Myers Asks Americans to Remain Committed to Terror War
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 20, 2003 In these challenging times, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked Americans to remain intellectually involved in thinking of the war on terrorism.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers spoke to the World Affairs Council here Oct. 19 about the threat of terrorism, about operations in Iraq and about the situation in Korea.
Myers asked the group to examine the threat facing America and its allies. "Determine what you think is at stake, and come to your own conclusions, and how important you think it is," he said. "My guess is that if you think about this seriously, you'll come to the conclusion that there are not many options here."
Myers said he believes the American way of life is at stake, and that terrorists see the freedoms Americans enjoy as a threat to them. They want to change the way Americans live their lives and eliminate the influence America has around the world, and their weapon is fear, he added. Myers asked the group to contemplate the effect the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had on America, and then asked them what the effect would be if terrorists got weapons of mass destruction.
"It's not like the Cold War, where we knew what the enemy's capabilities were we kept pretty good track of that. Their intent was always the question mark," Myers said. "Now we are in the 21st century security environment, and we know what the intent is that question mark has gone away. Capabilities is the issue." Ensuring terrorists do not get weapons of mass destruction from rogue states is a top U.S. objective, he said.
Myers discussed ongoing operations in Iraq and how the United States would know when the operation is a success. "In Iraq, success will be when there are Iraqis in charge, the situation is secure, and the infrastructure and economy are strong enough to grow and support their new constitution and political process," he said.
On whether the military is being spread too thin, the general said the U.S. armed forces can handle current operations and any possible operations in other likely trouble spots. He said the Joint Staff and the services constantly examine the situation around the world to see if U.S. armed forces can continue to handle the situation.
The U.S. military is, however, looking to pull back on some commitments that have outlived their usefulness, Myers said. One example is in the Sinai, where the United States has maintained a reinforced battalion for more than 20 years. Myers said there is no military reason for the troops to remain in the region.
The general also cited the more than 4,000 U.S. troops in the Balkans. He said the military tasks spelled out in the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords have been accomplished. While the United States will not pull out unilaterally NATO will make the decision on troop levels there is nothing going on in the region that cannot be handled by a trained and equipped and fair police force, Myers said. He added the nations involved in the region need to speed up the civil administration of the region so the military can move out.
Myers said the United States is examining how the U.S. military is arranged in the world. "In Korea, a lot of our posts, camps and stations in Korea are exactly where they were when the armistice was signed in 1953," he said, an arrangement that is not an efficient use of U.S. troops. Myers said the United States is in discussions with South Korean officials on the right number and positions of U.S. forces in Korea.
"Whatever our position is on the (Korean) peninsula, it will be a stronger position for us and our partner, the Republic of Korea," he said. The general said it is "way too early" to think of a reduction of U.S. military capability in the region. North Korea still maintains an army of more than 1 million soldiers, with most poised on or near the Demilitarized Zone. That and North Korea's nuclear ambitions are a concern for diplomatic and military officials throughout the area, Myers said.
In a later interview, Myers repeated it is too early to forecast the number of U.S. troops in South Korea. He stressed that anything done in the country will be done with the total involvement and agreement of the South Korean government.
Myers spoke of the sacrifices U.S. service members are making in the war on terrorism. He said the country must make these sacrifices, because "the stakes are so high."
"Every life we lose is a personal tragedy, and people are wounded too," he said. "If you talk to those individuals, they don't feel like they are victims. They understand what they are fighting for. They understand how important it is, and they understand what's at stake here. If you think back to your attitude right after Sept. 11 right after the wake-up call that said this is a powerful force that is really trying to do us in then you understand what this is all about. It's not about the losses we take; it's about the successes, and how we can work them."