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Paul Wolfowitz

September 14, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: Now a Newsmaker interview with the Deputy Secretary of State [Defense], Paul Wolfowitz. It will be conducted by Margaret Warner.

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 mayor role in planning the Gulf War. Welcome Mr. Secretary.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Nice to be here.

MARGARET WARNER: First our condolences at your losses at the Pentagon.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I appreciate that. It’s pretty grim.

MARGARET WARNER: Let’s start today with the President authorizing the Pentagon to call up up to 50,000 reservists for homeland defense, he said. What are they needed for? PAUL WOLFOWITZ: A variety of things. Perhaps the most important and I think greatest in 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, 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.

MARGARET WARNER: How many U.S. cities– there have been conflicting reports on this– are being protected, essentially by this stepped surveillance?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I don’t want to give a number. But the fact is that 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.

MARGARET WARNER: What were the rules– would the rules of engagement, would they have allowed the Air Force to shoot down a civilian jetliner if it appeared headed for a target?

PAUL 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. Ultimately it’s the President 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 have been so many great Americans doing great things and the people on that plane are clearly among them.

MARGARET WARNER: Does the U.S. Government have reason to believe that some terrorists, members of perhaps the same group, or affiliated with them, are still in the United States and are still intending violent acts against Americans?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I think we have to operate on the assumption that there may still be people from that group in this country. 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’ve saw on Tuesday completely transforms the problem. We have 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 networks.

MARGARET WARNER: Secretary Rumsfeld and the President have both used essentially the same term, 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?

PAUL 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 can 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 bloodletting, 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 mistake.

MARGARET WARNER: Of course many in the public and even on Capitol Hill and the military have, up to 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 now?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: 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 is a different mood and obviously there is an understanding. 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 war 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.

MARGARET 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 we talked about some of that, but from the military side, give us an idea.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, first of all, I’ll tell you 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 has 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 advisors and senior military advisors are really thinking, I hate to use the Pentagon jargon, but thinking outside the box, recognizing that the assumptions that went into military plans on September 10 just don’t apply anymore 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 is the one, and I must say I’ve been very impressed in the discussions I’ve heard him in in the last few days, at his grasp of the breadth of the effort that’s required.

MARGARET WARNER: When you speak about broad possibilities, you are known, at least in the Pentagon during the Gulf War, as an advocate of having gone further, 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?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, I mean, if we want to get into the 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 in any other parts of the world are going to be to defeat their own people. And as we develop strategies, our target is not the people. Our target is the regimes and the people are very often going to be our ally.

MARGARET WARNER: So if I were a leader of a country that– I don’t want to put it that way. Where on the continuum of supporting terrorists, which 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 action?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, let me put it this way. As you point out correctly, I think every country in the world is examining where they are in that continuum today. And if they tolerate it or don’t — are not sufficiently cooperative in police work, I’m sure they’re thinking about what the Americans are going to come in asking and what 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 is how to– the objective, I think, has got to be very ambitious. And I think the President has stated 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 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.

MARGARET 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 have been 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?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, I think there’s danger of that. They would 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 to us 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 have praised this attack, Saddam Hussein being one and the leader of Hamas being the other. Even Yasser Arafat, even the Syrians, I think even Qaddafi, has distanced himself from it, I’m not sure.

But I was U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, 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.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, Mr. Secretary, thanks very much.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Thank you.