CNBC Transcript: Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Speaks with CNBC's "The Kudlow Report" Tonight

When: Today, Wednesday, August 28th

Where: CNBC's "The Kudlow Report"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Following is the link to the segment on references must be sourced to CNBC.

LARRY KUDLOW: Now let's get--right to our very special guest, we're honored to be joined now on the phone by former two-time U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. By the way, the author of the new book Rumsfeld's Rules. Mr. Secretary, welcome back, as always. I appreciate your coming on. And I wanna ask you this. Why is the United States authority telegraphing all our punches?

The Wall Street Journal called it "Loose lips." How long we're gonna be there, how many strikes we're gonna have, why we're not gonna have regime change. Why we're not gonna slaughter the Syrian army, why we're gonna leave Assad alone. What is the point of all that, Mr. Secretary?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, the--there certainly is no point from a military or strategic standpoint. The only advantage that accrues to anyone, I suppose, is-- is to the Obama administration-- because they're trying to explain-- the things they're not gonna do. And, of course, the-- disadvantage to our country is to the men and women in uniform. The last thing you wanna do is to demystify it for your enemy.

And if you plan to do something, you're gonna put men and women at risk. And we all have to wish them God speed if that's what the president decides to do. But yet, the-- the-- the administration certainly ought to be not telling in advance what it is they...

LARRY KUDLOW: I mean, that's-- that's the way I see it, sir. I'm glad that's the way you see it. To me, demystifying, as-- as you put it, I mean, how can anything good, how can the chemical warfare threat end, if-- if-- Assad is still in place and if his--army is still in place? I don't understand that. Without regime change, what changes? That's what I don't get.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, you're quite right. I think-- I think that what's lacking in all of this is the administration has simply not indicated what the mission will be. What-- what the goal, what the outcome, what is our strategic…interest? Why is it that we would be doing something?

And-- and until you do that, you can't explain to Congress what your goal is. Until you do that, you can't fashion a coalition of other countries to be supported. We already know that--Russia and China have both indicated that they are-- are totally against doing anything, notwithstanding the fact that the-- the government at least-- I don't personally know what the Syrian government has done by way of use of chemical weapons, but our government, it sounds like they're very convinced they've used them. And-- and Russia and China have said that's-- that's fine. And it seems to me that that positions them in-- in-- a pro-chemical weapon…which is unfortunate.

LARRY KUDLOW: Let me-- go into r-- Rumsfeld's Rules. You always talk about, let's see, known, unknowns.You even talk about unknown unknowns. You and I have talked about this. I borrowed it-- I borrowed it for many a column, sir, and I thank you for that.I-- I'm j-- let me just throw out what I think are known unknowns. Feel free to correct me. You just mentioned two of them, Russia and China. I'm particularly interested in Russia as a known unknown. What do we think we're gonna do? How worried should we be about a Russian reaction?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I think what-- what-- Russia, of course, and China are both important countries in the world. And they have capabilities. And they have values that are notably different than ours. And if they decide that they want to come out on the side of the use of chemical weapons being an acceptable thing, then we can see that that signal can go out to their friends and allies-- with respect to weapons of mass destruction, whether chemical, biological or nuclear.

And, of course-- they're the countries that are propping up north... They're the countries that are propping up Iran. If you think about it, the-- the-- in the Middle East the single most important thing is Iran and its potential nuclear capability.

And-- and the United States,with respect to Syria, and-- and indeed with respect to everything else we're doing in the region, we have to have in mind what will be the implication in Iran? Will they conclude from our behavior that it's okay to proceed with their nuclear program? Would-- would they conclude it's okay to use nuclear weapons.

LARRY KUDLOW: Well, that preempts my other-- I think it's known unknown. I was gonna ask you about Iran. Now I wanna ask you about Israel. What's the known unknown with Israel?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, Israel--you know, picture yourself-- I-- I think it's useful to put yourself in theother fella's shoes. Put yourself in the shoes of-- any political leader inIsrael of either party, any party. Where-- they've got a very small country with a very small population. Jews around the world have suffered the Holocaust and been killed by the millions.

And-- and the regime in Iran has said that Israel has no right to exist, it should be shoved in the sea, itshould be eradicated, it should be incinerated. They-- they-- they indicate repeatedly that it has no right to exist. And they're pursuing nuclear weapons. I don't see how any leader in Israel could do anything other than take action to protect Israeli people.

LARRY KUDLOW: All right,we're gonna leave it there. Many thanks former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Known unknowns and unknown unknowns. I'm still workin' on that. Thank you, Mr. Rumsfeld.

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