Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Interview with Paul W. Smith, Newstalk 760 Radio, WJR Detroit
Q: It is a privilege and an honor to welcome to the Paul W. Smith program our secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, good morning and welcome back to the program.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, good morning, Paul. It’s good to be with you.
Q: It is a busy time and I do appreciate your time and wanted to just go over a few things. There’s so much going on right now in our world. The president has agreed with the 9/11 Commission saying that the nation needs an intelligence czar, somebody who can oversee all of these different issues that are necessary, wants to keep them out of the White House, which I thought sounded like a pretty good idea, even though the 9/11 Commission wanted them in the White House, him or her. What’s your thought about that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I think the president’s on the mark. There is value to the concept of having a national intelligence director. I think that to the extent possible, activities like that are best out of the White House and instead the White House is a place where one would want staff functions, like for the National Security Council staff and the Homeland Security Council staff and the Office of Management and Budget and those types of things in the executive office of the president. But I think the president made the right call.
Q: You have been working, Mr. Secretary, on changing – really, our military in many, many ways, replacing an old model for sizing forces with a newer approach, more relevant to the 21st century. And there’s been conversation -- even argument -- as to whether our forces are large enough. It used to be to be able to wage two wars at once. You remember all of those discussions in days gone by. There are people who are saying, in fact, that maybe we need to go back to the draft. What do you say?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s – first of all, it’s an important discussion and debate and I think it’s a good thing that the country has this discussion. The problem is that there’s a tendency for people in the 21st century to still have their 20th century thinking caps on. And they tend to equate capability with numbers of things. For example, if you had 10 bombs, the theory is that’s better than five bombs. But if you have 10 smart bombs that have the capability of 10 bombs per one dumb bomb, obviously, you can get along with a lot fewer. And the same thing’s true with many other aspects of it, whether it’s ships, guns, tanks or planes. So we need to think in 21st century terms, in terms of lethality, in terms of speed of deployability, in usability of the capabilities, rather than simply numbers of things.
In the case of the draft, I must say I feel very strongly that the country does not need a draft and should not go back to the draft, that we are having in a country of -- whatever it is now -- 275 million people, with an active force of 1.4 million, we are having no trouble at all maintaining a force that’s appropriate. We have decided consciously that we want to have a total force concept where we have some on active duty and some in the Guard and Reserves who we don’t need full time, but we may need from time to time to come on active duty and to assist the country. That’s what we’re doing. It’s working very well. Recruiting and retention is excellent. And I think people recommending the draft are mistaken, suggesting that we don’t have the ability to have as many people on active duty as we need. We do have that ability. It’s simply a matter of adjusting the incentives, which is what one would do in any other activity in life.
Q: Mr. Secretary, then when Senator Kerry says that using the Reserves is really – I can’t remember exactly how he said it, but like a backdoor draft – you would disagree with that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Why, certainly. I mean, my goodness anyone knows that anyone in the Reserve is there voluntarily. There’s not a single person in the Reserves who didn’t raise their hand, sign up and say “Send me, I want to joint the Reserve.” I stayed in the active naval Reserve after I left active duty in the Navy for many, many years, fully understanding that my assignment was to drill one weekend a month, go on two weeks’ active duty a year and be available, in the event the country needed, to call to active duty the Reserves or the Guard for some special relatively short-term period. And I was happy to do it, and everyone in the Guard and Reserve is there because that’s what they made a conscious decision to do.
Q: People might tend to forget -- we have the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld here on “The Paul W. Smith Show” on WJR -- people might tend to forget just how long you have been in public service and that you were secretary of defense back in 1975. And today with the Chinese circumstances and situations in North Korea, what’s happening in Iraq, things are very, very different from then. But what’s different, too, is it used to be – maybe first time around when you were secretary of defense in ’75 -- it used to be that sensitive national security issues and international security issues were off limits for politics and that certainly is not the case today.
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, it’s amazing how we’ve seen during political campaigns to suspend civil discourse. It’s always been appropriate to discuss important public issues and to do it in the context of the times. And of course, if you’re at war, there tends to be, oh, a quality to the debate and discussion that reflects the reality that we are at war and I think that’s important. I have been around a long time, as you’ve suggested. I was in the Navy back in the 1950s and a congressman in the ‘60s and in the executive branch as secretary of defense and ambassador to NATO in the ‘70s, and times have changed a lot.
One of the things that’s changed, of course, is that 24-hours news cycles and the fact that we have news seven days a week, 24 hours, and everyone’s always trying to fill the time. So it’s changed somewhat, the access that people have to the public through these various types of programs. In one sense, it floods the carburetor on occasion. And in another sense, it’s a good thing because it gives the American people a chance to hear all kinds of things. to absorb it and integrate it and synthesize it, and then make up their own decisions.
Q: Is there anything that you would do drastically different should you have to approach Iraq today anew?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it was clear that Saddam Hussein was given every chance, 17 U.N. resolutions, every chance in the world. And then finally, the president gave him one last chance to leave the country before the invasion began. The war itself was an enormous success. It happened fast, with relatively little loss of life on the coalition side and relatively few civilian deaths and casualties and relatively little damage to the Iraqi infrastructure. The determination of the former regime elements and the terrorists, the foreign terrorists that come into the country to try to prevent Iraq from getting on a path towards a representative free system, their determination is real and people are still being killed today. Now, that means it’s a tough task, but it’s always been a tough task to go towards a democratic system. Even Thomas Jefferson, recognizing how tough it was in our country, said that one ought not expect to be transported on a featherbed towards democracy. There are some very violent people at work and we see that when they chop off people’s heads. These are the kind of people we’re dealing with over there.
Q: Right. Secretary Rumsfeld, your reaction to Senator Kerry accusing President Bush of encouraging terrorist recruitment with policies that have made the world angry at the United States.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the president, of course, answered that yesterday and anyone who thinks back to the history, the terrorists attacked our embassies in East Africa. They attacked the U.S.S. Cole. They attacked the United States of America and killed 3,000 innocent men, women and children.
Q: Twice – World Trade Center twice.
SEC. RUMSFELD: World Trade Center before that, you’re quite right. And then the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The idea that the United States had done something to incite that is, of course, inconsistent with facts and reality.
Q: Finally, if I may be permitted to say so, when I watched you on your surprise visit to Baghdad in the midst of all of the problems with the prison and a few soldiers doing very wrong things that are now coming to trial, in fact, I saw in you almost a therapeutic reaction – almost a cleansing. When you were there, you seemed to be contrite and at the same time, get a renewed energy. Can you tell me a little bit about what I was experiencing or thought I was, watching you there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I think you’re right. I didn’t see it, needless to say, but I was there, and you on the one hand, you just feel heartbroken that people in our custody were mistreated. That shouldn’t happen. It was also heartbreaking, of course, that hundreds of thousands of these wonderful young men and women saw their service tainted by the impression that was left from those photos. And my heart broke for their parents, as well, who know their sons and daughters to be fine, honorable, dedicated soldiers who were over there risking their lives and serving our nation and doing enormously noble work. And it also was so sad for me to know that a lot of people in Iraq and in the region and even, I suppose, around the world, believe the hateful things that were being said, that implied that those abuses, those abusive acts by those people in that prison depicted in the photos in some way represented the policies of the United States government or the behavior of other soldiers which, of course, is simply not the fact. And so I felt very badly about it. On the other hand, I felt that someone needed to go there and to look those folks in the eye and tell them the truth, namely that they’re doing a wonderful job for our country and that the country is grateful to them. And I never go and speak to our troops that I don’t come away feeling better about our country. We’re so fortunate that they’re all volunteers. They put up their hands, they say, “send me,” and they’re willing to go out and put their lives at risk to help make this a better world and God bless them for it.
Q: And I thank you so much for carrying that message to the troops in a way that many of us feel, but don’t have the opportunity or ability to go there and do it. And I salute you for doing that, sir, and appreciate it much. Do you a have final thought? Do you have it in you to go for a second term? You want to stick around for a full second term?
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughs.] Oh, my goodness. You asked – you sound like my wife.
SEC. RUMSFELD: She asks me that question every once in a while.
Q: Well, so we both wonder then.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well…
Q: What did you tell her?
SEC. RUMSFELD: … you remember that what Adlai Stevenson said one time, he said, “I’ll jump off that bridge when I get there.”
SEC. RUMSFELD: And I’m not there yet.
Q: All right. I appreciate that. Thank you, sir, so much for spending time with us. We look forward to our next conversation.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Terrific. Thank you.
Q: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld here on Newstalk 760.