As it has been mentioned elsewhere, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld gave the press a zinger yesterday:
"If you believe everything you read in Maureen Dowd, you better get a life."But that wasn’t the best part of the press conference as far as I was concerned. It started when Secretary Rumsfeld had this to say about our ongoing military operations:
They're doing that. And as they continue to take on more and more responsibility, the United States will be able to reduce its troops.No…He wasn’t talking about Iraq or Afghanistan. Here’s the comment with more meat around it:
Well, you're correct, the South Korean government has raised the question as to when might it be appropriate to transfer responsibility to the Korean command. And that is something that gets discussed. And no time has been set. Everyone agrees that 55 years after the war, it's reasonable that the South Korean forces would increasingly take on more and more responsibility. They're doing that. And as they continue to take on more and more responsibility, the United States will be able to reduce its troops. And one would hope that we -- we, the United States and the South Korean government, would do what we do at a pace and in a manner that would not inject an instability into the Korean peninsula. And I'm confident we will not inject an instability into the peninsula.The very next exchange was (sadly) predictable:
Q: So within this year you will be able to start?So…the concept of ‘no timetable’ isn’t just a mental block that members of the press have when it comes to Iraq and the War on Terror: They are just too dense to even grasp the general concept.
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, no. I don't at all.
Q: South Korean President Roh wants to --
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't think that's correct. I could be wrong. I haven't read everything he's said. But my impression is that the discussions I've had with the Korean minister, and the cable traffic I've seen, is that they want the subject raised, which we do too; we think that's just fine, and then we'd set about a path to see that the South Korean military evolves into a position where it would be appropriate for them to have that control.
And you know, how many -- what period of time that might be is not something that's been determined, because it's partly a function of the pace at which the South Korean government is going to be able to investments and increase their capabilities in a way that they could assume that responsibility. But it's something we both agree is desirable.
Secretary Rumsfeld has the patience of Job.