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| Friday, January 13, 2006

Der Spriegel Interviews Donald Rumsfeld

        Originally here.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Secretary, you just came back from China where you voiced concern about the rapid build-up of the Chinese military.  Is China a threat to the U.S?

Rumsfeld: I did not voice concern quite the way you suggested.  I pointed out that there are an awful lot of experts who look at the official statements about the size of their investment in defense capabilities and believe that the actual numbers are two or three times larger.  Any country in the world, obviously, can spend as much as they want for their defense and purchase the things they want to purchase.  The thing that causes the question is the disparity between what people say they are doing relative to what they are actually doing.  That was the point I was making.

SPIEGEL: Will China be the main rival to the United States in this or the next century?

Rumsfeld: I think it would be a mistake to assume that.  I don't have any idea.  I don't think anyone does.  I doubt even the Chinese know.  Since the days of Deng Xiaoping, China has made a conscious decision to open the economic system up in a manner that is sufficient to permit growth and opportunities for their people.  They are engaging the world from an economic standpoint, which I think is a good thing.  In order to do that successfully they are going to have to allow an awful lot of people to come in to their country.  They are going to have to have many computers and there is going to be an awful lot more information flowing in and out of their country.  More Chinese people will learn the truth, that the successful countries in the world are the ones with free political systems and free economic systems.  That creates a tension in a political system that is not as free.  To the extent the desire to have a more closed political system prevails, the economic system would suffer.  To the extent the economic system succeeds, it will have a moderating and opening effect on the political side.

SPIEGEL: In other words, where there is a market economy a democracy will also evolve?

Rumsfeld: Not necessarily.  Clearly, there are some countries that have had fairly restrictive political systems and been quite successful from an economic standpoint.

SPIEGEL: Chile in the Pinochet era for example.

Rumsfeld: Yes exactly.  No question.  But in the end Chile made the conscious decision to replace the military leadership with a democratic system.

SPIEGEL: Will China become the world's second superpower?

Rumsfeld: The Chinese have a lot going for them and I wish them well.  I just hope that the rest of the world will encourage them to become a responsible and constructive, increasingly engaged participant.  Stability is an advantage for their economy.  No one wins if there's war, no one wins if there's conflict, or uncertainty, or fear.  Money flees instability.  One would hope China would increasingly feel they have a say in the successful international system.  That it's in their interest, for example to behave in a way that the rest of the world wants to have the Olympics in their country.  If that happens, we'll have a better and more successful world.

SPIEGEL: One of those troubling conflicts the world is concerned about is taking place in Iraq.  In February 2003 in Munich, Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer confronted you on your case for the Iraq war by saying: "I am not convinced."  Do you believe you have convinced the world that you were right on Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I wouldn't think so.  It is hard for people to become convinced of something they don't want to be convinced of.  If one looks at Afghanistan first and thinks about it four years ago: Al-Qaida was there, the Taliban was running the country, women couldn't go out, kids couldn't fly kites, they were killing people in the soccer stadium instead of playing soccer.  Look at it today: Of course they have the narcotics and problems of corruption, but they have an elected president, the constitution is a purely Afghan constitution, they have a parliament, they have provincial elections, the refugees have returned, internally displaced people have gone home, the economy is growing at a good rate.  It is a considerable success story but it's largely unnoticed.

        Now, go to Iraq.  I don't think that people are convinced there either.  I doubt that they will be in two, three or four years.  Fischer was so adamant in his position.  On the other hand, I think it was a renowned Middle East scholar who said, that things are not good in Iraq, but they've never been better.

SPIEGEL: Today even a majority of Americans are opposed to the war in Iraq.  What went wrong?

Rumsfeld: In Iraq, a couple of years ago, there were mass-graves in that country; they are going to be talked about in the trial of Saddam Hussein.  Today they have a constitution, it's an Iraqi constitution; it's theirs.  They are going to have an election on December 15th.  Clearly, the Iraqi people are engaging in a political process.  They are arguing, tugging and pulling.  Even the Sunnis admit that they made a terrible mistake not participating and now they are leaning forward.  There has been more participation registered on their part.  Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are all going to be engaged in the election process between now and December 15th.  I think you'll see a successful election.

SPIEGEL: On a daily basis, though, there are terrorist attacks.  Over 2,000 US soldiers have now been killed.

Rumsfeld: We thought there would be a spike in incidents prior to the October 15th referendum.  There wasn't.  There could be in December, however.  But, increasingly, the pressure being put on the terrorists and the insurgents is working.  They are capturing or killing large numbers of senior al-Qaida and Zarqawi-type people.  Lately we put in a tip line, so that Iraqis can call in anonymously.  They don't get any money for it, but they can call and say "Look, down the street two doors, there are some guys making bombs."  And the number of tips being called in is increasing.  The Iraqi security forces are being killed in high numbers by the insurgents and at a certain moment the Iraqis are not going to like it any more.  It's their country.

SPIEGEL: Who are the insurgents primarily fighting against: the US or the Iraqi government?

Rumsfeld: The insurgents are not fighting the coalition, the insurgents are fighting the Iraqi security forces, they are fighting the Iraqi government that's been elected by the Iraqi people.  Much to the disappointment of some people, I suspect that we are going to find in the months ahead that the process will work and that Iraq will become an important country with water resources, with intelligent people, with oil in a critical part of the world, that will have a more democratic system than its neighbors for the benefit of the region and the world.

SPIEGEL: But why are you losing public support at home?

Rumsfeld: That's always been true with wars.  Go back and look at history.  My Lord, Harry Truman who did a wonderful job as president -- even you might admit that.  He contributed to the post World War II world structure and he left office with 23 percent approval rating.

SPIEGEL: Popularity, in other words, is not a reliable indicator?

Rumsfeld: My Lord, if you get up in the morning in a leadership position and you start chasing popularity polls! The center of gravity in the war in Iraq is not in Iraq.  We are not going to lose battles; we're not going to lose skirmishes.  Look, the places being fought are your country's public (editor's note: Germany) and our country's public and you (editor's note: the media) are the people that are affecting that.  Over time, we'll get it right.

SPIEGEL: Should the US administration have acted differently to get the Sunnis involved in the process of building peace and democracy?

Rumsfeld: The critical task is to make all elements feel they are part of it.  The way that country operated under Saddam Hussein was, if you didn't behave you got killed, you got thrown into prison, your family got killed.  That's what held it together.  Repression works.  Now, with the constitution they are trying to fashion a piece of paper that will substitute for repression, that they can look at and say, "That's going to protect me."  It's a big leap of faith to do that.  The Sunnis were the minority that benefited from the regime of Saddam Hussein.  They obviously concluded that they're going to lose out.  They need to find a way to be confident, that, even though they are a minority, they'd be treated fairly and they'd be a part of it.  It's taking them time to get there.  Quite honestly the Sunni neighbors have not been anywhere near helpful.  Maybe, because they were less enamoured of a representative democratic system than some of the rest of us.

SPIEGEL: Which countries are you talking about?

Rumsfeld: Oh, just some of the Sunni neighbors....  Now they see that they have to keep the Sunnis in the game.  So, I think it's coming.  It is their country, it's not our country.  They are going to have to find their way to it and it's a bumpy road.  Democracy is a tough business.  The suggestion, that there are some geniuses who could say "Oh, let's do it that way!" and having it a nice, smooth path is outrageous.  History doesn't work that way.  Look how long it took Germany after World War II to get itself on the right track.

SPIEGEL: Aren't you afraid that you will end up with a fundamentalist Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Anything is possible.  It's their country and they are going to do what they do.  But it would be a mistake and I don't think it will happen.  Sure, I worry about lots of things.  I sit down and make lists of all the terrible things that could happen.

SPIEGEL: You really do that?

Rumsfeld: You bet your life I do it and I've always done it.  What can we do to prevent the worst from happening?  Or if it does happen and it's out of our control, how can we mitigate it?

SPIEGEL: You once wrote in a memo: Are we losing or winning the war on terrorism?  Have you come any closer to an answer?

Rumsfeld: I wrote a memo in October 2003 and I sent it to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dick Myers.  I could see the data as to the numbers of people that we were capturing and killing.  What I could not see were the number of people that were entering the business, going through the madrassas schools, being trained by people, receiving monetary contributions and being taught how to be a suicide-bomber.  Those people are determined.  They want to re-establish a caliphate.  They want to knock off the moderate Muslim regimes.  Where are we today with it?  It is a very hard thing to know the answer, but there are a lot of very good signs, for example the number of senior people that continue to be tracked.  It's a fact that Osama bin Laden has not been out on video for a hell of a long time.  Maybe he's getting shy but he never was before.

SPIEGEL: Syria -- and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad -- is under international pressure because of its alleged role in the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri.  Could Syria follow the Libyan path -- that of coming clear with its past and trying to engage with the Western world?

Rumsfeld: This is clearly something that is possible and certainly desirable.  I am trying to climb inside the head of an individual like (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi and figure out what would cause him to do that?  There were some significant things that happened: The exposure of the A.Q. Khan (editor's note: the scientist behind the Pakistani nuclear weapons program who was found to have sold nuclear weapons technology to Libya among other countries) network, the adverse effects of being labeled a terrorist state, the persistence of the concern about the Pan Am aircraft that was shot down over Lockerbie, Scotland.

        You look at Kim Jong Il -- what might cause him to take a different path?  In the case of Syria, I used to meet with (Bashar al-Assad's) father (editor's note: former Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad) and I could pretty well put myself in his shoes and look at what the world looked like through his eyes.  Today, it is a bit different.  His son is now in power.  What the dynamic would be that might cause him to decide to steer a different course is harder to know.

SPIEGEL: In the end Gadhafi came clean and was able to survive as the dictator of Libya.  Maybe Bashar al-Assad too could survive?

Rumsfeld: If you look at history, there are lots of examples of how that could happen.  One thing we know about authoritarian regimes is that they are highly centralised -- to use a euphemism for a few other words we could have selected.  The goal as leader is to perpetuate the regime when you get up in the morning.  It becomes if not an obsession, then a very high priority.  Before a shifting of course can take place, they have to have concluded that doing so will perpetuate the regime.

SPIEGEL: How concerned are you about Iran?

Rumsfeld: All of us have to be concerned when a country that important, large and wealthy is disconnected from the normal interactions with the rest of the world.  They obviously have certain ambitions, powers and military capabilities ...

SPIEGEL: ...and nuclear ambitions...

Rumsfeld: That's apparently what France, Germany, the UK and the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded.  Everyone wants to have the Iranians as part of the world community, but they aren't yet.  Therefore there's less predictability and more danger.

SPIEGEL: The US is trying to make the case in the United Nations Security Council.

Rumsfeld: I would not say that.  I thought France, Germany and the UK were working on that problem.

SPIEGEL: What kind of sanctions are we talking about?

Rumsfeld: I'm not talking about sanctions.  I thought you, and the U.K. and France were.

SPIEGEL: You aren't?

Rumsfeld: I'm not talking about sanctions.  You've got the lead.  Well, lead!

SPIEGEL: You mean the Europeans.

Rumsfeld: Sure.  My Goodness, Iran is your neighbour.  We don't have to do everything!

SPIEGEL: We are in the middle of regime change in Germany...

Rumsfeld: ... that's hardly the phrase I would have selected.

SPIEGEL: The change in government hasn't been quite as sweeping as many had expected.  What are your hopes and expectations as to the new government?

Rumsfeld: You know, President Bush wouldn't even allow me to get involved in his presidential re-election campaign.  He thinks that the secretary of state and the secretary of defense should stay out of politics.  So, if I am staying out of American politics you can be sure, I would stay out of German politics.  It seems to me that free countries engaged in the world tend to be a good thing.  But, the German people and leadership have to decide about the extent to which they want to be engaged in the world.  That's up to them, not me.

SPIEGEL: Since the time of the Cold War, US nuclear bombs have been stationed on German territory.  What is their purpose today?

Rumsfeld: I think I'll leave that to the Germans and to NATO.  Some countries in Europe made the decision to allow them to be on the continent.  It was seen to be in their interest and is still seen that way today as it persists.  So one would assume it continues being in their interest.

SPIEGEL: That's hardly an answer.

Rumsfeld: That was a very good answer.

SPIEGEL: For many Germans you are the incarnation of American unilateralism.  Others admire the clarity of your language.  Some of your quotes were printed as poetry in the newspapers.

Rumsfeld: That's not my goal, to be a poet.

SPIEGEL: Who is the real Rumsfeld?  A poet?  A warrior?

Rumsfeld: Goodness.  The one thing we know for sure is that he is not the caricature that is frequently painted.  But it's for you to judge.

SPIEGEL: Give us a hint.

Rumsfeld: Anyone who wants to know the answer and does a modest amount of research finds that I've been working hard in Latin America, Central America to pull those countries together to more cooperation.  I suppose, you could use the phrase multilateral.  I hate to be seen as characterizing myself in a certain way.  So I won't.  I will talk about the United States.  NATO is a military alliance and I am the official from the United States that is centrally involved with NATO.  The initiatives that NATO has undertaken over the past five years are initiatives that I've been deeply involved in: the expansion of NATO into a larger organisation, the NATO response force.  NATO is as "un-unilateralist" as one could imagine.  The characterisation resulted from a statement I made some time ago, when I said that the mission determines the coalition, which I think is self-evident.  The US, for example is now helping in Pakistan.  The mission didn't require that we go and organise 50 countries to do that with us.  It requires speed and we have the capability of putting speed behind something.  We committed dozens of helicopters and they are now saving lives.  That is that mission.  As it was with the tsunami and frankly, as it was with Afghanistan.  There must be 40 countries helping in Afghanistan.

SPIEGEL: And Germany's quite a big part of it.

Rumsfeld: You bet.  And we spend a pile of time getting countries to be more involved.  And a lot of money helping them get there, providing intelligence for them.  Why?  Because we want more countries to feel they have a stake in the success of Afghanistan.  And it is a success.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for this interview.
        End of Archived Material

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