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Extremism Threatens Civil Society's Future, Rumsfeld Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, June 5, 2004 – Ideological extremism that uses terror as a weapon stands in the way of global political progress and economic prosperity, threatens international order and clouds civil society's future, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

Rumsfeld was this morning's keynote speaker at the International Institute for Strategic Studies' annual Pacific security conference, known as the "Shangri-la Dialog."

Because extremists who use terror as a weapon can't be appeased, the secretary said, they must be confronted on many fronts by all civil societies. His remarks centered on what he called "the way ahead in the global struggle of civilization vs. extremism."

Rumsfeld listed the successes so far in the global war on terror, but said the struggle is closer to its beginning than it is to its end. He cited more than a half dozen recent terrorist attacks around the world and noted that vigilant Singaporean officials thwarted a major attack that was to have taken place here.

"But let there be no doubt," the secretary said. "More is to come."

No area of the world, he said, is immune from terrorist attacks, and constant vigilance is required. "A terrorist needs only to be lucky once or twice," he said. "Civil society needs to be prepared always." But defending every place, every moment, against any technique terrorists might employ, he added, is impossible.

"So the only way indeed, the only way to win this global struggle, this war, call it what you will, is to go on the offense to root out terrorists at their source, and for us to collectively put steady pressure on them and all of their enablers that sustain them."

But killing or capturing terrorists or thwarting their attacks is not the whole solution to the problem, Rumsfeld said. The problem will only continue if young Muslims continue to be won over by extremists who hijack the Muslim faith for their destructive aims. "We have to find ways to persuade young Muslims," he noted, "that the way to the future is through education and opportunity, not through suicide and terrorism."

He said the United States has developed a set of concepts to guide its security presence in the new world created by the threat of terrorism. Among these, he said, are the following:

  • forming stronger partnerships with existing allies and working with new ones;
  • developing more flexibility to deal with the unexpected;
  • focusing on more rapidly deployable capabilities and power; and
  • breaking down artificial barriers between regions because terrorism knows no regional boundaries.

But the secretary assured conferees that while the way the U.S. military is organized may change, the United States is a Pacific nation and will maintain its security presence with modernized deterrent capabilities in the region. "We are committed to the security of our allies and friends, whether against traditional challenges or new ones," he said.

The growing danger of terrorism is made worse, Rumsfeld said, by "the nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction." Extremists, he explained, are seeking "still more powerful means to inflict damage on even greater numbers of innocent men, women and children." Therefore, he said, the international community must get behind the effort to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons. He cited the Proliferation Security Initiative, which he said has the support of more than 50 nations.

North Korea, Rumsfeld said, was violating its nonproliferation commitments, and the United States strongly supports the multilateral international effort to solve the problem. "We are pleased that China has agreed to play a leading role," he said.

Rumsfeld noted the progress made in Afghanistan and Iraq from tyranny toward being governments of the people. This denies terrorists their bases of operation, discredits their violent ideology and may provide more momentum for reformers across the region.

"Yet even today," he said, "some ask if such a breathtaking transformation is possible. I suggest they come to Asia."

Asian nations, he said, have found firm footing on the road to democracy and prosperity through freer economic systems than they had in the past.

"None of this has been easy," he said. "But the true measure of a people is their ability to persevere, to overcome hardship and difficulty, and build a better future. In this, the people of Asia have few equals.

"In these difficult times, dangerous times (and) in many respects perilous times," Rumsfeld said, "the United States is privileged to have such close bonds with so many courageous and steadfast friends."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

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