Secretary of Defense Radio Interview with Steve Kelley and April Zesbaugh, 850 KOA
Kelley: Let's just dive in as we only have the ten minutes, and we do appreciate your time this morning. Why don't we start with the main reason why you came on, to talk about America Supports You, and this is interesting, reading a great story, kind of related. This one grandmother, Mr. Rumsfeld, who has just finished baking her 27,000th cookie. Did you hear about that?
Rumsfeld: I have heard about that. Isn't that amazing?
Kelley: This is not necessarily specifically what we're talking about with the America Supports You program, but it is sort of.
Rumsfeld: Well, it's an example. My understanding, it's not one grandmother, it's a team she put together, and they've done a wonderful job. But it's amazing how ingenious the American people are, and how compassionate they are, and how much they care about the wonderful young men and women in uniform around the world and all they're doing.
The stories like that are legion.
Zesbaugh: What is America Supports You? If people aren't familiar with it, what does it mean?
Rumsfeld: Well, AmericaSupportsYou.mil is the web site that the Pentagon established because so many people were doing so many interesting things. They were doing them individually with their schools, with their families, with their clubs and organizations, and nobody knew about them except the small number of people doing each one of them, and of course they ran into the hundreds. So what we did was put together a web site that people were able to describe what they're doing, and give anyone who goes to that web site an opportunity to go into their web site, or to replicate what they're doing, or to help them do what they're doing, or to put down the things that they've thought of that are ingenious, that nobody else had thought to do. The net effect of it is that there have been literally tens and tens and tens of thousands of hits on this web site, and people are responding just in the most heartwarming way.
The President, as you may remember mentioned it last Tuesday a week ago I think, in his remarks, and it really helped put the web site on the map.
Kelley: Again, that's AmericaSupportsYou.mil.
You had an interesting weekend, 4th of July here a couple of days ago. "Gentlemen, start your engines."
Rumsfeld: What a thrill! If you think about it, the troops around the world are great NASCAR fans, and I must say the NASCAR people that I know and have met over the years are enormous supporters of the troops, and NASCAR has signed on to AmericaSupportsYou.mil as have a great many of the sponsors of the NASCAR, and the effect of that has just been so heartwarming. I've been thrilled.
I was down there -- the race started I think two and a half hours late. 120,000 people were there, to say nothing of the television audience, and we all had a wonderful time.
Zesbaugh: It sounded great. Well from Daytona to Iraq, I don't know how we make this segue but if you'll bear with us here. Talk about the latest from that country. The frustration you must feel as that insurgency in Iraq seems to be not only taking hold but increasing. You recently said that the insurgency could last up to 12 years, and that produced some raised eyebrows out there. Do you regret saying that or do you stand by it?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I ever said it. I think what I said was that insurgencies can last from two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve years, and some people took that, and applied it directly to Iraq and took the highest number. That's hardly respectable journalism, but that's what's been done.
The truth is exactly as I stated it. If one goes to the history books and looks at insurgencies, they can run at varying lengths from two to twelve years and they average somewhere in the middle.
I made no prediction about Iraq because it's not predictable. You can't do that.
Second, I said something enormously important that has not been reported to any great extent, and that is that in the last analysis, it will be the Iraqis that will defeat the insurgency in Iraq, not Coalition forces. What do I mean by that? I mean that insurgencies by their nature need to be defeated by the country. The people of the country. A foreign occupying force really can't do that as effectively, and the people have got to decide that they've had enough of terrorists killing innocent civilians, men, women and children, they've had enough disruptions of their lives, and they're going to turn in the insurgents, and they're going to resist the insurgents, and I must say the Iraqi people are doing just that.
Kelley: Sir, was this an adjustment for you? You make plans, you plan well, but did you have to adjust? In other words, did you expect this?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think the way to phrase it is anyone who knows much about military history knows that no war plan survives first contact with the enemy. That's the nature of it. So what you do is you fashion a set of contingency plans or excursions, so that your plan is flexible and adaptable because you're up against a thinking enemy. The enemy's not an inanimate object that you can then analyze, go after and deal with. The enemy has a brain. What we're seeing is a constant adaptation by the enemy in Iraq, and by the same token a constant adaptation by our forces calling audibles as they go along, adjusting to the evolving nature of the insurgency.
Zesbaugh: What kind of evidence would you need to see to believe the Iraqis can do this on their own?
Rumsfeld: I think it's a combination of political, economic, and security. I think the critical steps are going to be for the Iraqi people to fashion their own constitution, have a national referendum on it in September, and then hold elections in December under that new constitution, and feel that for the first time in the history of the country, there's a piece of paper that will protect one ethnic group against another, rather than using repression or violence to do it.
Zesbaugh: The insurgents aren't going to respect that piece of paper though, are they?
Rumsfeld: No, they're not, but the people will. They'll feel they have a stake in it, that it's legitimate, that they crafted it, they voted for it, they voted for people under that election, and that therefore it is their government. Second, they'll see economic progress. Third, they'll see the Iraqi security forces increasingly sizeable, increasingly capable, and increasingly effective, and as a result, increasingly respected.
Kelley: Mr. Secretary, we'll take a break. Come back. Talk more broad about the logistics of fighting beyond Iraq.
Kelley: Mr. Secretary, thank you again for joining us this morning.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, I'm glad to be with you.
Kelley: The idea, the President said a couple of years ago, post-9/11, that any country that sponsors or harbors terrorism will be, and I'm paraphrasing here of course, will be dealt with. Now we have Iran, we have Syria, North Korea, and your critics would say mired or bogged down in Iraq. How can we possibly logistically pull this off, if we have to go into say, Iran?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think that's not something that is an issue at the present time. There are a number of countries working to dissuade them from moving forward with a nuclear weapon.
Kelley: Well pick a country. Syria. If we had to go into another country, are you confident we could pull it off?
Rumsfeld: Oh, absolutely. The military leadership of this country goes into the Tank, so to speak, about every period of months and analyzes our capabilities and our flexibility and the conclusion they have consistently is, that we clearly have the ability to defend our interests and undertake the kinds of tasks that conceivably could be necessary.
Zesbaugh: What about Afghanistan in the wake of several servicemembers being shot down in their Chinook last week by a group claiming to be the Taliban? Are we at the troop strength that we need to be in that country and is it getting better there?
Rumsfeld: It is getting better there. There's no question there are still some Taliban, there are still some al-Qaida. They operate essentially along the Pakistan border. There still are instances of violence in any given week or month. On the other hand they've got their first popularly elected president in the 5,000 year history of the country; the economy is growing very rapidly; the people are in school; the clinics are open; there's a great deal of economic activity; they're expecting parliamentary and provincial elections on September 18th of this year; and life goes on.
Now, is it possible that people will continue to be acts of violence and terrorist -- isolated acts of terrorist violence? Sure. That's possible. But the country's there, it's vastly better off than it was. The soccer stadium is being used for soccer instead of for beheadings.
Kelley: Mr. Secretary, this question occurred to me. How much do we as American people not know? In other words I don't know if you can put a percentage on this to help us understand what we don't know won't hurt us. What percentage would you say that you know, you have knowledge, that we just can't know and probably shouldn't know?
Rumsfeld: If you're looking at the activities of the United States government, and asking what portion of what we're doing do the American people know and understand, the answer is an exceedingly high percentage. We have a very transparent behavior, we have a Congress, we have unfortunately a great many leaks of classified information, and there's relatively little that the American people don't know over a relatively short period of time.
If you're talking about what's going on in the world and how much the United States government knows about what's going on in the world, it is a decreasing amount. I say that because of the fact that so much now is done on a hidden basis. There's so much taking place underground. There's such cleverness in terms of denial and deception about what people are doing. We have some societies like North Korea is a closed society. It's very hard to get any information, any understanding about how the thinking is in that country. And whereas, during the Cold War our enemy was the Soviet Union and it was that way for a long time. Now there are multiple countries that we have to be knowledgeable about and attentive to. During that period, most everything was done above ground and we could use satellite and national technical means to see what was taking place. Today that's simply not true. Today an underground digging machine that can be bought on the open market with dual-use capability can go in and dig something as long as a basketball court and twice as high as the basket in a day.
Zesbaugh: Mr. Secretary, I know we've got to wrap it up, you have to run, but we'd be remiss if we didn't ask you about the future of the military. What is the future of the U.S. military?
Rumsfeld: Oh, the United States military is the greatest military on the face of the earth and it's the greatest military in the history of mankind and people running around saying it's broken are incorrect. We are in a period where unemployment is declining, the economy is growing in the United States. We always have gone through these cycles. We're doing fine in terms of recruiting and retention in the Air Force and the Navy. We have the Army is having some recruiting shortfalls, but part of the reason is that goals are up because we're increasing the size of the Army by 30,000 people.
Zesbaugh: What about the base closings? A lot of people would see those and say that doesn't look like we're healthy.
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness, that would be a terrible misunderstanding. We've come up with base closings because it's clear that the taxpayers' dollars were being wasted, and in this 21st Century we had a base structure that was something like 25 percent larger than our needs. And that's just not being respectful of taxpayers' money.
Kelley: AmericaSupportsYou.mil. That's the main reason you came on, to certainly promote that, and we want to do that as well.
Rumsfeld: Well, I appreciate that a great deal Steve and April, thank you for having me with you.
Zesbaugh: Thank you.
Kelley: Take care, sir.