Q: If you had to rate your principal concerns right now, leaving aside your overall concern with our relations with the Soviet Union, where would you put Iran, which seems to be disintegrating fast, on your worry list?

A: I would put iran second only because of the strategic importance of Poland. I would probably put Poland, and then Iran.

Q: And then?

A: Central America.

Q: Poland because you think there's a real possibility that the Soviets will in the end have to come in?

A: No. But because it's a historically unprecedented evolution in political change.

Q: What's our role? We recognize that change. We welcome it. How do we encourage it without forcing the Soviets to react in a way that might defeat our purposes?

A: Well, I think we've dealt with it very sensitively, in two administrations now. We recognize that we've got to help the people of Poland and we've done that. The United States has been the largest contributor to that effort. And we expect that the East will do likewise. And we've got to insist, as we have in a very unified way together with our partners, that the Soviets not interpose themselves in the process, recognizing that there are subtleties to that which no wishful thinking can control. I think it's just simply a situation that's no different from Salvador, no different than Afghanistan, that these are problems for the Polish people and the Polish leadership to decide. And we've got to conduct our affairs responsibility to contribute to that. We would hope that that would crystalize the progress that's already been made in terms of loosening and opening the society.

Q: What can we do about Iran?

A: There again, it has its historical imperative. We are best served by contactical way. And to do all that we can to contribute to an ultimate outcome inIran which would be compatible with Western values and orientation.

Q: But at this point, there's virtually nothing we can do.

A: There's little we can do.

Q: It's chaos?

A: It looks more that way every day. But to attempt to exploit that would probably put in jeopardy the longer-term objectives I spoke of.

Q: You were asked recently on a TV program about relationships with Cabinet members and the White House . . .

A: [groan]

Q: . . and you answered that the fellow in charge is the president and he's doing it the way he wants it to be done, and with only two exceptions you and [Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger have shared not only general objectives, but more or less specific ones. At the end you were invited back to tell what the two exceptions were

A: [laughing]

Q: One was the grain embargo. What was the other?

A: The neutron bomb, on timing.

Q: Only timing?

A: Yeah, only timing. I've always been in favor of developing the ERW [enhanced radiation weapons] system. I felt at the time it would have been better to wait until we had our discussions with the Soviets on TNF [theater nuclear forces] and that period of uncertainty combined with the [TNF] deployment decisions which are proceeding and maybe some party congresses in Europe that could be complicated by it.

Q: The grain embargo, was the timing?

A: Uh-uh.

Q: But when would have been the right timing?

A: Well, it's like everything else, every action gets a counteraction. And when it's there, then it creates new problems if you change it. I would never have imposed it the way it was imposed. And I questioned that at the time. I questioned it subsequently. I'm not a virgin here. I had some experience with that in the '70s.

Q: You would have broadened it?

A: Well, if that kind of sanction approach was to be undertaken it should have been on a broad front. I'm not saying it in the context of degree -- degree can be manipulated. But it should have been on a broad front so that no single sector of our society was to be overburdened. That's point one. But point two is I think we all have a fundamental abhorrence to manipulation of human needs for political purposes. It doesn't mean that in extremis you've not got to do that too. But I think I would have looked for another array of sanctions.

Q: I sense that things have settled down. That wasn't all the invention of the press, the tensions that were generated out of the White House and various places, was it?

A: Oh, Lord, the press never generates them. The press reports what it's given.

Q: So there was a fair amount of . . .

A: Growing pains?

Q: Yeah.

A: Sure.

Q: Is that all there was to it?

A: Yeah, not unusual.

Q: I have read the Senate hearings on making national security advisers subject to confirmation, and previous advisers all seemed to agree that the best system is the system that works best for the particular president at the time.

A: That's right.

Q: And that's what you think this is?

A: That's right. And I don't feel deprived of my ability to influence the conduct of foreign policy, not at all.

Q: What is perceived -- and what is perceived is important -- is a lack of some central traffic control to avoid things like statement by the secretary of defense which seemed to be statements on foreign policy.

A: If you're asking we would I like to see greater discipline in that regard, my answer is yes. But I don't focus it on Cap Weinberger. I focus it on the Cacophony of voices.

Q: In the White House?

A: Throughout the administration. I think we have to tighten up.

Q: Who has to tighten up?

A: Well, I think the president.

Q: But he has to have some instrument in the White House to do it . . . and his national security adviser is barely visible.

A: Oh, no. I think his national security adviser is trying to do what he feels the president wants him to do.

Q: At one point, Carter called in [Zbigniew] Brzezinski and the others and said, if you're going to make speeches clear them with each other, and for a very brief time that worked.

A: Very brief. But we're not having that problem with speech clearances. Hell, actually, it's been working very well.

Q: But we have had rather broad statements by Weinberger that can be interpreted as having to do with at least national security if not foreign policy and what you are saying is that this is not a problem? Or never has been?

A: Well, I know that every speech Cap has made he has sent over here for clearance and every speech I've made I've sent to Cap in order to be sure I wasn't goring any of his oxes and he could be sure he wasn't goring any of mine.

Q: Does that apply to when you are going on talk shows?

A: No, it can't apply to day-to-day encounters with the press because you don't know what you're going to be asked so you can't anticipate. But look, God, this is what I've been doing for 20 years. Secretaries of defense have a certain set of responsibilities that give them a different set of perceptions. Secretaries of state have the same. I can remember bloody rows between Bob McNamara and Dean Rusk -- bloody. I can remember bloody rows between Henry Kissinger and [James] Schlesinger, and Kissinger and (Donald) Rumsfeld. God, we didn't have those rows with Harold Brown because he stayed very quiet; instead you had them between Brzezinski and the secretary of state. These are not unusual things.

Q: But the perception still matters. Talking to ambassadors around town, they express themselves really at a loss to know who you really ought to talk to or where you can get the last word.

A: Well, I think, to start with, let time answer that question.

Q: Do you think the growing pains are over?

A: No, I think it would be unusual for the growing pains to be over in just seven months.

Q: You give the sense of being a lot more comfortable.

A: I'm very comfortable.