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Kansas State University Landon Lecture
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense, Manhattan, Kansas, Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.  (Applause.)

General Dick Myers, thank you so much for those words.

And ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for that very warm welcome.

Later today, we'll be attending the dedication of a building here at Kansas State in General Myers' honor -- which is a well-deserved tribute to one of this university's most distinguished alumni.  Dick and Mary Jo were college sweethearts.  They were married on this campus.

And my wife Joyce, and I go back even farther.  We met in high school and have been married some 52 years.  (Applause.)  Someone asked Joyce one day, “How in the world did you stay married to that guy for 52 years?”  She very quickly said, “He travels a lot.”  (Laughter.)  I thought she was kidding.  (Laughter.)

Well, Dick Myers has traveled a good bit himself, and I'm sure Mary Jo would never say something like that.  (Laughter.)

Over the years, Dick and Mary Jo have been through countless moves.  They've traveled places across the globe to serve our country, but I can tell you that their hearts have always belonged to Kansas.  And I think everyone here would agree that they have done Kansas proud.  Indeed they have done our nation proud.  (Applause.)

President Wefald, Mr. Reagan, Mr. Seaton, I certainly appreciate this invitation.

I hope all of you appreciate how I have managed so skillfully public affairs for this event.  (Laughter.)  I wanted to put the Landon Lecture on the map -- so I did my best!  (Applause.)  I'm glad I could help out.  (Laughter.)

It was Nancy Kassebaum -- Alf Landon's daughter -- who first talked to me about coming to do this lecture.  And it was in Japan when her husband, Howard Baker, was the ambassador.  And I said I'd really like to do it -- and I'm glad I could be here.

Mr. Adams and members of the faculty, Lucas, president of the student body -- is that what it's called?  How did you do it?  (Laughter.)  It was easy, huh?  Well, congratulations to you.

Congressman Moran -- it's good to see you.  I want to thank you for being here and for your service to the country.

We're also very honored to have a very special veteran with us.  Born here in Manhattan, a hero of the battle of Normandy, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Walter Ehlers.  Where is Walter?  (Applause.)

General Petreaus, General Ham, thank you both for your superb service to the country.  And certainly a very special greeting to the men and women here from Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, the Kansas State Army and Air Force ROTC cadets, volunteers all.  We are deeply grateful to each of you for your service to the country and for your commitment to the defense of our nation.

I would start on a personal note.  My time as Secretary of Defense, I've come away truly inspired by the professionalism, the dedication, the dignity of the men and women in uniform, and the folks at the Department of Defense who work every day to help keep the American people safe.

When I was in Afghanistan not long ago, a young soldier told me, he said, “I really can't believe we're allowed to do something this important.”  You know, I feel the same way.  I'm so honored to have had the opportunity to be part of something so important -- so vital to the future of our country and to the cause of human freedom.

It has been the highest honor of my life to serve our country and to work so closely with our outstanding troops.

It's a pleasure to take part in this lecture series, named for a governor, a presidential candidate and a statesman of great civility.  But I guess that perhaps what he was most proud of was that he was a Kansan -- and he said so frequently.

It's said that the geographic center of the 48 states is here in Kansas.  And that's fitting -- if you think about it, this part of the world has given our nation some of the truly great leaders of the last century: Governor Landon; along with him was General Dwight Eisenhower from Abilene; Bob Dole from Russell; Harry Truman, who lived next door in Missouri.  One of Ronald Reagan's biographers said that he really never understood President Reagan until he went to Illinois and experienced firsthand where President Reagan had grown up.

These individuals embodied the values instilled in the sons and daughters of this part of the Great Plains and Midwest.  Here, folks tend to have a good perspective about things, about the difference between right and wrong -- they've grown up with an appreciation for the splendor and the decency of America and of the American people.

Well, we meet today at a time of peril for our nation and for the principles that it represents.  In a sense, this is not new.  In different ways at different times, and from different sources, our nation and our values have been threatened since our very beginnings as a country.

But today, in the first war of the 21st century, we face an enemy that in many ways is unlike any our country has ever faced in our long history.  We're engaged in a new and unfamiliar war that is even today not yet well understood.  It's a struggle that will require all of us -- our country, our government, our military, and the American people -- to think and act differently than we have in other conflicts.  And I want to spend a few minutes talking about this challenge before responding to some questions.

I'm told that Kansas State has a Cold War Studies program that examines the history of the “long twilight struggle.”  Well, like the Cold War, this era finds America and our allies in a struggle against an “ideology of global reach.”  And like the Cold War, this era requires us to adapt and adjust our strategies, our way of thinking and our institutions.  Forty years ago, Governor Landon spoke about the challenge of that era and the need to face what he called the “new realities of international life.”

When he spoke, in 1966, there was most certainly no assurance that America would prevail against the Soviet Union.  That year, the number of troops in Vietnam nearly doubled to more than 300,000, in an increasingly divisive conflict.  No less than seven violent coups occurred around the world that year.  There was doubt and division, even among our allies, even within our own country.  France pulled out of the NATO defense structure and invited NATO out of France.

When I was U.S. ambassador to NATO, I had to race back to Washington to testify before a U.S. Senate Committee against an amendment -- a Senate amendment -- that proposed to withdraw all of our forces from Western Europe.  Euro-Communism -- the so-called "good” Communism -- was very much en vogue.  It was popular.

Many of the so- called elites in our country argued that America was the problem, not the Soviet Union; that the arms race was a big misunderstanding.  Millions of people demonstrated and marched -- not against the Soviet Union -- but against the United States and our European allies.  We tend to forget that.

Almost until the day of its demise, many argued that Communism was the wave of the future.

President Reagan used to tell a story of a young Soviet who finally saved up enough money to buy a car.  And the Soviet clerk stamped the man's paper and told him he would get his car in 10 years.  The young man asked, “Will it come in the morning or the afternoon?”  (Laughter.)

The clerk, astonished, responded: “Well, what difference does it make?”

And the young man replied, “Because the plumber's coming in the morning.”  (Laughter.)

The great lesson of the Cold War is that totalitarianism -- ruled by fear and terror -- in whatever guise it takes, ultimately does not work.  And when people finally realize that truth, those systems tend to collapse.

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the breach of the Berlin Wall -- the most visible symbol of the end of an era and of a bankrupt ideology.  When thousands of Berliners climbed over that wall to reunite with friends and family that they had been separated from for decades, they went in one direction-- they went west, to the free world, and they vividly understood exactly what it was that they had been fighting for all those years.

There are some similarities between the Cold War and the struggle we face today, but this long war represents and presents unprecedented challenges -- for us wholly unlike any that the United States has ever faced.

There can be no doubt but that the murderous Communist regimes imprisoned, starved and sometimes massacred their own citizens.  We know that.  But they were nation-states.  They had capitals.  They had laws.  They had five-year plans.  They had diplomats to sign agreements, even if they broke them.

Unlike the Cold War, our enemy has no state, and no territories to defend.  They murder innocent Muslim civilians by the thousands -- men, women, and children alike.  The enemy cannot be deterred through rational self-interest.  Today's threats come less from nation-states, but rather from enemies that operate in the shadows, that strike through asymmetric and irregular means.

On September 11th, we saw the deadly effects of this new type of warfare.  Armed with $5 box cutters, 19 hijackers killed 3,000 Americans and inflicted hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, the insurgents fashion deadly IEDs and road bombs using propane tanks and garage-door openers.  Nations like Iran and Syria seek to undermine U.S. and allied interests by moving weapons and money and terrorists and insurgents.  In the future, there could be attacks on computer networks, water supplies, communications systems.

Our military was organized, trained and equipped largely for conventional warfare, not asymmetric or irregular warfare.  In fact, for much of the past century, the U.S. Armed Forces operated essentially as separate, and sometimes even competing branches of service.

In 1986, Congress passed legislation to restructure the military into a more joint force.  Since then, our military has been learning to fight and learning well how to fight in a single, coordinated force.  That reform of the military has been one of their most impressive achievements.

But to win this global struggle against violent extremists, all elements of national power -- all agencies of government -- as well as a broad coalition of nations will have to be brought to bear more effectively.

To the extent possible we can no longer afford to have Defense and State Departments, CIA and Homeland Security, Treasury and Justice, Agriculture and Commerce each waging their own campaign, with their own rules, their own restrictions, each overseen by separate Congressional committees and subcommittees.  Defense, diplomacy and development cannot fit neatly into separate compartments today.  Success requires that security, governance and development programs progress together.

Our military cannot lose a battle in Afghanistan or Iraq -- but our military cannot win all alone.  They need the help of the other departments and agencies.  They need the help of a broad coalition, and that is a vastly more complex task.

In Afghanistan, for example, Provisional Reconstruction Teams need to draw on the forces and expertise from a range of specialties.  These teams have achieved a good deal, because their success has been limited because their activities are too often thought to remain almost exclusively the responsibility of the Department of Defense.  Our military cannot lose -- as I say; to win will require much more than military force alone.  Governance and development, as I say, must proceed apace.

Second, we need to recognize that this struggle against extremism cannot and will not be won by any single country, even the United States of America.  It will be won, over time, by the hundreds of millions of Muslims -- Iraqis, Afghans, Egyptians, Indonesians, as well as European and American Muslims -- who will ultimately be responsible for winning the struggle against violent extremists.

The Defense Department has asked for increases in funding and authority to help to build the capacity and the capabilities of partner nations.  This will be a difficult shift in approach for our country.  Change is hard, and it's not easy for Americans to teach and assist while others act and do.  Ours is a nation and a military with a hands-on, can-do spirit.  But today's war against a global enemy requires first and foremost that we enable our friends and allies, especially those in the Muslim world, to confront and defeat the extremists within their own borders and on their own airwaves.

The shift towards building our partners' capabilities requires, for example, some of the best military personnel to become trainers and advisers and embedded with foreign security forces so that they can improve their capacities and their capabilities.  And as was indicated, we have a number of those folks here today who are currently training at Fort Riley as part of military transition teams.  These teams will be undertaking a critical task when they deploy, to train and stand up and mentor Afghan, Iraqi Security Forces, and those of other nations.  There's perhaps, as we move into this new period, no more important mission.  So folks, I thank you for all you've done and for all you are doing and all you will do.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

In the past, U.S. efforts to train foreign security forces have been burdened by outdated restrictions.  In Afghanistan, for example, building up the Afghan army was harmfully delayed because there was no such category in the U.S. federal budget at the time, and we lacked the authorities and the resources to do so for a period.  Other painful delays in training the Afghan and Iraqi police forces were the result of the fact that it was the responsibility of others and not the Department of Defense, and we were prohibited from participating in training police in the early period.

Further, the realities on the ground in the rest of the world do not correspond to the U.S. yearly budget process.  When you think about it, we live in a fast-moving world, and it takes, in the Department of Defense, a year to develop a budget, it takes a year of the Congress to pass it, and then it takes a year to implement that budget.  That's a three-year cycle that results in a situation where, during execution, you're basically dealing with stale facts, stale assumptions -- assumptions that were fashioned two-and-a-half, three years before.  And we don't have yet the speed and agility that we need.

The Department is currently drawing upon proposals – drawing up proposals to reform existing regulations and authorities.  Some of these in response -- regulations and rules and laws date back to the 1960s and -- unfortunately, hamper effective U.S. action.

Third, another area that government needs to be strengthened is in communications.  Today's global, 24-hour media presents new challenges for a government that operates on a very different schedule.  Al Qaeda's second-in-command, al-Zawahiri, has said: "More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.”  This is the number two al Qaeda leader explaining to his people that it's not so much only on the battlefield today, it's in the media.

The enemy we face has skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part, our country and our government have not yet completed the adjustments that will be necessary.  The enemy is fast.  With headline-grabbing attacks, by doctoring photographs, lying to the media, being trained to allege torture in their training manuals, the enemy successfully manipulates the free world's press -- a press that they would never allow to be free -- and they do so purposefully to intimidate and break the will of free people.  We need to understand the ruthlessness, the skillfulness of this enemy.

In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower spoke to the nation for the last time as President.  He warned of a long struggle ahead.  He said:

"We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope… ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method…to meet it successfully we must carry forward steadily, surely and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty the stake."

As we look back on those crucial years during the Cold War, so too our grandchildren will one day look back on this time as a defining moment in American history.  History will judge whether this generation did all we could to defeat a vicious, extremist enemy that threatens our security, our freedom and our very way of life.  Or, if we left it to the next generation to try to fight an enemy then strengthened by our weakness, and emboldened by a lack of resolve.

Over my lifetime, I've had the opportunity to live in times of great consequence, times of war -- times of peace.  And I've met countless Americans from every corner of our magnificent country.  I've developed an abiding faith in the wisdom and good judgment of the American people.  Over time, on big issues, the American people find their way to right decisions.  I've seen us triumph over dictators and tyrannies in many forms, and I believe that if we persevere today -- and I'm convinced we will -- and make the right choices, and develop a clear understanding of this new war we face, the first war of the 21st century, we can overcome the increasingly lethal threats that challenge our country.

Despite all the enemy tries to do to make the world think otherwise, America is not what's wrong with the world.  America is a force for good.  We are on the right side of history.  The great sweep of human history is for freedom, and let there be no doubt we are on freedom's side.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

For complete transcript with Q&As: