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Secretary Rumsfeld's Remarks to the International Institute for Strategic Studies

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 04, 2005
Secretary Rumsfeld's Remarks to the International Institute for Strategic Studies

            Thank you,  John.

 

            I hope to be here next year, and certainly I congratulate you on the progress of this conference.  It’s important.  It’s important to discuss major issues of the day. 

 

            Ministers, distinguished officials,  ladies and gentleman,  senior military officials.    It is a pleasure to be back in this energetic and historic city. 

 

            I certainly want to express my appreciation to the people of Singapore for their gracious hospitality and for their long friendship with the American people. 

 

            I must say the dinner that was hosted last evening by the Singapore government was most gracious.

 

            A central question discussed at these forums is how best to increase security and stability in the Pacific region.  Today I want to talk a bit about that  -- and about the many areas of cooperation between the U.S. and our partners here, and about the serious challenges that remain.

 

            Much has changed in the world since we met here last year.  The past year has been a time of promise as the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine,  Kyrgyzstan,  Lebanon,  and elsewhere have demanded at ballot boxes the freedom that they deserve.  Dictatorships around the world are losing sway, as more and more people recognize the greater opportunities a life of freedom affords  --  economic freedom and political freedom as well.

 

            This time of opportunity for millions regrettably,  has also been a time of tragedy for others  --  particularly those in the path of the tsunami that killed more than 170,000 in Southeast Asia,  and displaced more than a million more.  

 

            The global relief effort involved many nations that are represented here today.   There are numerous, poignant examples:   

 

            India not only met the needs of its own people;  but,  to its credit,  it also sent troops to help to distribute aid in Sri Lanka;

            Thailand,  despite its own casualties and tragedy,  quickly consented to the use of its bases to serve as the combined support facilities for the relief efforts; 

            Malaysia made its airfields available,  facilitating logistical support;  and

            Singapore was first on the scene with life saving aid,  offering the use of its airfields and port facilities.

 

            Years of bilateral and multilateral meetings and cooperative operations made possible this swift,  team response  --  as  America’s military joined quickly with Australia,  Singapore,  Thailand,  Indonesia,  and many others to provide assistance.  

 

            From time to time,  some question the priority America places on its Pacific partnerships.    Yet the atmosphere in the tsunami’s aftermath  --  as well as the recent earthquake in Nias  --  demonstrated again that whenever friends and allies in this region confront threats or hardship  --  whether caused by man or by nature  --  we stand at their side.   

 

            These long relationships among nations -- the nations of the Pacific -- led many in this hemisphere to pledge support to the American people after the attacks of 9/11.    And we are deeply grateful.    I am confident that our long friendships will continue to unite us against the common threats ahead.

 

            Consider a few of the important activities in which the U.S. and our Pacific partners are currently engaged:

 

  • The Proliferation Security Initiative  --  with some 60 nations now working together to try to keep the world’s most dangerous weapons from the enemies of civil societies;
  • The Maritime Security Initiative,  combating piracy,  drug smuggling,  and human trafficking;
  • An unprecedented amount of trade;
  • Working together to combat the Avian Flu;
  • Military-to-military partnerships on a bilateral basis;
  • A repositioning of U.S. forces worldwide that will significantly increase our capabilities in support of our friends and allies in this region;
  • Missile defense capabilities,  spearheaded through partnerships with allies like Japan and Australia,  and which are now capable of limited defensive operations against a ballistic missile threat;  and 
  • The transformation of our respective militaries to confront the distinct threats of a new and dangerous era.

            Indeed, the benefits that come from transforming our militaries were made clear after last year’s tsunami.    The U.S. Navy’s emphasis on improving its surge capabilities,  landing troops amphibiously,  and supporting them indefinitely from the sea proved critical to sustaining the relief effort across the region and in saving lives.   

 

            Credit for this, of course, belongs to the American people who invested in these capabilities over many decades.  Due to their foresight, the U.S. Navy ships were able to reach Sumatra just five days after the order to sail, arriving with equipment that proved ideal for delivering life-saving supplies.    The United States values working with other militaries seeking to undergo similar transformations that can benefit future humanitarian and security initiatives. 

 

            Perhaps the greatest impetus for modernization and cooperation is the specter of lethal threats confronting all free nations.  Among them is the toxic combination of dangerous weapons,  rogue regimes that seek to export those weapons, and violent extremists determined to destabilize civilized societies and kill men, women, and children.

 

            There is another threat that bears mentioning as well --  the specter of trade barriers -- barriers that can impede economic progress and, in turn, can threaten democratic governance. 

 

            It may seem a bit unusual for a Secretary of Defense to speak about trade.    But because security, and economic opportunity, and political reform are so interdependent,  any one of the three is unlikely to endure and succeed without the others.

 

            A nation that expects its people to unleash their productive energies into the economy  --  but stifles free expression  --  will eventually have to choose between tyranny and progress.    A society that supports political reform  --  but fails to protect its citizens or provide security for them  --  encourages instability and civil strife.    And a secure state that permits neither political nor economic freedom is a system that, in the end, may fall to its understandably restive people.

 

            No system of government is perfect.  And every nation has its own history, and its own culture, and its own approach.  And there is no one model of government that is right for every country.   But a look across the globe shows that societies that encourage free markets and political systems are generally the societies where the people have the greatest opportunities.    Most of the nations in the Asia-Pacific region understand that very well.    Their modern histories are testaments to the benefits of self-government,  of political freedom,  and of de-regulated economic systems.   Our host country is one excellent example   --  one model  --  of economic success.

 

            Japan is another example. Sixty years ago, an American Ambassador to Japan  --  echoing the conventional wisdom of the times  --  confidently told President Harry S. Truman  that “democracy in Japan will never work.”  Today,  Japan is one of the world’s model democracies, with one of the largest economies in the world.     

 

            Perhaps nowhere is the difference between freedom and tyranny more vividly demonstrated than on the Korean peninsula.   

 

            I keep on my desk under a glass a satellite photograph of the Korean peninsula taken at night.    You can see very clearly that light covers most,  if not all,  of the peninsula’s southern half, below the demilitarized zone, reflecting a nation with energy,  a thriving economy and a vibrant democracy.    And then you look to the north of the demilitarized zone, where all you see is darkness  --  except for a single pinprick of light in Pyongyang, the capital.    The same people in the north and the south.    The same resources in the north and the south.    The difference is freedom  --  political freedom and economic freedom.

 

            The contrast on the ground is even more vivid,  and more profound.    The Republic of Korea is an example of the dynamism of free people and free markets.

 

            By comparison, consider North Korea’s Stalinist regime,  where:

 

  • The children and grandchildren of dissidents are pressed into labor;
  • Refugees who escape are kidnapped from foreign countries;  and
  • Where starving citizens search barren fields for individual grains. 

            A European doctor who spent many months treating children in North Korea said:     “There are two worlds in North Korea:  one for the senior military and the elite; and a living hell for the rest.”

 

            Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions threaten the security and stability of the region, and because of their record of proliferation, it threatens the world.     President Bush and the other four leaders have urged the regime to return to the six-party talks.   

 

            The United States also urges the regime to embrace the openness and freedom that have helped so many of its neighbors thrive. 

 

            One nation can make a notable contribution in persuading North Korea to return to the six-party talks, and that is China. 

 

            The United States and many other nations in the region seek to cooperate with China in many fields  --  diplomacy,  economics,  global security.    Many of our nations support the development of Asia-Pacific structures that advance the goal of a region that is peaceful, prosperous, and free.  Multilateral engagement is vital.  China can be an important part of that cooperation.

 

            Asia-Pacific forums are most effective in my view when they are inclusive, rather than exclusive,  and when they do not detract from other existing regional organizations.  Forums that exclude can hinder efforts to find common solutions.  Inclusiveness helps to ensure transparency on security issues among nations.    And I believe transparency is critical to fostering trust and diffusing suspicion.

 

            Although the Cold War is over, this region,  unfortunately,  is still burdened by some old rivalries;  and military budgets are escalating in some quarters.    These are matters that should be of concern.

 

            China’s emergence is an important new reality in this era.   

 

            Indeed, the world would welcome a China committed to peaceful solutions and whose industrious and well-educated people contribute to international peace and mutual prosperity.  

 

            A candid discussion of China, however,  cannot neglect to mention areas of concern to the region.

 

            The U.S. Congress requires that the U.S. Department of Defense report annually on China’s perceived military strategy and its military modernization.  The Department’s 2005 report is scheduled to be released soon.  

 

            Among other things, the report concludes that China’s defense expenditures are much higher than Chinese officials have published.  It is estimated that China’s is the third largest military budget in the world, and clearly the largest in Asia.

 

            China appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world, not just the Pacific region, while also expanding its missile capabilities within this region.     China also is improving its ability to project power,  and developing advanced systems of military technology.

 

            Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: 

 

  • Why this growing investment?
  • Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases?
  • Why these continuing robust deployments?

 

            Though China’s economic growth has kept pace with its military spending,   it is to be noted that a growth in political freedom has not yet followed suit.    With a system that encouraged enterprise and free expression,   China would appear more a welcome partner and provide even greater economic opportunities for the Chinese people. 

 

            China has important decisions to make about its goals and its future.    Ultimately,  China likely will need to embrace some form of a more open and representative government if it is to fully achieve the political and economic benefits to which its people aspire.

 

            One final point.    It was suggested that my theme for this conference might be:  “Asia-Pacific Security Beyond the Global War on Terror.”

 

            But that might have suggested that the War on Terror   --  the struggle against extremism  --  is over.    It is not over.    Violent extremists continue to pose a danger to civilized nations,  and we need to work together to recognize that the threat is a serious one.

 

            The United States is working with many of the nations represented here in this room in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan,  helping their people build countries that will no longer pose a threat to the international order.   

 

            Since we met here last June,   millions of Afghans and Iraqis have defied terrorists’ threats and cast their votes for futures free of terrorism and extremism.   

 

            This defiance has sent a powerful message to their neighbors in the region and,  it should be added,  it sent a powerful message to skeptics around the globe.    And there have been a great many of them!

 

            Yet despite the past year’s elections, some still question whether such breathtaking transformations are really possible.    And indeed there are many challenges still ahead on the road to democracy  --  as has always been the case.   

 

            But for those questioning whether such transformation is possible,  I suggest they come to Asia.

 

            Sixty years ago, this continent was the scene of the Second World War’s final battles.    Many nations in the region were not free, and they endured civil strife.   But today, the nations of the Asia-Pacific region are among the world’s fastest-growing centers for opportunity, for prosperity, and for knowledge  --  which is clearly a tribute to the people of this region.

 

            The United States will stand with our friends and allies here through the challenges that lie ahead.     It has never been more clear but that the great sweep of human history is for freedom.    And the United States is privileged to have formed close bonds with so many Pacific partners who also stand on freedom’s side.    And history will prove once again that freedom is the side to be on.  Let there be no doubt.   

 

            Thank you.    I’d be happy to respond to some questions.  

 

Question and Answers

 

            DR. CHIPMAN (Moderator): Mr. Secretary, thank you very much, and thank you very much also for touching on three themes very dear to the heart of the IISS and to the Shangri-La Dialogue.  You spoke of the importance of transparency and confidence building in the Asia Pacific and I would just note that we have a breakout group this afternoon that touches on these very themes of defense white papers, transparency and confidence building.  You spoke about defense expenditures and most particularly in China.   The International Institute for Strategic Studies publishes The Military Balance each year and we too have made a careful assessment of Chinese defense expenditures there and we would be looking to compare notes with your study that will soon be released and finally I think you emphasized the continuing challenge of the battle and campaign against terrorism and tomorrow morning’s first plenary will have three ministers of defense from the Asia Pacific touching precisely on this question of Asia Pacific armed forces and the campaign against terrorism so you’ve helped set and reaffirm the agenda of this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue.  Before we open for questions and comments, who would like to be first?  Ross Babbage.

 

            ROSS BABBAGE:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.   Mr. Secretary, let me firstly thank you for a wide ranging and deeply insightful presentation.  What I like to do is ask you to elaborate a little on your comments about the challenges on the Korean Peninsula.  Mr. Secretary, I wonder when considering the challenges of getting North Korea to return to the Six Party talks, what specific steps you think are needed to be taken in order for that outcome to be achieved.  In particular, you made references to the challenges facing China and the involvement of China in this important situation.  What steps do you think is required on the part of China to encourage the North Koreans to return?   Can I ask you also to consider and perhaps comment on whether you think those steps are really likely to be taken, and how far we might be from the situation of having to consider possible alternative approaches if in fact it proves not possible to get the North Koreans to return and to participate seriously in changing their nuclear programs in a way that the international community requires?  Thank you.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  That was quite a question!  I’ve found it useful in my lifetime to try to put myself in other people’s shoes and ask what the world looks like from their perspective.  And in this case when one looks at the situation in North Korea, it is an unfortunate situation.   The people there don’t have enough food.  There are concentration camps with large numbers of dissidents and people who for whatever reason have been put away.  There are people trying to escape the country continuously.  The military has had to lower the height and weight that they’ll accept people into the North Korean military down, as I recall, into something like five feet and one hundred pounds because there aren’t enough people who had enough nutrition in their young years to get in.  Repression works and it can work for a very long time.  We know that.  And when one asks about the leadership in North Korea, clearly regimes of that type have as their first interest perpetuating themselves in power.  They don’t get up in the morning worrying about their people.  They worry about maintaining power.  Things that would threaten that concern them.  Clearly, the influence that exists with respect to North Korea one would think would be greatest with the People’s Republic of China that has the most extensive interaction with them, politically and economically.  The hope has been by people in successive governments in all of these countries that over time it would become apparent to the government in North Korea that it was in their interest to enter into the Six Party talks and try to find diplomatic ways to sort through the difficulties.  The threat that North Korea poses, in my view clearly, to the extent that they have nuclear weapons as they say they have them, and to the extent they have clearly demonstrated they’re the world’s leading proliferator of anything they own or don’t own, including counterfeit currencies and illegal drugs and ballistic missile technologies.  Then one has to assume that they’ll sell anything and that they would be willing to sell nuclear technologies.  So the threat isn’t just to the Korean Peninsula or to North East Asia, the threat is to the entire world, were they to engage in proliferation with terrorist networks, for example, or other regimes willing to use those weapons.  I think that the countries of the region have every reason to be concerned.  I think that the countries of the world have every reason to be concerned about the regime there and what they’re doing.  I have no way of knowing what might conceivably finally persuade the people of the North to behave in a way that is more consistent with the behavior of other countries in the world.  My hope is that the countries in the Six Party talks will continue to be persuasive, try to be more persuasive with them and that they will see it in their interests to enter those discussions. You ask, “What are the alternatives?”  Well, it seems to me that it is a question for the world to ask.  It would require certainly the United Nations to ask itself does it want to have a role in trying to avoid allowing the kind of proliferation that is threatened.  No one country can do that.  It takes the cooperation of many countries, clearly.  That’s one avenue.  But I think that the answer to your question really would be up to the leadership in those countries and in other countries of the world. 

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:  Thank you very much.  Next question from Mr. Cui Tiankai the Director General of the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China.   

 

            MR. CUI TIANKAI:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  And Mr. Secretary, thank you for your speech just now.   As American Secretary of Defense, do you truly believe that China is under no threat whatsoever from any part of the world and do you truly believe that the United States feels threatened by the so-called emergence of China, and if so, in what form?  Thank you.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don’t know of nations that threaten China.   So the answer is to that question, yes.   I truly do believe that.  And what was the second question?

 

            MR. CUI TIANKAI:  The second question was do you truly believe that the U.S. feels threatened by the so-called emergence of China and if so, in what ways?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Yes, the answer I would say is no.  We don’t feel threatened by the emergence of China.  It strikes me that the emergence of China is perfectly understandable.  It is a big country.  It is a large population.  It is a country with an impressive history.  It is a country that has figured out a way to have its economy grow in impressive ways.  I believe--I could be wrong, goodness knows--but I do believe very sincerely that economic success, which I believe is important to the People’s Republic of China, given the circumstance of the people there and the need to keep creating opportunities for the Chinese people.  Economic success depends on increasingly freer economic system.  And I would submit that that will require an openness that would put a pressure on a political system that is less free.  And there will be a tension over time.  To the extent that the People’s Republic of China decides that they want to continue on a path of economic growth, they will have to find ways to open up their political system in a way that is consistent and compatible with an open, economic system which provides that engine for growth.  To the extent they don’t, to the extent they decide--you and the people of that country--decide over a period of time to have lower economic growth, fewer opportunities for their people, because they do not want to open up their political system in a way that would be almost, in my view, necessary to achieve rapid economic growth.  Obviously that would inhibit economic growth in a way.  And the country’s future would be less bright and their role in the world would be less significant.  So it seems to me that the task for China is to resolve that issue as they go forward, in a way that is purely Chinese to be sure, because every country has to do that in their own way with their own culture and their own history.  And I think that the proper thing for the rest of the world to do is to work with China as other countries are diplomatically and economically and attempt to see that they prefer to see--we would prefer to see--China enter the world in a peaceful and successful way that contributes to growth and opportunities throughout the globe. 

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:  Thank you very much.  The next question from Jonathan Pollack.  Perhaps you could just raise your name board for a second again Jonathan so the cameras can catch you.  Thank you.  Jonathan, go ahead and ask your question.

 

            MR. POLLACK:  Thank you for your remarks, Mr. Secretary. You indicated in your remarks that China’s rate of military modernization is not appropriate to the security concerns, whatever they may be, of China.  I am wondering if you might offer us some thoughts on what would you in fact deem an appropriate level of military development for a state of China’s size, consequence, scale particularly as you look at China in the context of the Asia Pacific region, where other countries, certainly India, Japan, others are also modernizing their military.  What would you deem appropriate for a state like China if what you do see concerns you as being inappropriate?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don’t know that it’s for me or that I’m even at a position to try to say to the People’s Republic of China what would be appropriate for them.  Obviously, as a sovereign nation, they make those decisions and so forth.  What I’m referring to is I just look at the significant roll out of ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan and have to ask the question if everyone is agreed that the situation between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan is going to be resolved in a peaceful way, one has to ask then why this significant increase in ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan?  And that seems to me to be a fair question. 

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:  We’ll move on to Mr. Kato of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

MR. KATO:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for the wonderful presentation.  I would like to ask about the rise of China.  It seems to me that there is a competition for influence in the region emerging with the rise of China between the United States and China.  I   understand some countries in the region like Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore are recently taking some steps to enhance their security ties with the United States.  Some explain in the United States that these are the steps, the reaction to the expansion of the Chinese influence.  I was wondering if you recognized that the United States is actually getting involved in this kind of competition of influence and if so….

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Excuse me.  The United States is getting involved in what?

 

            MR. KATO:  This competition of influence with China and if so, I’m wondering where this competition will eventually lead this region to?  Thank you, Sir.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I guess that I don’t know that I agree quite with your characterization.  China is here in the Pacific.  The United States is a Pacific nation.  Both countries have been involved in this part of the world for many, many decades.  We have relationships.  China has relationships with a great many countries in the region.  We have relationships with a great many countries in the region.  I guess that I don’t posit it that way.  I don’t look at it and say it’s the People’s Republic of China and it’s the United States arranged that way.  I look at it as a region.  There are a number of important countries.  Japan has the second largest economy on the face of the earth.  India is a large and important country in the region.  Certainly, the other countries, Indonesia and the amazing miracle called Singapore are influential.  Australia, I mentioned. Vietnam has all kinds of opportunities for influence in the region.  So the picture I see when I look in the Pacific region is not the way that you characterized it of two countries like that with groupings.  I see a great many countries with multiple relationships, which I consider to be a healthy thing and a good thing and not a surprising thing.

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:  The next from Kishore Mahbubani who is the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and former ambassador to the United Nations.  Kishore.

 

            KISHORE MAHBUBANI:  Thank you John.  That’s a very generous introduction.  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your remarks.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I don’t think we can hear you too well.

 

            KISHORE MAHBUBANI:  Good morning, can you hear me now?  Thank you very much for your remarks.  Technical problems in Singapore. 

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I like the way you started. 

 

            KISHORE MAHBUBANI:  Thinking about your remarks Mr. Secretary

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Do you want to borrow a microphone from someone else?  There is one behind you.

 

            KISHORE MAHBUBANI:  Thank you very much.  I didn’t mean to build up so much anticipation over my question.  That was unnecessary drama.  But reflecting on your remarks, Mr. Secretary, I suspect that when the headline writers write about your speech tomorrow, it is possible that they may say that the United States has decided that the battle against terrorism has been won, that the next item on United States’ security agenda is now the rise of China.  So the two questions I have, is firstly, is that the signal that you wanted to send with your remarks today, and secondly, if indeed, the rise of China is the focus of your security agenda now, how would you address a possible, probably growing, suspicion in this region among some countries at least that in your push for political freedom in China--which is, of course, an ideal long-term goal--that perhaps, the intention may not necessarily be to just help China but to perhaps, in the short-run, possibly destabilize China.  I know I am saying things that should not be said publicly but this may exist in the minds of some people, so what would you do to erase the suspicion?  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Thank you.   The headline writers would be wrong were they to follow the thoughts that you have expressed.  In fact, in my remarks I very specifically said that the struggle against extremism is not over.   I don’t know how I could be more explicit in my remarks.  It is a serious problem for the civilized world.  There is a struggle taking place and the outcome is not clear but I believe that we are making solid progress against the extremists in many parts of the globe.  I believe that having a coalition of countries numbering some 90 nations now that are sharing intelligence and cooperating to try to cut off money to terrorists, that are engaged in trying to track down and capture or kill terrorists and people who are trying to destabilize various countries across the globe.  I think that coalition is having success but there is a good way to go yet.   So any headline writer that wrote that would be absolutely flat inaccurate.   Now that would not be the first time that that happens.  But it certainly would be flat wrong.

 

            The second headline--the rise of China--it seems to me would also be simply stating the obvious.  China is an increasingly important country.  It is growing economically.  It has relationships with countries across the globe, and that is a good thing.  That is not a bad thing, and it is not a threatening thing.  The idea that if someone believes, as I do, in every inch of my body, that the natural state of man is to be free, and that to the extent people are free, have free political systems and free economic systems, that the world will be a safer and better place, I do believe that. 

 

            The idea, the implication, that freedom means de-stabilization, I think it is not correct.  You are quite right.  Free people are free to be wise and free to be stupid.   Adolf Hitler was elected in a free and fair election as I recall--not an impressive outcome for freedom.  So free people can be racist, free people can be anti-Semitic, free people can do all kinds of terrible, terrible things; and that’s a fact, and they can behave in a way that is not stable.  But the implication in your question or your suggestion for a headline writer that anyone in the world would like to see China de-stabilized is just flat wrong.  That would not be good for the Chinese people, it would not be good for the region, it would be unhealthy and dangerous.  And nobody is suggesting that.  And I, for the life of me, can’t imagine how you could even suggest it.  I say with good humor.  Now how’s that for the headline writers.

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:   James Boutilier, Canadian Navy.

 

            MR. BOUTILIER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Oops, you’ve got the same mike.

 

            MR. BOUTILIER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you Mr. Secretary for a most interesting overview of the region.  It strikes me that at the heart of the Asia-Pacific is a growing perversity in the sense that over the past 20 years the United States Navy has endured profound budgetary disarmament and that is occurring at the very time when the Indo-Pacific region is becoming more and more complex, dynamic, and dangerous at sea.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Excuse me, I just want to make sure you said “the United States Navy is suffering profound”

 

            MR. BOUTILIER:  Has suffered profound budgetary disarmament over the past 20 years.  I say that in the sense that in mid-1980s the plan was for, as you well know, a very sizeable navy and the number of major service combatants now is significantly smaller than that projected during the Reagan regime.  Within that context, you spoke of transformation, the repositioning of U.S. defense assets, and central to the U.S. presence the development of relationships in this region.  I wonder if you could expatiate on how you see over the next decade the development of U.S. maritime or naval interests in the region, a theme which, of course, occurs later in this Shangri-La Dialogue.  Thank you.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Yes, indeed.  Happy to do so.  I was Secretary of Defense back in the 70s when we were talking about a 600-ship navy as I recall and it’s interesting, it is now 30 years later, and to the extent we continue to equate things by numbers, capabilities by numbers, we make a terrible mistake.  A ship is not a ship.  A ship has a degree of lethality and another ship has a vastly different degree of lethality and capability.    The United States navy today has fewer ships than we had 30 years ago.  We also have what is unquestionably the most impressive navy in the history of the world at any time in terms of its capability.  The Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations in recent years have developed efficiencies that enable them to surge capability that considerably outstrips the presence capability that we had, for the sake of argument, 5 years ago when we had more ships.  How did they do that?  Well, they’ve changed their entire way they manage the refitting of ships.  I think these numbers, Admiral Fallon, are pretty close to correct--if you have, for the sake of argument, 12 carrier battle groups and you some years back put up a map and said where are they, well, about nine of them would be in port being refitted.  And two or three of them would be out doing something, being available, providing capability to friends and allies and the world.  Today, if you have 12 carrier battle groups you can keep a presence of something in the neighborhood of five--more than when you had more ships--and you can surge up two or three more.  Is that close enough for government work, Fox?

 

            Now, that means that your statement about profound naval budgetary disarmament is just wrong; it’s just not right.    The navy’s budget is up.  The navy’s ships are vastly more capable.  The presence is greater than it was when there were more ships because of better management and better repair and refitting and because of the changed swapping out crews so that the wasted time of a ship coming all the way back from the Pacific and then going all the way back out where it’s doing nothing more than transiting for week after week after week, the short answer to your question is the premise is inaccurate.  The United States navy has enormous capability and the presence in the Pacific is considered by the United States of America to be important and there isn’t a doubt, should be no doubt in anyone’s mind, but that the lethality and capability of United States navy is going up every single year, notwithstanding the fact that there has then a modest reduction in the total numbers of ships.  Take a bomb, and let’s say you have ten dumb bombs, and it takes ten dumb bombs to hit a target, and you put five bombs in their place, five smart bombs that can hit a target every time.  Are you better off with five bombs or ten bombs?  And the answer is you’re better off with five smart bombs than ten dumb bombs or 15 dumb bombs.  And the same principle, it seems to me, is terribly important for people to understand. 

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:   Michael Swaine of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, formerly the Rand Corporation on whose board the Secretary I think once served.

 

            MR. SWAINE:  That’s right, John.  Thank you very much Mr. Secretary.  I enjoyed your remarks.  I would like to ask you a question that in a way I guess follows up on the previous questions but tries to pose it in a somewhat broader sense.  I would like to get your view on how you look at the overall U.S. force posture in Asia, both today and in the future.  What do you see as the important deficiencies, if any, in the U.S. force posture and I’m talking about capability as well and not just presence.  Particularly, in light, of statements that have been made recently about the possibility of your desire to have U.S. forces in Korea be used outside of the Korean Peninsula and the concerns that have been expressed about that on the Korean Peninsula and in light of the efforts to, I would say, expand the role of Japan as a security partner in the region perhaps regarding Taiwan but also regarding other areas.  What do you see as what the future of that force posture should be in light of these kinds of concerns and in light of your sense of the possible threats in the region.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  The President asked the Department of Defense four years ago, four and a half years ago now, to take a look at our arrangements around the world and make a recommendation as to how they might be adjusted to reflect the 21st century as opposed to a downsizing from where they were at the end of the Cold War.  And we did that.  We took a year, a year-and-a-half, two years, and we talked to our friends and allies, and we ended up deciding that there were several principles that were important.  One principle is that we need to have forces where they are wanted.  We simply don’t want our forces in locations where people don’t want them.  It is important with an all-volunteer force that people feel that it is a hospitable environment. 

 

            Second, we need to have our forces where they are usable, where we can move them around and use them for whatever they may need to do.  The idea that the tax payers in United States would prepare, invest in, and then locate military forces in one location that are only for that particular function and not available for any other use in the world is obviously unacceptable.  They have to be flexible.  There is no way the tax payers in United States would be willing to make those investments, unless they knew that would be the case, and the same thing is true of other allies and friends.  For example, if you are going to ask one ally and friend to allow us to use, to participate with them and have a force presence, that’s available obviously as a deterrent for them but also as a deterrent and a capability for others in the neighborhood to come to their assistance, you can’t have most of them saying that’s fine and then one say “no, you can’t do that; we want them only for our defense, and only for our deterrent and you can’t use them to help defend a neighbor or another ally nearby.”  That just isn’t acceptable to the people of the United States, so we need to put forces where they can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world.  It also became pretty clear that we had the ability to bring some higher numbers of them back to U.S. and U.S. territories, that we didn’t expect the Soviet Union to launch a major tank war across the north German plain.  And therefore, heavy divisions in that part of the world seem not as appropriate as they obviously did during the Cold War which made a lot of good sense.  So we are moving some of those around.  The answer is that the Pacific region is enormously important to the world, it’s important to the United States as a Pacific nation and a presence in this part of the world is something we believe is appropriate and we have friends and allies that agree that is appropriate and we are making adjustments in those numbers and locations and the types of capabilities that better fit the 21st century, than fit the 20th century.  And those are the kind of things that will play out over the coming three, four, five, six years, if nothing happens very fast in something like that because arrangements takes time to negotiate and workout and then to the extent forces are moved, there have to be arrangements where they can be located. 

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:  Next from Barry Desker, the third or fourth row on my left, the Director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies here in Singapore and former Ambassador to Indonesia.  Barry.

 

            MR. DESKER:  Thank you Mr. Secretary.  You gave us a very incisive address.  Given the size of the U.S. defense budget, the planned increases in U.S. defense expenditure, and the growing disparity between the United States and other armed forces, as well as the worrying U.S. budget deficit, won’t the arguments that you made earlier for a cap on     Chinese military expenditure apply to the United States as well?  Thank you.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFIELD:  There is no question but that the activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and the global war on terror have caused increases in our budget.  We had 3,000 people killed in the United States on 9/11, other countries, friends and allies of ours, have suffered similar attacks from terrorists.  The budgets that have gone up to fund activities, to deny a haven for example in Afghanistan, are fully supported by the American people and if one thinks of the economic loss that occurred on 9/11, not just the lives that were lost but the hundreds of billions of dollars that were lost in market capability and strength.  The cost that has been invested in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom are a relatively small price compared to what was lost on that day.  I guess I wouldn’t compare the situation at all.  The United States, I guess, is spending something like 3.1 percent of gross domestic product on defense.  Of our defense budget--it is stunning to think about it--but something like 84 billion dollars goes for healthcare for current military personnel and retired military personnel.  And the largest, the most rapidly growing segment of our budget is the healthcare portion of it.  And that of course is all added in when one looks at the numbers.  That includes, for example, the healthcare for veterans, healthcare for reservists, the ongoing healthcare for active duty forces.  That is an enormous sum of money.  Think of it--84 billion dollars in a single year--and that has been growing quite rapidly.  So I think one needs to look at the mix of it, to get a good understanding of it.

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:  Next question from Ralph Cossa, in the center about seven or eight rows back from Center for Strategic and International Studies, Honolulu.

 

            MR. COSSA:  Mr. Secretary, two quick questions.   Number one: there seems to be considerable confusion and concern and, I believe, misunderstanding--perhaps because of additional or previous bad headlines--about just what the February joint Japan-U.S. statement had to say.  It’s being reported in some corners of Asia as a U.S-Japanese agreement to jointly defend Taiwan, and I wonder if you could perhaps provide your interpretation of what the two plus two statement actually was saying regarding China. And the second question, if I might, regarding what kind of an answer you would give to people who claim that the U.S. is somewhat hypocritical when on the one hand we are talking about developing so-called usable nuclear weapons at the same that we are insisting that others refrain from developing that kind of capability.  Thank you.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:   Well the two plus two statement is public.  Anyone can read it, and it is clear what it says, quite apart from what headlines may say.  With respect to hypocrisy, I find the discussion amusing if it didn’t worry so many people.  At the present time there are, for the sake of argument, something like 17 countries in the world that are very busy doing things underground.  There are machines that today are dual-use machines--anyone can buy them; they’re not military equipment—that enables you to go into solid rock and dig a hole in 24 hours the length of a basketball court and twice as high as a basketball net in solid rock in a single day.   People are now manufacturing, developing, testing, storing, deploying military capabilities underground in ways that it is very difficult for anyone to access.  The U.S. inventory has high-powered nuclear weapons.  We have imperfect ability to penetrate deeply by conventional means--which obviously would be your first choice.  That means that the only choice you have is conventional means to penetrate deeply--which doesn’t work--or very large nuclear weapons--which are very unattractive.  What was proposed was that there be some testing done--modest testing--to see if it is possible to develop better penetration.  That’s one segment of it, meaning conventional or nuclear.  The second thing that was proposed was that a study be undertaken--not the development of a new nuclear weapon--but a study be undertaken to see if it is feasible to take some of the vastly more powerful nuclear weapons and rearrange them into considerably less powerful nuclear weapons.  So the implication of your question, that someone is hypocritical by trying to find a way to penetrate deeply and to first do it with conventional capability, and if not able, to do it with much smaller nuclear capability than the only kind of nuclear weapon that’s available, which is vastly larger.  How anyone can suggest that is hypocritical is beyond me.  It has nothing to do with developing more quote “useable nuclear weapons” or making the world safe for nuclear weapons.  It has to do with addressing a real, growing problem about underground capabilities, that may or may not sometime need to be addressed, and to plan now with a study--not a weapon, but a study--to see if it is possible to develop better ways to penetrate deeply conventionally, and, if not conventionally, a way to do it with a considerably smaller nuclear weapon than would be the only weapon available, a much larger one.  It seems to me a perfectly logical, rational approach.  The way people take that and try to make it into something quite different is, I suppose, not surprising in the world we live in, but un-useful. 

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:  Next question from Alexander Nicoll, Director of Defense Analysis at the IISS.  Alex.

 

            MR. NICOLL:  Mr. Secretary, the Prime Minister of Singapore suggested last night that during the war on terror, the U.S. has not been winning hearts and minds in Muslim countries and he mention the specific example of Indonesia and he suggested more use of soft power to get the U.S. message across.  You’ve already mentioned the aid the U.S. gave after the Tsunami and I guess that the use of hard power in a soft way.  I wonder whether you agree with his analysis, and if so what would be the reasons behind that.  What do you think the U.S. can do about that?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well I certainly agree with his remarks.  Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that the last thing in the world anyone wants to do is to use hard power.  It is your last choice--always your last choice.  It is, however, a choice.  In my view there is no question but that when our country was attacked, using hard power against the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda, as we have, was exactly the appropriate thing to do.  The struggle that is taking place within the Muslim religion is not going to be won by people outside that religion; it’s going to be won by people inside that religion.  We are not in the position, I say we--the United States and the other nations like the United States--are not in the position to be terribly persuasive in that struggle.  We have got to defend ourselves to be sure.  We have to not simply allow our people to be killed.  But our hope and prayer is that there will be moderate leadership in that religion as there is in Afghanistan--President Karzai--and President Musharraf in Pakistan and the leadership in the new Iraq is moderate leadership in that regard and there are many other examples around the world of moderate leadership.  The strain of violent extremism that exists in the world is a small minority.  They also are of the ability to manipulate the press very skillfully.  A lie travels around the world three or four times while the truth is still putting its boots on.  Governments have to be accurate.  Terrorist networks don’t.   Are there still madrasah schools, extreme madrasah schools, training people to go out and kill people?  Sure.  That’s a fact; they are.   Has this battle been won?  Have we have prevailed in the world--the people who believe in not going around beheading people and cutting off people’s heads and trying to take the world back to a dark place?  No, the struggle has not been won.  It seems to me that it is not for the United States alone.  It’s for the world to recognize that there is a danger.  These attacks have taken place in Spain, and in Bali, and in Saudi Arabia, and in country after country after country.  I think the United States is well aware of the fact that its circumstance and its position is such that there is going to be criticism and I suspect that from time to time the criticism is merited.   But I also know that if anyone here lived in the Middle East and watched a network like Al Jazeera day after day after day, even if you were an American, you would begin to believe that America was bad.  And quite honestly, I do not get up in the morning and think that America is what’s wrong with the world.  The people that are going on television chopping off people’s heads is what’s wrong with the world.  And television networks that carry it and promote it and are Johnny-on-the-spot every time there’s a terrorist act are promoting it.  So it is a problem for the United States to be sure, but it is also a problem for the civilized world.  And as I say, I agree that the use of force is always the last choice and soft power in all its various manifestations clearly is what is needed and what is appropriate and what all of us, it seems to me, have to think about if we are going to navigate through the period ahead, which is not in my view going to be necessarily a perfectly smooth path.

 

            DR. CHIPMAN:  Mr. Secretary, there are many more questions to be asked.  But I think you made such a rousing and profound conclusion to the last one that I will have to frustrate the five or six people who are still left on the list if we are going to keep to the agenda.  Mr. Secretary thank you so much for analyzing, for enlightening, for clarifying and let us all hope that headline writers get it right tomorrow.  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

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