Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
Interview on News Hour with Jim Lehrer
September 14, 2001
6:00 P.M. EDT
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Wolfowitz is the number two man at the Pentagon. He also
served in the Defense Department during the first Bush administration and played
a major role in planning the Gulf war.
Welcome, Mr. Secretary.
WOLFOWITZ: It's nice to be here.
WARNER: First, our condolences on your losses at the Pentagon.
WOLFOWITZ: Appreciate that. It's pretty grim.
WARNER: Let's start with the news today, the president authorizing the Pentagon
to call up up to 50,000 reservists for homeland defense, he said. What are they
WOLFOWITZ: A variety of things. Perhaps the most important and I think in greatest
of numbers is mobilizing Air National Guard units so that we can maintain air
defense protection over the country, and particularly over crucial locations,
major cities. We're going to have, I think, a significant draw on the National
Guard and Reserve in helping to deal with the colossal tragedy in New York City,
everything from mortuary services to helping the New York authorities in various
municipal functions. That's basically the kind of thing we're talking about.
WARNER: How many U.S. cities -- there've been conflicting reports on this --
are being protected, essentially, by this stepped-up surveillance?
WOLFOWITZ: I don't want to give a number. But the fact is we have capability
to respond very quickly if there were another incident reported. We responded
awfully quickly, I might say, on Tuesday, and, in fact, we were already tracking
in on that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. I think it was the heroism of
the passengers on board that brought it down. But the Air Force was in a position
to do so if we had had to.
WARNER: What were the rules of -- would the rules of engagement, would they
have allowed the Air Force to shoot down a civilian jetliner if it had appeared
headed for a target?
WOLFOWITZ: I think -- again, I don't want to get into rules of engagement. But
I think it was pretty clear at that point that that airliner was not under the
pilot's control and that it was heading to do major damage. And ultimately it's
the president's decision on whether to take an action as fateful as that. But,
thankfully -- I mean we really have to say what an incredible thing. And there's
been so many great Americans doing great things, and the people on that plane
are clearly among them.
WARNER: Does the U.S. government have reason to believe that some terrorist
members of perhaps this same group, or affiliated with them, are still in the
United States and they're still intending violent acts against Americans?
WOLFOWITZ: I think we have to operate on the assumption that there may still
be people from that group in this country. And I think we have to operate on
the assumption that we haven't seen the end of this kind of terrorism. But we
also have to, I think, understand that what we saw on Tuesday completely transforms
the problem. We've got to think anew about this. The policies of the last 20
years, whether you think they were carried out effectively or ineffectively,
obviously don't work. This is not going to be a problem solved by locking somebody
up and putting them in jail. It's not going to be solved by some limited military
action. It's going to take, as the president has said and Secretary Rumsfeld
has said, a broad and sustained campaign against the terrorist networks and
the states that support those terrorist networks.
WARNER: Secretary Rumsfeld and the president have both used essentially the
same term, the 21st Century battlefield, a war of the 21st Century. From where
you sit, the military side of that, what is that war going to look like?
WOLFOWITZ: Well, first of all, it has to involve more than the military. And
when we talk about the full resources of the nation, we mean obviously our military
resources, which are awesome and can be made even more awesome. We're talking
about our intelligence capabilities, which are impressive and could be made
more impressive. But we're also talking about our economic strength. We're talking
about our diplomatic strength. I think the most important weapon we have is
the political will of this country. And I think we'll find once again, as has
happened before in history, that evil people, because of the way they think,
misread our system as one that's weak, that can't take casualties, can't take
blood-letting, can't carry out a sustained operation. Hitler made that mistake.
The Japanese made that mistake. It looks like the people on Tuesday made that
WARNER: Of course, many in the public, and even on Capitol Hill and in the military,
have up till now also thought the United States people wouldn't accept casualties.
Are you saying that the way you read it there is really a new mood in the country
WOLFOWITZ: Well, first of all, I reject the idea that we don't accept casualties.
We went into the Gulf war ten years ago ready to take significant casualties.
The fact that it was miraculously low I bless. But the American people were
ready for it. But, obviously, there's a different mood. And, obviously, there's
I mean, let's understand, just at the Pentagon alone, more Americans were killed
last Tuesday than in the Gulf war itself. And that's a pale shadow of what happened
in New York. We think when the numbers come in we'll find that more Americans
were killed on Tuesday than any single day in American history since the American
Civil War, worse than any single day of World War I, any single day of World
War II. It's massive. And I think that focuses the mind. It makes you think
in a different way. It makes you think anew. And if it doesn't do that, then
people also ought to think that given some of the weapons, kinds of weapons
these terrorists are after, what we saw on September 11th could be just the
beginning. We've got to put an end to it.
WARNER: So go back, though, to the military side. And I take your point about
the economic and the diplomatic side, as well, and Secretary Powell was here
last night and talked about some of that. But from the military side, give us
WOLFOWITZ: Well, first of all, I'll tell what isn't going to work. I mean we
had two embassies blown up a few years ago, and we responded with some cruise
missiles that took out some targets of questionable value. Obviously, it did
nothing to prevent the problem. I think the president is the one who's ultimately
got to decide what are the military options that make sense. I can tell you
that at the Defense Department, both his senior civilian advisers and his senior
military advisers are really thinking -- I hate to use Pentagon jargon -- but
thinking outside the box, recognizing that the assumptions that went into military
plans on September 10th just don't apply any more, and that one has to think
about, if necessary, larger forces. One has to think about accepting casualties.
One has to think about sustained campaigns. One has to think about broad possibilities.
And we're trying to present that full range of possibilities to the president.
He's the one -- and I must say I've been very impressed in the discussions I've
heard him in just in the last few days at his grasp of the breadth of the effort
WARNER: When you speak about broad possibilities, you were known at least at
the Pentagon during the Gulf war as an advocate for having gone further, not
quitting, not stopping the war when we did, perhaps going all the way to Baghdad.
Are you talking about going so far as occupying a foreign country?
WOLFOWITZ: Well, I mean if we want to get into history, I never thought we needed
to occupy Baghdad. I do think, and I think former President Bush himself has
said that if he had known Saddam Hussein was going to survive that massive defeat,
he might have kept the war going a bit longer. I think his people were on the
verge of overthrowing him. And that's something to remember, in general, that
most of the regimes that support terrorism against us support terrorism against
their own people, basically. They rule by terror. And one of our greatest allies
against them, whether it's in Iraq or many other parts of the world, are going
to be their own people. And as we develop strategies, our target is not the
people. Our targets are the regimes, and the people very often are going to
be our ally.
WARNER: So if I were a leader of a country that -- well, I don't want to put
it that way. Where on the continuum of supporting terrorists, which certainly
we would all agree Afghanistan does, to harboring them, to maybe tolerating
them: where on that continuum does a foreign country now have to be concerned
about perhaps not just diplomatic and economic action by the U.S., but military
WOLFOWITZ: Oh, well, let me put this way. As you point out correctly, I think
every country in the world is examining where they are on that continuum today.
And if they tolerate it or are not sufficiently cooperative in police work,
I'm sure they're thinking about what the Americans are come in asking and what
the FBI and Justice Department are going to be looking for. If they're over
at the other end where they have been actively financing and training and providing
logistics, intelligence support to these terrorist networks, I would hope every
one of them is thinking about getting out of the business and getting out quickly.
And that's what a strategy has to look at. The objective, I think, has got to
be very ambitious. And I think the president has stated it as an ambitious objective.
And as Winston Churchill commented the day after Pearl Harbor that dictators
underestimate American strength, but America is like a great boiler, and once
it gets fired up, the energy that it generates is enormous. And when we commit
ourselves to an ambitious goal, we can achieve it. But that doesn't mean there
is a single solution for each one of these pieces.
WARNER: How careful does the United States have to be to not provoke a backlash,
particularly in the Muslim world? I mean, isn't it possible that Osama bin Laden
on some level wanted to provoke the United States. They don't seem to have covered
their tracks very well. It seems that whoever the perpetrators were, they've
already been -- many of them, at least -- identified on the planes. Is there
a danger for the United States that it might take actions that just inflame
anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world?
WOLFOWITZ: Well, I think there's a danger of that. I think they'd like nothing
more than to provoke us into an attack that proves totally ineffective, as,
unfortunately, most of our responses over the last 20 years have been. And these
people have thought a lot. I think we have to think about the fact that they've
painted such bright targets in certain respects. Maybe they want us to hit them;
maybe they don't want us to hit one that isn't painted quite as bright as that.
But on the broader point, I think it is very important. We had a number of memorial
services at the Pentagon today, and one of them was by our Muslim employees.
This is not an Islamic act that was conducted. If I'm not wrong, there are only
two significant figures in the Muslim world who've praised this attack, Saddam
Hussein being one and the leader of Hamas being another. Even Yasser Arafat,
even the Syrians, I think even Qadhafi has distanced himself from it. I'm not
sure. But I was the U.S. Ambassador to the Indonesia. It's the largest Muslim
population in the world. I know every Indonesian that I know has got to be shocked
at people claiming that this is justified by the Muslim religion. Every religion
has its extremists. And these are religious extremists that we're dealing with.
But one of our greatest allies in that struggle has got to be the hundreds of
millions of Muslims who do not believe that that's the face of Islam.
WARNER: All right, Mr. Secretary, thanks very much.