Rumsfeld: Ending Terrorism Could Take Long Time
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2004 The world will know the war on terror is over when terrorism goes the way of piracy and slavery -- it will become so socially unacceptable terrorists will find no safe havens in the world, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said here Sept. 8.
"(The terrorists') failure will not be a single big event, but it will be seen as they become weaker and weaker, as they have fewer and fewer recruits, as they have less and less money," Rumsfeld said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
Rumsfeld suggested recalling things that have come to be unacceptable over time. Terrorism will end more like slavery or piracy ended than like World War II or the Korean War did, he said.
"Piracy still exists today, but it was widespread for decades. And today, most of the world is doing most of the things that they can do to see that piracy does not succeed," he said. "Slavery existed throughout the entire world. It didn't end with a bang or a signing ceremony; it was incremental, and it took time."
The secretary wouldn't hazard a guess on how long the war on terror might last. The answer, he said, is as long as it takes. He said that if any world leaders at the end of World War II had tried to guess how long the Cold War would last, they likely would have been wrong.
"The wise ones said they didn't know, but it would be as long as necessary," Rumsfeld said. "Because the expansionist, empire-seeking effort of the Soviet Union to impose their will on the rest of the world was real, it was effective, and it was dangerous. And our goal was to prevent that from happening."
Similarly, the goal of the global war on terrorism is to prevent extremists from imposing their will on America and other free countries, he said.
Rumsfeld said he didn't know how long it would take to defeat terrorism. He noted it took more than four decades and perseverance on the part of presidential administrations from both political parties to succeed in bringing down the Soviet Union.
When people look back on the global war on terror, he predicted, "they will say they participated in something important, something that needed to be done, something that was difficult (and) hard to do, something that was different from any other task that free countries had previously been asked to undertake.
"And they succeeded," he added. "They were part of something that was enormously important, and it was noble work."
The secretary said military servicemembers and other Americans have accomplished amazing feats over the past three years. Fifty million people in Iraq and Afghanistan have been liberated. Schools and medical clinics are open in both countries. And in Afghanistan, 10 million people have registered to vote in October elections -- 40 percent of them women.
The effects of the war on terror are evident in many aspects of American society, Rumsfeld said. He noted the presence of air marshals and more-thorough baggage checks as examples of changes that are noticeable.
But, he stressed, one important aspect of American society hasn't changed. "We've not compromised our freedoms," he said. "To the extent we become terrorized, to the extent we let terrorists change our way of living, then they've won. And we haven't done that."
Rumsfeld said the government has made some "calibrations and corrections" to its policies along the way and is doing things wiser and safer today.
"But we've done it in a way that we are still able to get up in the morning, and go where we want, and say what we wish, and live as free people. And that's of central importance to us," he said. "If the terrorists are able to get us to change our behavior dramatically so that we are no longer functioning as free people, then they've won.
"And we simply can't let that happen."