Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld with Scott Hennen, WDAY Radio, Fargo, N.D.
HENNEN: Thank you, and welcome back to Hot Talk and we go right to our newsmaker line to the Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, back with us on Hot Talk, welcome to the heartland of America via Hot Talk Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, Scott. I'm delighted to be with you.
HENNEN: We are thrilled to get a chance to catch up with you again and I want to first ask you about another Secretary of Defense who you eulogized, Cap Weinberger on Tuesday morning. In that eulogy you talked about a quote from Winston Churchill that hung in Cap Weinberger's office that said, "Never give in; never give in, never, never, never, never in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in."
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Isn't that amazing?
HENNEN: It is.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It's a wonderful thought and of course that was Winston Churchill's life. He cautioned the world about the coming Nazi menace in Adolf Hitler. They didn't listen for years and years and years and he never changed. He always believed it was a danger, he was right. And I'll tell you, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger had that same quality. He had steel up his back.
HENNEN: It seems to me not a bad motto to live by as we fight a war on terror too, isn't it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You're certainly right. This is a different world we're in today. It's unconventional instead of conventional; it's asymmetric instead of symmetric; it's irregular instead of regular; and it is so different for us that we need to get adjusted to it in this new century and learn to fight this battle as effectively as we were successful with respect to the Cold War.
HENNEN: I heard your speech at the Army War College last week where you talked about the nature of the enemy. For the benefit of our listeners, would you give us a sense of what your view of the nature of the enemy we face is in this war on terror?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Certainly. You know if you think about it normally one thinks of a war or a conflict of big armies and navies and air forces competing against each other. That's been the history. But that is something that is not taking place today. Instead we're up against networks of people who operate in the shadows, who don't have nations to defend, who don't have bureaucracies to manage, people who are determined to reestablish a caliphate in this world and to take out moderate governments and to change the lives of free people.
There's not going to be any signing ceremony on the USS Missouri as there was to end the war with Japan. These are people who are going to have to be dealt with over a sustained period of time by the global network that President Bush has put together of some 80 or 85 nations.
HENNEN: Is there a clear enough sense in your view of the nature of this enemy among Americans today? Do we get it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No, I think it's hard. I think it's hard for people to understand it. They understood September 11th, they saw what happened in London, they saw what happened in Madrid, they've seen what's happened in Oman, Jordan and other countries, and they understand terrorism, but the tendency is for people to think of terrorism as an act of violence that is designed to kill people when in fact the purpose of terrorism is not to kill people. The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. It's to alter people's behavior.
So a terrorist really strikes at the very essence of what the American people are - namely free people. People who can get up in the morning and go where they wish and say what they wish and do what they wish and not be intimidated, and not be terrorized and not alter their behavior, because they have enemies that would like to alter their behavior.
HENNEN: You look at the enemy we face. It is clearly brutal and we've seen examples on that obviously on September 11th, but long before that in the Khobar Towers and the embassy bombings and the USS Cole, and since 9/11 in Russia with school children being held hostage by terrorists; in Israel hiding grenades under babies; what goes on every single day in Iraq that is despicable. Yet there is growing opposition to Operation Iraqi Freedom where every single day the good guys, the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and coalition forces, kill terrorists.
Now if we were to make a quick exit or to not even have been there in the first place which some suggest would have been a better idea, would our enemy that we face be stronger today, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness. The thought of turning over Iraq to the terrorists, to the people who behead their fellow citizens on television like Zarqawi, to people - the Saddam Hussein types who put hundreds of thousands of human beings into mass graves, the people who use chemicals against their neighbors and their own people. The thought of turning over an oil-rich, water-rich nation to the likes of Zarqawi and the al-Qaeda and the Saddamists would put them in a position to threaten the entire Middle East and to threaten the rest of the free world.
We simply cannot do that. The consequences would be dire.
If you think about it, one thing that's different about this conflict than other conflicts in earlier periods where you had big armies and navies going against each other, today really the battlefield is not so much out in Iraq or Afghanistan only. We're not going to lose battles out there. The enemy doesn't have the capability to win a single battle of a conventional nature.
The real test of wills that's taking place - the battle's here in the United States, it's in the capitols of Western Europe. It's in the capitols of free nations. Because the enemy wants to wait us out. The enemy wants to see us lose our will. The enemy believes that that is the way that they will achieve their success; by having people decide that it costs too much in lives, it costs too much in dollars, it's taking too long, and therefore we should forget it and hope they'll just go away.
HENNEN: So let's talk a little bit about timelines. We just passed the three year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom and I want your assessment of how this effort is growing, because there's a growing perception, whether it be former generals or whether it be even a few conservatives now joining the voices of many opponents of the administration that have long thought Iraq was a bad idea, that it's going poorly. Are they wrong?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well you know if you think about it, the terrorists tried to stop the elections a year ago January and they failed; they tried to stop the drafting of an Iraqi constitution by the Iraqi people and they failed; the terrorists tried to stop the Iraqi elections on December 15th of last year and they failed; they're trying now to stop the formation of a new government and they're going to fail at that as well.
Now what does that mean? It means that there have always been people throughout history in every war, starting with the Revolutionary War in the United States, who were against the war, who wanted to throw in the towel, who said we can't win it; it's too hard; it’ll take too long.
Think of where our country would be if we had tossed in the towel in the Revolutionary War or the Civil War or World War II or World War I. We wouldn't have the country we have. And it doesn't surprise me that there's a debate, that's understandable. There's always been that kind of a debate. But I’ve got a lot of confidence in the good center of gravity of the American people. And while I'm well aware that polls go up and polls go down, the fact of the matter is we're going to win this test of wills. We have to win the test of wills if we want to stay free people.
HENNEN: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, our Secretary of State, speaking figuratively suggested recently we've made thousands of tactical errors; also suggested the important test was making the right strategic decisions and that would be the test of history.
Do you agree with that? Have we made thousands of tactical errors? And does that concern you?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don't know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest.
The reality in war is this. You fashion a war plan and then you proceed with it. And as the old saying goes, no war plan survives first contact with the enemy. Why? Because the enemy's got a brain; the enemy watches what you do and then adjusts to that, so you have to constantly adjust and change your tactics, your techniques, and your procedures.
If someone says well, that's a tactical mistake then I guess it's a lack of understanding, at least my understanding, of what warfare is about.
If you had a static situation and you made a mistake in how you addressed the static situation that would be one thing. What you have here is not a static situation, you have a dynamic situation with an enemy that thinks, uses their brain, constantly adjusts, and therefore our commanders have to constantly make tactical adjustments.
HENNEN: A couple of other quick final things here before we let you go. One is Iran. Former UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blick said this week that Iran is at least five years away in his assessment from developing a nuclear bomb. In other words, we have time to peacefully negotiate a settlement.
Do you share that assessment?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don't know. I'm not really in the intelligence business and I've seen different countries have different estimates of how long it would take Iran to have a nuclear weapon.
I think it's important to kind of parse out what a person's talking about when they say that.
If they're talking about how long it would take a nation to develop it from the ground up indigenously, themselves, without outside assistance, then you could look at certain timelines and say well, it would take this range of time, from this number of years to that number of years.
If on the other hand a country is able to purchase ballistic missiles, as the Iranians have from North Korea, they then can reverse engineer and make their own ballistic missiles and have as many as they want.
By the same token, if they're able to acquire fissile material from whatever source, then they don't have to make all of the fissile material themselves and they bypass a whole series of steps.
So it seems to me that one ought to ask a series of questions to someone who makes a comment like that so you know what their premise is.
HENNEN: A final question. We have a number of Guard troops right now from our listening area that are stationed over in Iraq. We've had a number of groups over the years from North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota. I wanted to give you a chance to give a plug for our favorite web site, mine and yours, AmericaSupportsYou.mil that does a lot of good work in letting people know how they can help the troops, right?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, Scott, it sure does. It's a wonderful thing, the American people, how compassionate they are and how caring they are and all across the country people kind of spontaneously decided that they appreciated what the troops are doing. How they're defending our freedom and how courageous they are and how professional they are and how important their families are to the support of those troops overseas. So people, schools, corporations, and non-governmental organizations and individuals just decided they wanted to do things.
What we did was we pulled together a web site called AmericaSupportsYou.mil and started listing all of the things that people are doing so that anyone who wants to can go to that web site, AmericaSupportsYou.mil and they can see what others are doing and get some ideas as to how they may want to pitch in and be supportive of the troops and their wonderful families.
HENNEN: Mr. Secretary, it's always a pleasure. Our best to your lovely bride Joyce and the entire team there at the Pentagon doing a marvelous job fighting and winning the war on terror. Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Scott, thank you so much. It was good to visit with you.
HENNEN: You bet, take care.