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Defense Briefing

Aired October 17, 2002 - 13:34   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go live to the Pentagon right now, where Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is holding a briefing.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: When I came to the Pentagon last year, I prepared a list of issues that I have found useful in considering before making a recommendation with respect to the use of force. I update those guidelines from time to time, and I thought I would mention a few of them today. A copy of the guidelines is available in the press office if anyone wants one.

First, is a proposed action truly necessary? Certainly if lives are going to be put at risk, whether they're U.S. lives or the lives of other foreign nationals, there must be a darn good reason.

I suggest that all instruments of national power should be engaged before, during and after any possible use of force.

There is clearly an interaction between diplomacy and the potential of the use of force. And I would submit that the -- a good example of it exists today.

The Iraqis have refused inspections for years now. And because of the threat of the use of force and because the United Nations is considering that, the Iraqis have now volunteered that they might consider one type of inspection or another. Whether they'll stick with that or not is another question, but I think it's an example of that interaction.

When the U.S. commits force, the task should be achievable and at an acceptable risk. It has to be something that the United States is truly capable of doing. We need to understand that we have limitations. There are some things that this country and other countries simply can't do.

There should be clear goals, both as to the purpose of the engagement and what would constitute success, so we can know when our goals have been achieved.

Decisions, in my view, ought not to be made by committees. If the U.S. needs or prefers a coalition, which in my view it almost always will, it's important to avoid trying so hard to persuade others to join a coalition, that it could compromise the goals or jeopardize the command structure. The mission needs to determine the coalition. Third, if a proposed action is necessary and doable, is it worth it? If an engagement's worth doing, then we need to recognize that ultimately lives could be put at risk, and leaders have to be willing to invest the political capital necessary to marshal support necessary to sustain the effort for whatever period of time conceivably could be required. When there's a risk of casualties, that risk should be acknowledged at the outset rather than allowing the American people or others to think that an engagement can be executed antiseptically.

Next, before acting, one needs to consider the implications of the decision in other parts of the world. When the United States does something in one location, that action is read all across the globe. So too with an inaction, it can be read all across the globe. And those actions and, or inactions can contribute either favorably or unfavorably to the U.S. deterrent and to our influence in other parts of the globe.

Finally, if there's to be an action, it seems to me that it's important to make a judgment as to when diplomacy has failed and act forcefully during the pre-crisis period to try to alter behavior and prevent a conflict. If that fails, to be prepared to use whatever force is necessary to prevail, plus some.

It's important not to dumb-down what's needed by promising not to do things, it seems to me. We've seen instances where people have said, "We won't use ground forces," or, "We won't risk lives," or, "We won't permit collateral damage," or, "We won't bomb below 15,000 feet," or, "We'll set an arbitrary deadline that will end as of this date." Those promises, those declarations, it seems to me, have the net effect of simplifying the task for an enemy and it makes the task for the coalition much more difficult.

I think it's also important to be brutally honest. We need to avoid making any effort sound even marginally easier or less costly than it, in fact, could become. Preserving U.S. credibility requires that we promise less or at least no more than we believe we can deliver.

And remember that it's a great deal easier to get into something than it is to get out of it.

There may be times when national security requires that the U.S. act without clear answers to some of these questions. These questions really that I've posed to myself I think of as guidelines, not a perfect checklist but simply -- and certainly not hard-and-fast rules. But they're prepared as a checklist so that, as people are considering the possible use of force, it is done with the fullest appreciation of our responsibilities and all the risks.

General Myers?


And good afternoon. Let me just add my condolences to those of the secretary's for the family and friends of the young child killed in Afghanistan and for the family and friends of our Marine that was killed in Kuwait.

I'd also like to add condolences to the victims and their families and those injured and killed in the bombings in Indonesia and in the Philippines.

I think if it points out anything, it points out the need for continued international cooperation as we come to grips with and try to destroy and disrupt these terrorist organizations that would carry out these heinous acts.

And with that we'll take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you and the president have said repeatedly that one thing that separates -- one major thing that separates Iraq from the rest of the axis of evil is that Iraq has been in long violation of international agreements on weapons of mass destruction.

Now North Korea says openly that they are violating such an agreement and are actively developing nuclear weapons. Should not now North Korea become a candidate for possible preemptive defensive action and that weapons program? And if not, why not?

RUMSFELD: Well, of course, those are questions not for me but for the president and the Congress and the country. And the United States government is in the process of talking to our friends and allies in Japan and South Korea and I believe there will either have been or will also be discussions of that subject with the People's Republic of China, with Russia and possibly with the European Union members.

It is a fact, it is a reality that they are -- they stand in direct breach of, I guess, four separate agreements by their own admission. They have indicated that they have violated the nonproliferation treaty, the IAER safeguards agreements, the North- South denuclearization agreement, as well as the so-called agreed framework. The United States has indicated that it will be talking with our friends and allies and discussing the seriousness of the problem.

QUESTION: Is it time to demand that North Korea admit inspectors to prove that it will or can give up this weapon of mass destruction?

RUMSFELD: I said before that the idea of inspectors ought to be considered in the context of a cooperative government. The idea of inspections is when a country says, "We've decided that we want to conform to international standards and agree to international resolutions and requirements and agreements. And therefore, we're going to cooperate, and we'd like to prove that we're not doing any of these things. Therefore, we'd like inspectors to come in and validate that truth for the entire world."

Now, what you're asking is is it appropriate for inspectors -- they just said they are violating it. They're not even denying that they're violating it. They've admitted that they're violating all four of those agreements. What does one inspect when they are already stating for the world that that's that position?

QUESTION: Has there been any change in posture for the U.S. troops in Korea since the revelation?

RUMSFELD: We don't talk about troop deployments or changes.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'd like you to be brutally honest now for a moment, if you would.

RUMSFELD: I just was.

QUESTION: Well, I have another issue if I may.


QUESTION: There was a front-page story in The Washington Post earlier this week putting in print whispers and comments that many of us have heard since you took on this job. And that is that the top military leadership and civilian leadership of the services are out of the loop, and that you rely on a small cadre of civilians, Steve Cambone and others.

QUESTION: One, is that true? And two, are you doing the operational planning for any kind of attack on Iraq?

MYERS: Can I be brutally honest?


QUESTION: That's not fair because you're standing by his side, General.

MYERS: OK. I'll stand over here. It doesn't matter where I stand.

Let me just say that, the first part of your question -- not the Iraq part, but the other part -- and I think I was quoted fairly in that article on this point; I can't remember exactly. But it's my view -- and, of course, I don't have all the historical context here, but I doubt if you go back in history, that you will find a civilian structure and a military structure in this building that collaborates more than we have in the last year and a half or whatever. Go out and ask the other service chiefs, go ask the people that you would expect to be at his level collaborating and even those that maybe shouldn't be at some of the meetings.

And that's my view. And so, I think, the innuendo in that article is absolutely wrong.

QUESTION: Second point, please, sir: Are you doing the operational planning without consulting the senior military leadership?

RUMSFELD: Ask Dick. I mean, it's nonsense. I called one of those articles a world-class thumb-sucker. I'd like to apologize. This one was a world-class one, that one was second-rate. (LAUGHTER)

MYERS: I'm trying to think of a matter that we are not -- that the senior military officials in this building and out in the unified commands, anywhere where there's expertise that needs to be brought to the problem, where they're not consulted on -- not only just consulted, but a part of the planning and the programming, the allocation of resources and deeply involved in the execution.

And as you would expect, the secretary, being the secretary of defense, and in the direct chain of command from the commander in chief to the combatant commanders, the secretary plays a very active role, but he doesn't play that role solo. Everybody's involved, to include the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the joint staff, other members of OSD and anybody that would have a valuable input.

I mean, it's just -- those sorts of thoughts, I don't know why -- we've said that several times from here and it just keeps bubbling up. But nothing could be further from the truth.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up.

RUMSFELD: Just a second. I suspect -- I don't know this, but somewhere there's the numbers -- I would guess that I've probably met more with the senior military leadership in the United States of America in the last 20 months than any other secretary possibly ever did in four years. It is continuous. I could be wrong on that. And certainly in modern times, that's the case.

The other thing I would say about it is, the article had the tinge that there's something wrong with civilian control. And it struck me as a little odd. Someone ought to go back and read the founding fathers and what they had in mind. It is intended that there be civilian control in this department. That's the design of the system.

Clearly it's done with extensive consultation and discussion, but one ought not to go away with an impression that that's something that's an anomaly in our system, because it's central to our system.

In fact, one of the stipulations we have in terms of our relationships with other countries is a preference on their part that they have civilian control of the military as opposed to military control over the military.

QUESTION: General Myers, one quick follow-up if I may. And there's one part of that article perhaps that is accurate for those of us who know you, Mr. Secretary, said you're a tough hombre in your dealings and your...

RUMSFELD: I am sweet and lovable.


God dang. QUESTION: General Myers, can I take you back to North Korea a second? What are the military implications in terms of readiness if the U.S. has to plan for heightened tensions in that region of the world from, you know, precision guided weapons, chemical protection suits, transport as you simultaneously plan for potential action against Iraq? Is this a major problem potentially looming from a readiness standpoint?

MYERS: Well, you know, I go back to the QDR and the strategy that came out of there that had about five tasks for us in the military to do. And the major piece of that and the middle piece of that was to be able to swiftly defeat the efforts in two separate parts of the world and one to take to a win-decisively completion. And we have the forces. And then there are other things, homeland security, to be forward-postured in four regions as well, and then have a strategic reserve.

And if you take all that in balance, you know, we're ready to carry out that particular strategy.

And I'm not going to get into the what-if, because we have not -- we don't have a presidential decision on Iraq. And we have no indications right now that anything unusual is going to occur necessarily in North Korea.

QUESTION: That planning assumption assumed that the '94 agreed framework would continue and you would have before today's technical...

MYERS: No, the assumption was not based on a particular country. It was capabilities-based. And so, it did not -- it didn't, I mean, in fact it didn't take that into account.

RUMSFELD: Absolutely did not.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you believe that Iraq is more dangerous than North Korea today, now that this nuclear program is no longer secret in North Korea?

RUMSFELD: I agree with the president's speech to the United Nations and to the American people that Iraq has unique characteristics that distinguish it and that suggest that it has nominated itself for special attention because of the breadth of what they're doing.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Iraqi National Congress and the other opposition groups have put forward a couple thousand names of folks they would like to have get military training, everything from forward air controllers to military police training. Any sense when that might occur?

RUMSFELD: Gosh, I'd have to talk to the folks here in the department who are working on that.

You're right, that is a process that's beginning. What it's status is and when it might actually start I don't know. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you talked about being honest with the American people and talking about, thinking about the consequences elsewhere in the world and not making things seem easier than they are.

I'm wondering if you think the administration has been as forthcoming as it should be in terms of the risks of action.

There's been a lot of talk about and a lot of speculation by the present administration about what might happen if we don't act. But has there been enough talk about what might happen if we do act in terms of sparking the use of weapons of mass destruction, dragging Israel in, inflaming terrorism, the long-term commitment and the costs and so on?

RUMSFELD: There's been a great deal of discussion of a list of things like that that number some four or five pages, some 30 or 40 items, that I've prepared myself and discussed internally and discussed in the inter-agency process.

Those things are being addressed and addressed seriously and fully, and they are real; there's no question but that there are risks to action, just as you point out there are risks to inaction.

The extent to which any one or more of them should appropriately be discussed with the American people it seems to me depend first and foremost as to whether or not a decision by the president gets made to do something with respect to Iraq. And clearly he would make a judgment at that point as to what would be appropriate to do.

Some of the things that could go wrong simply by talking about them and suggesting them could lead to their going wrong, if you will.

And that would not be helpful.

LIN: That is the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the daily briefing at the Pentagon, answering a lot of questions about North Korea's admission that it is in fact developing a secret nuclear weapons program. When a reporter asked whether UN weapons inspectors should go into North Korea, as the administration has asked to go into Iraq, he said what's the point of sending inspectors when they've already admitted to what it is that they're doing.

Lots more questions about what will happen in reaction to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.


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