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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 211-97
May 01, 1997

KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM S. COHEN TO THE CONFERENCE ON TERRORISM, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, AND U.S. STRATEGY THE SAM NUNN POLICY FORUM MAHLER AUDITORIUM, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA, ATHENS, GA. MONDAY, APRIL 28, 1997 - 9:10 A.M.

Thank you very much.

I always feel a little bit nervous when I address a new audience. I feel a little bit like Henry Ford, how after having amassed his considerable wealth in this country wanted to go back to his fatherland in County Cork, Ireland. And his reputation for wealth had long preceded his arrival. When he finally got off the plane there were a group of local town officials and they were seeking a contribution for the construction of a local hospital. And he was quite accustomed to being touched in that fashion. And he pulled out a check book and he made a check out for $5,000. The next day in bold print in the local paper, it said, "Ford contributes $50,000 for the construction of local hospital." And the town officials came running back and said, Oh, Mr. Ford, we're terribly sorry. It was not our fault. It must have been a typographical error and we'll be happy to see to it that a retraction is printed in tomorrow's paper. And he said, Wait a minute. I think I've got a better idea. You give me one wish, I'll give you the balance of $45,000. They said, That's an offer we can't refuse. Anything you want. So Ford continued, When that hospital is finally completed, I want to have a plaque over the entrance way with a quote taken from the source of my choice. The officials agreed. He pulled out his check book, gave them the $45,000. The hospital was built, it's there today. It has a plaque over the entranceway with a quote taken from the Book of Matthew and it says, "I came unto you as a stranger and you took me in."

So I come unto you a little bit as a stranger today. I hope you'll take me in but not quite in that fashion.

Thomas Jefferson once said, God grant that our principle men be men of principal. And I think we can thank God and also the State of Georgia that one of our nation's principal men also has been a man of the highest principle. I'm speaking, of course, about my friend, Sam Nunn. Most of you who are here in the front row will recognize the fact, and those of you who watch C-Span [will as well], members of Congress always refer to colleagues as "my distinguished friend from Georgia" or Tennessee or Nevada. And of course, we did that out of professional courtesy usually just before we were about to make some nasty remark. You've heard about the statement by one of our colleagues who said, "I now yield to my good, distinguished friend from the State of California, for whom I have a minimum of high regard."

But when it came to Senator Nunn, we always yielded to our distinguished colleague and friend because with him, we knew that we had a man of great substance and sincerity and one who's very serious minded. He emerged as a leading expert among defense thinkers because he always asked tough questions. He asked tough questions, he did the hard thinking to try to come to the right conclusions. And he, like his colleague Senator Lugar, was always looking over the horizon for the other types of threats that few were prepared to see. He's left government service, but he has not left in any way his commitment to the American people. And this is just one example of his commitment here with this forum.

I would like to cite for you two quotes before I begin because I think it might put some things in perspective. One is: "Our earth is degenerate in these later days. Bribery and corruption are common. Children no longer obey their parents. Every man wants to write a book. And the end of the world is evidently approaching." It has a sort of contemporary ring about it, doesn't it? It was actually written on an Assyrian tablet some 4700 years ago.

[The second quote:] "It's a gloomy moment in the history of our country. Not in the lifetime of most men has there been so much grave and deep apprehension. Never has the future seemed so uncertain as it does at this time. The domestic economic situation is in chaos. Our dollar is weak throughout the world. Prices are so high as to be utterly impossible. The political cauldron seethes and bubbles with uncertainty. Russia hangs as usual like a cloud, dark and silent upon the horizon. It is a solemn moment of our troubles. No man can see the end." This quote could have been printed in the Atlanta Constitution yesterday, couldn't it? In fact, it was contained in Harper's Weekly magazine in 1897.

And so I cite these two particular quotes as examples that the world has rarely been free of apprehension or danger and it's unlikely it ever will be. But it's important that we hold up this lamplight of history so that we don't stumble on the path to the future.

When the Berlin Wall tumbled down, the Soviet Empire disintegrated as Senator Nunn mentioned, the United States and much of the free world was seized with euphoria and what I would call an accommodating sense of amnesia about the past. It was said at the time that we stood on the edge of a new world order. And I recall reading Francis Fukyama who wrote an essay entitled, "The End of History," where Western democratic capitalism is going to sweep away the last vestiges of communism and command economies. And that prompted a South African academic by the name of Peter Val to comment: "Rejoice my friends or weep with sorrow. What California is today, the world will be tomorrow."

Of course, Fukyama's thesis failed to examine the potential clashing cultures of Islam, Christian and Confucian societies as was noted by the provocative Harvard professor -- and I know I'm being redundant when I say provocative Harvard professor -- Graham Allison, and also Samuel Huntington and also the futurist Alvin Toffler. [They held] views that I think are shared by many throughout the world today.

On one side of the world coin is momentous opportunity. We see flourishing marketplaces, breathtaking technologies and new democracies. But on the other side of that coin are startling new dangers with rising ethnic conflicts and regional aggressors and terrorism. As Senator Nunn has talked about, the whole purpose of this meeting today is [focused on] the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But if we're going to seize the opportunity and at the same time face the dangers, we have to ask, like Senator Nunn has asked over the years, tough questions and do the hard thinking and look over the horizon.

I'm fond of quoting from Admiral James Stockdale when he ran for the Vice Presidency a few years ago. He asked two questions as he took the stage. He said, "Who am I? And why am I here?" And a lot of people met that with derision and laughter, but they're very important questions; important questions for each of us to ask as individuals but more importantly as a nation. Exactly who are we as a country and why is it we're here or there or anywhere? What is it we hope to achieve as the only world superpower? What does it mean to be a superpower? What are the responsibilities, what are the liabilities? Should we reconcile ourselves instead to being just one power among many and what are the costs and trade-offs involved in such a formulation?

Well, the Defense Department is working toward a solution to the security aspects of these questions, these existential questions that we're asking. It's called the Quadrennial Defense Review, the QDR. You've probably been reading a little bit about it. We're well on our way to producing this report within the next two-and-a-half or three weeks. And the purpose is to take a very close and thorough examination of our entire defense structure to ask who are we. How should we shape ourselves? How should we play a role and what kind of a role in the world today? And then to devise a strategy and then develop the resources necessary to match the strategy to carry out our goals. And it's now devolved into basically a three part defense strategy.

First, we have to try to shape the security environment and to protect and promote our national interests by building stability, reducing threats and deterring aggression. And this involves a variety of things. It means having a forward deployed capability. You've heard President Clinton and Vice President Gore and others such as Secretary Albright talk about having 100,000 people forward deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region, 100,000 people forward deployed throughout the European theater. It also involves conducting joint military exercises with a variety of countries including even the former Soviet Union, but many other countries as well. And also helping Russia and it's neighbors to dismantle nuclear weapons that were once aimed at the United States for which we can thank both Senator Nunn and Senator Lugar.

Second, we have to be able to respond to the full spectrum of threats. And that means having forces that are flexible and ready and strong. They have to be flexible enough to carry out any mission all the way from war fighting to emergency evacuations. They have to be ready enough to respond to any crisis quickly. And they have to be strong enough to dominate any aggressor early on in the battle.

And the third part of this strategy is that we have to prepare now for any threats that might arise in the future.

And so you have this era of rapid change, what [Alvin] Toffler called "future shock". And we can't fully comprehend the nature of or predict the challenges that might occur. And so it might sound contradictory but we have to build a measure of uncertainty into our planning as well. And preparing for this uncertain future requires a robust modernization program. It includes continuing the exploitation of what we call the revolution in military affairs that's been brought about by rapid advances in technology, especially information technology. It involves improving our war fighting capability [to include] changing the fundamental way we think about fighting. And this has to be matched by a revolution in business affairs to make the supporting elements of the Department of Defense more efficient and responsive.

Today, I think everyone in this room would agree that we have the world's most powerful military. And our strategy is to keep our forces without any peer. We don't want to engage in a fair fight, a contemporary war of attrition. We want to dominate across the full spectrum of conflict so that if we ever do have to fight, we win on our terms. But in pursuing this particular goal, we have to remain mindful that our very preeminence creates a hazardous paradox in the modern strategic environment. If the United States cannot be challenged directly, head-to-head, then our superiority may encourage adversaries to use indirect, what they call asymmetric means to attack our forces and interests abroad and even our people here at home. That is, our adversaries are likely to be students of Sun Tsu and have read The Art of War and seek advantage over us by using unconventional strategies to circumvent our strengths and exploit our vulnerabilities.

I'm sure that most of you are familiar with the story of Achilles, the great Greek warrior hero. He was made invulnerable to any weapon or any attack after his mother had dipped him into the river Styx. But by holding him by the heel, she left, unfortunately, one small exposed spot. In this world, our adversaries and future adversaries may search for an Achilles heel with a variety of creative means. Cyber soldiers and saboteurs who can threaten our economy and government with computer viruses or logic bombs. Terrorists who resort to nuclear, biological or chemical weapons to destroy lives by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. And this scenario of a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon in the hands of a terrorist cell or rogue nation is not only plausible, it's really quite real. The information super highway is not traveled only by pilgrims and high priests of peace. Sick scoundrels, religious zealots, flat-eyed fanatics and extreme fundamentalists have entered the stream of electronic commerce and communication.

Now there's no magic potion, no elixir that we can use to defeat these pathologies. Instead, we have to treat them like a chronic disease, constantly alert to the first signs and symptoms of these cancers that seek to destroy our life blood and the body politic of our nation.

The symptoms of these diseases are the increasing number of countries -- they number about 30 -- who possess mature chemical and biological weapons programs. At least 12 of them have advanced missile capabilities. As Senator Nunn has indicated, we need to have a comprehensive approach to treating these particular symptoms, a coherent national response that would involve diplomacy and arms control, active and passive defenses, continued efforts to limit the spread of technology, improved intelligence collection (that Jim Woolsey's going to talk about) as well as threat analyses, well-coordinated civil defense capabilities (that's where Nunn-Lugar II is going to come into effect), and international standards that bar the production and storage and distribution of these weapons.

That's why, in my opinion, the Senate made the right decision last week when it ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention which bans the production and the possession and the storage of all of these lethal chemical weapons. It paves the way to help us improve our detection of large scale weapons programs before they threaten our troops. It will help reduce the circumference of those nations who have chemical weapons to a small, narrow group of rogue states. It will impose trade restrictions on their ability to acquire those precursor chemicals for which they can then make those chemical weapons.

But of course, the devil is always in the details, in this case the details of the treaty itself, and so we now have to work with the ratifying nations to implement this Convention as effectively as we can. And we have to encourage those nations who have not signed and who have not ratified to join the other responsible members of the international community to try to put a stop to this proliferation threat. And you probably read just yesterday where the Russian Duma said, Thank you, but we're going to wait. We don't have any money right now and maybe in the fall we'll take it up. And, of course, as a result they've been severely criticized by the now semi, if not fully, independent press in the former Soviet Union, which said, Wait a minute, this is in our interest. Now the United States will have people who are designing the protocols of inspection. Now the United States and all those other countries -- 70 plus who have ratified it -- will be the ones deciding the fate of this particular convention. They're the ones who will have the inspectors going in and making the inspections. Why are you putting this off? And so they're [the Duma] coming under increased criticism from their own press now for failure to ratify as quickly as the United States has done.

We also find ourselves in the unique position where we had a former scientist named Vil Mirzayanov. You correct me on the pronunciation of his name. But he was scientist who worked for many years in the former Soviet Union developing chemical weapons and he discovered they were developing five new types of chemical weapons, some of them between eight and ten times more lethal than anthrax. And he originally opposed the Chemical Weapons Convention, then he read it closely. He said this is important. He is now in this country after having served a couple years in prison by virtue of the fact he spoke out against these chemical weapons. And now he's handing us the blueprints, where they [the weapons] are, where they're making them, how you can now get access provided, of course, the former Soviet Union ratifies this Convention. And so we want to get those countries who haven't ratified to ratify it. We want to get those countries who ratify it but who seek to cheat, to make them understand that we're going to have very intrusive inspection regimes. And so this Chemical Weapons Convention adds to a number of tools that we already employ to minimize the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

Senator Nunn touched upon nuclear weapons and START I. Under START I we have reduced rather significantly the levels of nuclear weapons in our two countries. And when President Clinton and President Yeltsin met recently in Helsinki, it was very important that they underscore the securing of the ratification of START II. President Yeltsin pledged to try to get the Duma to ratify START II. That will again reduce the level of nuclear weapons to substantially lower levels. And as soon as they ratify that, we're going to immediately start going on to negotiations for START III. [This will make it possible] to drop the levels down between 2,000 and 2,500 [warheads] because the Russians are concerned that by going to START II they will have to spend an enormous amount of money to reduce the level of their multi-warhead or MIRV systems. And so we have programs in place that are designed to reduce the nature of the threat and it's something that we have to continue in a very aggressive fashion.

Senator Nunn and Senator Lugar, again, after many people felt this euphoria that we saw the fall of the Wall, that we saw the disintegration of the Soviet empire, they resisted being too euphoric. They looked ahead and they said wait a minute. Perhaps there's a more dangerous type of threat, namely, instability. Soviet weapons of mass destruction could seep into the global black market and land in the hands of those who mean us harm. And they saw this danger, but they also saw the opportunity. They saw the opportunity of how we could help. And these two gentlemen are principally responsible for the passage of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act, otherwise know as Nunn- Lugar.

I mentioned at a press conference a few moments before we came onto the stage that I have had occasion to meet with my Russian counterparts on a frequent basis and we have to go through translators many times. But there's two words they understand very clearly in English: Nunn-Lugar, Nunn-Lugar. It's important to them and they understand the importance. And of course, Nunn-Lugar has gone beyond simply the nuclear weapons [in the Former Soviet Union], which are very important. It has also gone beyond to focus on how we get some kind of control over the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction here at home. The kinds of threats that we're likely to face in the future, and that is, of course, biological and chemical weapons. So [Congress] passed Nunn-Lugar II to deal with the problems that we're going to talk about here today.

First, let me explain to you that we should not act out of any apprehension. Any nation that would threaten us through nuclear, chemical, biological weapons, we have the ability to respond with forces and overwhelming force that could devastate them. In most cases, that will deter anyone from ever attempting to threaten us with weapons of mass destruction. But it may not deter everyone. And so we have to aggressively pursue missile defense programs that address the most immediate kind of threat, the kind we saw during Desert Storm. During Desert Storm, we saw Saddam Hussein lobbing SCUD missiles. Luckily, he didn't put any chemical weapon warheads on those SCUD missiles. But there is a reason for this -- because we sent a message to him: Don't even think about it. If you ever think about attacking our troops with chemical weapons, you no longer will have much of a country to preside over. So the message got through and he didn't use them.

But it was a wake up call as we saw those SCUD missiles coming into Saudi Arabia. We saw Israeli children putting on gas masks going to school, hiding in basements. It was a wake up call for all of us. It signaled that there is a real threat that is spreading out there of weapons tipped with either nuclear or chemical or biological warheads. That threat is here. The future is now. And so defending our troops and allies against these missiles has a top priority.

I won't take the time now because I'm running just a little bit late in terms of getting into the details of theater missile defenses versus national missile defenses. Once again, Senator Nunn was at the forefront of that. We want to have theater missile defenses to defend our troops against these types of attacks. At the same time, we want to adhere to the ABM treaty, which we have with Russia, the former Soviet Union, which would delineate between the theater missiles and the national ballistic missile defense system. Senator Nunn was one who insisted that we be able to demarcate, be able to separate the two. And at Helsinki, his vision of the need to separate those two held forth. We now are allowed to develop all of our theater missile defense systems without violating or being challenged as violating the ABM treaty.

Finally, let me just talk about the ability to protect ourselves. Senator Nunn talked about the bombings that have taken place, the likely threat that's going to come by virtue of the fact that the information highway is going to give access to those who are not the most high-minded of people or nations. And they are going to proliferate the systems that could pose threats to our security.

The whole purpose of Nunn-Lugar II is to help the Defense Department to become engaged with local authorities who have the principal responsibility for protecting local citizens by determining what type of attack has been launched if any, of deciding what to do about it, how should they approach this particular agent, is it lethal, is it contagious, should they -- as Senator Nunn pointed out -- should they dress up in these space suits that we saw in the streets of Washington just a few days ago. The very day that we ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, you saw on the national television that we had the local firemen and policemen dressed up in these suits hosing down people for fear that they might

have been contaminated. All of those decisions need to be addressed. And it's Nunn-Lugar II which provides the basis for doing that. And so we owe a great deal of credit and congratulations to the two gentlemen who are on the stage with me today.

Senator Nunn said in a speech 10 years ago, We must improve our military posture with revolutionary developments. We must educate our publics as to the challenges and opportunities we confront in preserving and protecting our freedom. Our challenges are new, and we must think anew, [but] our values and our goals are constant. His statement reminded me very much of something that Winston Churchill said. He said, We can be carried back to the stone age on the gleaming wings of science as easily as we can glide into the mysteries of the 21st Century. The choice has always been mans'. Yours and mine. Churchill also said something during a meeting he had with one our most distinguished journalists, Stewart Alsop. Alsop recorded this in a book that he had written some years ago called, Stay of Execution. Churchill was having dinner with Alsop and he was sipping a few glasses of champagne and a little bit of brandy after dinner. Churchill started to get fairly misty eyed and musing and he said, "America, a great and strong country. Like a work horse pulling the rest of the world up out of the slop of despond and despair." And then he looked at Alsop accusingly and said, "But will it stay the course? Will America stay the course?" I think 50 years later, history has had its answer. We have stayed the course because that's our duty. And we will stay the course thanks to the leadership that's been exhibited by Senators Nunn, Lugar and others because that is our destiny.

Thank you very much.