Post Interview With Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
By Thomas E. Ricks
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was interviewed in his Pentagon office by Washington Post military reporter Thomas E. Ricks on May 17, 2001. Also present was Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman and, for part of the session, Larry DiRita, an aide to Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld: . . . I've met with him (Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Henry H. Shelton) about 1.3 times per day. Something like 91 times. (inaudible) . . . Does that count today? We had lunch.
So, I mean, you've got a source problem. I mean we are together continuously, on the phone or in person.
Ricks: We actually have a communications problem. I didn't say that you didn't meet with him.
Ricks: What I actually picked up in talking to people was they found you brusque in your manner with him, gruff. One person said--.
Rumsfeld: It's just not true.
Ricks: --"He treats General Shelton like he's just waiting him out, like he's a Clinton hangover."
Rumsfeld: Well that's utter nonsense. He's close, you can talk to him. We've got a very good relationship. Call him up and ask him. I mean, it is just false.
He has been an enormous help to me. And I don't know who would have ever suggested that I was brusque, except in humor. I mean there's no question I use humor from time to time, and I do at staff meetings. But certainly respectful of his position and of him as a human being, and I'm very fond of him. So that's just flat false.
Why would I meet with someone 92 times in 115 days if I didn't respect his judgment? If I didn't value his... It's just not so.
Craig also mentioned this J.J. Quinn thing. And I don't know that I'd like you writing about it particularly, but the truth of the matter is I came in here having had -I think he was a one-star or maybe a two-star, when I was here before--and had recognized that there had been creep, grade creep, and that there had been three stars up here, and I thought, "Gee, I'd rather, you know, calm it down some" and selected J.J. He's just terrific. He is absolutely first-rate.
And it turned out I made a mistake, just to be blunt about it, thinking that a one-star could, simply because he was in the Secretary's office, get the place to move at the same pace that a three-star could or a two-star. And I guess it was just an honest mistake on my part. And J.J. and I have talked about it, and he agrees, and he's off to a carrier battle group. You don't send someone there that you don't think very, very, very well of. He's a first-rate guy. And it was clearly nothing to do with him and everything to do with a miscalculation on my part.
Admiral Ed (Giambastiani) has got the stars and the relationships at the three-star level which I suspect will enable us to do what we need to do up here in a way that makes sense from the standpoint of the building.
So it would be very unfair to write anything even slightly negative about J.J. because he is a first-rate officer.
Ricks: I heard negative things about him out of the uniformed military. They felt, for example, that on the Kosovo stuff he was getting himself and you down to the squad level: 'What's the rank of the guy leading the patrol out there?'-- that sort of question.
Rumsfeld: Never heard anything ...
Ricks: And that this was attributed partly to his inexperience.
Rumsfeld: Interesting. He's first rate.
Ricks: In the interest of saving time, I wrote up my questions, and here they are. I've only got about half an hour to whip through them.
Ricks: I assume we're on the record here, we're tape recording.
Okay. I asked somebody to calculate it, and military leadership meetings, senior military, 170 meetings with 44 different general and flag officers as of the 15th.
Ricks: That you have had.
Rumsfeld: That I have held, in 115 days.
I met with the Chiefs repeatedly, met with the CINCs repeatedly.
Second, Congress -- 70 meetings with 115 members, and that was four days or three days ago. It's probably much closer to 125 today. That doesn't count phone calls. We're dealing with some 22, (or) 2100 congressional contacts a week here. We have several hundred people doing legislative relations, and it is an extensive back and forth. And I am up on the Hill frequently. I frequently have breakfasts and lunches down here that include members.
And I mean, if you want to call John Warner, I've seen his name in the paper as someone who was unhappy or something. He's not at all. He says he doesn't know where it comes from and it's not true.
Ricks: I think the holds on people are one indication.
Rumsfeld: I could get into that if you wanted, but I'd want to do it off the record.
(Pause, then back on record)
Rumsfeld: . . . My understanding is that the Armed Services Committee is going to be discussing the question of recusal and the issue turns on whether or not the general counsel, I think it turns on, whether or not the general counsel at the Pentagon can have the ability to waive a recusal requirement.
If you think about it, you've got the Office of Public Ethics that has one set of rules and the Armed Services has a more stringent set of rules. And there is a suggestion that they are reviewing those more stringent rules and may require people who have come from companies to recuse themselves. I don't know how they'll sort it out, but if my understanding is correct, there is a senator that has a hold on two or three of the service secretaries on that issue. That's something they're going to sort out up there.
Just to finish this, I've met with 51 foreign dignitaries -- presidents, foreign ministers, prime ministers, emirs and the like; 69 senior government meetings like NSC, cabinet, principals committee; 53 interviews to hire people; 30 press events; to say nothing of all the things you have to do to do this job.
Ricks: If that's so, why are they all so angry at you? I met last night with a few Army generals. They are screwed into the ceiling over you.
Ricks: They reminded me of the way that people talked about Clinton in this building.
Rumsfeld: Well, all I can say is that you've got to put yourself in their position. Put yourself in the position of someone who is -- first of all, there's 880 generals and admirals, I'm told. I have only met with 50 or 60 and only had whatever I said, 170 meetings. I've only met with 44 general officers out of 885. So I'm sure there are people who don't feel involved.
What you have to appreciate is they care about this place and they care about the defense establishment and they are eager and anxious to get things going in a direction that they feel is positive, and they want to be engaged and involved in it.
The same thing is true of the people in the House, on the staff, and the members on the committees, who have spent years concerned about these things, dedicated to making it better, and in comes a new administration, and a new president, and a new secretary. And I've been down here with no help.
I've had Paul Wolfowitz come in about a month ago. First couple of months I was absolutely without any other Bush appointee.
Last Friday we got four more through. And we've done better than any other department or agency of government, I'm told, except maybe the State Department may be a little ahead.
Quigley:: It's close either way.
Rumsfeld: But if you think about it, here you come in with a new president, a new secretary, no other appointees, and a late transition because of the election situation. And a person who came in from, you know, the pharmaceutical business. Not coming in with a computer chip in his head knowing what he wanted to do or knowing what he thought he wanted to do. Therefore, they're kind of leaning forward, eager, "where's the budget?" And the president and the OMB made a decision to not send a budget amendment up.
Now they made that before I was involved. They made it, I think, prior to having a sense of what the rhythm was in terms of the pattern where the Pentagon in recent years has budgeted to require supplementals to a certain extent. And they did that--once they realized that they said, 'Well, we'll have a supplemental later.' And it still isn't there. Well, now it's May 17th. You know, I mean, they came in on January 3rd. We didn't get sworn in until January 20th. They've gone through February, March, April. They're eager, they want it, and I can understand that. So I've got a lot of sympathy for their circumstance.
The '02 budget is not fashioned yet. That's going to be done over the coming month or so. And our hope is that the supplemental will go up at the end of this month and that the '02 budget amendment will go up at the end of June and be acted on, prior to the August recess, the good Lord willing.
Now, the other thing I did which is, in fact, I see you've got that, is something I've done before. That is when I don't know what I ought to think, I...
Ricks: I actually have this article (about Rumsfeld's approach to corporate management).
Rumsfeld. Interesting. Well, I did the same thing there. I put together a few small groups to look at some things that I thought were priority issues. Some the president asked me to. With the thought that we could get some bright people looking at them and then we'd plug them into the Quadrennial Defense Review, which we're going to do. And that starts now, and all of those things will become a part of that. And everyone in the building, all the generals and admirals you've been talking to, will have a chance to participate in that process.
And I assume that out of that will come the build for the '03 budget. And everyone will have a chance to participate, as they should.
Just to run through some of the studies. We did some work on acquisition reform, which was not to have a study, but to look at the some 128 studies that have been done, and nobody's ever really reformed the process. And Pete Aldridge is now on board about three or four days, and he is going to take the work, the analysis of those other studies and end up with some legislation proposed at some point, at which point, as you point out, that the Congress will dispose. That's the way the system works.
Financial management, Dov Zakheim got on board Friday and he has taken the thought that came from the financial management business that Senator Byrd raised with me, and has thoughts, and they will again be doing some internal changes and then making some proposals for legislation at some point.
Missile defense, we've announced and indicated what we've done. The president did.
Morale and quality of life, Dave Jeremiah consulted extensively with admirals, generals, colonels, privates, lieutenants, did outside studies and involved everybody in the world in it, and has briefed the president, and hopefully the '02 budget will reflect some of the things that he suggested and the president proposed. Then it would be into the '03 bill, coming out of the QDR, some of the more difficult things, because David Chu is still not on board as head of P & R (undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness).
Ricks: Does Jeremiah want to drop the 20-year retirement and also move tours of duty--.
Rumsfeld: I beg your pardon?
Ricks: Does Admiral Jeremiah want to drop the 20-year retirement and also move tours of duty to three years average, rather than two?
Rumsfeld: Those are issues that may be more mine than his. I'd have to go back and re-read it, I've had so many meetings with him on it. Whether it was more me or him, I don't know. But there's no question I'm going to raise those questions in the QDR. Not as requirements, but as questions. And of course anything like that is very difficult to do because changing a system causes linkages forward and back.
Space, with the Space Commission Report which Steve Cambone helped to coordinate throughout the building. It was chopped on by everyone in the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, and we then had a press conference that announced the reorganization. Even though one paper carried it as weaponizing space.
Ricks: Not mine.
Rumsfeld: I know. I know it was not yours. But it was a shocker, the day before-- I couldn't believe it. I had to spend the whole dadburn press conference trying to dig out from that.
Crisis management. Admiral Lopez is working with the Joint Staff and the chairman and the OSD policy and different people to try to help get the wiring diagram fixed in a way that we have reasonable assurance in a crisis that there won't be glitches in terms of notification.
Ricks: So the president knows what time the air strike is, things like that?
Rumsfeld: Well, that's part of it. But lots of things. So he's working on that and he's doing it again with a group of people in the building.
The nuclear force thing I've had, I suppose, six meetings on with Admiral Mies and a group of all inside government people because of the classification. We've gotten down the road quite a ways, but I'm going to take probably another three or four meetings maybe to really get to a point where I will know where whatever we end up thinking there ought to go, and my guess is it goes not into the QDR because there's a separate nuclear posture study and it would very likely go in there.
The strategy review everyone is familiar with. Andy Marshall is working a paper and it's been circulated with every CINC and every chief and every--other friends, George Schultz was in today and read it for me, lots of people have looked at it, and at all levels. We've had colonels and majors look at it. It may be we didn't hit the generals you were at dinner with last night, but I'll tell you we've got a stack of written responses from people on it, with comments and suggestions and observations. It's got to be that thick.
Ricks: And you're going to unveil that next week in your SASC and HASC testimony? Is that the plan?
Rumsfeld: I don't know quite how we'll do it. What I'm going to do next week is probably not have testimony as such. I've been invited, I've had discussions recently, and I guess, I don't know quite how we're going to do it, but they're thinking of maybe having a discussion instead of a hearing. We don't have a budget to testify on yet. And save the hearing for a time when the '02 budget is up there and I've got something to talk about on that.
What we likely would do in a discussion with the the members, Republicans, Democrats -- one in the House and one in the Senate -- would very likely be to talk about some of the big issues that have come up during the course of this, where I've got a lot of thoughts, but I don't have a lot of answers. And to engage them in that process.
Ricks: It's going to make it look like you don't have a strategy ready yet, when you just come up and say, "I don't have any conclusions for you."
Rumsfeld: You know--you've got your job, I've got mine. And if I don't have conclusions, I'm old-fashioned, I tell the truth.
Ricks: But I thought that the strategy paper does have conclusions, when it says, we should have more of an emphasis on long range, we should do Asia . . .
Rumsfeld: Oh, first of all, the strategy paper is the strategy paper, and it doesn't mean it's the strategy.
Rumsfeld: It is a paper that has gotten multiple, multiple chops and comments and it is a helpful -- think of it not as a conclusion, but as a part of a process, a vehicle for discussion, for fleshing up issues. And if someone wants to take it out and chip it in stone, they would be making a mistake. If they want to say, "Gee, I just read that and you know, it raises these questions"--.
Now, let me take one example.
Ricks: Dropping the two-war [MRCs].
Rumsfeld: Okay. I'll take that one. You could also take how the forces are organized, whether we've got the right organizational model.
Those aren't things that anyone deals with lightly. They are big, big issues. They are issues that have enormous rippling effects. And they're issues that are not for me to decide, they're issues for us to discuss and consider and debate. I am going to probably end up proposing them in the QDR process in a way that says, "Look, we've been sizing our forces based on two major regional conflicts. It's about ten years old. It's not the only construct that this country has used in the past. It's not the only construct this country has used." And what I'd like the Congress to do is to think about it. I'd like the QDR process to think about it. And I'd like to have some different models or alternatives tested and tell us what the pros and cons and the advantages and disadvantages might be.
Now, I've got some views about it. I'll give you an example: The 3rd Infantry Division is C3, and the reason is because they needed 29 days to train and they're going to get 28. The reason they're going to get 28 instead of 29 is because they are in Bosnia at the time, and their headquarters is split. They're doing the job the president asked them to do. They're doing the job the Congress asked them to do. They're doing the job the department asked them to do. And yet we're saying to them, "They're C3, we don't care enough about you to arrange ourselves so that you can be ready to do the task that you're really there to do."
Now that's bad for morale. That is not a good thing, I don't think.
Second, I was looking-it's classified, I can't show it to you--I was looking at, Hugh Shelton brought up a group of things showing the numbers of different things we have done in the last decade, how many of each type thing. There's about 20 different types of things. Non-combatant evacuations, and shows of power, strikes, no-fly zones, Kosovos, Bosnias, all of these different things.
Now we have not had a major regional conflict in ten years, but we have had a bucket of those things. Question: 'What is likely to be the case over the coming decade or two, and how ought we best size the force, and what ought we to be ready to do, and how ought we to measure readiness,' I think are very important questions. And there's no way someone can come into this place and divine those. All I can do is discover the issues and listen to enough people say to me, "Something's wrong. Something's wrong with the way this is working. Isn't there a better way?"
I think that's a legitimate national discussion. And for you to say, "Gee, they'll see you don't have a strategy," it doesn't bother me one whit. Hell, I know what I can do and I know what I can't do. I can do some things, but I can't simply stick a computer chip in my head and come out with a perfect answer to big, tough, important questions like that for this country. Even if you could, change imposed is change opposed. You wouldn't even want to do it. Even if I was smart enough to do it, which the good Lord knows I'm not, you wouldn't want to do that.
We're going to have to go through a process of talking about that, and thinking about that, and testing it against the kinds of things we're doing.
The same thing is true with how the forces are organized. What happens when there's a Kosovo? Well, there is no standing joint task force to deal with that. You grab some fellow and say, 'You're in charge of the air war. We're going to stand up a group. You go get yourself a headquarters, pull this together, get yourself some forces, we're going to do this.' Well, the whole thing only lasted 78 days. And think how long it took just to pull it all together.
Ricks: So you'd like to have a standing joint task force organized, do you think?.
Rumsfeld: I didn't say that. I said, that's an issue.
What ought we to do? Is that the model we like, where we don't have those standing . . . . Did you meet Larry DiRita here?
Ricks: I knew Larry back when he was working on the Joint Staff years ago.
You see, for some reason people think I know more than I know. And I know what I know, and I know what I don't know. And I am not even slightly shy about saying what I don't know. But I have taken those questions, which for the most part I've gotten from other people or I've just figured out, and I've asked lots of people about them. And if I had developed conviction that what was was perfect and could not be improved upon, I would not ask the QDR to take a look at it.
On the other hand, if I develop conviction that there are enough issues about what is, that it's worth our time and effort to force ourselves to do the hard thing, and that's to look at it and test different ways of doing things, and debate them, discuss them -- these are important issues for the country. This is what the QDR process is for. This is what Congress contributes to. These are the kinds of issues that they ought to be engaged in.
Now you opened with a comment, and I think part of the answer is that I think people thought I would come out divining these things. And I can't. If I had a perfect model that I could hold up and say, "I think this is awfully good, almost perfect, and certainly better than what is," I would do that.
Ricks: Have you come to any conclusions yet?
Rumsfeld: You bet. I've come to a lot of them, and I've made recommendations. I've walked you through a whole bunch of them. Missile defense we made conclusions, acquisition reform, financial management we got some conclusions, and morale we've got some conclusions, we've announced space reorganizations. We're close on crisis management, we're close on spectrum reorganization. The nuclear forces I'm two-thirds of the way there, but I've got another third.
Ricks: Very little on programmatics.
Rumsfeld: I haven't gotten to them yet.
It seems to me you start at the beginning. If you get the strategy right, then you can go down from that and start looking at what does that mean for this, that and the other thing. And everyone of course, you and everyone else and contractors and people in congressional districts, are very interested in what's somebody going to decide with respect to a particular weapons system. That's particularly true when the press keeps writing from a leak, "Oh, he's going to do this with that one--stop this, or add to that, change this." Well, everything you've read or written is baloney. I have not gotten there. The only programmatic thing I've gotten to was the F-22 and I had to do that because it was going to stop otherwise, so we had to reprogram some money.
Intelligence, as I say, I haven't gotten to because we haven't gotten the guy on board. He's still getting cleared.
And that's the sum of those things. They're not mysterious. The military's been involved, people have been briefed. Everyone who wants to be briefed I think has been briefed. Larry, you were doing congressional relations. I don't know --
DiRita: We've had a lot of meetings.
Rumsfeld: We sure as heck have.
I think that the short answer to your question is that people care about this industry, this institution, and they want it to be right for the people in it, and they've worked their heads off and there was a late transition and the president made some decisions that he wanted some studies done on some things, and people are -- everyone cannot be involved in everything.
I mean, Jim Schlesinger did the spectrum study by himself. I don't know how many of your dinner generals we could have piled into his living room as he sat there sucking his pipe opining on what might be done with respect to spectrum. But it is true, no one else was involved in what he recommended.
When you take that recommendation and then you give it to the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines and the services, and they're chewing it, masticating it, beating it up, kicking it around, and at some point it will come floating back up. It will look a little like it looked, but not completely, and then we'll make an announcement and say we're going to make some reorganizations with respect to spectrum.
But everyone is playing.
Ricks: Did you come in here feeling that the military here was somehow out of control or--.
Rumsfeld: Not at all.
Ricks: --not had adequate civilian control?
Rumsfeld: No, not at all. Had no knowledge, no opinion.
Ricks: Did the February 16th airstrike and the foul-up on the timing, the fact that the president and, I take it you as well, thought they were going to occur six hours later than they did . . . .
Rumsfeld: Without addressing that, because I'm not sure that's correct and I don't particularly want to get into . . .
Ricks: Did it undermine your-- Put it this, way, did the foul-up associated with the timing of the February 16th airstrike somehow erode your faith in communications between the Joint Staff and OSD?
Rumsfeld: Let me make a statement rather than a direct response.
I had been functioning here with no other Bush appointees. I had been working with a very small number of people who, like Larry, who came into a job temporarily, as a holding pattern in legislative liaison. And we have been working...you know, I get in early in the morning, stay here late at night, as everyone else does, and there are bound to be things that don't connect right, either within the building between elements, or between this building and the White House or the State Department or somewhere else. That's inevitable when people are new on the job.
What you do is you look at it and then you go about the business of getting it fixed. It isn't a matter of decrying the circumstances, it's a matter of saying, "Well, that's a good lesson. Fortunately no one was hurt, nothing bad happened. Let's pick up and get on from there."
Ricks: Is Admiral Giambastiani going to have that as part of his mandate, as your MA, to kind of somehow fix communications between Joint Staff and OSD?
Rumsfeld: Oh, sure. My goodness. The senior military advisor does that.
But I think the Lopez effort is going to produce a wiring diagram and a set of connections and understandings and directives so there will be much better clarity as to who's supposed to be doing what when. I don't know quite how far away we are on that, but he's been in several times and he was in this week.
We've gone back to -- I keep thinking of additional connectors that I need to understand.
Ricks: Speaking of vice admirals-Staser Holcomb.
Rumsfeld: A good guy.
Ricks: I've never met him. It was before my time around here.
Rumsfeld: Terrific guy.
Ricks: I hear a lot of grumbling, especially in the Army and the Air Force, not so much in the Navy because he's one of their own, that you are somehow reaching in--they're not sure what Admiral Holcomb is doing, but they're worried that you're somehow reaching into the two-star and three-star selection process, the last prerogative of the service chiefs.
Rumsfeld: I'll tell you what he's doing We've got a number of issues that are coming along--StratCom, TransCom, chairman, chief of staff of the Air Force, some other elements to building for senior officers, and that's one thing, he's helping me put some. With everything else I've got going on, I needed someone to help put some structure into that process for me.
Ricks: The personnel process.
Rumsfeld: The military personnel issues, yeah. He, fortunately, was kind enough to come out--he lives on the West Coast-and spend some time helping me do that for a period. He is not permanent here.
Another thing that happened is, I started looking at the signature forms that they want me to sign all the time, and I kept noticing that people that were in their jobs 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15 months. General officers, flags. I know that if you have a need to punch tickets, to get your schoolings, your trainings, to get your joint pieces under Goldwater/Nichols, there is tremendous pressure to do that. I also know that it's difficult for people to really learn a job and then do it well enough and know what their mistakes were because you have to be around long enough to see some of them.
This goes to your earlier question about whether or not it makes sense for people to serve in, to reduce optempo and turbulence, to have people stay in slots a little longer and maybe to serve longer, given the fact that. I mean Admiral Quigley here is what, 47?
Rumsfeld: And you're up or out.
Quigley:: Yes, sir. Two more years.
Rumsfeld: Now, here's a guy, he doesn't walk on water, but he's a good . . . I'm kidding. (Laughter) Don't put that in. He's a heck of a guy. And any company that would let him, or a person -- we don't want to get personal here--but to let a person like that who's at the top of his game to leave is mindless.
So I have to say to myself, 'Golly, ought we not to think about that? And I've asked Staser to think a little bit about that. "Am I right? Am I wrong? What don't I know about it?" And help put a little discipline into my thinking on it. So those are the kinds of things that Staser's here to do for a little while. Nothing dramatic.
Ricks: So the generals shouldn't be so upset?
Rumsfeld: No, no. (inaudible) relax and enjoy it.
Ricks: A couple of last things, because I'm taking up a lot of time here.
You have, whether you intended to or not, shaken up this building. Was that your marching order from the president-'Go over there, shake things up a bit, they need some shaking up.' What did the president tell you come over here and do?
Rumsfeld: If you look at his speeches you'll see what he said. He has said nothing notably different to me in private than he said in public.
He said look, "Look, I intend to go forward with missile defense, and I'd like you to go over there and think that through and come back and make some recommendations."
He said he is deeply concerned about the morale in the military and the trust relationship at all levels. He has the feeling that supplementals and irregular funding patterns and uncertainties as to whether or not there are going to be flight hours and things like that are not good. He is concerned about telling people that their units aren't ready for what the government says they're supposed to be ready for, and that for some reason that's okay.
So he sees the men and women of the armed forces as central, and that their feeling about themselves and the way that institution is caring for them, and he felt that it needed a lot of improvement. That housing is substandard, that the facilities they work in are substandard, and that we ought to do a better job with it.
Next, he said that he believes, that he would like to feel confident that he can tell the American people that we have the lowest number of nuclear weapons that is appropriate for our national security interest, and he's asked me to undertake a study of that.
So if you think of the pattern of some of the strategies, they fit the things that were in his Citadel speech and they fit some things that I happened to be concerned about, like space and intelligence. They fit some things that came over the transom, from Schlesinger on spectrum, for example--I'll tell you honestly, I hadn't thought about it, and Jim did and is knowledgeable and was willing to help.
So there's nothing mysterious about any of those things, and they are things that he feels are important.
Now is change hard for people? Yeah. Is the anticipation of change even harder? Yeah.
So when the president comes into office and says look, 'I'm not certain things are the way they ought to be and I want to have you look at those,' and I get Admiral Dave Jeremiah, who is no bomb thrower, he's a very, very talented fellow, who was vice chief of staff under Colin Powell as I recall, and I happen to know him from the Space Commission and have a lot of respect for him, to head that up.
Now is that strange or unusual or off the wall? No. It's a perfectly rational thing to do and it's been a useful thing to have done. Does it shake people up? I don't know. Is the thought of changing the number of months somebody stays in a job shaking them up? Maybe. Is it still worth looking at? Yes. Is the thought that maybe we ought not to bring people in, the best people we can find, train them, and then shove them out when they're 46 or 47 or 48 years old? Is that shaking people up to think about that kind of thing? I don't know, it doesn't shake me up. I don't think it shakes up people who care about the Department of Defense. The people it shakes up may very well be people who don't have enough to do. They're too busy getting shook up. They should get out there and get to work.
What else? I didn't look at your dadburned list. I got going here . . .
Ricks: You did a pretty good job . . .(inaudible)
Rumsfeld: The meetings on the Hill today were terrific.
Ricks: Down at the bottom here, I've been hearing in the last two weeks about friction between Pentagon and State over three specific areas.
Rumsfeld: Listen, there's some woman, I don't think she's with your paper, who writes a story every week or two about the problems between Colin Powell and me. It is baloney.
Ricks: I have held off on those stories, until the last two weeks--
Ricks: -- when several people--we don't sit around making these things up, people say things to us.
Ricks: And what struck me in the last two weeks is people have said to me, "Hey, Tom, real friction here: On China, Powell thinks that Rumsfeld and Blair are way too hard line and need to chill. On Iraq, Powell has said you cannot continue bombing Iraq like you have been doing, especially with an energy crisis and a crisis in Israel, you really need to rethink this approach." And finally, on the Balkans, I keep on hearing, "Rummy's hard over on getting us out of Kosovo, he's asked Shelton specifically for options on how to get out by a date certain."
Rumsfeld: Okay. First, I had dinner the night before last with Colin, I had lunch with him yesterday, I was with him this morning, I was with him this afternoon. We talk at least three times a day on the phone. The fabrication that there are big divisions between Rumsfeld and Powell is false.
Now, do we end up institutionally with different views from time to time? Sure. Do we talk about them? You bet. Are they talked about in a very rational way? You bet. Do we learn from each other? You bet. Do they get solved in a rational way? You bet.
I don't care who's telling you that, it is a misunderstanding of what's going on at the top. I can't speak to what goes on down below because I haven't had any people here, no Bush appointees, nor has he very many. So I don't doubt for a minute that someone down below in the building says, "Gee, there's this or that." I've got right here a cable on the--on an issue, put it that way, that State wanted cleared here. And I've been up on the Hill, I've been in a PC meeting all afternoon, I'm with you, and someone over there right now could be saying--and I'm editing it, it's a State Department cable, I'm editing it, right now--and it will go back over there and they'll say, "Well, Rumsfeld didn't agree with this." And that's true, I won't agree. Then Colin will call up and say, "You know, didn't understand this, or I think that," and I'll say, "Fine, do that," and he'll say, "The rest of this stuff is fine," and it will go out.
Now, down below, someone could get a little heartburn about that because their cable got mucked up by someone up above. And that's life.
Now what were the other issues? Bosnia? False.
Ricks: Bosnia and Kosovo, both.
Rumsfeld: Well, let me take them separate.
Bosnia. We're working the process through our NATO allies. The military job was done there three or four years ago. We still have our military people in there, and so do our friends and allies. I have an old-fashioned view. I think that the mission creep from the military role we went in to do, has migrated over into the civil, what do you call it, police--civil order, I guess, is the phrase they use. And the reason that's happened is because it is a lot easier and cheaper for people to use American military people than it is to take the tougher steps of seeing that the civil order side is developed and that there is an opportunity for the military to step away.
So there's been previous little effort on that . . . I shouldn't say that. Don't quote me that. I'm not knowledgeable enough to say that.
There has not been enough happening on that side, even though the military job was done three or four years ago, for us and our allies together to work our way down in a way that would contribute to stability.
Now am I raising that issue? Yes. Is it natural for the Pentagon to raise the issue? Yes. They're our service people and we've got an optempo problem. And it's difficult for families. And I darn well intend to do something about it. And I'm not having trouble with Colin over it.
But is it true that I keep pushing that? You bet. Am I pushing it unilaterally? No.
What was the other issue?
Ricks: Kosovo. Bosnia and Kosovo were presented to me as a package, that you really want us out of both places.
Rumsfeld: It isn't a matter of, I want us out. I want us to do the right thing. And the right thing is when the military job is over you put something in its place, civil order, and you take the military and you put the people that do the civil. These people didn't come into the military to be policemen in Bosnia. They've got families. We want to manage our affairs in a better way than that.
We were told when they went into Bosnia, however many years it was, that they'd be out in a year. You may not remember that. You were probably still in high school.
Ricks: No, I just wrote a novel that turns on that.
Rumsfeld: Did you really?
Ricks: I sent a copy to you. It's around somewhere.
Rumsfeld: It's right in here. I haven't read it, but I will.
Ricks: That's the key aspect, actually, the testimony that we would be out of Bosnia . . . .
Rumsfeld: But I'm not... I'm a person who cares about the world, believes we need to be engaged in the world, but I'd like to see us engaged at a level, a tempo, that is appropriate to the men and women in the armed forces, and in roles that are appropriate to the United States of America, and for periods of time that are reasonable.
We've been in the Sinai for 20 years. I'm also pushing on that button.
What was the other one you raised?
Ricks: Iraq. No-fly zones, and Powell specifically saying to DoD, "You cannot continue the daily or near-daily bombing and missile fire in Iraq, that the Arab world will not stand for it, especially when you have a crisis in Israel, and it's hard for Arabs to be cozy with the U.S., and an energy crisis."
Rumsfeld: Okay, turn your machine off.