Myers Says Terrorism May Be Greatest Threat U.S. Has Faced
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sept. 25, 2003 Terrorism may be the greatest threat the United States has ever faced, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told the Defense Combating Terrorism Conference here recently.
Patience, commitment and a will to win are needed to fight the war on terror, he said. The first thing people need to understand is that the war on terrorism is really a war, he added.
"It's difficult, because the sacrifices in this war are not borne by everybody like it was in World War II, where people were on rationing for rubber and petrol, and (there were) Victory Gardens, and everybody was building tanks, airplanes and ships, or was doing something to support the war effort," he said. "We don't see that today, and we don't expect it. The public bears a burden in terms of cost. It's not quite as obvious."
Myers said the United States is a nation at war, but it is not war as Americans have come to expect. "It's a war, though, that is so serious it presents such a threat to those of us who value the freedom that we have and our democracies, that there is no option here but to win this war," he said. "I believe it is the most serious security challenge that the United States and its friends and allies around the world probably (have) ever faced."
The chairman said the free peoples are winning the war on terrorism, but much more needs to be done. He said from a "macro" standpoint, the world needs to be patient to win the war, and the free world will only win the war when it addresses the root causes of terrorism. Getting to the root causes, he said, would make terrorist organizations less attractive to potential new recruits.
Noting the commitment he believes is necessary for victory, the chairman said U.S. agencies are committed to the effort, and friends and allies around the world are too. He illustrated the point by citing the example of Macedonia. Two years ago, Macedonia was having massive internal political problems. Now troops from that country's small military are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The United States must maintain a will to win the war of terror. The goal of Osama bin Laden and his followers is to reduce the United States to a shadow of its former self, the chairman said. "They think this is a battle of wills," he said.
"That's what Saddam Hussein thought," he continued. "He thought he could outlast the coalition and convince the international community that they shouldn't let this happen. Or, once it started, that (we'd suffer) a few casualties and we'd be gone." He said terrorists look at U.S. actions in Somalia and Beirut and believe that if they inflict enough casualties, the United States will cut and run.
"The terrorists think they can win this, but they're wrong. They're dead wrong," Myers said. "We're going to win this. But the will of the American people, (and) the will of our friends and allies have to be behind us. They have to understand what the stakes are, and they have to dedicate themselves to a long hard fight."
Myers then addressed the audience specifically. Patience is important from a macro sense, he said, "but if anyone in this room is patient, you're fired. We have to have a sense of urgency like we've never had before. We've got to fix the issues we have to make this whole thing right."
The general told the conferees they need to make interagency cooperation within the United States work, and that they must do the same in ensuring cooperation with foreign allies.
The chairman also addressed command, control, communications and intelligence. He said this is the glue that keeps the government together. But cultural barriers are stopping the sharing of information among those who are working to win the war on terror. Myers pointed out that a clue found in Afghanistan may break a terror plot halfway around the world. But it won't happen if that information isn't shared.
Myers told the combating terrorism experts that they are the people who will win the war on terrorism. He said the United States is doing a better job, but needs to improve. He called on them to break down cultural barriers and work together more closely with other agencies and with allies.