Appeasement Doesn't Work, Joint Chiefs Chairman Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2004 History has shown that appeasement doesn't work, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said here today.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke at the Foreign Press Center and gave his assessment of the coalition in Iraq a year after the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"The mission was to liberate the Iraqi people from one of the world's most brutal and dangerous dictators, and to begin laying the foundation for a free and prosperous Iraq," Myers said. "We have done that."
The chairman said that if history has shown anything, it is that appeasement just hasn't worked. "Weakness is provocative. It doesn't resolve the situation," he said.
He said European countries have dealt with terrorism for years, and they have found the way to do so is directly and forthrightly. The lesson of the past year is that all countries are connected, he said.
"We can't just park in our corner of the world and hope this passes us by, and maybe get to us last," the chairman said. "That is not an attitude that has worked through history, and I don't think it will work now."
Myers said the coalition is making "very good progress in Iraq despite the challenges that remain." He noted that recent polls show the Iraqi people say life is better today than under Saddam, and said it's important that the rest of the world remain committed to Iraq.
"Each country plays a key role in this war on terror," he said. "We must continue to work together to see that freedom and democracy are achieved everywhere there exists the desire."
U.S. actions in Iraq are not "inviting" al Qaeda attacks, Myers said. "Al Qaeda did not need an invitation for Sept. 11," he said. "This is an organization that has professed to do away with our way of life."
The terrorist group also has said it will kill innocents to achieve its aims. "This is unacceptable," Myers said. "I do not think our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq have emboldened them or enabled them in any way. It's probably done just the opposite."
Coalition actions have killed or captured many al Qaeda operatives, he said. The coalition deposed the Taliban and stopped al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a planning and logistics base. Myers said al Qaeda had set up a lab in Kandahar to examine using anthrax as a weapon. "If they could have killed not 3,000 on Sept. 11, (if) they could have killed 30,000 or 300,000, they would have done so," he said.
He noted that just in the last few days there have been arrests in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Operations in Pakistan killed 24 terrorists and resulted in the detention of 18.
"The region is now more secure due to the elimination of a dangerous regime with a history of aggression and links with terrorist organizations," he said. "The achievement of this historic effort is thanks to the brave and selfless sacrifice of our coalition forces."
As democracy in Iraq takes hold, the message that resonates is that freedom, peace and security can be the future of every nation, Myers said.
The coalition has more than 150,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, and more than 20,000 coalition forces are in Afghanistan. But it is wrong to think of the war on terror as only a military operation, Myers said. Diplomacy, law enforcement and commercial activities, all must work together to defeat terrorism, he added, and every government has to bring teamwork to the fight. "Every element of every government has to pull together to eradicate this threat," Myers said.
In Iraq, progress is being made politically and economically, but coalition forces will remain in the country after return to sovereignty June 30, Myers said. Coalition forces still will go on patrols, mentor the Iraqi forces and provide quick-reaction forces following the return of sovereignty. But the Iraqis, he added, will pick up more and more of the security mission.
Myers said that there are roughly 209,000 members of the Iraqi police, the Civil Defense Corps, the Facilities Protection Service, the Border Patrol and the new Iraqi army. As those groups are able, they will assume the security missions, he said.
Looking back on the past year, Myers said he is most proud of the coalition's flexibility that allowed forces to react to the changing situation inside Iraq. "The character of the threat changed," he said. "In May, there was not much threat from the former regime elements. But as we got into June, July (and) August, that threat emerged."
Now the biggest threat is coming from foreign jihadists, he said, and the coalition is able to change course, develop intelligence sources and operate against those threats.
Myers stressed that the war on terror will take time. He said addressing immediate threats is all well and good, but governments have to set the conditions where men and women don't want to join an extremist cause. And all countries of the world must participate.
"To think that you can sit at home and erect defenses to protect you, or to think that you are somehow immune to this, I reject that," Myers said.