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Rumsfeld: Adjusting Relationships Key in Today's World

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

ATLANTA, May 4, 2006 – Just as the United States is transforming its military to adapt to today's world, the nation must be willing to change old relationships and form new ones, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld poses for photos with members of the Georgia National Guard in Atlanta May 4. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN

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Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rumsfeld said, "the United States has done more things, with more different nations, in more constructive ways, and in more parts of the world than in any other time in our country's history."

He noted, in a speech spoke before the Southern Center for International Studies here, that the United States fashioned and leads an 80-nation coalition in the global war on terror and that some 60 nations are cooperating in the Proliferation Security Initiative to prevent terrorists and outlaw regimes from getting dangerous weapons and materials. Along with Japan and Australia, he added, the United States is working on a regional missile defense system to prevent free nations from being intimidated by rogue states.

"In these efforts, we have pursued flexible arrangements with countries in ways markedly different from past practices, based on what is most appropriate -- and possible -- for them, given each of their unique circumstances," Rumsfeld said.

He noted that the current U.S. relationship with Pakistan, while complex, is one of several new security partnerships that did not exist a few years ago. And an uneasy relationship with India has become a "true partnership based on common values and interests," he said.

"Americans have trained with Indian commandoes at their jungle warfare school, and our paratroopers have jumped together in exercises," he said. He also cited the recent agreement on civilian nuclear technology as the latest example of the growing U.S. relationship with India.

The U.S. military has evolved from one that has focused almost solely on its own military efforts to an emphasis on helping partners and allies to strengthen their capacities, the secretary said. This, he added, has prompted nontraditional missions in nontraditional places -- on the Horn of Africa, for example.

"A joint task force we have that's headquartered in Djibouti conducts civil affairs, training and security operations with Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen," Rumsfeld said. "The weapons in this unconventional conflict are really schools, clinics and shovels. As one serviceman put it, 'We're fighting a war down there, and haven't fired a shot.'"

New security challenges have prompted NATO and other traditional military alliances to rethink their roles and structures, Rumsfeld said.

Noting that NATO is standing up a new response force and that its mission in Afghanistan has the alliance operating outside its borders for the first time, Rumsfeld said NATO's transformation is especially urgent.

"Despite this progress, the secretary-general of NATO has noted that the capability and the credibility of the alliance is being undermined by the fact that so many member states have such relatively small defense budgets," Rumsfeld said. Most NATO nations, he added, spend less than 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

A growing concern is that this declining spending is likely to drop even further, given the demographic trends of much of Europe coupled with their prevailing threat assessments, Rumsfeld explained, emphasizing that NATO's transformation will therefore have to make the best use of limited resources.

Updating arrangements with traditional allies has allowed the United States to change the footprint of its military forces worldwide, the secretary said. The United States still had heavy Army divisions garrisoned in Europe a decade after the Soviet Union collapsed. South Korea is no longer the devastated, impoverished nation it was at the end of the Korean War. And an agreement signed last week calls for the most significant realignment of U.S. forces in Japan since World War II, he said.

In these early years of the war on terror, Rumsfeld told the audience, it's time to consider what the nation needs.

Rumsfeld proposed revitalizing the nation's information programs and focusing them toward regions of the world that are not free -- as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has proposed doing with respect to the people of Iran. He suggested that a "21st century USIA" might be a good idea.

The U.S. Information Agency was created in the early 1950s to inform and influence foreign publics in promoting U.S. national interests and to stimulate dialogue between U.S. educational institutions and their counterparts in other nations. Congress abolished the USIA in 1999.

In addition, Rumsfeld said, it's time to take a hard look at existing security arrangements and institutions "and examine whether they are sufficiently effective and agile to operate in a world of hostage takers, suicide bombers and terrorists."

While today's focus is on Iraq and Afghanistan, the secretary said, no one knows where it will be in decades to come. "And much of what we may be called upon to do in the future will likely be determined by the choices being made by others," he said.

He noted that while Russia has become a U.S. partner in some security issues, it's being unhelpful in others -- using energy as a political weapon and resisting positive political changes in neighboring nations.

China, he said, is a concern because a congressionally mandated Defense Department study found its defense expenditures appear to be much higher than its government has acknowledged, coupled with a lack of transparency that understandably troubles its neighbors.

U.S. decisions also will determine the country's future, Rumsfeld said. He recalled that public sentiment in the early 1970s resulted in legislation before Congress that would have pulled U.S. troops out of Europe and NATO, just as the Soviet Union was in the midst of a huge military buildup.

"We had people who were suggesting that we should toss in the towel, that we couldn't win the Cold War," Rumsfeld said. "Fortunately, political leadership in this country of successive administrations of both political parties, political leadership in other countries and the people who supported them -- people who elected them and put them in office -- stood fast and were purposeful, and persevered through very tough times in the Cold War."

Ultimate success in the Cold War was neither by accident nor by chance, Rumsfeld said.

The secretary said victory in the war against violent extremism can be won over time "if we have the wisdom and the strength to adjust long-standing arrangements, to embrace new partners and, above all, to have the courage to persevere in the face of adversity and difficulty."

"There's no question but that our country is currently facing difficulty in Iraq, difficulty in Afghanistan and threats from elsewhere around the world," he said. But, he said, the battle is really a test of wills.

"The battle seems to be in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it isn't," he said. "There's no way the terrorists can win a single battle. They can kill people -- they can kill particularly innocent men, women and children, and particularly Iraqis or Afghans. But they can't win a battle as such. The battle is here. It is a test of wills. It is going to require staying power."

Rumsfeld said the war against violent extremism will be a long one, just as the Cold War was.

"We are free people who believe in freedom and how important it is for you to be able to get up in the morning and say what you want, go where you wish, vote as you wish, and know that it is exactly that -- that that threat from extremists is determined to terrorize and to alter our behavior in a fundamental way. It is that which we must not allow to happen," he said.

Rumsfeld was interrupted three times by protesters who stood up at their seats in the auditorium, held up yellow signs, and shouted at him before being escorted out. And during a question-and-answer session, a man who claimed to be a 27-year CIA veteran challenged the secretary on pre-war intelligence assessments that led to the determination that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. "Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary, that has caused these kinds of casualties?" he asked.

"Well first of all, I haven't lied; I did not lie," Rumsfeld responded. "(Then-Secretary of State) Colin Powell didn't lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate. And he presented that to the United Nations.

"The president spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency, and he went to the American people and made the presentation," he continued. "They gave the world their honest opinion."

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld speaks with business and political leaders in Atlanta May 4. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN  
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