Secretary Cohen: Arthur, thank you very much, and Noel, and Hank, Karin. Let me say it's a pleasure for me to be here.
I also want to pay a special tribute to my wife Janet, a star of Public Eye produced by, I guess hosted by, Bryant Gumbel; but, it was your show the other evening. (Applause)
I think we always need balance in the news media, and Dan, you didn't happen to be here when they sort of preempted my talk tonight by showing a little film clip from NBC. My friend Dan Rather is with us tonight to give some balance from CBS. (Applause)
I have a boyhood friend from Bangor, Maine, Allen Shiro and his son Michael, all the way from Bangor, now living in New York City. I said Allen, but it's David Shiro -- his brother is Allen. (Applause)
And finally, another very important young man in my life, my son Kevin, a summa cum laude graduate of Bodin College, 1985 -- now a Vice President with Turner Broadcasting International who is here this evening to listen to one of my talks. (Applause)
I do have a prepared speech this evening. I looked at it. It was 27 pages long. (Laughter) I decided after looking at the crowd and looking at the time, that it would be an infliction of cruel and unusual punishment and violation of the 8th Amendment, and we will not indulge in that this evening.
Rather than having each of you say you're looking forward to my speech and having me say I am, too, and giving you a speech. I thought perhaps instead of talking to you, I'd just talk with you and give a brief summary of some of the things that I've been doing in the field of foreign policy.
One of my favorite stories, of course, is that of Henry Ford. Some of you have heard me tell this story before. Ford was very wealthy, as you know. His wealth had preceded him when he wanted to go back to his fatherland in County Cork, Ireland. When he finally got off the plane there were local town officials who were waiting to seek a contribution from him for the construction of a local hospital. So when he hit the tarmac, they said, Mr. Ford, could you please contribute to the local hospital? He took out a checkbook and made a check out for $5,000.
The next day in bold print the Time Magazine equivalent I would say, in bold print it said, "Ford contributes $50,000 for the construction of a local hospital." The town officials came rushing back to him and said, "Oh, Mr. Ford, we're terribly sorry. It was not our fault, it must have been a typographical error. We'll be happy to see to it a retraction is printed in tomorrow's paper." (Laughter)
Ford said, "Wait a minute. I think I've got a better idea." That's really where the phrase came from. He said, "If you give me one promise, I'll give you the check in the balance of $45,000." They said, "Anything you want."
He said, "I want when the hospital is finally completed to have a plaque over the entranceway with a quote taken from a source of my choice." They said, "It's done."
So he gave them the check, the hospital was built, it is there today. Over the entranceway is a plaque with a quote taken from the book of Matthew. It says, "I came unto you as a stranger, and you took me in." (Laughter)
I come unto you a little bit as a stranger. I hope you'll take me in tonight, but not quite in that fashion.
Because my son is here tonight, I will tell you a story about his experience at Bodin College. When Kevin was a senior, there was a professor of religion who was the most popular professor at Bodin College. The religion had something to do with it, but the most important thing was he always asked the same question each year on the final exam. Of course the students loved him. They would wait until the night before the exam, they would gear up all night and really cram and they'd go in and ace the exam because the question always was, "Discuss the wanderings of St. Paul."
Except in Kevin's senior year they all walked into the classroom. Within about 30 seconds they looked down at the exam. Hands started to tremble, butterflies in the stomach, some of them felt nauseous. But within about three minutes everyone had emptied the room except for one student. The question was, not discuss the wanderings of St. Paul, it was discuss the meaning of Christ's sermon on the mount. That one student sat there and wrote and wrote and wrote for the full three hours. Finally, to the astonishment of that professor of religion, he closed up his blue books, he passed them in, and he walked out of the room with what might be called, what Mark Twain might call, the calm confidence of a Christian holding four aces. (Laughter)
The professor looked down at the exam and it said, "To the experts I leave the meaning of Christ's sermon on the mount. As for me, I should like to discuss the wanderings of St. Paul." (Laughter)
So I say that tonight I'm going to wander a little bit tonight, not quite in that fashion, but let me talk a little bit about foreign policy.
You've already had a wonderful introduction from Noel; you've had NBC present its tribute to the Foreign Policy Association. But foreign policy, contrary to the statements this evening, is not something that accelerates the heartbeat of many American people.
If you believe in the polls, and no one is suggesting that you do, but I think a poll was taken by the New York Times in which it said that three percent of the American people think that foreign policy is of any interest to them. That, of course, would change if it affects their pocketbook interest, but three percent is not exactly a very strong majority as far as the American public is concerned, yet nothing could be more important to their interests.
I was thinking as Bryan was talking today on television, about Toeffler. We go back to 1970, '71 when Toeffler first came out with his book on Future Shock. He said we're living in a time of future shock in which time is speeded up by events. And everything becomes accelerated. Everything becomes compressed. We find our values and customs being shaken in the hurricane winds of change.
What was said tonight in that little clip was something that resonated with me, the idea of how technology is shrinking the globe. Technology is actually miniaturizing the globe. I like to say that the globe is not much bigger than that ball that is spinning on the finger of science. If you think about it, the vast oceans have been reduced to mere ponds. Those countries are now almost as close as neighboring counties today. And it only takes a nanosecond for someone's voice or image to be transported to another country, so nothing is done in isolation today.
So it becomes all the more important that we have a very good understanding of exactly what our role is in the world. I was thinking of a Secretary of State, John Hay, back at the beginning of the century. He said that the Mediterranean is the ocean of the past; the Atlantic is the ocean of the present; and the Pacific is the ocean of the future. I think most people, at least who are sitting at this table, Hank Greenburg in particular, would tell you that that is precisely the case. And notwithstanding the kind of economic difficulties that are now being experienced by those in Southeast Asia and perhaps even beyond Southeast Asia. Notwithstanding that, there is an enormous amount of responsibility that we have in that region. We have an enormous interest in that region. And for us to simply remain indifferent to it is not acceptable.
There is, of course, a very close link between economics and security. It's something that I have tried to speak to for most of my career in the Senate, tried to persuade my former colleagues to become engaged in global affairs, particularly focusing upon the Pacific. What happens in Indonesia can overwhelm virtually all of the countries in that region, and the consequences can even lap up on our shores. Just last week you probably saw a headline that says: Asian woes result in a drop in American exports.
As we see the economies of Asia start to decline, we can expect to see a lack of export activity on the part of the United States going to that region. That's one consequence. Number two, you're going to see a flood tide of goods with very low cost goods coming into this country. That's going to produce what? That's going to produce shades of Smoot Hawley. You're going to see if the American political activities in this country respond to that by saying wait a minute, we're not going to be the dumping ground for all of those countries who are now struggling. And they're going to start talking about putting up some barriers, and that will set off a kind of trade war that could send this globe into an economic recession.
So everything is important, and we need to focus on that with a great deal of intensity.
I am fond of referring back to Admiral Stockdale. You'll recall James Stockdale, the time when he was asked to be a Vice President for Ross Perot. Here was a true war hero. Certainly out of his element in being in politics, but I remember when he took the stage and he asked two very important existential questions. He said, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" It produced a lot of laughter and derision and people said exactly who is this guy and why is he there? But it really is an important question for us to ask as a nation. Who are we? Why are we here or there or anywhere as a country?
We are frequently described as the world's only super power, and we take some relish in that description, but what does it mean? And more importantly, what are our obligations as being the world's only super power?
In short, it requires us to have some kind of a strategic vision.
That brings me to my favorite subject called the Defense Department. We have a strategic vision for the Defense Department. We filed something last year called the Quadrennial Defense Review. In shorthand, it's QDR. What I had to do in a very short period of time was develop a strategy for the future. How is our military to function in the future? We have been downsizing rather dramatically since the height of the Cold War. When people ask about where's the peace dividend, saying well, we got quite a peace dividend. We have cut down the size of our force structure about 40 percent. We've had procurement at levels as much as 60 percent reduction. We have reduced the size and the force structure and end strength dramatically since the height of the Cold War.
And so, we now have the same obligations, however. Our strategy has to be one of what we call in three words: shaping, responding and preparing. Those are the three words involved in our strategy for the future. Those three words are important for us today. They'll also be relevant for us in the year 2010, 2025.
We want to shape the environment. How do we do that? We have to be forward deployed.
One of the first things I did in discussing the QDR, I said everything's on the table for discussion in terms of how we're going to modify and modernize our military. Then immediately I'm flying to Japan. I said: except we're going to keep 100,000 people in the Asia Pacific region, so that's off the table; and we're going to keep 100,000 people in Europe because that's off the table.
We have to be forward deployed in Europe and in Asia in order to shape people's opinions about us in ways that are favorable to us. To shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security. And we can do that when people see us, they see our power, they see our professionalism, they see our patriotism, and they say that's a country that we want to be with. So we are shaping events on a daily basis in ways that are favorable to our interests. You can only do that if you're forward deployed.
There's that wonderful little novelette that I read years ago, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. You may recall, that's a story about a seagull that keeps trying to go faster and faster and he comes from the heights and he speeds down to earth and gets completely out of control until a mythical seagull shows up and that mythical seagull says, Jonathan, you really don't understand. Perfect speed is not a matter of going faster and faster. Perfect speed is being there.
Of course this mythical seagull was talking in transcendental terms, but I've always used that notion of being there as a metaphor for our forces. There is no substitute for being there. Perfect speed is our being forward deployed in Asia Pacific. We can't get there fast enough from here to there unless we're already there. The same is true in Europe and elsewhere. So forward deployed, shaping people's opinions -- not only our friends' about our reliability and our resources, but also shaping people's opinions who are our adversaries, that they really don't want to challenge us in any given situation.
So shaping is going to be part of our strategy for now and well into the indefinite future.
How about responding? We have to be able to have a military that can respond to the multiplicity of types of contingencies that we are likely to confront. All the way from what we call NEO operations -- noncombatant evacuation operations. You've got a failed state. You've got Albania, you've got Rwanda. You've got a state which suddenly collapses, you've got American citizens over there, and you've got to rescue them. So you have to have that kind of flexibility you can send your forces in and get them out. That's a small operation. It can be a dangerous one, but it's a small operation.
Humanitarian missions would be another operation that we have to conduct from time to time. Then we go up to the very small types of contingencies and peacekeeping operations such as Bosnia. We're doing a fantastic job in Bosnia, notwithstanding some of the criticism. The fact is that we have been responsible for savings tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives in that area by being present with our NATO allies. So you have those kind of peacekeeping operations.
Then, of course, you come up to the major regional type of conflicts, potential conflicts, called Korea, or Southwest Asia, mainly the Persian Gulf. You have to have all of that flexibility so you can do one all the way up to defending the United States from any kind of an ICBM attack with a nuclear warhead or a chemical warhead. So those are the kinds of response we have to have. We have to be able to respond to all of that. And that is true for now, it's true again for the year 2010, 2025. We'll have to have that capability.
Then of course comes the next element and that is preparing. We have to prepare for the future. How do we do that? How do we do that living in an environment, a constrained budget environment? A balanced budget is something that we as Republicans have felt very passionately about over the years. Let's get our fiscal house in order. But now that we're living in a balanced budget environment, there is not going to be a great deal of additional money devoted to national security than we currently have. We're now living with a budget roughly of $250 billion. Compare that to the height of the Cold War. We'd be up around $400-$450 billion. We're down to about $250 now.
Again, you measure that $250 and you say, what are our obligations? We still have the same obligations we had then. We have to deter aggression against the United States. We have to promote stability throughout the Asia Pacific region. We have to also be on guard in South Korea to protect against a North Korean type of attack where we have 37,000 American people.
So you've got the same obligations, and in fact you have different types of obligations, from peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. How do you do that?
We have to manage effectively. It means we have to reduce excess overhead. It's something that I announced this morning. Some of you have been asking me about in terms of you're really going to recommend some more base closures, and the answer is, yes. We need at least two more rounds of these base realignment and closure processes called BRAC. The reason we need that is because we have reduced our force structure some 36 percent. We've reduced the infrastructure by only 20 or 21 percent. So we're carrying a lot of excess overhead. That means that we are spending money and wasting your money on facilities we no longer need, but it's very hard to persuade the American Congress -- a place where I spent a good deal of my life -- in persuading them that they must take this step.
To give you an example of the savings involved, between 1990 when we first started the process and the year 2002, we will have saved $25 billion. That's real money that we can invest in modernization and training and exercising and being ready.
From the year 2002 on we will save, on an annual basis, an additional $5.6 billion. If we have two more base closure rounds, we will save between the years 2008 and 2015 another $21 billion. Then an additional $3 billion on an annual basis -- almost around $9 billion annually we'll save, having saved in the timeframe almost $45 billion.
That money goes into buying aircraft and aircraft carriers, or other types of equipment for our Army and Marines. Without those kinds of savings then we can't invest in the future so we can't prepare for the future.
Why do I bother you or anyone else to talk about the year 2015? It's only 1998. The short answer is, I have to start planning right now to invest in systems that will not come on line until the year 2008, 2010, 2015. That's how long it takes in order to develop these systems and finally procure them and produce them at a rate that is affordable to you and to all taxpayers. So we need to have those savings. Unfortunately, the political process is such that there is strong resistance to it, and there's a reason for that. Because many communities are totally, not totally, but fundamentally, dependent upon that influx of revenue that comes from having a major facility in their district. So most communities talk about BRAC saying, wait a minute, you're going to take it away; our economy will collapse.
What I have to do is persuade the Congress, and it's going to be a very tough job to do, but say: there's a lot of success stories you have to look to; there is life after BRAC; there is an opportunity to turn these jobs you have by virtue of the military into private entrepreneurial types of jobs which are even better paying and more beneficial to the community.
I did that today by introducing the Mayor of Alexandria, Louisiana. He got up and made a presentation and said, we were terrified about the loss of our base. Now we have far more jobs that have been created. We have a much more robust economy. He wants to take that message to the Congress as well. But that's what I have to do is to show more and more people what needs to be done.
Let me not dwell too long on BRAC. It's not something that excites most of the American people, yet it's very important as far as the Defense Department is concerned.
Let me talk just quickly, and I will try to be very quick because you would like to ask some questions and I'd like to have a chance to respond to them. But let me talk quickly about NATO...
Perhaps I'll skip NATO and just go directly to Iraq because some of you have been asking me how's it going? What's it look like? Is Saddam Hussein complying with his agreement? The answer is yes and no -- a good political answer. I haven't given up my senatorial credentials as yet. (Laughter) But the answer is yes and no.
As a result of the military power that we demonstrated in the Gulf, Kofi Annan would be the first to stand up at this podium and tell you he was able to go to meet with Saddam Hussein and come up with this memorandum of agreement. Without the U.S. power, without our friends the Brits, I might say, and let me point out, it was not just the United States and Great Britain. There were 25 countries involved in committing their forces in one fashion or another to that area if a conflict were to result. So we overlook the fact that we have 25 nations with us -- 13 out or 16 NATO countries. If you take the three who are seeking accession into NATO, it would have been 16 out of 19 of the NATO countries also contributing to that effort in the Gulf. But without that display of power and without the display of the intention to use it, Kofi Annan or anyone else could not have been successful in coming up with any kind of agreement.
There's an old adage, as you know -- what you cannot win on the battlefield, you can't really succeed in achieving at the bargaining table. You must be prepared to go to battle in order to allow our diplomats to achieve a diplomatic solution.
In any event, having said that, has he complied? The answer is right now that he is imposing no barriers to the inspectors who are going from room to room and from palace to palace. But we should not be deceived by the fact that they're not finding anything. I want you to think about this in concrete terms. It is virtually impossible to take a table the size of this head table here, 20 people or 30 people, turn them loose in a country the size of the State of Wyoming -- 170,000 square miles -- looking for chemically or biologically tipped needles in haystacks that are spread over that country.
To say we walked into a room, we haven't found anything, they must be complying. If that is the test, we lose. That should not be the test and it cannot be the test. That is only part of the effort that is underway.
The other part is, Saddam Hussein is under an affirmative obligation to prove that he has destroyed what he claims he had in his inventory, so keep this also in mind. The Iraqi government, the officials, had lied consistently about their having chemical and biological weapons.
Initially after the Persian Gulf War, they said we don't have any biological weapons. Then, of course, we found out that they had some 2100 gallons of anthrax. They said we don't have any chemical weapons and we found they had four tons of VX. A single drop of VX on your finger and you will die within a matter of minutes. A single spore of anthrax and you will die within a matter of four or five days. So when you're talking about 2,000 or 3,000 gallons of anthrax and four tons of VX...
They're also developing something called ricin which you take out of castor beans. Castor beans can be used to produce something we all loved as a child, in our childhood days, and that's castor oil. It can also produce ricin which is a deadly poison for which there is no antidote. Guess what? They were growing hundreds of acres of castor beans. But all of this they claim they destroyed.
There's only one problem -- they can't produce any evidence that showed when, how, where, under what circumstances it has been destroyed. That has been the problem as far as the UNSCOM inspectors are concerned. They have asked the Iraqi authorities, show us. Where did you destroy it? Where are the records? You keep records on everything in terms of how many ball point pens you manufactured during the 1980s. Where are the records in terms of the VX and the anthrax and the castor beans and ricin? They have been unable to produce such records.
In fact about a month ago, prior to the resolution of this memorandum of agreement, Tariq Aziz had requested a new team, an evaluation team, to come in and make an assessment. It was headed by a Russian at the request of Tariq Aziz. That team went into Iraq, and they came back and said, filed a report saying, the Iraqis have failed to comply with the UN resolutions. They are still stalling. They are still hiding. They are not producing evidence of what they have destroyed.
So what we have to do, and to do it now, is to make it very clear to Saddam Hussein, it's not enough to open up your palace doors. Whether you have 8 or whether you have 80 -- they have about 80 of those palatial estates, some of which occupy hundreds of acres, thousands of acres of land. It's not enough to open up your doors. It's not enough to enter the empty rooms. It's not enough to look at your computers and find the delete button has been pushed. What you have to do is to supply information to the UNSCOM inspectors that says now we're satisfied. You claim you destroyed 50 SCUD missiles that are armed with anthrax. We can only find evidence of 30 having been destroyed. Where are the other 20? You claim you've destroyed 130,000 pounds of precursor chemicals. Where is the evidence that you destroyed it and where did you destroy it?
So they've got all of these questions to answer, and we have to lay that marker down now. If we don't, what's going to happen, I can assure you, is that we'll have more of these inspections; they will turn up little, if anything. Then there will be pressure on the United States to relieve the Iraqi people of any sanctions, and that is his goal -- get rid of the inspectors, get rid of the sanctions, and he can go back to doing business again.
If we, at the last moment, come in and say, by the way you haven't given us evidence of the destruction of those weapons, it will look as if we're moving the goal posts once again at the last moment. No one will be there to support us.
So this is something that we have to focus on now, and not allow that to slip. Until that's done, we cannot claim there has been any successful resolution of this crisis.
Let me -- as Lady Godiva said, "I'm near to my clothes." Let me try and approach my close. (Laughter)
When it comes to government efficiency, there is a quote I remember reading from Walter Lipman. He wrote this back in 1938 in one of his essays. He told the story about a Russian guard who was standing as a sentry by a completely bare spot on the ground. The superior came out, he looked at the young sentry and he said, "Why are you standing there?" "Well, because the captain of the guard told me I should stand here." He said, "Take me to the captain." He went to the captain. "Why is he standing there?" "The regulations require it." He searched and asked everyone, why is this man standing over this spot? No one could tell him the answer.
He finally went to the archives and he found out that 100 years earlier Catherine the Great had planted a rose bush in that spot and she mandated that a sentry stand there so her rose bush would not be trampled. A hundred years later, he's still standing there. There's no rose bush; there's no Catherine the Great, but we still had a soldier standing guard.
The same thing is true in terms of how we run our business. I won't take the time this evening unless you really press me in the question and answer period to start talking about something I feel passionately about, and that is the Defense Reform Initiative, to tell you what we're doing in the Defense Department to reform the way in which we're doing business -- to save you money, to make us more efficient, to replicate what corporate America has been doing for the last 10 or 20 years to make itself the most efficient businesses in the world.
Let me conclude with a quote taken from one of my favorite authors, Mr. Cooke from public broadcasting. You may recall that he wrote a book called America back in 1976. It was during our bicentennial celebration. In the book there was one chapter comparing us, inevitably, to Rome.
He said that we, like Rome, were in danger of losing that which we profess to cherish most. That liberty is the luxury of self discipline. Liberty is the luxury of self discipline. And that those nations who have failed to impose discipline upon themselves have had it imposed by others historically. Then he made a very, I think, astute observation as only Alistair Cooke could. He said, "America is a country in which I see the most persistent idealism and the blandest of cynicism." The most persistent idealism, the blandest of cynicism. "And the race is on between its vitality and its decadence." He said, "We have a great country, and we can keep it, but only if we care to keep it."
That really is the message that was true not only in Benjamin Franklin's days, and that was a paraphrase of Franklin's comments, it's true for us today. We have the most extraordinary country. You saw an example of the talent that was here as far as our young musicians are concerned. But we have an extraordinary country and we can keep it, but only if we really care to keep it. That requires us to dedicate ourselves to understanding that we're living in a global village with a global environment and a global economy, and that we can't afford to have three percent of the American people say foreign policy is of little interest to us.
So my message here is a very simple one. I think that our strategy of shaping, responding, preparing -- that's our military strategy. It's a great strategy in terms of our foreign policy as well. We need to have our diplomats forward deployed. We have a fine diplomatic service. They are doing extraordinary work. In combination with diplomats and our worries, we can continue to shape events that are favorable to our interests -- but only if we care to.
Thank you very much.
A: There has been no shift in policy as far as mergers in the defense business is concerned. This is a policy that has been encouraged by virtue of the circumstances in which we found that we were downsizing, we had too much excess capacity. We encouraged companies across the board to merge and to consolidate. It was a categorical imperative for those companies, and something that we encouraged.
But as you see greater and greater mergers taking place with fewer and fewer companies, there comes a point in time where there has to be more intense scrutiny. Do these mergers now present a problem where you've got horizontal integration as far as the companies are concerned, and also vertical integration? Do you have a situation where one company might, in fact, control the market not only in the airframes, if we're talking about Lockheed-Martin, but also in the electronics and the radar and the other such systems that are part of any aircraft or any type of weaponry system.
So the Justice Department looked with a little greater intensity upon the concentration of that power and decided that there was too much concentration, that there was too much in terms of horizontal integration. But equally importantly, vertical integration in that case.
So the request was made for a divestiture. Lockheed-Martin decided that the price was too high in terms of a $4 billion divestiture, and said no, we're going to go forward, and the case is now in court.
Beyond that, I guess I am precluded from saying much more, other than the policy remains the same. As you get fewer and fewer companies, who are now starting to merge. Then you reduce yourself from three to two, that gets very close to being anti-competitive under any circumstances, and that's the reason why the issue was challenged by the Justice Department on the Lockheed-Martin merger.
A: ...and the defense contractors to enlarge NATO so they can well weapons to all these states.
That's one of the arguments that I see written about frequently. It is completely false from my perspective. It may be that some contractors are in fact encouraging those countries to buy their systems. I have met with all of the leaders of the three countries -- Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. What I have said to them as a Minister of Defense or as Secretary of Defense is that, here's what you have to do. NATO membership is open to anyone who can climb a very steep set of stairs. The door is open but you have to climb the stairs first to get to the top of the door. You have to do a number of things.
You've got to subordinate your military to civilian control. You've got to have a professional military that is completely responsive to civilian authorities. You must have respect for human life. You must have a -- I won't go through all the details, but these are very high standards that you must meet.
But most of all, for these countries, there are three or four things you must do. You must professionalize your military, you must downsize them. They have too many troops for their force structure. You must develop an NCO Corps, which they don't have. You must have training in the English language. You must reform your command, control, communications, the infrastructure. Then last, of all the priorities, you ought to look at high tech equipment. But all of these other things you must do first. Those are the most important things for you to be a contributing member to NATO. That is the message that I have sent and all the other NATO members have sent.
Now, are there contractors who say great, we can sell some F-18s or F-16s or other types of weapons? The answer is yes, they would love to sell them. But my message, and I just finished meeting with, again, three new members, and those who would like to come in in the future, saying you cannot buy your way into NATO. You can buy your way out of NATO. You cannot buy your way in by saying you'll buy all this expensive equipment. If you do that, and if you have a misallocation of your resources, you will not gain accession to NATO because you haven't done all the other things. So don't be misled. Don't think that because some contractors want to sell you some very expensive equipment, that's the way you get into NATO. You first have to start exercising with the Partnership for Peace program, you have to modernize your military, you have to make these changes in command and control and communications, you have to become greatly facile with the English language, etc., in order to be a candidate for membership.
So that's the message we have sent, and that's the one we intend to adhere to.
Q: Mr. Secretary, this week in Africa the President expressed regret about the diplomacy (inaudible). What kind of response (inaudible)?
A: The point that I have always tried to take, both in the Senate and in this position, is that we have to be very careful of where we commit our forces. It's one thing to respond to humanitarian interests, and there may be cases where we have to help a failed state on a temporary basis -- they have no water, no food, people are starving by the tens of thousands. There you can make a case that we can provide some temporary support. But we have to husband our resources very carefully so we don't continue to overcommit to a variety of regions on peacekeeping or humanitarian missions.
What we are doing with respect to Africa is trying to put together an African crisis response team to help train African nations on how they can become peacekeepers. But I think it would be very unwise for us to think that we're going to now start engaging in any kind of a military fashion in a variety of countries in the future. I don't think that's what the President had in mind. I think it's helping to train people to put together peacekeeping types of missions and training them, but not becoming engaged ourselves.
We're seeing just a taste of this. Bosnia was very controversial when we got in. I had great skepticism about the wisdom of going to Bosnia. Since that time, I, like other people, have changed and said we really have done a good thing there. But we have found that we've come down from 20,000 troops to 15,000 troops to 12,000, 10,000, 8,500, and we will go down to 6,900 very soon. So we're trying to draw down the American commitment and put more of the burden upon the European allies. But we have to be careful.
What we're seeing take place now, as I mentioned before, we're seeing greater and greater commitments with a smaller and smaller force, and what that's doing is it's playing havoc with people who are finding themselves deployed and redeployed and redeployed again, and so they're leaving. That's something we have to watch very carefully. Our pilots are leaving in unprecedented rates. Business is good. The commercial airlines are hiring at two or three times the price that we can afford to pay them in the military. Plus they're home three weeks out of the month. We can't match that.
So we've got to be careful as we have a smaller force that we're not overutilizing that force, and that's why we have to be very careful of which areas we're going to get involved in. To the extent that we can help African countries form their own crisis response team, we should do that, and we can help train people to do that. But we ought not to become engaged in any kind of a vigorous way.
Q: I'd like you to share with us something of your comment on U.S./China relations today and in the future from your perspective.
A: How much time do you have? (Laughter)
I had an opportunity to appear before a CBS Roundtable today and I hope that Dan Rather can sit through just a little bit more exposition on my part. I was in China most recently in February. I received a welcome I think has been unprecedented as far as their treatment of me as Secretary of Defense. I arrived when the weather was very cold, but a very warm reception was given to me.
I think I'm the first Secretary of Defense who's ever been allowed into their Air Command Control Center in Beijing. I believe I'm one of the first, if not the first American Secretary, to address their Academy of Sciences. These are their top intelligencia, wearing their Red Army uniforms. We had about 400 of them present, and I addressed them and talked about our Asia Pacific strategy and why it was in their interest for us to be present and have this relationship with Japan. The U.S./Japan guidelines are being updated. They've been concerned about that. I explained why it's important and why it's in their interest that we be present throughout the Asia Pacific region.
They asked questions. It was a very good exchange.
We got an agreement from the Chinese not to deploy or transfer any nuclear technology to Iran. They also made a pledge to stop transferring two types of anti-ship cruise missiles that would pose a threat to our troops in the Gulf.
All of that, I think, has been made possible by virtue of Jiang Zemin's visit to the United States. President Clinton hosted that visit and it went off very well. As a result, they have become much more amenable to sitting down and discussing issues of mutual interest.
Secondly, the issue dealing with most favored nation status; we have had to overcome that objection as President Bush did, to overcome the objection coming from a variety of sources, saying they shouldn't be granted MFN status. The argument is, we should, and we should treat them as a regular trading partner, and we should treat them with respect. They are a power. They are going to be a major power. We can either try to influence them in a positive way, or we can say they're the enemy and treat them as an enemy and they will react accordingly.
I think China obviously will have its own foreign policy agenda. I think they will seek to challenge us at points in the future, as any other power would. I think we have to deal with them on that basis. But I believe that if we engage them on a regular basis and do so behind the scenes, if we can use that phrase, and not make a public declaration of pounding our chest and saying this is what you will do, and if you don't, we're going to punish you. That's not the way to carry out diplomacy. But if we carry out effective, quiet diplomacy, I believe that we can find a variety of areas that we'll agree on. We'll continue to disagree on some of the areas, but we'll have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Q: Mr. Secretary, (inaudible)... How worried are you about Japan's ability to (inaudible)...
A: Well, I had a good meeting when I was in Japan recently. I raised these issues with the Minister of Defense, Minister Kuma. By the way, we had a very... I gave him a very important gift when I was there. I will pass this on. Mr. Kuma, when he was a young man, was a basketball player. So I thought the only appropriate gift that I could come up with that he hadn't received was a basketball autographed by Michael Jordan. It was the biggest hit at the time. (Laughter) We are good in our defense relationship for decades to come.
But on a serious note, it's an issue that we raised with them because we are concerned about the state of their economy. There has not been much, if any, growth over the past five or six years -- about one percent. They have to really look closely at what they are doing, because I think that the notion that somehow they are simply going to export their way out of difficulty is not going to be acceptable.
Each country in the Asia Pacific region is going to find itself trying to export its way out of its difficulties. If Japan were to do that, I think it's going to be provoke a reaction over here. They have to start creating their own demand economy, and that means they'll have to engage in some restructuring of their taxes and their economic system. Unless they do that, I think it's going to present quite a problem for the entire region.
With respect to their commitment to the United States, it couldn't be stronger. I had a meeting just this morning for about a half hour with a delegation from Japan and we talked about some of the issues that we have with them, including the commitment to continue their host nation support for us.
So I think our relationship is as good as it's been. It's better than it's ever been. But their economic problems could pose some difficulties in the future, and I think they have to address it and they haven't done so yet.
Q: Mr. Secretary, (inaudible) town hall (inaudible) town meeting in Ohio.
A: You were right, I shouldn't have taken this question. (Laughter)
There are several rules about town meetings. Number one, never hold a town meeting at a university. Number two, never have 6,000 unscreened visitors to your town meeting. Number three, do not go to a town meeting at a university when the subject is war and peace. Number four, when there is an outbreak in the audience, do not throw the first protester out of the auditorium. Rule number five, if you throw him out, do not let him back in. (Laughter)
Each of these rules was violated at Ohio State. I'm looking at Time Magazine, and I have on my desk the original drawing that appeared in the issue following that what has been described as a debacle at Ohio State, and I have that on my wall framed now to remind me never to violate those rules in the future.
Having been the only member of the delegation who's ever experienced town hall meetings, my counsel was not sought, but I think I have more credibility now following that experience.
I'll respond very quickly to the question about sanctions. The sanctions are important. Saddam Hussein has made a choice. He has deprived his people of roughly $110 billion since those sanctions were imposed. He would rather deprive his people of $110 billion in revenues than comply with the UN resolutions. He made that choice, and yet he has been successful in portraying the United States and the West as the ones who have inflicted the cruel and unusual punishment upon his people.
While he was denying them the revenue from the sale of oil because he wouldn't comply with UN resolutions, he was building an additional 40 or 45 palaces. Somehow that escaped everybody's attention, but we were the ones getting the blame for it. It was overlooked that we were the ones who initiated the so-called Section 986, the oil for food program. That was the United States who was responsible for that, because we wanted to make sure that we tried to persuade the Arab population that we were more concerned about their welfare than he was. We actually supported, during this crisis, a doubling of the oil for food program, invoking great criticism, saying aren't you confusing your message? On the one hand you're threatening to punish the hell out of Saddam, and on the other you're doubling the amount of oil that can be sold for food for these people.
What has to be remembered is that when we have the oil for food program, he doesn't like it. He doesn't like it because he doesn't get to control the money. The United Nations gets to control the money, which brings me to another point. We ought to pay our dues and... (Applause)
So the sanctions have been effective. Without the sanctions he would be back in a position to rebuild his military. It's probably at about 60 percent of where it was prior to the Gulf War. He has not had the capability he once had. He doesn't have the ability to simply manufacture either nuclear weapons which he was trying to do which require the technology. He doesn't have the ability to, as long as the inspectors are there, to regenerate his ability to produce the delivery systems for the anthrax and the VX and other types of biological and chemical weapons. So we have kept him in a box. The sanctions have been effective. That's why he was resisting -- get rid of the inspectors, get rid of the sanctions.
So far he has been somewhat successful, but I would only point out, if you look at where we are today, we do have access to every facility today. All those that were declared off limits are now being inspected. We may find them empty, but the principle is, everything is open to inspection.
Secondly, we are keeping him off balance. He doesn't know exactly where the inspectors are going. He may try to penetrate that, might try to get intelligence on it, but he doesn't know where they are going, and they're off guard at all times.
The third point is something that's very important to the Arab population in the Gulf states in particular. They were worried that we were so anxious to go in there and bomb him, and to kill a lot of innocent people in the process, that they said you should be willing to walk the extra mile for diplomacy. By walking the extra mile at considerable criticism to the United States, nonetheless, every one of those Gulf states called me and spoke with me personally saying we are glad you were willing to walk the extra mile to see if this won't work. And now we've given him the final chance. Now we can, with good conscience, go to our people who have not been supportive of this and make it clear to them: know the United States was willing to take this last step, and now, if Saddam Hussein in any way inhibits those inspections, we have no trouble in saying we walked the last mile.
You may recall their language was: We hope you'll exhaust every reasonable diplomatic initiative. Once you have done that and if he fails to comply, he will be solely responsible for the consequences. That was language very clearly intended to tell him that they were going to be supportive of our effort.
So we have gained a lot of credibility with the Gulf States, even though with some criticism here at home. We didn't carry through with the potential bombing attack.
I can tell you as a military, someone in charge of our military as such, as the civilian head, bombing is the last resort. Bombing would not have accomplished what the inspectors could accomplish on the ground by keeping him off balance, by keeping him unable to regenerate his capabilities. We could have done substantial damage, and we would have done substantial damage, and I will tell you without getting into anything classified, that the targets that we had selected and the way in which it would have been carried out, it would have inflicted a great deal of damage upon his ability to regenerate his weapon systems and their delivery mechanism, and it would have put at risk some of the things that he prized most.
So he became very much aware of that. The message got through. As a result, I think he became more willing to sign this memorandum of agreement.
So I think we gained. We lost some, but we gained overall credibility with our Arab friends, the Gulf states. We made it very clear; we've got a UN resolution saying the most severe consequences will flow in the event that he goes back to his old ways. So I think this bears every opportunity to revisit that. We may have to. In the mean time I want to raise that issue about making sure that he has to come forward and prove that he has destroyed what he claims he has destroyed.
Thank you very much.