Winning War on Terror Means Winning Battle Of Ideas, Wolfowitz Says
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2003 In what may be the Defense Department's new battleground in the war on terror, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Georgetown University faculty and students today that the U.S. needs to do a better job of explaining its polices abroad, "because that is part of winning the war on terrorism the battle of ideas."
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz addresses students and faculty at Georgetown University Oct. 30. Wolfowitz appeared on campus to give the Oscar Iden Lecture in foreign policy and international diplomacy. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The secretary was at the university to give this year's Oscar Iden Lecture, where the topic of his speech was "Winning the Battle of Ideas: Another Front in the War on Terror." The lecture series is presented each year on topics in foreign policy and international diplomacy. Past lecturers have included former President George H.W. Bush, former defense secretary William Perry and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili.
Wolfowitz said part of that battle of ideas is to convince Muslims throughout the world that the U.S. presence in Iraq is not against Islam and that the threat to Muslim values comes from extremists.
"There is certainly no war between the West and Islam," he said. "There is a battle against the Muslim mainstream, against such underlying values as the rule of law, but this battle is being waged by the same vicious extremists that are waging war against what they believe we stand for."
"It is a false distinction," he said. "Whether we're talking about the Quran, the Bible or the Geneva Conventions, there is a common universal regard for human life. There are fundamental moral protections for human rights and the lives of the innocent."
Wolfowitz said these extremists "kill without reservation. They corrupt the hopeless with false promises that suicide and murder is the path to heaven, and they use holy places and orphanages and hospitals as military platforms. But they are only a small minority of the more than 1 billion Muslims in the world," he explained. "They have not only declared war against Islam, but against the civilized world."
The deputy secretary said he believes from discussions with Muslims around the world that most Muslims want to move their community into modernity. "Unfortunately, we so often see that the shrill rhetoric of extremism many times drowns out the more moderate voices," he said.
Wolfowitz said the United States must carry "its share of the burden" in reaching out to the Muslim world. "This country will do its job, and finish the job that has begun in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we'll find more ways to support moderate Muslims the world over," he said.
But he emphasized that the United States and its Western allies cannot win the fight against terror alone. Muslims, too, must effectively "fight the fight," he said.
"The fight must be fought by all who aspire for peace and freedom, for that aspiration is what the terrorists seek to destroy," Wolfowitz said, "and it is a fight that must be fought most emphatically in the Muslim world and by Muslims themselves."
He said the United States will continue to do whatever it can to support moderate Iraqis and to assist their courage in speaking out.
"That is just one of many reasons why it is so important for us not only to succeed in Iraq, but also to achieve a peace between Israelis and Palestinians," he said. "Because when those two goals are attained, moderates throughout the Muslim world will be able to stand taller and stronger because they will have two important successes that will greatly strengthen their hand."
Wolfowitz said it's the right approach. "My own experiences throughout the years have taught me that when we appeal to and support those who advocate the values of human dignity -- equal justice, respect for women and religious tolerance that President Bush spoke of in his State of the Union message last year, all the things that America stands for -- things can, and do, change."
Although the secretary's comments were met mostly by applause, protesters made their presence known.
When Wolfowitz arrived at the campus hall, students unfurled a large sheet that read: "Killing is the problem, not the solution." One student called the Defense Department policies in Iraq "deplorable," while others blamed the department for the deaths of innocent people and said its policies have made American "hated by the world."
"We are tired of watching Americans and Iraqis die and international institutions cry out in anger against us. We are simply tired of your policies. We hate them," a student cried out.
Wolfowitz told the students he wished they could have traveled with him in July when he visited the marsh Arabs.
"They were peaceful people, but they also provided the refuge for the rebels that Saddam Hussein feared," he said. "So, in the true traditions of Nebuchadnezzar, he simply proceeded to wipe them out by drying them out, by creating an environmental catastrophe."
He told the students that in 1991 there were a half a million marsh Arabs, while today's estimates put the number at 40,000 to 200,000.
"For most of the marsh Arabs, liberation was too late," the secretary said. However, he said for those marsh Arabs that remain, it came just in time. "And I think you ought to think about that," he said to the protesters. "They're innocents as well -- far, far more innocents."
Wolfowitz told the students that the war is "ugly" and "a brutal business."
"But the alternative was "far, far uglier, far more brutal," he said. "There's no question about that in my mind."