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War on Terrorism Is 'Toughest Challenge' Yet, Myers Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2003 – The war on global terrorism, the U.S. military's top officer told National Defense University graduates here June 10, is the most difficult national security challenge he's experienced in his career.

It is, indeed, "a remarkable time" in American history, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said to the university's Class of 2003.

"In my view, it's certainly the toughest challenge, these last couple of years, that I've ever faced in my 38 years in uniform," Myers, the event's featured speaker, asserted.

Myers first paid a tribute to the institution's outgoing president, Navy Vice Adm. Paul G. Gaffney II.

The admiral's two years of leadership at NDU "has been vigorous," Myers remarked, noting that Gaffney's perseverance, dedication and professionalism at the university have contributed "to make it responsive to the security challenges that we face in the future."

And today's global security environment, shaped by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Myers noted to the 515 graduates, presents new and previously unheard of challenges for U.S. defense planners and diplomats alike.

In the aftermath of the terror attacks on New York City, the Pentagon, and the airliner crash in Pennsylvania, Myers remarked, the U.S. and other nations quickly formed an alliance "to fight terrorists and those that would harbor terrorists and provide them safe haven."

NDU graduates, he pointed out, "have had the opportunity to study and to debate the world's response to this war on terrorism."

Because of the global scope of the war on terrorism, the general suggested that NDU graduates should recognize the importance of the international students among them.

"The ties that you have formed over this year are going to hold for years to come as we wrestle with new and unforeseen challenges to peace and prosperity," Myers explained.

More than 60 countries "have contributed in meaningful ways" in partnership with the United States in prosecuting the war on terrorism, he noted.

"And it must continue to be an international team effort if we're going to be successful," Myers said.

The JCS chairman also had a message to NDU's international student graduates, whom he noted have acquired "an expanded understanding of national security, including the complex interactions required to implement that strategy."

"The lessons you've learned here apply to your countries, as well," he noted.

The war against global terrorism continues, Myers pointed out, noting, "there are still terrorists out there who want to do us harm."

Terrorists, the general emphasized, "will use violence against the innocent." In recent weeks, he pointed out, more than 50 people, including Muslims, Christians and Jews were killed in terror attacks against civilians in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Israel.

U.S. and coalition forces have achieved significant victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet it is paramount, Myers emphasized, "that we don't let our successes lull us into a sense of complacency." He emphasized that "the war on terrorism is far from over."

Another modern-day threat to global security involves the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the general remarked, noting that some countries with WMD programs "would let these weapons fall into the hands of terrorists."

Civilized nations of the world "simply cannot afford to let this happen," the JCS chairman said. Enemies of peace, he continued, would likely use WMDs to kill innocent civilians, destabilize the global economy, or simply for blackmail.

Other threats to world peace include ethnic, religious, and political strife, Myers pointed out.

Also, "economies and governments struggle -- and sometimes falter -- providing fertile ground for terrorists or repressive regimes," he added.

Regarding the myriad threats to global peace and stability, Myers noted that the only certainty is "that the challenges of tomorrow will be different than the challenges of today." However, "we can still apply today's lessons to better plan for tomorrow," the chairman concluded.

NDU graduates are senior military, and federal civilian and private-sector leaders, according to the facility's Website at http://www.ndu.edu.

NDU graduates have earned a master's degree from the National War College or the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, both which are at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses National Defense University Class of 2003 graduates at a June 10 ceremony at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. Photo by Sgt. Linda Tsang, USA.  
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