Defense Leaders: International, Interagency Support Key to Victory
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2006 The United States can’t lose militarily to the terrorist threat it faces, but victory will require more than just military might, defense and military leaders told participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference as they prepared to visit the Middle East to witness military operations under way there.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld speaks to participants of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference during a breakfast meeting at the Pentagon, Oct. 16. JCOC is a seven-day conference in which civilian community leaders travel to overseas military bases to get a better understanding of U.S. armed forces and the overall mission of the Defense Department. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“There’s no way we can lose militarily, but we can’t win with the military alone,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told 45 participants in the Defense Department’s 73rd JCOC yesterday. “It will take all elements of national power.”
Rumsfeld addressed the group -- civilian business, academic and community leaders — before their weeklong trip to several countries in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, including the Horn of Africa.
The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, echoed Rumsfeld’s views as he talked about U.S. operations in the Middle East. “The United States military, by itself, is not going to fix Iraq or Afghanistan,” Giambastiani said. “It will not, by itself, either win or lose, and that’s important for all of you to understand.”
Victory will require integrated, coordinated interagency and international pressure, applied over time, Navy Vice Adm. David C. Nichols Jr., deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, told the group.
That’s because winning against terrorism requires not only simply confronting terrorists, but also helping to set conditions that discourage their operations, he said. This ranges from promoting democratic governments to bolstering legitimate judicial processes to providing critical infrastructure and maintaining security.
Nichols noted the sweeping transformations Rumsfeld has initiated within the military to change it from a Cold War-era force to one prepared to confront terrorism and other 21st-century threats.
The military is organized, equipped and trained to do things other U.S. agencies can’t, Nichols acknowledged. But he said it’s also critical that these agencies contribute their specific expertise and become full partners in fighting violent extremism.
Developing the close interagency coordination and cooperation that’s needed will require cultural change, he said. He cited “incremental” changes taking place, but said the U.S. government “still lacks the mechanism for the broader, full-range” response it needs to face terrorism.
While promoting faster interagency change, Nichols dismissed what he called a common but inaccurate concept that the U.S. military “is out there all alone and unafraid in this conflict.”
In fact, 93 nations around the world are part of a broad coalition supporting the war on terror, either through Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom or in some other capacity, he said.
This international coalition is critical to success against an unconventional enemy that applies what Nichols called “fourth-generation warfare” concepts that focus on diminishing a nation’s ability to exercise its own sovereignty.
These extremists are engaged in a war of ideology and feel justified in using violence against innocent people to achieve their goals, Nichols said. He pointed to Iraq as an example, noting that former Saddam Hussein-regime loyalists, Baathist elements and rejectionists are inciting sectarian violence to disrupt the democratic process. This violence “has gone straight up” since the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, last year, he said.
As they work to derail the democratic process in Iraq, extremists there share much of the ideology embraced by al Qaeda and other terror groups, Nichols said. They’re determined to defeat the United States in the region and drive Western influence from Arab nations, he said. Ultimately, he said, they aim to overthrow moderate Arab governments and establish and expand a totalitarian caliphate.
“Underestimating what these people are about would be a mistake,” Nichols told the group.
In the face of this threat, Nichols outlined CENTCOM’s broad missions: to defeat adversaries in the region, promote regional stability, support U.S. friends and allies and protect U.S. national interests.
That’s a mission CENTCOM carries out over a vast region that’s home to 651 million people in 27 countries who speak seven major languages and represent 18 major ethnic groups, Nichols said. And with 65 percent of the world’s oil reserves, this region has vital strategic importance, he said.
The JCOC participants will get a firsthand look at some of U.S. military operations taking place in this region during this week’s visit.
The first U.S. defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, created the JCOC program in 1948 to introduce civilian leaders with little or no military exposure to the workings of the armed forces. Nearly six decades later, it remains DoD's premier civic leader program. Participants are selected from hundreds of candidates nominated by military commands worldwide and pay their own expenses throughout the conference.