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Secretary Rumsfeld Roundtable in Singapore

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 04, 2004

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I’m available for questions, I have no opening statement, except that I will say this, I’m delighted to be in Singapore.


Q:  Because you are pleased to escape Washington?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  No, I’ve been invited the last two years to come to this conference and regrettably; I’ve not been able to make it.   I’m very pleased that I’m able to make it this year, and look forward to it.  I’m also going to have a number of bilaterals with folks from various countries.  I’ve had a very good visit with the Minister of Defense in Singapore, and I’m going to be meeting the Deputy Prime Minister, meeting with the Ministers of Defense of several other countries while I am here.


Q:  Question about the support for the coalition in Iraq.  The UN Resolution that you have to get through by the next couple of weeks.  If it goes through, if it succeeds, are you hopeful that it might bring in some fencesitters and more countries might come in to join the coalition and send troops?  Maybe even mention Bangladesh?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, setting Bangladesh aside, they tend to use peacekeepers, blue-hatters as I recall, mostly under UN, direct UN leadership.  But the general answer to your question is, I don’t know.  We have indicated from the very beginning that we would like to have as many countries participate as possible.  We went to NATO before the war ever started in Iraq.  We went to the United Nations before the war ever started in Iraq.   We have been pleased that something like 34 countries have participated with troops, and many more countries have participated with various other types of assistance -- ships, humanitarian assistance, overflight rights and money.  It has become quite a broad coalition.  You are quite right in your question that an additional UN resolution could be helpful to some countries, but I have always kind of taken the view that it’s up to those countries to decide what it is that they feel comfortable doing.  It’s not for us to be telling them.  So the offer’s out there, the encouragements are out there and another UN resolution might be helpful, but life will go on.


Q:  South Korean promised to placed 3,600 troops, they seem to be delaying the sending of the batch of troops.  Are you still confident you will get the full commitment from South Korea?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, what I know is, I just met with the Minister of Defense in South Korea, and he indicated that was the case.  We just read what the President of the Republic of Korea has said, and he indicated that’s the case.  As I have said, each country ought to do that which they feel comfortable doing, in a way that fits their historical and political circumstances.   We’ll see.


Q:  I want to touch on a hot button issue, which is the Regional Maritime Security Initiative.  You were quoted as saying that there was misreporting, it was inaccurate.  So, what is the accurate version, what is the status of the initiative?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I was quoted correctly, that my understanding of the reporting, some reporting on that subject, has been inaccurate.  And some of the reports on Admiral Fargo’s comments were different from what actually came out of Admiral Fargo’s mouth, as I understand.   We’ve got Admiral Doran here, who is an expert on the subject and can provide details.  But my understanding of the situation, is that this is an idea that in its early stages; it is something that is the subject of consultation and discussion with countries in the region; that whatever evolves will be a result of those consultations and discussions; and that the exact shape it might or might not take is yet to be devised and defined because of the fact of those consultations are still taking place.  Any implication it would impinge in any way on the territorial waters of some countries would be inaccurate.  It just wouldn’t.


Q:  And, I assume that you would be bringing this matter up with the Defense Ministers of the ASEAN region?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I’ve no plans to at all.  This is something that is being discussed at the Navy level, among countries in the area, by you and Admiral Fargo.  It’s not something that I’ve been involved in at all.   Nor is it anything that anyone ought to be the slightest bit concerned about.   Now, doesn’t that sound a little different than some of the things you have read?  Yes, I thought so.  How did I do, is that fairly accurate?


Admiral Doran: Yes, that’s very accurate.  Admiral Fargo, as you know, unveiled the concept of the maritime security initiative last year at the Shangri-la Dialogue Conference.  I think some of reporting came out of his March Congressional Testimony, which was obviously on the record in the public domain.  He subsequently gave a follow-on speech at some in British Columbia at a legal conference that was there.  The Secretary is absolutely right.  This is a building upon some long standing relationships between the navies in the region to raise the awareness of the maritime domain around us.  There is no intent, implication, or anything in anybody’s words that should imply or state bases or additional forces in the Straits of Malacca.  I know, Secretary, has characterized it exactly right.  And it is in its infancy.


Q:  I would like to ask a question relating to Australia.  Australia has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Bush Administration’s approach to Iraq.  Australia is going to election before the end of the year.  The Labor Opposition, which has a fighting chance for victory, has been very strongly critical of the war and Australia’s involvement.  The opposition said that they would take Australia out of Iraq by Christmas.  Do you see problems for the ANZEAS Alliance, in the event that this does happen, that there is a change of government, and that the new government takes this kind of approach?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I am not inclined to get into politics in other countries.  I don’t see any…. I am not allowed to get involved in politics in the United States of America, at the President’s request.  The idea that I should inject myself into a political situation in other countries, would seem to me to be not a useful thing to do.  I can say that the Australian-US relationship goes back many decades.  We have been involved, our two countries, in a good many activities in the world, in this region and other parts of the world.  We value that relationship greatly, and certainly the cooperation and assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the global war on terror on the part of Australia as well as a number of other countries in this region has been helpful, and we value that relationship.


Q: Will the loss of Australian personnel in Iraq at this stage…


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think I have answered your question very well.  I don’t care to get into it, and mix into that domestic issue that you’re trying to draw me into. 


Q: Maybe I will be equally unsuccessful.  I don’t to talk about a specific country, but this is part of a wider issue whereby quite a few countries in East Asia, the government has supported the US in Iraq against public opinion.  There is a growing concern, in fact there was a round table security conference in KL earlier this week, it was characterized by a lot of your friends and your allies that democracy deficits where governments are defying their own public opinion to support the US.  Thus the US seems to run into difficulties there.  The problems for these countries in Asia that were supporting you grow.  Is it a worry?  I mean, this is an extension of the Australian situation, but in general, is this a concern that you are imposing?  That the US seems to be causing difficulties to your allies. 


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  First of all, the United States is not imposing anything on anyone; and second, we are not causing difficulties for anyone.  Sovereign nations make decisions for themselves, as they should.  The United States, from the outset, has encouraged countries to participate in what we believe to be a very serious matter: that is the problem of a global struggle where terrorism is the weapon of choice by people that are imposing the state systems that exists, and attempting to terrorize nations into altering their behavior.  It is not something that’s restricted to the United States, or Indonesia, or Singapore, or Saudi Arabia, or any other country, Madrid.  It’s a problem for the world, and the reality is that free people are vulnerable.  They are vulnerable basically because we are free.  The way we like to live our lives makes us vulnerable.  It is a problem that is not unique to the United States, nor can it be dealt with the United States alone.  Every country in the world has to make its own decision as to how it wants to live in this world, and how it wants to deal with that.  We put pressure on no country.  Countries that think they can make a separate peace with terrorists, or appease terrorists, or accommodate to them, or make arrangements with them, I think probably will find they are making a mistake.  We believe we have got to do a lot of things, and bring all of our national power, and cooperate with other countries to try to do what we can to reduce this threat that exists against civilized societies.


Q: How do you assess the terrorist threat in S.E. Asia, in particular at the moment. A lot of people have been arrested over the last couple of years.  It would appear on the surface that significant progress has been made in rounding up people involved in events like the Bali bombing and so forth.  How seriously do you see the continuing threat at the moment and what needs to be done to tackle it?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think the most important thing… first of all, I think it is serious.   I think it’s serious because we know there are still funds going into terrorist networks.  We know that the networks are global, we know that they exist in this part of the world, we see the threat reporting and the planning.  There has been some success in thwarting some terrorist attacks in this part of the world, thanks to the alertness and skill of some of the governments.  I think it’s a serious matter.  The only solution that I see is for countries to work together, and cooperate and share intelligence, and share information, and to do it in a way that recognizes that each year that goes by, the potential for terrorist networks to get their hands on weapons of increasing lethality is greater.  If they can kill 3,000 people from all nations, of all faiths -- men, women and children -- using commercial airliners, they can kill multiples of that using biological weapons.  It seems to me that that should get the attention of people and governments.  There ought to be concerns.  Think of what the SARS fear was in this part of the world, and put yourself….We had an exercise in the United States that was run by Johns Hopkins University, I believe, called “Dark Winter” on small pox, and the effect of small pox in a nation state in a couple of locations in a matter of months killing hundreds of thousands of people.


Now, we know, we believe I should say, that the intelligence one sees about the appetite to get increasingly powerful weapons by terrorists is reasonably persuasive.  We know that the more time that is available to them, the more likelihood they will be successful.  And the more likelihood they are successful, the greater the likelihood that some of the countries in this world of ours will be the target of those kinds of attacks.  I think governments have a responsibility to be attentive to that.  Certainly, a great many of the countries of the world are attentive to that.  That’s why there is an 80 or 90 country coalition in the global war on terror.


Q:            If this country in this region, I won’t mention the name, are they doing enough to fight terrorism?  


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:            I don’t tend to be very judgmental.   I think that what we find over history -- and I’ve lived a long time -- is that if people are behaving differently, they tend to be working off a different set of facts.  To the extent you have a relatively common threat assessment, if you will, a relatively common understanding of what the problem is, people tend to behave in a reasonably similar manner.  So it doesn’t mean that someone is good or bad or wise or unwise, if they behave differently.  It probably means that they have different assessment of the situation, and the task then is to say “now why is that?”  Why in the world does one set of people have an assessment that suggest this, and another set of people have assessment that suggest that, which explains their different behavior.  It is regrettably after the fact that people tend to come to a relatively common understanding.    People who watched Adolph Hitler and his behavior pattern had different assessments as to what that meant.    Some people meant “well, that’s interesting, he’s got an efficient government, the trains run on time.”  And all of his talk in my Mein Kemp about liebenstrom and breathing space is just talk.  Then he gobbles up one country, and people had an assessment that said, “well … not to worry, he is only going to gobble up that one, not this one, and then he gobbles up a few more.  Pretty soon they say don’t worry, he is not going to engage in 2-front war, no one with any sense would attack France and Russia, and pretty soon he got most of Europe.  The people who thought otherwise were wrong, and they had a different assessment. 


Life is like that.  There were people who thought he could be appeased; there were people who thought they could accommodate, and there were people who thought they could make a separate deal, and it turned out they couldn’t.  It was just like feeding crocodile, hoping that it would eat you last. 


I remember talking to a Middle Eastern leader, right after September 11, the Sultan of Oman, Kabus (ph).  He said that to me, in effect.  He said that maybe September 11th is a blessing in disguise.  Those weren’t his words, but something like that.  Maybe that will be what will wake up the world, before terrorists get their hands on massive destruction, before they get biological weapons and kill not 3,000 but 30 or 300,000.  He said you can’t do it; you can’t win this.  We have to win it, because there is a group of people in our religion that are trying to hijack that religion.   What we need are leaders in that religion to step forward.  Moderate people who don’t have this view of the world; that they have to oppose civilized states.  He talked about leadership in the church, and in his faith, and the leadership and the educational institutions in the Middle East, and the importance of their stepping forward.   I guess time will tell whether September 11, or Madrid or Bali or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or whatever that is going to happen in the next month, or the month after, will be sufficient for the world to come to a relatively common threat assessment and behave in a relatively common way.  In a manner that is sufficiently successful that we can in fact win the struggle.  


Q:            The US security posture in Malaysia is evolving.  Will it? … and by the way how is the Pentagon, how all this is going to, will it involve more multilateralism and less unilateralism?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:            You know there is very few things you can do unilaterally in this world.  Take the problem of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.  There isn’t any way in the world one or three or five or ten countries can deal with that.   Which is why the United States put forward the counter-proliferation initiative, and we now have some 30 or 40 countries signed up to participate in that. It is important …. It’s an important initiative.  It is why the President struck out immediately after September 11 and put together a 80 or 90 nation coalition on the global war against terrorism.  It’s why we have 26 countries helping in Afghanistan and 34 countries helping … that is a funny kind of unilateralism, I would say.  There are a lot of people who are trying to make political hay by calling unilateralism as though it’s what’s happening.  But in fact, it is not what is happening.  Almost everything the United States does, we do it with other countries, and properly we should.  In answer to your question about this part of the world, certainly you have to work with other nations, and we want to, and we have very good friends here.  We benefit from it, as do they.  To the extent people want to engage in cooperative activities with us, we’re all for it.  But we don’t run around imposing our wills on others. 


Q:            Part of that US security posturing in Asia and including the forward deployment of troops, the US has announced some troops are going from Korea to Iraq … some speculations that they would not return and that is part of reductions that are subject to on-going negotiations. Can you say anything about that?  


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:            Well not much.  We tend to be respectful of other countries, and talk to them first about things.  I can talk generically about the world.  We spent the last three years looking at how we are arranged in the world.  We think we have some ideas about  -- or let me put it this way -- some principles or concepts that we think make sense.  First of all, we would like our forces and our troops to be in places that they are wanted, that are hospitable to them.   We care about our forces, and the people and we recruit and we retain them.  We want them to be in places where people want them.  We don’t want to be in environments where they are not wanted.   


Second, we need to have them in places where they are usable.  We can’t afford to have one defense establishment in one country to defend that country, and a defense establishment in another country to defend that country. We need to have the capability that we can use, depending on the interests of the United States, our friends, and our allies, and our alliances.   So, where there is a restricted environment it is a less hospitable situation for us.


Third, we want to be left in a static defense posture, as we seem to be at the end of the Cold War. If you know precisely where threats are coming from, as we believed we did with the Soviet Union, you would arrange yourselves to defend or deter that threat.  Today, one looks around the world and it is quite difficult to know precisely where threats can come from. You can tell the kind of a threat it might be, and the kind of capability that might be used against you, but it is not readily apparent.  For example, three years ago, four years ago that we would have to deal with something like that problem of Afghanistan; that just wasn’t clear, and yet we did.  So what we need to do is have a degree of agility and deployability; modularity so that we can mix and match, and fashion forces to suit the circumstance.   What we have done is we then looked at the world and come to the conclusion about how we …. the other thing I’d say is transportation and communication is such today that …and reach-back capabilities are such, that when we deploy, we don’t have to take everyone with us.  We can leave the personnel people, the Intel people and some other back office type things back in the United States, and have fewer people deployed.  Which is a good thing.


Now, we think we have a got a view of how that might look, and yet we feel that we are flexible, to put it bluntly, and we can do it in any number of different ways.  We have options, and so what we want to do is to start talking to countries and say, “here is a thought, what you think about that?”   To the extent people think that’s a good idea, we probably would go ahead and do it with them.  To the extent they have a different view, we probably would do it with somebody else that way, because we do have options.  We are not in a position where we need to do things  a certain way.  It’s a big enough world, and we can be arranged in lots of different ways.  So my guess is that there won’t be any big announcement, to put it bluntly. 


What will happen is, we are now at that stage where we have talked to the Congress, we’ve sorted through the inter-agency process, we don’t have any big announcements to make.   We’re now working for the second time with countries, and we will begin that process of seeing where our best choices are, by talking to them and working it out.  As each piece is decided, then we would make that announcement.   But there won’t be any big grand rearrangement or grand announcement, other than following the concepts or principles that I outlined.  


Q:            Could the net result of this be a substantial reduction in the number of personnel deployed also?


SECRETARY RUMSFELD:            I think one of the things, the hardest thing that is going to happen is for people to stop thinking in 20th century thinking and look in 21st century thinking.  If we have five airplanes, some place, and we replace them with three airplanes that have twice the capability, twice the lethality, twice the range …. we have reduced from five to three,  but we have not reduced our deterrent capability, we have not reduced our offensive capability, in fact we have increased it substantially.  If you take bombs, and you’ve got ten bombs, and you replace it with two smart bombs that do the work of 20 dumb bombs, you double your capability by reducing from ten to two. The same thing is true with ships and tanks and people.  I can tell you this: the capability of the United States is going up, we are making investments that we think are appropriate.  Our budget is something in excess of $400 billion a year.  For a nation that wishes nobody else harm, and is interested in contributing to a more stable and peaceful world, that’s a sizable investment. It will result in increased capability on our part, regardless of numbers of things:  people, ships, tanks, planes, you name it.


In some cases those numbers will go up, in other cases the number will go down, but in every case the capability of the United States, and most certainly in this region, will be greater regardless of the 20th century fixation on numbers of things. 


Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

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