THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: ELEANOR CLIFT, TONY BLANKLEY,
JAMES WOOLSEY AND MORTON HALPERIN
TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2001
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF SATURDAY/SUNDAY, AUGUST 11-12, 2001
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Heavens' command.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) On land, our heavy forces will be lighter. Our light forces will be more lethal. All will be easier to deploy and to sustain. In the air, we'll be able to strike across the world with pinpoint accuracy, using both aircraft and unmanned systems. On the oceans, we'll connect information and weapons in new ways, maximizing our ability to project power over land.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By land, by sea, by air. It's called a revolution in military affairs, especially air.
REP. WILLIAM R. "MAC" THORNBERRY (R-TX): (From videotape.) (In progress) -- in space is going to be a higher priority for this administration. The Air Force will be responsible for space systems from cradle to grave.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congressman Thornberry, a key figure on the House Armed Services Committee, does not exaggerate. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's first major initiative was to name the Air Force the executive agency for all the Pentagon space programs.
Among the space threats that Rumsfeld fears most could cripple our high-tech military:
Item: Anti-satellite weapons. Exotic lasers, rocket-based weapons to knock out satellites, even anti-satellite satellites. Any of these could blind the eyes and ears of America's space-based systems.
Item: Cyberwarfare weapons. Namely, ground-based computers with mischief in mind could be hacked to take over our satellites and use them against us, making it necessary for us to recapture our own satellites.
Item: Anti-missile systems. If America can build and deploy ground- and space-based anti-missile shields, one day so may other countries. In fact, a foreign space-based missile launch intercept system could prevent America from using America's missiles in a crisis. Rumsfeld's charge to the Air Force is to take charge and develop the tools the Pentagon needs for a robust defense in space.
Question: Is the militarization of space an inevitability, given our reliance on a high-tech military?
MR. WOOLSEY: Yes. It started 61 years ago, when the Germans launched a V-2 through space against London, and it now includes communications, it includes photo-reconnaissance satellites. Space has been militarized, for all practical purposes, for decades.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You agree with that, don't you, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: No, I don't. I think putting up satellites in space is not militarizing the heavens. It won't happen unless this country takes the lead. And it looks as though this administration is intent on embarking on a Manhattan-style project to develop and perfect what Ronald Reagan talked about, and that's a "Star Wars." And it's a search for a weapon that will be the magic weapon that will put this country in charge forever. And it, very correctly, makes a lot of people nervous in this country and around the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor, of course, is fundamentally wrong. Look. The use of more information to assist combat is a continuing process, it's not an on or off situation. Satellites are going to provide us more information as we digitalize the battlefield. We gain more and more advantages by having more information that can be used against a less-informed enemy.
This doesn't mean that we're going to stop or start it up there. And it doesn't mean that we can have a catastrophic collapse. They may take out a satellite sometime and we'll have a little less information than we'd otherwise have. But viewing it as an all or nothing, I think, misreads the nature of the way weapons develop.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Morton Halperin?
MR. HALPERIN: Well, the critical point is whether we put weapons in space or not. We do use space, as Jim said, for a lot of military purposes -- communications, intelligence gathering -- and that's all good and we should continue to do that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean --
MR. HALPERIN: But we should not put weapons up in space.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean offensive weapons.
MR. HALPERIN: No, anything that explodes in space.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's then talk about this test that's coming up regarding the missile shield. There was a successful test of a land-based missile. What did it do recently, in the month of July?
MR. WOOLSEY: Essentially, a mid-course interceptor hit a bullet with a bullet. It was a successful test. That's the hardest way to do missile defense. It would be a lot easier to do boost-phase intercept; that is, to shoot missiles down when they're large, slow and hot, early in their trajectory.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where was that missile launched from, Vandenberg?
MR. WOOLSEY: I believe so, and the interceptor from --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Now, let's talk about a space-based interceptor missile, which you probably remember as Brilliant Pebbles?
MR. HALPERIN: Pebbles, right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now, they are explosives.
MR. HALPERIN: In space.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In space.
MR. HALPERIN: I think that's a mistake.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a mistake. Why is that a mistake?
MR. HALPERIN: Because we get much more benefit out of the satellites and communications and intelligence than any other country, and therefore, we have the greatest stake in the rule that nobody shoots from space and nobody shoots things down in space. And that should be the highest priority for the United States in space policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?
MR. WOOLSEY: I don't think there's any rule. I think that we stand at risk, for example, in any kind of regional conflict against, say, North Korea or Iraq, of having them launch a ballistic missile into space, perhaps with a nuclear warhead on it, and, through electromagnetic pulse, taking out a lot of our satellites. There is no rule.
MS. CLIFT: I want to go back to this test that some people seem to be celebrating. I mean, first of all, it was all set up. We knew exactly when it would be coming. There was only one decoy, one balloon decoy. I don't know that our adversaries in the future are going to give us this kind of benefit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it was PR.
MS. CLIFT: It was a lot of PR. The physics are very uncertain about whether this will ever be possible.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, but this is the typical argument that's made against any new weapon system. Weapon systems take years to develop. This is a particularly difficult one to engineer. But this --
MS. CLIFT: And expensive.
MR. BLANKLEY: Of course. Everything's expensive. But this test was a step forward in proving that the process actually can work.
MR. HALPERIN: But it was the first step, and we ought not to be deploying --
MR. BLANKLEY: The first step.
MR. HALPERIN: We ought not to start deploying something until we have many more tests and develop the appropriate technology --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, but you know -- I mean, as a military expert you know that we often deploy systems before they're perfected.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort. Mort Halperin.
MR. BLANKLEY: The bazooka gun was deployed before it was perfected.
MR. HALPERIN: When we do, we pay for it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This militarization of space, or call it what you will -- you can water down that language if the semantics don't appeal to you, Eleanor -- but whatever it is, it's not new in the making. It's an evolution rather than evolution (sic). Am I not?
MR. HALPERIN: Correct.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have here that Clinton signed a national security directive commanding the military to be capable of defending our space-based assets and, if necessary, take control of them back. Do you remember that?
MR. HALPERIN: Yeah. We have to defend our military assets in space. The question is, what's the best way to do that?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, the space-based missile which you are opposed to, the interceptor missile that is launched from space and it develops a multiple number of small rockets, and those rockets, at the highest arc of an intercontinental ballistic missile, will attack that missile and destroy it before it moves further, is that necessary on tactical or strategic or, let's say, on electronic grounds? In order to accomplish the objective of disabling that missile, don't you really need to have not only land and sea, but also space-based missiles? I ask you.
MR. WOOLSEY: A lot depends on Iran. You can do a lot of effective boost-phase intercept against other countries -- like North Korea and Iraq and Syria, Libya and so forth -- from the sea, and I think that's probably where we should start. But Iran would be very hard to do that with. And so I think we ought to do R&D and possibly move toward deployment of space-based interception.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you understand why Mort is so concerned about the launching of what he sees as -- what are explosive missiles in space? Can you understand that? Does that sound to you like it's caviar to the general, that it's a philosophical exception to this more than it is a real -- a strategic objection to it?
MR. WOOLSEY: I don't see this as the central issue. The central issue to me is the United States needs to be able to maintain the ability to use space and the ability, when necessary, to shoot down ballistic missiles attacking from some of these rogue states. And we may need to go into space to do it. I think that's the central issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The exit question --
MR. WOOLSEY: These other countries are not going to leave us alone in space.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The exit question may point to what Mort Halperin is worried about. Exit: Will this policy trigger an arms race in space? James Woolsey?
MR. WOOLSEY: I don't believe so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Of course.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Not necessarily. It depends on the capacity of our opponents and whether they feel that's the best expenditure of their very valuable dollars. My guess is, in the short term, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it create an arms race?
MR. HALPERIN: It makes an arms race more likely, and we're the ones who would suffer most if there was an arms race.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think it will. I think it will bring out into the open what's already going on, notably with China and Russia.
When we come back: Can Rumsfeld succeed in revolutionizing the Pentagon?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Asymmetrical warfare.
DAN GOURE (the Lexington Institute): (From videotape.) It's unfair warfare. It's anything that an adversary may do that is not a direct and open attack using similar capabilities. But what it really means is using low-cost, high-leverage capabilities: mines, submarines, ballistic missiles and, potentially, ASAT weapons to attack our most vital installations and infrastructures.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's called asymmetrical warfare, and it's not new. The Minutemen used asymmetrical warfare in the American Revolution when they hid behind rocks and trees to fight instead of facing the superior numbers and weapons of British dragoons in open combat.
On one side you have big, on the other side, small. On one side you have complex, on the other side, simple. Yet the small and simple can wreak absolute havoc on the big and complex. Today small rogue states, or a handful of, or even a single, terrorist, or totally inferior military enemies, any one of them can inflict crippling blows to our U.S. forces armed with our grand interlocking systems of high-tech weapons, communications, intelligence and logistics; for example, the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. The billion-dollar destroyer was almost sunk.
The asymmetrical threat is not hypothetical. Last April when tensions between China and the U.S. escalated over the EP-3 spy plane, the FBI issued a warning that Chinese hackers might disrupt vital U.S. computer systems. The Chinese love asymmetrical warfare.
REP. THORNBERRY: (From videotape.) If you look at Chinese military writing right now, they believe one of our most vulnerable points is our dependence upon satellites and computers. And so they openly talk about trying to knock out satellites, attacking the stock market, various other kinds of attacks that are not big tank battles over a European plain.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Rumsfeld overly concerned about asymmetrical warfare? I ask you, Mort Halperin.
MR. HALPERIN: I'd say no. I think these are serious threats. They do not threaten our survival. And I think we need to distinguish between major countries that can -- that threaten our existence or that of our allies. These are not that, but they are serious, they ought to be taken seriously, and we need to defend ourselves against them and we need to have some non-sophisticated capabilities, like in Special Forces, who can deal with specific kinds of terrorists and other specific threats.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What specific kind of damage could be inflicted through asymmetrical warfare that is simple and small -- asymmetrical versus the big -- that would wreak the most havoc on U.S. forces in, say, some kind of a contest, or whatever?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, the primary danger of the asymmetrical force -- and there's nothing new; David's slingshot was asymmetrical to Goliath's strength -- but the primary danger is in terrorism and disruption more than in being able to block our conventional military forces from fighting. That's not really the fundamental danger.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's our prime vulnerability?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the satellite problem is -- exists, but keep in mind --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What satellite?
MR. BLANKLEY: The fact that we communicate a lot by satellites. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Communication satellites, if you take out those satellites, you can blind our eyes.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BLANKLEY: But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can't see down.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you would blind our ears. You can't hear.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but let me suggest that there are some redundancies that are possible. Ninety percent of the fiber optics in this country are dark because they're not needed. We could start building for the contiguous 48 states redundancy communication capacity through fiber optics so that if the satellites go out, within the 48 states we can still communicate with each other.
MS. CLIFT: Well, this is a lot --
MR. BLANKLEY: There are plenty of methods. This is not the end of the world.
MS. CLIFT: This is a lot of fancy language, but basically, the military is way behind on this. They don't know how to deal with the little guy who's willing to martyr his life, who has no stake in any government. And this spring, we pulled all our forces out of Bahrain because there were a couple of cell phone messages that suggested there might be a terrorist attack. So this is a serious vulnerability for this country, and there are very few resources going into it, compared to the notion of the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me talk to Jim.
MS. CLIFT: -- big shield to protect us from a handful of missiles that are off in the future. This is a threat now.
MR. WOOLSEY: It's not just a threat against military forces. Biological weapons, for example, in the hands of terrorists against American cities might not destroy all of American life, but they could well cause us to lose in even one attack as many people as we lost in World War II. So --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about the anthrax vaccine? Does that help us, with the military?
MR. WOOLSEY: Well, it -- yes, it can, but Saddam and others may have been working on strains of anthrax that can be used in spite of the vaccine. And also, I think the cyberattacks, that were commented on earlier, are very serious potentially against civilian society, not only against the military.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a good illustration of asymmetrical warfare.
MR. HALPERIN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you deal with it? How do you cope with it? He's talking about multiple levels of redundancy. What else?
MR. HALPERIN: I think you deal with it by in the military having redundancy of communication, redundancy of intelligence gathering, and some non-sophisticated forces. I mean, if you're going after a terrorist, you want old-fashioned guys with guns who aren't dependent on the complicated technologies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So how are we doing on those various scales, like redundancy, like rapid strike forces, and the other ways, like perhaps taking care of mass numbers of civilians who might be injured?
MR. HALPERIN: We're doing, I think, reasonably well, particularly on the civilian side, where the Clinton administration started a number of programs aimed at protecting civilians. I think it's a mistake to count on the military to do this. The military is a big institution, dominated by the military services, who have their own interests.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about mass casualties. But aside from that, though, you want the military to protect our satellites, of course.
MR. HALPERIN: Yes. They need to be told to build in redundancy in their systems.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to make a final point?
MR. WOOLSEY: The biggest problem, I think, is the computer vulnerability, and the real problem is that the firewalls basically don't work.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That leads --
MR. WOOLSEY: The main way we try to protect them doesn't -- do not work.
MS. CLIFT: And getting money from Capitol Hill for computer capability is very difficult. It's not a sexy item.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That leads us into the exit question. How prepared is the Pentagon for asymmetrical warfare? A summary question. James Woolsey, what do you think?
MR. WOOLSEY: It's starting to get prepared. It needs to do a lot of work on protecting computers and it needs to do a lot of work on biological warfare protection.
MS. CLIFT: On a scale of one to 10, it's a two.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, keep in mind that as the military is trying to figure out how to protect its own computers, it's also learning how, if we wanted to, to go aggressively against potential enemies' computers. So we're gaining -- as we build our defense to it, we're also gaining offensive capability. And I think we're sort of like a four.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four?
MR. HALPERIN: No, I would say it's more like a two. And part of the reason is that we continue to misunderstand that we have the greatest stake in stability, so we reject efforts to get cooperation because we want to be able to take out their computers. It's much more important to protect our computers than to take out theirs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, it's much closer to a zero, especially if you reflect on the USS Cole, you reflect on the Beirut Marine barracks and you reflect on Khobar Towers.
Issue three: Rumsfeld's revolution.
The details of Donald Rumsfeld's revolution in military affairs will soon be spelled out in the Quadrennial Review, the Defense Department's four-year master plan. Here's what is known about the Defense secretary's likely proposals.
Item: No more two-front wars. Gone with the wind is contingency planning for two Desert Storm-style simultaneous engagements.
Item: Asia as the new focus. No more tank battles against the Russians in Central Europe. The new threat is China.
Item: Defense begins at home. Missile proliferation means forward bases are more vulnerable, and rogue states mean so are the U.S. cities. Hence, missile shields are mandatory for troops abroad and civilians at home.
Item: See deep, shoot deep. Stealthy weapons, precision munitions, unmanned drones mean better intelligence and more long-range standoff killing capability to reduce the exposure of U.S. troops to enemy forces.
Question: Is our high-tech military also our Achilles heel? Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think so. I mean, it's an added claw that we have, it's an added vision we have, but the fundamental strength of our military exists even without the high-tech.
But to go quickly to the Rumsfeld issue, because this is tragic what's happening, is that the Rumsfeld initiative is falling apart.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. BLANKLEY: He has not had the backing of Bush for budgetary levels. He managed to antagonize Republicans in Congress. The uniformed services are looking to the Democrats to protect their weapon systems. The Quadrennial Review, which he was planning to have to be used as a device by which he would get action, is now being turned against him and is being used to defend the status quo. And Rumsfeld is in a terrible, terrible political spot.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the shrinking surplus? That's hurting him too, is it not?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. These are fundamental problems with the initiative, putting aside --
MS. CLIFT: And the Joint --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Do you remember the "iron triangle"? You've got the chairmen of the committees, you've got the lobbyists for defense, and you've got the need for money. Is that working against him? They just --
MR. HALPERIN: And the military services. I mean, the problem is that the Pentagon is dominated by the three military services; the Air Force wants fighter wings, the Navy wants aircraft carrier task forces, and the Army wants full divisions. And we need some of that, but we need a lot less of that and a lot more of the kinds of things Rumsfeld was talking about. But he does not look like he's going to be able to take on the services. It's not the high tech that's the Achilles heel, it's the focus on these classic military units which are increasingly irrelevant to the strategy.
MS. CLIFT: And the Joint Chiefs have sabotaged him. It's said on Capitol Hill, if the Joint Chiefs prepared the battlefield for war as carefully as they've prepared the battlefield against what Rumsfeld is trying to do, they'd never lose.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out.
MS. CLIFT: He's backing off.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Can Rumsfeld succeed in revolutionizing the Pentagon, or is it a mission impossible?
MR. WOOLSEY: He can't do it with the amount of money the Office of Management and Budget has given him, even with savings from base closures and efficiencies. They gave him about a third of what former Democratic Secretary of Defense Harold Brown said he needed even to maintain current forces.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what's the answer?
MS. CLIFT: Mission impossible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer?
MR. BLANKLEY: Not quite impossible yet. But it's like Social Security. When you make the transition, you've got to have money for both the existing and the future. He's going to need $50 billion, not $18 billion. If he can get that out of Bush, maybe he has a chance.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?
MR. HALPERIN: The issue is not money, the issue is being willing to take on the military services and the things that they especially like, which are increasingly irrelevant.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Rumsfeld going to be able to do it?
MR. HALPERIN: I don't think so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's mission impossible.
I think it's mission impossible, but I think Rumsfeld can do it. Never neglect the power of an old war horse.
Issue four: Military downsizing.
REP. ROB SIMMONS (R-CT, member of the House Armed Services Committee): (From videotape.) You refer to closing unneeded bases, unneeded bases. I only have one base, and I do need it. (Laughter.) (Laughing.) I just want to make that clear.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary Rumsfeld got a taste of the opposition to Pentagon change this summer when he proposed a new round of military base closings. Since 1988, 95 major military installations have been closed, saving the Pentagon $40 billion. The Defense Department calculates that it still has 25 percent more bases than it needs. But when President Clinton proposed base closures last year, Congress rebuffed him.
Rumsfeld needs $50 billion for this year. He can $14 billion, probably, if he closes, what, 25 bases?
MR. WOOLSEY: He can't get them fast. That money comes in over a longer period of time. He needs more from OMB, but he also needs the base closures for the long run. He's right and Congress is wrong on this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to be able to close those bases?
MS. CLIFT: Congress may be wrong, but they've got the power, and they're not going to let those bases close.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clinton asked for a new round of base closings, did he not?
MS. CLIFT: And then he --
MR. HALPERIN: He didn't get it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was rebuffed.
MS. CLIFT: And then he pulled a fast one because he kept an arsenal open in California, and Congress is punishing everybody since then.
MR. BLANKLEY: Rumsfeld would be better advised to try to start making savings in housing and groceries and all of the social welfare services, go --
MS. CLIFT: Oh, no way.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- in the private sector with plenty of -- you get food cheaper at Safeway than you can on the military bases.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean cost cutting. Will that help sell it to the Congress, if he shows cost-cutting reforms? The answer is yes.
We'll be right back with the killer exit: What should Bush do in defense that he is not doing already?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The killer exit question: What should Bush do in defense that he is not doing already?
MR. WOOLSEY: More effort on protecting computers and the infrastructure from hackers and cyberattacks, more effort on boost-phase intercept for the ballistic missile defense program.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Tell the truth. He campaigned on "help is on the way," and he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stop lying.
MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly. (Laughs.) Come clean with the American people and the Pentagon.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very good, "General" Clift.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, sort of like Eleanor. I think that Bush ought to have Rumsfeld in the Rose Garden with his arm around him and telling the cameras, "By God, this is the most important thing in the country, I'm going to come up with the money. The Joint Chiefs better know that I'm going to fight them till the last day if they don't back Rumsfeld's reform." He's got to show the political clout that Rumsfeld needs so that Rumsfeld can give us the military clout.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he has to get rid of a few of those generals?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. He just needs to show them --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why doesn't he make nice retirement packages for them and just ease them out?
MR. HALPERIN: I think he's got to back Rumsfeld in his efforts to bring about a real revolution in military affairs, including fundamentally changing our nuclear posture consistent with the new realities.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that Bush should put his money where Rumsfeld's mouth is.