Patience, Resolve Needed in Terror War, Myers Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
HUTCHISON, Kan., Feb. 24, 2005 Patience and resolve were the messages Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers brought to the heartland today.
Myers spoke as part of the Ray and Stella Dillon Lecture Series at Hutchison Community College here.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told his fellow Kansans that Americans must be patient to win the global war on terrorism. He said that in his readings on American military history, the longest successful campaign against an insurgency was 12 years. The shortest was seven. "These are long struggles," he said. "Does it have to be that long in Iraq? Not necessarily."
He said that the insurgents do not represent the Iraqi people. "(The Iraqi people) not only put their ink-stained fingers in the air on election day, they stuck them right in the eyes of the insurgents and said, 'We want freedom. We don't want you,'" he said.
Resolve also is a key message to Americans, Myers said. The United States has the military, economic and political will to win against terrorists. There is a long-term plan to deal with the threat. But the American people must supply the resolve and be prepared for the sacrifices necessary to win, the chairman told the audience.
He contrasted today with the American experience during World War II. In the 1940s, everyone was involved with the war effort. Americans joined the military, men and women flocked to factories, kids collected scrap metals and families cultivated Victory Gardens. "They raised the gardens not so much for the vegetables as it was to make a statement," the chairman said.
Americans must show that same resolve because the enemy just flat wants to eliminate democracy and freedom from the world, the general said. "At stake here are two opposite and incompatible visions for the world," he said. "Tolerance, democracy, freedom, justice and hope on the one hand, and intolerance, repression, tyranny, violence and fear on the other."
He quoted from a letter written by al Qaeda leaders: "We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it."
Myers told the audience the struggle against terror comes down to this question: "What kind of a world do we want to leave to our children and our grandchildren? "
The nation's top military officer said the war on terror is more of a struggle than most Americans realize. He said the enemy is much more determined than most Americans can imagine, and it is a different type of enemy. The enemy does not wear uniforms, it doesn't adhere to the rules of war. It deliberately targets innocents in its campaigns, he said. "What they are trying to do is create fear," he said. "In this endeavor, failure is not an option, and we won't fail as long as we keep our resolve."
The chairman said the American effort against terror consists of three pillars. The first is to defend the homeland. The military helps in defending the airspace and the sea approaches, but ultimate responsibility lies with the new Department of Homeland Security. He told the audience that if al Qaeda could get its hands on more lethal weapons, the group would not hesitate to launch another strike against the United States.
The second pillar is to defeat and disrupt terrorist activity around the world. The military plays a lead role in this, along with intelligence agencies. Myers said American servicemembers are on duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa actively seeking out terror cells and destroying them.
In other countries the Philippines and Colombia, for example the United States is working to help the nations build their own forces to combat terrorism. In still other nations, U.S. personnel are working to shore up alliances and glean intelligence.
The third pillar is the "toughest and most important," the chairman said. That is addressing the causes of terrorism, and many agencies have pieces of this pillar. The United States must work with allies to "create a world that doesn't tolerate terrorism," he said. Young men and women in poorer countries have to have the social and economic choice for a better future. Conditions in these nations cannot drive people into joining jihad, he said.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, this effort is progressing. But much of what must be rectified is in people's minds and not just an infrastructure. "Over the decades, what Saddam Hussein really did was devastate the spirit of his people," Myers said. "He taught them hopelessness and helplessness. Anyone who showed initiative in that regime was beaten down pretty quickly."
And the Taliban sought to do the same in Afghanistan. That's why the performance of both peoples in the recent elections was so important, Myers noted. In Iraq, the security forces performed "very well," the chairman said. The soldiers and police gained new confidence in their abilities and in the support of the people of Iraq.
The new Iraqi government and the coalition must capitalize on this moment to train new security forces and, in a secure environment, rebuild the infrastructure of the country. "We will win when the Iraqis can take the fight to the insurgents themselves," Myers said. "We're not there yet. Our goal is to get Iraqi forces stood up."
The chairman said that since the return of sovereignty to Iraq, more than twice as many Iraqis have been killed or wounded than U.S. personnel.
America is making progress in the war, and will continue as long as Americans are patient and resolved, the chairman said.