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Town Hall Meeting at Air Force War College
As Delivered by Donald H. Rumsfeld, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Thank you very much, folks. (Continued applause.) I appreciate that very much, General. Give your father my regards. (Laughter.)
We just had the Air Force Memorial celebration in Washington. Did any of you have a chance to see it or go to it or watch it on the Pentagon Channel? It was quite a day, and when I saw all those old planes coming over, it made me feel right at home. (Laughter.) All the planes I flew are in museums these days.
How many here have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or in the war on terror at one location or another? Goodness gracious, look at that. Thank you. Well, we appreciate your service. We appreciate what you've done and what you are doing.
General, members of the faculty, mayors, commissioners, councilmen, students, members of the Armed Forces -- how many here are international and serve in the militaries of other countries? Look at that. I'm told there's something like 70 or 75 different countries that are represented here.
Well, a special welcome to you. I am very pleased to see that you're here. I'm a strong advocate of exchange programs of this type, and I certainly hope this will prove to be a valuable experience for you not simply during your time here, but for the rest of your careers.
I had an unusual experience as a relatively young man. I was in the Cabinet -- and I think it was 1970 -- and I was asked by the President to go to represent the United States at President Nasser's funeral of Egypt. I went over with John McCloy, who'd been High Commissioner of Germany, and with Robert Murphy, who'd been the famous diplomat among warriors, and we flew over to Cairo.
We went in to meet the acting President, and the acting President was -- we were briefed -- was kind of not going to make it.  That Nasser didn't like to have Vice Presidents who were there too long, and that he very likely would not succeed President Nasser.
His name was Anwar Sadat, and he did succeed him. And he -- when we landed, there were Soviet airplanes all over the airfield. There were missiles, there were Soviet troops, and the place was just like that with the Soviet Union.
We went into see Sadat, and he said to us that he had gone to school in the United States at one of the Army's young officer schools and had never forgotten it, that it had a big impact on him, and he'd traveled in the country and he wanted us to know that he had no issue with the United States of America other than Israel. And this is at a time when the Soviets where just all over his country.
Within a matter of months, he'd asked them out. And I personally attributed in part to the reception he had in the United States of America in a military school, and I think it's important to recognize that those relationships that the Americans here are having with 150 plus or minus folks from other militaries from 70 or 73 countries.
The relationships you have are relationships that are going to last for a long time, and that they're important to you to be sure, but they're important to all of our countries.
And I say that because there are practically no problems today that we face or that our friends and allies around the world face that can be dealt with by a single country. Whether it's counternarcotics or terrorism or hostage taking or trafficking in humans, whatever it is, it can't be dealt with -- counterproliferation -- no one country on the face of the Earth can deal with those problems because they're global in scope.
And the relationships that you have and that we have as a country are critically important, because if we're to be successful in this world, we have to have a degree of cohesion and cooperation that is quite different from that which has existed in previous decades.
You folks have been training airmen for some decades, I guess even a bit longer than the Air Force has been in existence. I certainly thank the faculty and the staff of the War College and the other training commands here for carrying on in a proud tradition, and for your contributions to our country's security.
I'm told that circling the college is a road named after Claire Chennault. And I remember when I was in school, my professor in 1951 or 1952 who taught Asian Studies was a very close friend of Chennault's. He had a picture of Chennault right on his desk. And we would go in and have a precept, a meeting once a week with this professor, and I'd sit there and look at that face.
I suppose all of you have seen a picture of Claire Chennault. It's memorable, his face. And his fame, of course, came largely from his time leading the Flying Tigers, who, along with the Doolittle Raiders, kind of electrified the American people with their courage and their daring during what was a terribly difficult time for our country.
Chennault is remembered as a leader who pushed the envelope -- who challenged assumptions. He was also a man sometimes described as demanding and difficult who shook up the establishment a bit. Sounds to me like a valuable contributor. (Laughter.) 
The innovative spirit that defined Chennault and others like him still defines the Air Force. It's inspired a series of generations in the Air Force. If you think of the early days in Afghanistan:
·        They rode horseback along steep, narrow trails in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
·        To go from days of mission planning on the ground to minutes, even seconds of planning in the air, and;
·        To shift from a garrison mind-set to an expeditionary force rapidly delivering everything from fire power to supplies to humanitarian relief around the world.
These achievements could hardly have been imagined when folks started thinking about a separate air service. But they've been invaluable in making the Air Force an integral element in the joint force keeping our country safe today.
It's now more than five years since we suffered the worst terrorist attack on our soil in history. We came to realize that a war had been declared on our country, on our free people, a war that was certainly not of our making and not of our choosing.
This war was not declared on September 11th, 2001. It really began years, even decades earlier. If you recall, the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists the first time not in 2001, but nearly a decade earlier with the bombing in 1993. It was followed by attacks on
·        The Khobar Towers in 1996,
·        The embassies in Kenya and Tanzania -- Tanzania in 1998 and
·        The USS Cole just about six years ago.
Yet through it all, many remain persuaded that terrorism was essentially a law-enforcement problem, not an act of war. That terrorists really ought to be treated like criminals -- investigated, prosecuted after the fact. The problem is that the folks we're dealing with, the terrorists, are not like bank robbers or common murders. They're something quite different.
People think of terrorism as the purpose of terrorism to kill people. It often has that effect. But the purpose of terrorism is not to kill people, it's to terrorize people, it's to alter their behavior, it's to cause them to do something fundamentally different than they otherwise would be doing; that is to say to do exactly what the terrorists want them to do and to live a life and to behave in a manner consistent with what the terrorists want.
Even as the Cold War ended, our military services remained organized to defend against large armies, air forces and navies. America, it was said, had taken a “holiday from history,” -- where Americans were persuaded that emerging threats were exaggerations, or were somebody else's problem, or would eventually go away if we left them alone.
That sentiment was popular in the decades before World War II -- until the attack on Pearl Harbor, which awoke many Americans, most Americans to the harsh reality and caused them to rally to their country's defense and rally they did. Americans defeated the forces of fascism, nurtured West Germany and Japan on a long, slow, difficult journey to representative government, to democracies and created new institutions to combat the menace of Soviet tyranny.
Over the past years, Americans have come to know a new and different threat -- an enemy that is even more ruthless and more lethal -- as weapons are more lethal today; with no territory to defend, no treaties to honor, that measures progress in terms of decades, not days or weeks or months, as Americans seem to; and who are seeking -- let there be no doubt -- the world's most dangerous weapons.
With this sort of enemy, we cannot afford and indeed could not survive another “holiday from history.” We've seen the nature of the enemy every day since September 11th. 
·        They target women and children and use them as human shields.
·        They've murdered thousands of civilians, tens of thousands --Muslims and mostly -- mostly Muslims, but non- -- Muslims and non-Muslims alike, in places like London, Madrid, Morocco, Bali, Beslan, Baghdad, New Delhi and dozens of other places across the globe.
·        They train their supporters to claim torture when they're apprehended. They manipulate the media.
·        They doctor photos of casualties to inflame Western public opinion.
·        They seize every opportunity to lie and distort the coalition's missions in Afghanistan, in Iraq and elsewhere.  And they're good at it.  They're very skillful at it. They have media committees that meet to decide how they can fool people as to what's taking place.
Their battlefield is not just Baghdad or Kabul, but American living rooms and television screens. We talk about where's the center of gravity of the war. The center of gravity of this war is very much in Washington, D.C., and it's in the capitals across the world.
There's no way our forces can lose, militarily. There's also no way they can win by military means alone. It takes more than military means. And it takes some time.
They live in our country. They live in countries that are our allies in the war on terror. Some 90 nations today are allied with us in the global war on terror. And they live in diffuse cells around the world.
And with an enemy that is not dissuaded by the threat of prosecution or by reason, our free societies have really two options. One is to be terrorized and to alter our behavior; and the other is to decide we will not be terrorized, we'll not alter our behavior, which strikes at the very essence of free people, but to attack them and to stop them at their roots.
The government of some 90 nations that we share intelligence with and cooperate with have made the strategic decision to go on the offense, because there really is no other choice. It is not possible to defend in every location, at every moment of the day or night, at -- against every conceivable technique of violence.
That can't be done. So the choice -- it is a clear choice that one must be on the offense.
Since 9/11, two of the world's leading sponsors of terrorism, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq are gone. A third, Libya, has renounced its nuclear programs and its ties to terror. Nations such as Pakistan and India are much closer allies today than they were in 2001. Some 10 terrorist attacks against America and our allies have been thwarted to our intelligence community's knowledge. It did not happen by luck. It did not happen by accident.
It happened because an awful lot of people worked very hard to prevent those attacks. It was the result of strategies and the result of close cooperation from a great many other countries.
This war, like other wars, has not been a steady, smooth, upward path. To some, that's a surprise. To those who study history, it is not a surprise. The enemy has a brain. The enemy adapts, just as our folks adapt continuously and must.
Consider Iraq. At first, Saddam's forces tried to meet Coalition forces in the field -- and they lost.  So regime remnants and other extremists began to attack military supply convoys. As convoys became better protected, they began to use the explosive devices, IEDs. And as commanders shifted convoy tactics and increased armor in response, the type and size of the IEDs changed and the method of actuating them changed. And as the effectiveness of the attacks against military targets declined, the extremists obviously, using their brains, shifted to more attacks on civilians in attempts to incite sectarian violence. I mean, the classic example was the attack on the Golden Dome Mosque.
Today the enemies are fighting an Iraq unity government by trying to further sow the seeds of sectarian violence. Coalition forces have and will need to continue to adapt, making adjustments as they see the needs.
Each of you here in one form or another is a student of history. You know better than many that what is being undertaken in Afghanistan and Iraq has to be understood to be one of history's most difficult tasks. It is not simply a battle of one big navy against another big navy or one air force against another air force with a signing ceremony on the Missouri when it's over. Those are not the kind of people we're dealing with.
Afghans have risked their lives to support and defend a representative government that's now been in existence for less than two or three years. Iraqis have given up a great deal to form a unity government, and it's been in place, I don't know, plus or minus 160 days, with the new prime minister and the new ministers -- that's less than a baseball season. Think of that. And yet we're impatient. I'm impatient. Everyone's impatient. We can't help but be impatient.
But think of that. That government's been there less than a baseball season. And these are people who lived in that country. And Saddam Hussein did not reward people for being entrepreneurs and taking decisions on their own. Those people were put in jail or killed. They don't have the experience, the base that's needed yet, and it will take some time for them to develop that. To achieve long-term success in this struggle, we're trying to help their governments, their ministries to offer an alternative of hope and promise for a brighter future.
Last, I think, Saturday - we went to Bethesda Naval Hospital, and there was a Marine. He'd been -- he had multiple wounds and he had a tube in his nose, and he looked up and he said, "If the American people will just give us time."
I said to him, "What do you do? What were you doing over there when you got wounded?" He was an embedded trainer. He was one of the ones that was put into the Iraqi units, slept with them, ate with them, worked with them every day, worried about the leadership capabilities, worried about the equipment, worried about their linkages to the police forces, their linkages to intelligence, their linkages to local government, worried about them behaving in a proper way. And he said, "They get it, and they're doing well."
He was with a military, Ministry of Defense unit as opposed to a Ministry of Interior unit, and they're farther behind in their progress, as many of you know. Have any of you been embedded trainers over there? There's one.
This fellow is absolutely convinced, as so many people who've been involved in it are, that the capabilities of those Iraqi security forces are improving every day, that they're getting better at what they do and that they're going to be able to assume responsibility for the security of their country.
If you think about it, for every student that attends a school that Coalition forces help build, there's a parent who sees some potential for their children. For each house that gets clean running water or electricity for the first time in years, there's a tangible incentive to keep that house free of terrorists and extremists or weapons that could put them at risk.
The more they see other people gaining a better life, the more they will want it for themselves -- and the more they will take steps necessary to build a better life for themselves.
And in the last analysis, it will be the Iraqi people who will provide for their own governance and their own security, as they must. It will not be foreign troops and foreign forces. And the more that Afghans and Iraqis take the lead in securing their countries from the nation's enemies, the more encouraged the people will become that the wave of violence in their country ultimately can be defeated, as it has been defeated in other nations over time in the past.
The overwhelming majority of Afghans and Iraqis do not want a future determined by extremists, by violent extremists, they just don't. Think of it -- 12 million Iraqis went to vote, and it was dangerous. There were signs on the walls saying, "You vote, you die.” They don't want the terrorists to win. They don't want to be turned over to the beheaders and the hostage takers, the terrorists and the 21st-century fascists who seek to do them harm.
This is a global struggle against violent extremism. It is -- it will be long, and it will be hard. I wish it were otherwise. They're certainly seeing the violence on television. There's a temptation for people to wonder how will it end, how can it be done in a way that it will end favorably? And of course, as in previous periods, as I have mentioned, there are those who say, "Well, it's somebody else's problem," or "It'll just go away and not to worry."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair the other day summed up our challenge this way. He said:
"We will not win until we shake ourselves free of the wretched capitulation to the propaganda of the enemy that somehow we are the ones responsible. Terrorism is not our fault," he said. "If we retreat now, we will not be safer, we will be committing a craven act of surrender that will put our future security in deepest peril,"
Many of you have experienced first-hand the, successes and setbacks of this war. You've witnessed what the enemy is capable of, and I think you know we cannot afford to take a “holiday from history.”
Not long ago, a group of men gathered to remember a similar time in history when they were young, when the world's future seemed clouded by the advance of tyrants across the globe.
Those men were volunteers for a mission that seemed foolhardy to some and was very likely to end their lives. But in those famous 30 seconds over Tokyo, the aviators who become known as “Doolittle's Raiders” stunned an empire, rallied a nation, and gave America a needed lift in a world war that at that time we were losing and seemed lost.
It's hard to remember that, but that's what it was. Month after month after month another loss.
Those last surviving Doolittle Raiders gave a toast to that past glory, to the legacy they'd forged and to the generations that would carry that legacy into the future. That legacy, that daring, that vision is a hallmark of your service. And I believe I have every confidence that one day you will look back on your service, back on this time, back on your place in history, and take pride in the fact that you contributed to a safer world and to the cause of freedom.
The great sweep of human history is for freedom. And that's the side we're on. Thank you. (Applause.)