N. has not unanimously approved. Well, the U.N. still has a lot of dictatorships, a lot of countries that don't believe in human rights.

INGRAHAM: I agree.

SEC. RUMSFELD: And it is a reality that if you want to get something done today, you'd best look towards a coalition of the willing and let the mission determine the coalition, rather than a coalition determine the mission. If you let the coalition determine the mission, there'd be no mission.

INGRAHAM: Do you think, Mr. Secretary, there might be a possibility that -- you know, given where we were a hundred years ago, where one of the threats that we focused on and certainly the Brits focused on was the real threat of the anarchists -- you know, McKinley had been assassinated -- were all worried about the anarchists. Meanwhile, Germany was building up its military and building up its ambitions. And could that same thing be said today, perhaps, about China and what China wants to do with its desires, military and otherwise?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, clearly China's future has not been decided; it's unclear what path they'll take. They're moving towards freer economic system, and they're maintaining an unfree political system, and there will be a stress that they'll face as they get down the road further. They have very rapid growth.

But I think that -- so clearly, at the moment, they are not a threat from the standpoint of land, sea or air, in terms of projecting power. That is not to say if they can, you know, continue their double-digit growth and their significant increases in their defense budget --


SEC. RUMSFELD: -- that they couldn't over time become a threat. But at the moment it seems to me that it's unwritten exactly which direction they're going to go.

INGRAHAM: What -- in leaving the Pentagon at this point in your life, and with everything that you've done, from -- with all the positions you've had in government, what lesson do you take away from this most recent experience that maybe you'd like to share with all of us and maybe even the new Defense secretary?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think you've touched on something, and I'd answer it in two parts. First, your mention that this first conflict of the 21st century is in a new century, and it's in a new media reality, with 24-hour talk radio and video cameras and digital cameras and all of the e-mailing and blogs. And as a result of that, the management of communication of information is entirely different, and yet we basically are still tied in the 20th century approaches towards print media and television, which is not good enough in this world. A lie can travel around the world three or four times while, as Mark Twain said, the truth is still putting its boots on.

The second thing I'd say is the -- that the international and domestic institutions that exist today were fashioned after World War II. They are not well suited to this new century, and they're going to have to be adapted and adjusted to do a better job, to service better -- just as in the Truman and Eisenhower period after World War II, they had to adapt a whole new set of institutions for the Cold War period and the post-World War II period. And we've not done that yet as a society, and we're going to have to do that.

INGRAHAM: Well, the new Defense secretary will certainly have his plate full and Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you for your efforts for this country. I know you have your share of critics and it's easy to do the 20/20 hindsight thing, and you have served this country proudly. And I know you care about these troops and these men and women in uniform who are serving this country so bravely, and I want to thank you and just say thanks because I know you've been hammered by a lot of people.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughter.)

INGRAHAM: And I'm hammered by a lot of people all the time, too, Mr. Secretary, so that's all I need to say.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Laura, we can take it. (Laughter.)

INGRAHAM: Absolutely. And I understand you're filling in for me during my break, when I'm on my break. You're one of my guest hosts, is that right?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Is that right? I hadn't heard that yet.

INGRAHAM: Well, apparently. Mr. Secretary, have a merry Christmas.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thanks so much. Same to you, Laura. Good to talk to you.

INGRAHAM: All right. You take care.


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