Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld and Tony Snow on FOX News Radio
SNOW: Mr. Secretary, you had a press conference, the members of the press tried with absolutely no success to get you to bite on whether the United States was prepared to go to war in Iran. Let me try a different tack which is pretty simple.
The average Iranian youth is more pro-American than the average US college professor. Is it part of our calculation that we don’t really want to be talking about war with Iran, because there is, in fact, a large pro-American cohort of people who would love to see our style of government, and we want to encourage them rather than turning them into anti-American patriots?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I’d say a couple of things. I think at first, you’re right. The Iranian people are proud people. They have a proud history. I can’t imagine that the young people and the women in that country admire the kinds of comments that are being made by their leaders in their government. Furthermore, I think they very likely do not want to be isolated from the world. They feel that they have a right to be a part of the world. And to the extent you have a government that’s behavior pattern is such that it tends to cause other nations to pull away and isolate their country, I can’t imagine that that’s a very pleasing thing.
A second point I would make is the one the President makes and that’s that look, we’re on a diplomatic track. The President’s decided that he wants to work with the European countries and other nations in the world and see if it isn’t possible to have the United Nations and other international organizations, the EU, encourage a behavior pattern on Iran that would be more acceptable to the world.
His worry for many, many years has been the fact that Iran is a country that has supported terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, and to the extent a country that supports terrorist organizations seeks weapons of mass destruction capability, it’s a worrisome thing I think for free people.
SNOW: Is it conceivable that the people of Iran at some point are going to say you know what? We’ve had enough of this. We want some democracy ourselves.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it would be a wonderful thing. If you look at North and South Korea, a satellite photo of those two countries at night, and all the electricity down south and all the activity, economic activity, the 12th largest economy in the world, and up north just darkness and starvation. And they’re the same people with the same resources. It says a lot about what a free political system and a free economic system can do for opportunity for human beings.
SNOW: So you do think there may be at some point - that yearning for freedom might create the kind of pressure that could lead the Mullahs into the history books?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it’s possible. If you think back how rapidly Iran flipped from the Shah to the Ayatollahs, and then in reverse think of how rapidly those Eastern European countries fell after the Wall came down. And what looked like a powerful, strong government, a repressive government and a fortress that can’t be breached, and then in a day people mobbed the places and the squares, public squares, and the government fell, and it all changed. So those things can happen.
SNOW: You’d certainly like it to happen, wouldn’t you?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. Indeed.
SNOW: Secretary Rumsfeld, in watching this press conference I half got the impression that the press wants you to go to war in Iran. What do you think?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it’s fascinating. They’re certainly looking for news. They’re constantly trying to stir up something. Someone told me about an original article and then newspapers picking it up and then editorials kind of converting the speculation into what they purported to be reality.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It’s amazing. It’s like the Washington merry-go-round. It only takes about 24 hours for that kind of mischief to occur.
TONY SNOW: Let’s talk about Iraq a little bit. Newt Gingrich the latest to say okay, we need to get out.
Not so long ago you said that the withdrawal from Iraq would sort of be like withdrawing from Nazi Germany.
Do you think if the United States withdrew, whether on a Jack Murtha deadline or anybody else’s. If the United States swiftly withdrew, what would be the consequence?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think the consequences would be dire. That you would have a country with wealth of oil and water; a country with a long history and a lot of population - 25 million people - that would be turned into a haven for terrorists and they would be well financed. It would put instabilities into the neighboring countries in the region. It would offer a location for terrorists to recruit and train and be financed and to develop weapons of great power, and the dangers to the free world and to free people would be just enormous. The safety of the American people would be in jeopardy.
SNOW: Do you get the sense looking at some of our European allies with the kinds of unrest that they’ve been facing in recent months, that they are starting to take maybe a little bit of a different look at the engagement in Iraq and starting to say to themselves, you know what, these Islamic fundamentalists, these terrorists, they’re all our enemies. Maybe we need to start working a little more closely with the US?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well I see it happening in a number of countries. If you think back, when Jordan was attacked it caused them to be more aggressive against the terrorists that they’re concerned about. When Saudi Arabia was attacked it caused them to be more concerned, and of course London has been attacked and other countries. And it’s understandable when it’s brought home how vulnerable free people are who are open and not protective of themselves to a great extent.
Having a terrorist attack occur is something that gets people’s attention, as it well should.
SNOW: Mr. Secretary, when you came to the Pentagon one of the first things you started talking about was reform of the military, and with some foresight you were talking about what we now call asymmetric warfare. Big nations versus loose-knit terrorist groups.
As you start looking forward, outline a little bit what you see the emerging new threats. You know the snare. People are always re-fighting the last war, even the war we’re in.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That’s right.
SNOW: Looking forward, what do you think we ought to be thinking about in the future?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I’ll take just two examples of things that are out there that have to be worrisome to people.
If one thinks about the dependency that countries like ours have on cyberspace, that dependency and the extent to which we utilize cyberspace, creates a vulnerability. One has to know that those who know they can’t compete against our armies or our navies or our air forces look at those kinds of vulnerabilities and dependencies and then arrange themselves to take advantage of them, because of the cost effectiveness of doing so.
Another thing that concerns me that’s down the road, I hope it’s down the road anyway, and that’s the fact that – chemical warfare is worrisome but it tends not to be contagious. Biological warfare can be contagious. When something has that aspect to it, that it can spread and become so contagious and affect large numbers of human beings, and indeed it can even alter gene structures and affect future generations, one has to be sensitive to the dangers of biological warfare.
I put those two things out as down the road, but in the immediate period any country that knows that they can’t compete – anyone in the world knows they can’t compete with our Army and our Navy and our Air Force, therefore they’re not going to attack our Army, Navy or Air Force. What they’re going to do is go at us asymmetrically through irregular warfare. For the most part they are better off doing it if they have a network as opposed to a nation state to defend.
So the sponsorship by nation states of terrorist organizations is a very effective vehicle, because a terrorist network has no nation to defend, no bureaucracy to defend and no real estate to defend and they can pretty much take advantage of the technological advantages from the West and turn them against the West.
SNOW: On the other hand, one of the things that this administration has said is that under the Doctrine of Preemption if you’re got a state that’s harboring that sort of stuff they’re an enemy and we may have to strike.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That’s one of the problems of course. You’ve got terrorists operating in countries that we’re not at war with so the question is how do you defeat people who are functioning in safe havens or ungoverned areas in nations that we’re not at war with. That is a complication that makes our task today considerably more difficult.
SNOW: Finally, back to the war in Iraq. Obviously we want to get out. We want to get out as soon as we can. But on the other hand we’ve got to wait until the job is finished. Do you see a year, two years, what kind of timeline do you foresee for Americans really in a serious way beginning to move out and hand everything over to the Iraqis?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well that process is already beginning. We’ve turned over some 30 bases, or closed 30 bases or turned them over to Iraqis. We’re turning over real estate to them and responsibilities on a continuing basis. There are now over a quarter of a million Iraqis in the Iraqi security forces and that number is going up every week, every month. And they’re getting better at their job. We’ll just keep passing over responsibility to them until the point where they’re capable of providing for the security of their country.
SNOW: From one to ten, rate the accuracy of press coverage on Iraq.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness. Tony Snow - that is a vicious question.
SNOW: Thank you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: How in the world would you ask a nice fellow like me to be judgmental on a question like that?
SNOW: I’m not. I’m asking you to be analytical.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter].
SNOW: I guess you’re not biting, are you?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter].
SNOW: All right, finally, AmericaSupportsYou.mil. We talk about this fairly often and I think it’s worth doing. At a time when you get plenty of criticism in the press one of the things that strikes me is within the military, we saw this with the reenlistment rate data, one of those government leaks. We had a government leak. Perhaps you haven’t heard it, but apparently people are reenlisting at a brisk rate and the Army is 15 percent over quota.
It appears that America really does support the military, and the military is supporting what you guys are doing.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It is wonderful. The American people never cease to amaze me at how patriotic and concerned and understanding they are. That all of these young people would raise their hand and say I want to volunteer to serve my country, and send me to a difficult, challenging, dangerous location so I can serve the American people and my beliefs. It is a wonderful thing to see.
And you’re quite right. The services for the most part are meeting or beating their larger goals and targets for recruiting.
One of the most interesting things is, if you look at the people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of reenlistment rates, they are higher than people who have not served in Iraq or Afghanistan. So the people there are proud of what they’re doing, as they well should be.
SNOW: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It’s always a pleasure. Now get back to work.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: All right, good to talk to you.
SNOW: Good talking to you. Thanks.