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Wolfowitz Says War on Terror Is Choice Between Future, Middle Ages

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2002 – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz will travel to Singapore and stress to defense leaders that the war on terrorism is a conflict between two visions of the world.

Wolfowitz said the terrorists would like to take the "Muslim world, at least, and maybe a large part of the rest of the world, back to the Middle Ages."

Al Qaeda and other terror groups want a world ruled by intolerance and repression. He said the terrorists are not only opposed to the democratic values exemplified by the United States, but also against an increasing number of countries in East Asia that have embraced democracy.

Wolfowitz will attend the Asia Security Conference sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. Also participating in the conference is a bipartisan group of members of Congress.

The deputy secretary will also hold bilateral meetings with a number of Asian ministers of defense. Following the conference, he will travel to the Philippines for talks with defense officials there.

Wolfowitz said he would explain U.S. policy in Asia and how U.S. defense policy relates to the region. He said looking at the world from the Department of Defense standpoint there are two challenges: the immediate one of fighting a global war on terrorism, and a longer-term one of ensuring the department is ready to fight in the future.

"Making good on those two things is a challenge," he told reporters May 29 at the Foreign Press Center here. "In the work we do from day to day, I find that people are so preoccupied with the issues of the present that sometimes the issues of the future are harder to focus upon."

He said he has the "feeling -- and it's only a feeling" that the situation is reversed in East Asia. He said he sometimes feels that East Asians somehow feel remote from the war on terrorism and that they're concentrating on challenges facing the region in the coming decades, "which are some of the most formidable in the world and also some of the most exciting opportunities."

Wolfowitz, who served as ambassador to Indonesia and assistant secretary of state for East Asia, acknowledged the concentration on the future has served the region in good stead.

"But I think it's also important for our Asian friends to understand that these terrorist attacks are not just attacks on the United States. They are attacks on all of us," he said. "Al Qaeda alone operates in some 60 countries including a number in East Asia. (Al Qaeda has) made no secret of their desire to attack any targets that they consider Western, modern, democratic, and this is a threat to all of us."

He said the experience of the region in the past 30 years has been a model and example for many other parts of the world. He said East Asia showed the world what can be achieved when free people pursue their creative talents unrepressed by governments. "Not only is enormous economic development possible, but great political progress and development," Wolfowitz observed.

He said the region could continue to be a model for the more than a billion people in the Muslim world.

"Because as (President Bush) has said, our goal in this struggle is not simply to eliminate terrorists, it's to build a better world beyond the war on terrorism," Wolfowitz said. "It's the kind of better world that East Asians have been building. It's the kind of world we'd like to see the Muslims build in the next two or three decades."

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