Adjust font size:
(CNN) -- Here is a transcript of Frank Sesno's full interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:
SESNO: I'd like to start though on sort of a bigger, picture question if I could. An awful lot of people familiar with the Middle East with its people and its cultures are worried now, that we're seeing a deepening secular divide across the region, a rise in the influence of Iran.
Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah that are really flexing their muscles, growth of terrorism potentially and increasing hostility towards the United States.
What does Donald Rumsfeld see when he looks out that window?
RUMSFELD: Well, you certainly see all of those things. They, they in fact are occurring. We do see a situation in the Middle East where you, you see every day on television, manifestations of a divide of differences.
Certainly, what is taking place in, in Israel and has been taking place in Israel and Lebanon is, is worrisome.
On the other hand we've seen these things over many, many years. I was Middle East envoy for President Reagan back in the mid 80's, early 80's, 1980's, and it was a difficult then as well. After 241 Marines were killed in the barracks there, in Lebanon.
But these things tend to come and go and the fact that the, there are differences within the Muslim faith are, is a reality.
SESNO: The question is...
RUMSFELD: The Shia effort that Iran represents is something that is of concern in the Sunni community and we see that every day in one way or another.
So it is a complicated part of the world, it has been and I suspect it'll remain so. What we're facing however is this struggle within that faith from a very small number of, minority of, violent extremists who, who attempt to impose their will on everyone else in the Muslim faith.
And the overwhelming majority are not violent extremists and that struggle's taking place and playing out in a very violent way in many parts of the world.
SESNO: The question is, is it getting a lot worse and do we face a very worrisome regional war?
RUMSFELD: Well, it's, it certainly is not getting better, the split within that faith. And as weapons are increasingly lethal and available, you could say its worse because the carnage can grow and more people can be killed.
It doesn't take a genius to blow up people and to kill large number of innocent men, women and children. Of course the overwhelming majority of the people being killed are Muslims and they're being killed by Muslims.
And and I have to believe that the overwhelming majority in that faith are getting tired of it and don't like it and are tired of seeing their, their families killed by, by extremists.
SESNO: You and your generals have said there's a possibility of civil war in Iraq, some [people] think there's already, it's already happening. It's not inevitable, but possible is a way its been put by you and others. How are you preparing, what's Plan B?
RUMSFELD: Needless to say the, there are always various directions that conflict can take and the commands that have responsibilities have an obligation to think those various courses of, through very carefully and consider the kinds of options that our country and our coalition and our friends and allies would have in the event that events take a certain turn.
And they have done that and are doing that, it's an appropriate responsibility of people in those positions.
SESNO: Is there a Plan B? I mean, if it really were to break out and become worse than it is, and be a definable civil war, does the United States stay in the middle of that?
RUMSFELD: Well, there are obviously any number of courses that we could take and it would depend on the facts at the time.
SESNO: Do we stay in the middle of that?
RUMSFELD: I don't think we are in the middle of a civil war with our forces today. The people I talk to for the most part, I just met with, very recently, with [Lt.] Gen. [Peter] Chiarelli, and talk to Gen. [John] Abizaid and Gen. [George] Casey regularly and you know what they've said, they've said there is that possibility.
But at the moment they believe that we're not in that circumstance. As I say, they ... obviously have thought through the kinds of steps and options that they would have in the event things take a turn one way or another.
SESNO: I've talked to a lot of people about you and what I hear again and again is, the guy's tough. He's the wrestler and he asks tough piercing questions. What are the questions you're asking now as you look at Iraq?
RUMSFELD: I do ask a lot of questions, I don't suppose there's anybody who's ever been in this job who knows enough or has done enough things or experienced a sufficient number of things in their lives that they would know the answers to these things because there isn't a playbook.
There isn't a, it's not a science that you can go back and look it up. It is a series of very difficult challenges and tests and tasks that face our country and I find that asking a lot of questions is a useful thing to do.
And I, I've, I've been doing it I guess a good chunk of my life and I find that I learn and that others in the room are stimulated to ask their questions and to offer comments and out of that comes a process where all of us learn more than we knew when we went into it.
SESNO: So with the violence now, with the situation now in Iraq, what are the questions that Donald Rumsfeld is asking?
RUMSFELD: Well, see I'm not focused just on Iraq. This is really part of a broader struggle that's taking place in the world and very much in that part of the world.
Within that faith and, and it's something that's going to take time without question. It is, it is something that's very difficult to define because it changes and evolves. It's adjusted over time.
The old story that I guess Gen. [Dwight D.] Eisenhower said that, that what's important is the planning not the plan, because the first contact with the enemy things change and adjust and one must be flexible and have the ability to adapt and be agile.
And our folks are doing that. They're constantly making adjustments. But, I wrote a memo several years ago that ended up in the press much to my amazement, but it asked that very fundamental question about that goes to the, the heart of what we're struggling with today and that is that it is not a military problem we're dealing with today. It is, it is, in part military to be sure, but its, its political, it's economic, and it's philosophical, ideological and, and the solution to it is not a purely military solution.
As the president has said, it's going to take all elements of our country working with many, many other countries to, to see that we, we turn this in a way that's positive. The memo I mentioned said we can't know how many people are being brought into the intake into a radical Madrassa school and taught to go out and kill people instead of to learn a language or to learn a trade and to be a constructive part of the world community.
And the test we constantly have to ask ourselves is, are we making progress or are there more people coming into that intake than are being led out of it one way or another, whether it being captured or killed or persuaded to the contrary, all of which are taking place.
SESNO: So, that's a question you're still asking?
RUMSFELD: Oh, you bet. And, and there aren't metrics for it. It's not knowable, the answer's not knowable, so I don't ask it overtly.
On the other hand, we do look at what we're doing as a country with our friends and allies around the world to see are we doing enough of the things that ought to be reducing the number of people attracted to those radical Madrassa leaders.
SESNO: But, let me take you to Iraq for a minute, I know it's a larger question, but that's where we're fighting -- that's one place, that's a big place we're fighting -- that's what the public and much of the world is looking on, and it's what a lot of people are saying that's what you're going to be judged on ultimately.
To Iraq, given that last several months of, of violence there. Are we winning, how do you measure it?
Well, in, you can look at the things on the plus side and you can look at the things on the minus side.
SESNO: Well take it as a whole, take it as a whole.
RUMSFELD: Each person has to look at it in the aggregate and say what they think about it.
SESNO: Ok, on the whole, on the aggregate?
RUMSFELD: Uh huh. Well, I mean, I just, as they say, I've been tracking progress in the city of Baghdad since the effort was increased there and there's no question but that the, all the indicators are, that after I guess it's probably close to a month of effort now, with the increased forces, that progress is being made and that the numbers of killings are down and the numbers of assassinations are down and the violence is down.
Now, one robin does not a spring make, as they say, so who knows what'll be in the next month or the month after that.
But the people there feel that progress is in fact being made in that one isolated aspect, but very important aspect of what's taking place in that country.
SESNO: Let me go back, if I may in terms of, as I say, I talked to a lot of people, one of them is [retired] Gen. Jack Keane, a very smart good man. And he said a lot of assumptions going into Iraq were based on the belief that the Americans that we would be greeted as liberators -- that there were no real plans to deal with the insurgency.
His words [were] "we were dead wrong. We did not seriously consider it, therefore we had no plan to deal with it." Is he right?
RUMSFELD: Well, I think that anyone who looks at it with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight has to say that there, there was not an anticipation that the level of insurgency would be anything approximating what it is.
SESNO: Now, what happened to the memo with the 35?
RUMSFELD: Things that could go wrong? It was one of them. And ...
SESNO: Why wasn't that question asked? I mean you were in that White House in the middle of Vietnam. We have all this experience here. Why wasn't that question asked?
RUMSFELD: Well, it was asked. And it was one on the memo and there were great many things that were asked.
SESNO: Why weren't we more prepared?
RUMSFELD: The it became very clear, I think that, it is clear today in this world of ours, that the United States is unlikely [to] be contested against [nations] with big armies, big navies and big air forces in the period immediately ahead.
We have the capability to, to put so much power on, on armies, navies and air forces, that it is an incentive for people to look for asymmetrical, irregular ways of competing against the United States and against coalition countries.
And we knew that, that was anticipated that that would be one of the things that would be done. But you can, you can look back and say, 'Well, why are you, why is the United States not sufficiently successful against that insurgency?'
And I guess the short answer is that insurgencies are historically very difficult things. They take time. They take anywhere from 5, 8,10,12,15 years.
And go back to the Philippines or Algeria or any number of other countries. The United States does know how to deal with them, but, there isn't a silver bullet. There's not something that you do that ends it. Not a single big battle and it takes the development of that government because in that last analysis that insurgency is going to be dealt with in Iraq by the Iraqi people, by the success of that government and over time it isn't going to be dealt with by foreigners in my view.
And our task is to see that they have sufficient security forces that they can in fact achieve their goal of a, of a reasonably stable environment so that they can move forward as a country.
SESNO: Another one from the past and then I want to move into the future. One of your harshest critics -- and there are many -- but one of your harshest critics, [retired Gen.] John Batiste, who commanded the First Infantry Division in Iraq says he asked for more troops while he was there and he didn't get 'em. And that he says that if he'd had them, he could've secured the Iranian border, the oil infrastructure, been more effective he said in intimidating and crushing the insurgency.
Were you aware that he felt that way or that that request was out there?
RUMSFELD: No, I wasn't.
SESNO: Should you have been?
RUMSFELD: Well, I'm certainly aware that, that at any given location, in any part of the world or in any part of that country that at any given moment, someone down the line feels they need more of something. And that that's, that's the nature of, of big complex activities.
I'm also aware that the military commanders that he reported to, had exactly the number of troops they asked for and wanted and assured us were appropriate. Gen. Abizaid, Gen. Casey, Gen. Pace, and the Joint Chiefs. The president went around the room. I went around the room and asked do you have everything you need? The answer was yes.
Now, that doesn't mean that there may not have been a shortage in one location or another, and that's an allocation question. But the senior military commanders contrary to that particular general's views were just the contrary. They, they never were turned down anything they asked for in terms of the military capabilities that they wanted.
SESNO: So, when you look back and you think about what's gone right and what's gone wrong and lessons learned, troop strength is not something you think about?
RUMSFELD: I think that ... it's understandable people have different views on that. Some people think there should be more, some people think there should be far fewer and, and the reason for that is there's a natural tension there.
There's a desirability to have sufficient forces that the security situation is such that the political and the economic work can go forward. On the contrary, the opposite side of the argument is that if you have too many forces is that you begin to look like an occupation force. You begin to leave the impression that you are in fact there to take the oil or to stay for a long period and you also run the risk of creating a dependency on the part of the Iraqis instead of having them do things for themselves you do things for them.
And, so it's that tension that Gen. Abizaid and Gen. Casey have been managing and trying to balance as well as they could. And I think they've done a pretty darn good job.
And yet I can understand some people saying gee, there ought to be more and there ought to be fewer. And that's understandable.
SESNO: And that's a hard balance.
RUMSFELD: It is.
SESNO: You're dead right on that. I guess the question, does it get to you that you've got generals and experts and others who say oh, if there had been more troops, if there had been better troop strength, some of this wouldn't be happening today?
RUMSFELD: Well, I guess that that goes with the territory. There are always going to be people who look at it and have a different opinion, and I understand that.
I don't think there's ever been a conflict in the history of our country where people, where critics didn't disagree with what was being done. And and that's fair enough. They can have those views.
I happen to be very comfortable with the leadership that Gen. Abizaid and Gen. Casey have been providing and are providing today.
SESNO: In the midst of all of this, you've set as a goal transforming the way this building and this military operates. Something you've been working on since the very beginning.
RUMSFELD: Well, actually President Bush at The Citadel ...
SESNO: Right ...
RUMSFELD: ... announced that that was one of his intentions.
SESNO: Right ...
RUMSFELD: ... as president.
SESNO: And that was a challenge to you.
RUMSFELD: And that was the instructions I was given.
SESNO: So, as, as you look around now, what's the most significant change? Excuse me, what's the most significant change in the way this building and this institution does business?
RUMSFELD: That's interesting. The president asked Gen. Pace that the other day and Gen. Pace's answer was that he would say, in terms of attitude, we were at about an 8 out of a 10.
That the mindset, the recognition on the part of the professional military, of the need to transform, that it is [a] process that goes on over time. You don't start untransformed and end up transformed. You ... it's a process, it's a way of thinking, it's a culture that recognizes that we're living in a time that's dynamic, not static.
And transformation actually began well before President Bush's administration. Of course, there were a lots of people in Congress and the Executive Branch who were concerned about things and saw our military as really, a pretty much in the same posture it was at the end of the Cold War, although somewhat reduced in size -- but located around the world in ways that were more static and defensive, Cold War posture rather than agile and the ability to project force around the world where needed.
SESNO: But if you were having coffee with somebody in Toledo [Ohio], and they're not in the military, and they said to you, Mr. Secretary, what's the biggest change that's taken place? What do we have to show for this transformation? What would you tell them?
RUMSFELD: I would say attitude on the part of the, the leadership in the military and this department.
SESNO: What does that mean? How does that translate into the battlefield?
RUMSFELD: Well, the translation to the battlefield results from a whole lot of things, but basically it results from leadership of the senior military people in this department.
This is a big place. It's, it's like any big institution; it's resistant to change. Change is hard for people and there've been a lot of squealing and screeching and complaints as, as the change took place in this department. And I would say that it's attitude and culture as much as anything else.
It also happens that the we've rearranged our force posture around the world -- in Japan, and in Korea and in Europe, in a way that it's notably different from a Cold War posture.
We've tried to increase the tooth part of the equation as opposed to the tail and reduce the size of the institutional services and increase the operational services. We've made them, I think, more, the transformation taking place in the Navy is significant what [Chief of Naval Operations, Adm.] Vern Clark and [Deputy Secretary of Defense] Gordon England did there and they're still doing.
In the Army, [Chief of Staff] Gen. [Peter] Schoomaker and [Secretary of the Army] Fran Harvey are doing a terrific job of, of moving from division orientation down to brigade orientation, modularizing the force so that you can deploy more rapidly and interchangeably.
I think that the, there's one other thing that's been different and that is the we've, we recognize that in a big department like this, you really lead by persuasion not by command and, and so we also recognize that if the department's pulling together then you can do a great deal, and if it's pulling in different directions each service going its own way, not much good can happen.
And we've created this senior level review group where the service chiefs and the vice chiefs and the combatant commanders meet regularly and, and these big issues are all put up on the table and everybody has a chance to talk about them and discuss them.
And the effect of the senior-level review group, which sounds bureaucratic, it isn't at all. It is a very free flowing discussion and that, that fact, I think is what's been leading to the cohesion that's existed.
Now that's hard for people outside the building to understand. Retired people sometimes don't understand how that's working. But there isn't anyone sitting around with a black box coming up with answers. It is the senior people in this department sitting down in a serious way, professional people who've spent 20-30 years of their lives and discussing these things and then developing a direction and a course, and that's why, that's what provides the momentum.
Now you suggested, gee in the middle of a global struggle on, against extremists, how can you transform? And the answer is, it actually provided impetus to the transformation.
SESNO: Alright so if you get ...
RUMSFELD: We've been able to do more because of the sense of urgency that people feel about getting up every morning and knowing our job is try to help protect the American people.
SESNO: So if you get it right, 10 years from now, what's the military look like? What's different?
RUMSFELD: Well, I mean just the change in the national security personnel system. If we can, if we can fix the civilian and hundreds of thousands of civilians who work in the Department of Defense and have that so that you can actually pay for performance as opposed to seniority or just being around and existing that would be a big accomplishment.
The difference will be in, in terms of the lessons learned from Afghanistan, from Iraq and from the, the global struggle against the violent extremists, I think those lessons are constantly being fed into the training and the doctrine of this department at a very rapid pace.
SESNO: I was talking to Gen. Pace and we were talking about a lot of things, but one of the things I talked about because it's out there, of course, is how does Donald Rumsfeld run this place? And part of the rap on Donald Rumsfeld is he's tough, he intimidates, he wants to be surrounded by yes men and Gen. Pace said people don't know this guy.
Who is the real Donald Rumsfeld?
RUMSFELD: Well, what you see is what you get. I admit and we have a, an enormous number of talented people in this department who have accomplished really significant things.
I mean I think of what [Deputy Under Secretary of Defense] Richard Lawless and Gen. [Leon] LaPorte and Gen. B.B. Bell are doing in Korea is, is significant.
The work that's been done in Central Asia with Jim MacDougall and John Abizaid and those civilian military working together to improve our circumstance in that part of the world.
You know I wouldn't even know how to answer the question except thatthere are though, we're facing tough issues in the world. There are a lot of us here who every day is kind of like September 12, 2001, the day after and we look ahead and say in six months what if there were another 9/11 or twice that or three times that?
What should we be doing today, every minute, every hour, every week to see that that doesn't happen and help protect the American people? And that is our challenge and so there is a sense of urgency that we feel.
SESNO: When you came in here, some said you came in as a CEO secretary looking at a vast enterprise that desperately needed to be transformed and to be changed and in doing that, you were going to have to break some heads and scramble some eggs because the culture had to change. Is that accurate?
RUMSFELD: No, I mean the Department of Defense is very different than a corporation, and I don't think of myself as a chief executive officer in that sense.
The dynamics are totally different. Basically the president wanted things changed, I understand what his instructions ... and we have set about that task. I also understand that when you do change things, that it's hard for people.
People get comfortable doing what they were doing and they don't like change. And people outside looking in are comfortable, people in the Congress are uncomfortable with change, people in the defense industry are uncomfortable with change, people in the bureaucracy are uncomfortable with change.
SESNO: You're comfortable with change?
RUMSFELD: Oh I am, always have been.
SESNO: And you push change?
RUMSFELD: You bet.
SESNO: And if it makes people uncomfortable, too bad?
RUMSFELD: Well, it's unfortunate, but, but life has to go on and the things have to get done and the American people have to be protected.
SESNO: Let me ask you another couple of questions here. Is there any doubt in your mind that Iran is meddling in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East?
RUMSFELD: No, of course they are, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon.
SESNO: Is there any doubt in your mind that they have nuclear ambitions?
RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness, I'm not going to get into that. They've expressed an interested publicly in ... having a nuclear capability.
SESNO: There are those who say that Iran is the real threat down the line. That's what we need to be worrying about, that's what we need to be focused on. True?
RUMSFELD: I think there are, understandably there are people in the world who recognize that if you have a large country, a country that's important historically, a country that has wealth and is one of the principal sponsors of terrorism in the world -- supporting Hezbollah among others. And is simultaneously announcing that the world would be better off without Israel and the United States and simultaneously indicating a, a determination to have a nuclear capability of some sort that, that those are the ingredients that ought to cause people to be concerned.
RUMSFELD: The idea of putting those kinds of capabilities in the hands of, of, terrorist networks would be something that I think understandably people in the world would be concerned about.
SESNO: You have talked about this as a long war, that's going to go on possibly as long as the Cold War, that could be decades. America could find itself in Iraq for years to come.
RUMSFELD: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The long war is not Iraq.
SESNO: No, I know that.
RUMSFELD: Just a minute. And it's not keeping Americans in Iraq for a long time. There is no one with that intention.
The struggle within the Muslim faith is probably going to be a long war. It is, it is something that will be manifested in different ways at different times, but the insurgency that's taking place inside of Iraq is something that ultimately is going to be dealt with by the Iraqi government, by the Iraqi people and by the Iraqi security forces. Not by the United States of America. Not by any foreign force that's in there helping.
SESNO: When you talk about the long war though, you're also talking about the forces of terrorism that want to confront the United States in the West and other places?
RUMSFELD: Yes, but I'm not talking about Iraq.
SESNO: I understand that, but they're connected.
RUMSFELD: Sure they are.
SESNO: Alright. My question to you is, how, when you see the public opinion polls going the way they are, how do you keep public support focused at a time when you've got this long war and the controversy and yet at home for now anyway, an appearance of normalcy.
RUMSFELD: Yeah. It's not easy. On the other hand, if you look at our history as a country, go back to the Cold War, 50 years. There wasn't a period in there when there wasn't a question as to whether what was being done was right.
There were amendments in Congress to bring the troops home from Europe. Euro-Communism was in vogue and people were saying, oh, it's different than the Soviet version -- it's the soft communist, it'll be fine, not to worry.
But that's been true, I was alive during World War II and I think of the great many people in the Midwest who didn't want to have anything to do with that. And I was in a courtyard in California when it was announced that Franklin Roosevelt had died and some of the kids cheered because that was the attitude that existed.
Wars are never popular. Things that take a long time -- in a television age where everything is solved in 28 minutes plus commercials -- are particularly difficult for people.
But, on the other hand, we've got a good, a good body politic in our country. The American people have good sense. They have a good center of gravity and they ...
SESNO: The American people seem to not support this war anymore. The majority of them say it's a bad idea.
RUMSFELD: Well, it comes and it goes, it comes and it goes, but on big things over time, the American people have been right. If they're not they would've tossed in the towel on the Revolutionary War, and we wouldn't have had a country.
Think of the people who were telling Abraham Lincoln not to even have a civil war and throughout it, to stop it.
And we wouldn't have had the United States of America today if he'd believed that.
SESNO: If that's the case, how do you explain the polling? If the American people are right and they've watched this war for years ...
RUMSFELD: I've watched polling go from 0 to 55 percent to 12 percent in six weeks. What's important is what's right, what's important is what makes sense and, and over time, the American people find their way to right decisions.
If, if the, if people believe today that the problem of terrorism in this world is a law enforcement problem, like somebody's stealing a car or killing somebody in one of our metropolitan areas and that the task then is to punish them and put them in jail, they're wrong.
And over time they'll see that. There's too many people being killed by terrorists. And the capabilities of terrorists are growing and the lethality of the weapons are growing, and the threat against the American people is growing and is serious one.
And the government of the United States simply cannot sit there and take the attack. They have to go out and find them and work with other countries to achieve that. And I believe the American people understand that message. I believe that they do have staying power and perseverance, and I think that over time it'll be seen.
And I think you'll see the polls go up and down depending on what the news of the day happens to be at any given moment. But, I've got a lot of confidence in the American people.
SESNO: I've talked, as I mentioned to you a lot of people and a lot of people say we got to do what we're doing. We got to stay the course for that very reason.
The stakes are way too high. A lot of other people say when you get in there with Donald Rumsfeld give him hell. They say, how could we, you know he was around in Vietnam, where was Phase 4?
Why didn't we have more troops? If he's so tough, why wasn't he doing that? What do you say to those people?
RUMSFELD: Well, you know, it is awfully easy to be on the outside and to opine on this and opine on that and critique this.
If you go back and check the people who have been offering opinions, they've been wrong as many times as they've been right. They've changed their views without any penalty or accountability.
And I just smile and say fair enough, keep, keep raising your questions, keep offering your opinions and the American people will synthesize all of that, digest it and then make their judgments.
SESNO: And do you tell them you've learned something from this process, that you've learned from these years?
RUMSFELD: Oh my goodness, I hope I learn something every day of my life.
SESNO: What have you learned?
RUMSFELD: Oh. I've, what have I learned? I've learned so many things in, in what is it now 74 years. Ah ... that, ah ...
SESNO: I'm talking about the last five.
RUMSFELD: Well, I'll give you one example of what we've learned is, if you go back to the end of the World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, we were at a juncture in our country's history when things were different.
And during the Truman administration, in large measure, a whole lot of new institutions were fashioned -- the CIA, the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the IMF [International Monetary Fund], the World Bank, the U.N., NATO and what-have-you.
A whole lot of things were fashioned, and they have served us pretty darn well over a period of a number of decades now. We're at the juncture of the end of the Cold War still and the entrance into the 21st Century where the challenges will be in large measure asymmetric and irregular as opposed to conventional.
We're conducting the first war in the 21st Century at a time when these new media realities exist where you've got 24-hour talk radio, you've got bloggers, you've got the Internet, you've got e-mails, you've got digital cameras, you've got Sony [digital video cameras] and everyone knows everything instantaneously.
Only it isn't everything because it's out of context, it is scraps and pieces, that then they have to digest, the world has to digest and take aboard. That is a new experience for everyone, and as I say there isn't a road map for how you do it in there.
But one thing is pretty clear to me, that some of those institutions and some of those arrangements that we have need to be changed if we're going to do well in the 21st Century. They served us well throughout that period from the 1950s on, but, but it's a different world today.
It's a very dynamic world, it's a fast moving world and we're going to have to have adjustments made to those institutions. We've been making them, for example, in NATO; we're helping to transform NATO. We are gonna have a NATO response force for the first time.
We've reduced the number of headquarters from 22 down to 11. We provide some energy by expanding it by bringing countries into it that, that have a recent experience with the absence of freedom and liberty and they value it highly and that's added new energy and spark to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But I think that, that we as a country are going to have to recognize that the institutions that we have benefited so much from need to be calibrated and adjusted and fashioned to fit the 21st Century because the 21st Century is a much more fast moving and dynamic time than we've been living in, in the past decades.
SESNO: I guess back to the, back to the public opinion and the war thing that you mentioned. During World War II there was a solid support when we were fighting that war are you concerned that we're in the midst of this war and everything at stake that you talked about but still you've got 61 percent of the American people saying they don't support this war now?
RUMSFELD: Well, it was of course a very different period. We had a major portion of our federal budget went to that war. A major portion of our Gross Domestic Product went to that war.
The draft drew in millions of people from every town and county and township and village in America. And I mean I can remember having victory gardens and picking up hangers and selling them for scrap medal.
SESNO: We don't have any of that now.
RUMSFELD: Of course not, it's a different world.
SESNO: And so people are disconnected from what's going on?
RUMSFELD: On the other hand September 11 brought it home and what's going on in Madrid [Spain] and London [England] and Bali [Indonesia] and other places around the world I think also bring it home.
It's a different time the Cold War was different than World War II. Does that mean that we're not capable of accepting the differences, learning from them and adjusting and showing the kind of perseverance that previous generations have shown?
I don't think it means that at all. It is different, quite so. And, I mean, but if you go back to that period I can remember going to a movie in World War II and every one started with 15 or 20 minutes of Path A News or Paramount News about the war. And the movies were all positive about the war.
SESNO: So, how would you measure your success out of all of this?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't worry about me. I worry about the country.
SESNO: You've got to worry about how you ... you've got a job to do you want to succeed at it?
RUMSFELD: You bet your life we do. We've got a lot of wonderful people helping to do it. And if you think, I just talked very recently with Gen. Chiarelli, who's out there in Iraq in charge of the military operation. And we talked about the troops and what an absolutely amazing job they are doing and how dedicated they are and how patriotic they are and how proud they are of what they're doing and how convinced they are that they're making progress.
And that they see it. And they feel it and then there's a 138,000 over there right now and they're sending e-mails back to their families all the time explaining what they're doing.
And so notwithstanding what you may see on television, and what you may see in a newspaper, the American people are hearing from the troops and, and that is a good thing I think. So, while it's different, we can accept differences.
But these folks, the American, the men and women in uniform who are all volunteers, are there because they want to be there and they're darn proud of what they're doing and they ought to be proud.
SESNO: I still want to know how you will define your own success?
RUMSFELD: I don't worry about me. I really don't. I get up in the morning and [my wife] Joyce rolls over and says, "If those troops can do what they're doing, you can do what you're dong. Get out there and do it."
(Interview moves to Rumsfeld's office)
RUMSFELD: There's a piece of the plane that hit this building.
SESNO: I was going to ask you about 9/11, that day for you, and how that forges what you and we are doing now?
RUMSFELD: Well it certainly focuses the mind, to think of seeing those sights of the airplanes going into the Twin Towers and crashing into this building and the one out at Shanksville [Pennsylvania]. ...
Here, here's a great lesson for people, I think. This is the Korean peninsula, satellite photo taken at night, demilitarized zone, same population north and south. The same people, same resources, the only difference is the south has a free political system and a free economic system.
And they have a command economy and a dictatorship. There's the capital, Pyongyang, just a dot of light. And, and these people are now the 10th or 12th largest economy on the face of the earth. Successful, contributing in the world.
There's the Karzai ballot. There's the Iraqi ballot.
SESNO: And you know it strikes me actually this desk almost speaks to transformation, what we were talking about a moment ago. Because the military has to be able to respond to that and to foster that and to imagine any number of other challenges that could come along like that.
RUMSFELD: That's right. We've got folks now on the border helping with the border police with security there.
We recently did the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake, moved 15,000 people out of Lebanon in a matter of a week or so. A city, 15,000 human beings.
SESNO: In a week?
RUMSFELD: In a week, with nobody telling you beforehand that that was going to happen. Here's a mosque in al-Najaf [Iraq], that was kind of religious instruments they used in that part of the world.
SESNO: Is this sustainable to do all of these things for the American military? The funding levels that you're at now?
RUMSFELD: No, you know we're down very low. We're down at 3.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product. When I came to Washington in 1957 out of the Navy, [during] Eisenhower and Kennedy era we were spending 10 percent of GD ... Gross Domestic Product.
When I was secretary the last time we were spending, 4, 5, 5 or 6 percent of GDP. And today we're down to 3.7.
It's a lot of money anyway, but, but, we have responsibilities in the world that as a country we can afford to do. If you think of that 3.7 percent as a relatively small bite out of the dollar.
(Rumsfeld shows Sesno a poster hanging on the wall with Uncle Sam pointing out at you. It reads, "We're at War. Are you doing all you can?")
RUMSFELD: Those are being moved around the department and the government so that people have an understanding that you really do have to ask yourself. Are you really doing all that you can do?"
SESNO: Are the American people aware of this?
RUMSFELD: Obviously not to the extent the people in the Department of Defense are. But, I think that there's an understanding of the dangers that we face in the world and an appreciation for the fact that so many young men and women are willing to volunteer to serve their country and put their lives at risk."
(Rumsfeld shows Sesno a Buffalo statue on his desk.)
RUMSFELD: That's why I asked for that one in there, this is mine.
SESNO: Brought back from New Mexico?
RUMSFELD: I guess I probably did get it out there. We've got a little place near an Indian reservation where they have a heard of buffalo right nearby. We can see them out the window.
SESNO: I got to ask you this question: Why does a 70-something year old guy who could be spending a lot of time in New Mexico want to stand for hours on end, take the brick-backs that come day after day after day, and keep doing this job? How many hours a day do you work?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I generally get up at 5 and I generally get home around 7.
SESNO: Do you take work home?
RUMSFELD: Oh sure. Work an hour or two at home.
SESNO: How many days a week?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I work, I don't mind working. My kids are grown. They're wonderful and doing fine and I've got a great wife. And I enjoy working. I don't feel like I'm put upon. I wouldn't work as hard as I do if I didn't enjoy it and feel we were making a contribution.
SESNO: Do you ever come out of some meeting or get beat up on the hill? Some day?
RUMSFELD: Oh goodness, there will be plenty of time for that.
(Sesno and Rumsfeld start walking)
SESNO: Are you still a wrestler?
RUMSFELD: Oh gosh, you know that's a young man's sport. I wrestled for 12 years, I think.
SESNO: I'm told you're still a wrestler.
RUMSFELD (Laughs): There's Teddy Roosevelt over there.
SESNO: You're not answering my question.
RUMSFELD: I, I do enjoy competition. I mean I like to play tennis or squash or something like that, and I like life. I feel very fortunate.
SESNO: This is the desk you stand at all day long?
RUMSFELD: Yeah, I try to figure out how do you explain transforming? And I stopped using the word transformation. And I ended up saying that it's really a shifting emphasis or weight. And I cast it that way here, as you can see.
SESNO: Some of this is what's in the [Quadrennial Defense Review]?
RUMSFELD: I made it the preface to the QDR. But it shows what, it shows that you're not finished, that you're going from here to there in terms of you're shifting your weight in your emphasis. And I think it's a much more accurate way of, of characterizing it.
SESNO: Hey, while I've got you here, I just one other things comes to my mind and I'm sorry for this. ... And that is, people walking into your office and saying, hey boss, I just disagree and you're just wrong about that.
You know all the stuff out there that Donald Rumsfeld throws people out of the office if they disagree with him.
RUMSFELD: I don't.
SESNO: Does somebody come in and slam the desk and say, "You're wrong!
RUMSFELD: You bet.
SESNO: And you say?
RUMSFELD: I say why, explain it. Make your case. Let's hear it.
I've got no problem with that. I've been you know, I've been wrong many times. I've had more people come in and do that and say look, we've gone though this. We simply, you need to understand this.
My view of this is this, your view is that, and I say talk about it, tell me about it. And we've ended up adjusting or changing or calibrating it. That's the way it is in life.
RUMSFELD: Read the inscription on this Teddy Roosevelt. I found that at a flea market in Michigan.
SESNO: You read it.
RUMSFELD: Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.
SESNO: And that's Teddy Roosevelt?
RUMSFELD: Yeah. [The late Adm. Hyman] Rickover gave me that.
SESNO: What's it say?
RUMSFELD: Oh god. 'My sea is so great and my boat is so small.' That was a long time ago. When was it? It doesn't have a date. Hyman Rickover.
SESNO: There's a lot of history in here.
SESNO: And you're making it.
RUMSFELD: Yup, good to see you.
Rumsfeld says criticism just 'goes with the territory.'
Quick Job Search