Radio Interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on KOGO Radio San Diego with Mark Larson
MR. LARSON: And we're live at the White House. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joins us now, the embattled secretary of Defense.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
MR. LARSON: You know, the amazing thing is the sunny optimism here at the White House. And you know, I haven't been, you know, back in "indoctrination-mind control" here. I mentioned this off the air: When I talked to Karl Rove, when you see all the people who are supposedly, if you believe all the media and all the papers, that somehow you're huddled in a deep, dark room somewhere cowering in fear over the Democrat takeover. You're smiling. You don't look like a guy who's got the pressure of the world -- and you do -- on your shoulders. How do you do that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I'll tell you: We're pleased with the wonderful service of the men and women in uniform. From your part of the world, you know a lot about that. They're doing a superb job, and I feel fortunate to be able to work with them and to see their professionalism and their dedication as well as their families.
Second, we believe in what we're doing. And what we're doing is the right thing, and we're going to be successful in it over time. I think my life time, I've seen people want to toss in the towel in World War II when we were losing in battle after battle. I've seen people wanting to toss in the towel in the Cold War and say, "Oh, Eurocommunism's not that bad."
MR. LARSON: It makes you wonder if CNN, for example, had been in the mix back on D-Day or other points in history or at Iwo Jima, you know, when people would say, "All right, what else is on, aren't we done with this yet?" I mean, what's at stake in the war on terror right now? I mean, when you look at the big picture, this is something that's not going to be done tomorrow morning.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's right. You -- it's the first war in our history that's been conducted in the 21st century with the new media reality of bloggers and 24-hour talk radio and news and video cams and digital cameras and all of these e-mails and wire transfers. And the terrorists are able to manipulate the media. They get up. They have media committees. They decide how they're going to do it. They plan their attacks for the maximum effect.
MR. LARSON: You've talked about that. You say that they often have better PR cycles than we do in terms of how they manage it.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, much better, much better. They know what they're doing and they understand that the center of gravity of that war is not in Iraq or Afghanistan. They can't win a battle over there, and they haven't. All they can do is to understand that the real center of gravity of the war is in Washington, D.C., it's in the United States of America, it's with the American people, and they plan their attacks to get maximum impact to dishearten and dispirit the American people.
MR. LARSON: Why is it so hard for the other side to recognize? Because I know when I was over there with General Abizaid last fall and then back in Afghanistan this March, right around the time of pivotal elections -- and I saw the briefings, I saw the charts, sat down with General Abizaid, talked about it. Seemed that the ramp-up before anything that's going to happen that is in the good column, the bad guys step up the intensity. That's like clockwork. Why is it so difficult for people -- I know it's political silly season; that's part of it -- but is this is deep-seated they just don't get it, or don't want to get it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the president asked me to stay out of politics, so I'll stay out --
MR. LARSON: That's why I thought I'd ask you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs).
MR. LARSON: You've been in politics for years, one way or another, but in the current incarnation of Donald Rumsfeld -- you know, what's your take on that? Is this a concept that's hard to -- do they assume that if we -- it's like when people step up -- Murtha, for example -- and I'll set this aside in the political side. If you get up and say we can't do what we need to do in North Korea or other hotspots because we're, quote, "stretched too thin," that implies that every man and woman in uniform we have is right in Iraq or Afghanistan right now. And we all know that's not true, but it's as if they don't totally believe that or don't want to.
SEC. RUMSFELD: We've got 2 million people either in the active force, the Guard or the Reserve, the Individual Ready Reserve, and we've got 148,000 in Iraq. Chairman of the chiefs and the chiefs go into the tank every six months and they review our circumstance, and we are capable of doing what we need to do to defend this country, and it's just not correct to suggest to the contrary.
MR. LARSON: What about the other threats? You look at North Korea. You look -- you know, even though we have a great trading partner in China, there's a lot of issues there, and they're watching what you're doing -- very important to us out in the California coast with the Navy. And shifting to the Pacific Rim, I had lunch with Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough today, and Gertz was talking about how he thought the way you've encouraged that positioning for the Pacific has really been very, very effective. He was very positive about that. He was nice.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) We've been working it hard. We've been shifting our weight and moving troops out of Western Europe, where they were in a defensive mode waiting for a tank attack from the Soviet Union that doesn't exist anymore. And we've shifted our weight and emphasis towards the Pacific. I see North Korea as a danger in the sense that they are one of the leading proliferators of technology, missile technology, on the face of the earth. And they detonated a nuclear device recently. And I think reasonable people have to assume that they'll sell almost anything. Therefore, if they sold nuclear technologies, nuclear devices to another country, that would be a serious thing. It would also be serious if they sold it to a non-state entity -- a terrorist organization, for example. Terrorist organizations are not deterred by the normal deterrents. They don't have a population to defend or an industrial base or a leadership class.
MR. LARSON: So how do we clamp down on that? Because we know -- if you look what went on in the '90s, and certainly you know this as well or better than anybody -- I mean, they agree to this or that and then do whatever the heck they want to do behind the scenes anyway. So how do we -- how do we clamp down -- and how does the world clamp down -- to make sure they don't go to some arms bazaar and sell to the latest al Qaeda wannabes?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, if one thinks about it, the international community -- the world -- free nations of the world -- know that it will be a vastly more dangerous world if the nuclear threshold is lowered, and it will be lowered to the extent there are now two countries -- Iran and North Korea -- that are seeking nuclear weapons. North Korea says they have them already. Other countries may look at that and decide that they need nuclear weapons. So then you have more nuclear powers in the world, and that's a danger, and you have a pattern of proliferating these technologies.
It seems to me that the international community has to recognize that only if they are completely cohesive will it be possible to put sufficient leverage on those countries so that they are dissuaded from going forward with their nuclear programs. Think of it. Libya has done that, which is impressive.
MR. LARSON: They got the message. Although we still, as Reagan said, want to "trust, but verify," don't we, with Qadhafi?
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) Exactly. Always. Always trust by verify.
But I think that Libya made a good decision, and it's conceivable at some point one of the other countries might. But they're not going to do it unless the international community recognizes the danger it faces, the danger of lowering the nuclear threshold, the risk of having these technologies fall into the hands of non-state entities that wouldn't be deterred by the normal deterrents, nuclear deterrents.
MR. LARSON: The "stay the course" terminology and the change, everybody's talking about that here in Washington.
We're live on News Radio 600 KOGO with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, if you're just tuning in.
You know, this has been the pressure. And again, it's somewhat of a political question, but it's also an understanding the American people question. I know what stay the course means, people who are in the military and those I've seen out in the forward locations understand it, little kids understand it when they write to the troops. Time to change now, you know how it's going to get played up two weeks before the election that this is all political and it's just -- it's a new slogan.
Was that your suggestion to change that --
SEC. RUMSFELD: No.
MR. LARSON: -- to get out of that terminology? Or where did it come from?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, no. My understanding, from what the president said about it very recently, was that the -- he was concerned that the implication of that was that we weren't making adjustments, and of course our battlefield commanders make adjustments every day, every week, every month, and they have. Why? Because the enemy has a brain. The enemy's constantly adjusting, and our people have to constantly adjust.
What hasn't changed is the goal, the strategy, and that is to see that we do not face the dire consequences of allowing Iraq, with that oil and that water, to fall in the hands of terrorists and serve as a terrorist training base to send more people to kill the American people.
The president's determined to protect the American people. The safety of the American people is what he thinks about every day of the week.
MR. LARSON: You're a take-charge guy. You've obviously had a huge career, terrific career throughout politics and now secretary of Defense. But you know, the rap against you sometimes is that, you know, Rumsfeld likes to micromanage too much.
And if you believe Woodward's book -- and I don't, most of it, except, you know, the hello page --
SEC. RUMSFELD: You better get a life if you're reading that stuff!
MR. LARSON: I read it just to find out what the other side is up to. You know, Cal Thomas said read the The New York Times and the Bible every day so you know what both sides are doing.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
MR. LARSON: See, I want to know what the other side is doing. (Chuckles.)
But you know, I mean, do you feel like you -- because you have some people who say you want to -- you know, you have such attention to detail there may be too much micromanagement. Do you ever have any regrets?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I don't. I don't have any -- I don't micromanage anyway. It's just nonsense. The only people who say something like that are people that don't work with me.
MR. LARSON: So no intent on packing it in? You know, Bill Kristol says after the election he thinks that you're going to go bye bye.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That fellow said the same damn thing in April of 2001. He has been on that shtick, and people keep repeating it and repeating it. I don't know why they listen to him, he's been wrong so many times. There ought to be some accountability.
MR. LARSON: Well, maybe it's like a stopped clock; it's right twice a day.
SEC. RUMSFELD: There ought to be some accountability.
MR. LARSON: So you saw it -- yeah, you look like a guy who ain't going anywhere. You're just going to keep doing --
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
MR. LARSON: You love doing this, don't you? And as long as, Lord willing, you stay healthy, you're going to stay in it, aren't you?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, listen, I feel very fortunate to be able to work with those folks and to serve our country at a time of such danger and such importance.
MR. LARSON: And just very quickly as we wrap up here, a lot of military, as you know, in San Diego. A lot of them listen to our show and listen to us on KOGO. What would you say to those families back at home who have loved ones on deployment and, you know, the Marines out of Camp Pendleton. What kind of encouragement can you give them?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I lived in Coronado in 1943, (194)4 and (194)5 when my father was out in an aircraft carrier in the Pacific in World War II. And we are so fortunate as a country to have those men and women who volunteer; raise their hand and say send me, join the Navy and the Marines and the Air Force and the Army; and then go out and put their lives at risk to protect the American people. And their families' sacrifice as well. And we are in their debt, and I am grateful to them.
MR. LARSON: Well, we're grateful to you coming by here today. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, thank you. Good to meet you in person.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
MR. LARSON: Appreciate it.