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The Southern Center for International Studies
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, Georgia, Thursday, May 04, 2006

Peter, thank you very much.  And Julia and Cedric and all the team at the Southern Center, it's good to see all of you again, the troops down here.  Enjoyed having a chance to shake hands and visit briefly before we came in.

I thank all of you who are in uniform and all of those who previously were in uniform, for your service to the country.  I see one down here I know was active in the military.

It's always good to be back in Atlanta.  I used to come in and out of here when I was a young Navy pilot 50 years ago and always thought a great deal about this city.  It's become one of the most creative and diverse and energetic communities in the United States.

I think it should probably be noted that part of its emergence can be attributed to the work of organizations such as the Southern Center and the work they do to improve understanding about important international issues.  And we congratulate you, Peter, and your board of directors and those who give you money.

The prospect of speaking here today about our alliances and our partnerships around the Globe reminded me of a mission I took overseas a great many years ago.  It was in 1970.  I was part of a presidential delegation representing the United States at the funeral of President Nasser of Egypt, if you can believe it.

And back then Egypt was very closely aligned with the Soviet Union, and I remember I was with Elliot Richardson, who we mentioned earlier; John McCloy, who'd been high commissioner to Germany; and Robert Murphy, who was known as the "diplomat among warriors."  We were the delegation to this funeral.

And we arrived in Cairo, and everywhere you looked, there were Soviet tanks, Soviet missiles, Soviet airplanes, Soviet troops.

And no one in our delegation had ever met the fellow who happened to be vice president when Nasser died.  And we didn't know much about him, and we didn't really know what to expect.

And we went in to meet him.  It was Anwar Sadat.  And he'd been an army officer.  And he looked at us and said that he had no issue with the United States except Israel, and he wanted us to know that.  And we probed, and it turns out he had been on an exchange, a military-to-military educational exchange program and spent some time -- ….

In any event, we went in and met Sadat and didn't know what to expect, and it turned out he had been in the United States, in a military school, over in the south, and had a special experience which he'd never forgotten.  And the -- two years later after taking power, he began to move the Soviets out of Egypt and expelled them, began to build a friendship with the United States that's gone on a great many decades.  That was one example of the importance of establishing relationships with other countries and military-to-military relationships and maintaining communication with other countries.

Another example occurred very recently when Pakistan had the terrible earthquakes, where so many people were killed and homeless, and God bless our troops.  We -- our folks went over there with helicopters and medical facilities and went in and provided an enormous amount of assistance to the Pakistani people who had been so terribly hit by the earthquake.  And the military people, the -- that I talked to you over there when I went in -- went to visit them said that they found an unusual thing, that the older Pakistani officers and military people were quite friendly and quite comfortable with the American forces, and the junior ones were not and -- at all.  They were suspicious, uneasy, not certain about the United States or about our military, despite the fact that our folks were there providing rescue missions and medical attention.

And one would ask, "Well, why would that happen?"  And of course the answer is that most of the senior officers had been exchange people years and years before.  And then we cut off relationships with Pakistan on a military-to-military basis, and there was nothing for a generation.  And as a result, there's a whole generation of Pakistanis and American military people who have no linkage, no relationship, and it's a mystery, the other is a mystery to them.  And that's unfortunate.

The break of lost relationships and friendships and contacts and understanding had to be restarted again almost from scratch after September 11th.  I mention this because of the importance of military-to-military relationships in the world, particularly in this new century, and currently they are undergoing fairly significant changes in our arrangements and our relationships with other nations and other militaries, adjustments that are based on the new realities and the fact that we do have new threats and we need to see that we have the kinds of partners and allies and friends and cooperative relationships that will best serve our country and free people everywhere.

I thought I might take a few minutes and talk about some of these developments and where we might be headed before responding to some questions.

First, I think it's important to note that since 2001, the United States has probably done more things with more different nations in more constructive ways in more parts of the world than at any time in our country's history.  In the wake of September 11th, President Bush helped to fashion and lead a coalition, probably the largest coalition in the history of the world, to fight the struggle against violent extremists, the global war on terror.

Further, he proposed the Proliferation Security Initiative, recognizing the terrible dangers from the proliferation of powerful weapons.  And today there are some 60 nations currently cooperating in that initiative, trying to prevent dangerous weapons from being -- weapons or materials from being transported to terrorists or outlaw regimes.

And we're working with partners such as Japan and Australia on a regional missile defense basis to try to prevent – free nations from being intimidated by rogue states.

You know, that charge is frequently leveled against the president for one reason or another, and it is so wrong, and so unfair, and so destructive of a free system where people need to trust each other and government.  And the idea that people in government are lying about something is fundamentally destructive of that trust and, at bedrock, untrue.

In any event, the last four years have witnessed fundamental transformation in a number of our relationships.  And I'd also mention India -- the world's largest democracy.  We've moved from an uneasy and at times wary coexistence during the Cold War, when India fancied itself as very important in the non-aligned world and -- but we've moved to a true partnership based on common values and common interests.  Americans have trained with Indian commandos in their jungle warfare school, and our paratroopers have jumped together in exercises.  The recent arrangement on civilian nuclear technology is the latest example of a growing relationship within India that President Bush worked out very recently.

As Americans -- America's cooperation with other nations has evolved, so has the Department of Defense's approach, from a 20th century focus on -- basically on our activities, military activities, to an emphasis on trying to strengthen our relationship with other nations and strengthen partners and allies so that they can participate in what are a complicated set of problems we face.  The global issues our country faces today, and will for the foreseeable future, are the kinds of problems that can't be solved by any single nation alone, they require cooperation.  I mean, if you think about it, narcotics and terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, all of those things require enormous cooperation among countries.

These new priorities to prevent problems from becoming crises and preventing crises from becoming full-blown conflicts have prompted our military to undertake a number of new non-traditional missions in non-traditional places.  For example, a joint task force we have is headquartered in Djibouti.  It conducts civil affairs, training and security operations in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen.

The weapons in this unconventional conflict are really schools and clinics and shovels.  As one serviceman put it, “we're fighting a war down there, and we haven't fired a shot.”  But they're working with other people and developing relationships that are going to be very important.

These unconventional and asymmetrical security challenges have prompted a rethinking of the structure and role of our traditional military alliances, including NATO.  The NATO alliance is currently standing up a new NATO Response Force, which is going to be an important step forward for them.  And with the assumption of responsibility for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, NATO has moved outside of its traditional treaty boundaries in Europe and the United States for the -- really for the first time in a major way.

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 relatively small defense budgets.  The -- I think the average of the non-U.S. NATO nations today, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is about 1.85 percent of their GDP.  So of every dollar in their GDP, 1. -- of every hundred dollars, it would be 1.82 -- not much, less than 2 percent.

This is a concern.  It's a declining number.  And given the demographic trends in Europe, one has to imagine that those kinds of pressures will continue on their defense budgets.

Coupled with a(n) uneven threat assessment as to the nature of the world we're living in -- the countries have somewhat different perspectives than the United States; some of them do -- this makes the transformation of NATO all the more urgent, so that the scarce resources that they're investing in defense can be put to best possible use.

Updating our arrangements with traditional allies has included a fundamental thinking of the role of the -- and location of our forces around the globe.  When President Bush took office in 2001, for example, we had heavy U.S. Army divisions that were still in Germany, despite the fact that the Soviet Union had been gone for more than a decade.  A number of those units are now being moved back to the United States and reconfigured, so that they can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world where they may be needed.

On the Korean peninsula, unlike Europe, a threat from a hostile communist neighbor, North Korea, does still exist.  But South Korea, our ally going on some six decades now, is no longer a devastated, war-ravaged nation.  It is the 12th-most powerful economy on the face of the Earth and a very successful, free political and free economic system.

So while we have upgraded our military capabilities collectively with the Republic of Korea and strengthened the deterrent on the Korean peninsula and in Asia generally, nonetheless, we are able now to reduce somewhat the U.S. military footprint in South Korea.

A similar dynamic is taking place in our relationship with Japan.  Earlier this week, Secretary of State Condi Rice and I met with the foreign minister and defense minister of Japan, our counterparts, to sign an historic agreement that will represent probably the most significant realignment of U.S. forces in that country since the end of World War II.

When you think about it, the changes that have taken place in Japan just within the span of my lifetime have been truly remarkable.  I can remember, I was -- on V-J Day I was selling newspapers at the Coronado Ferry.  My father was on an aircraft carrier out in the Pacific, and I was, I guess, 12 years old, and the war ended.  And some years later, I was in Congress in 1960s, early 1960s, and the big issues were about the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the issue of the revision of Okinawa back to Japan.

And here we are many years later.  Japan's got the second-most powerful economy on the face of the Earth.  They're a longtime alliance.  They're a country that people said wasn't ready for democracy.  They've got a free political system, a free economic system and have been an enormous success.

It was during that period after World War II ended that President Truman would launch an enormous number of the institutions that have seen us and the free world through the following 50 years.  They were crucial to victory in the Cold War, things like the Marshall Plan, the Doctrine of Containment, the U.S. Information Agency, to mention a few.  Some of the institutions, of course, are still important today -- NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, not to mention the Department of Defense, the CIA and the National Security Council.  All of those institutions -- some U.S. and some international -- had their beginnings in that post-World War II period when we were at the juncture of the end of that war and the beginning of the Cold War.

And the task for us, it seems to me, is to recognize that we are at a juncture today as well, with the end of the Cold War and at the beginning of the 21st century, a time where we're moved from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, from the threats of conventional and nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union to a time where people recognize that it's difficult for them to compete with our conventional capabilities -- armies, navies and air forces -- and therefore, they're fashioning various asymmetrical ways that they can attack us, irregular warfare ways.

And the task for us, and I think for Peter in the Southern Center, and those who provide recommendations for policymakers, is to consider what we might need at this juncture in history.  I suggest that we do need a 21st century USIA, the old U.S. Information Agency.  We need to find ways to see that we're better understood in the world than we currently are.

I know that Secretary of State Rice recently has proposed something along that line, particularly with respect to the people of Iran, who are hearing things from their leadership that are different from what we would want them to be hearing and what we believe to be the truth about our country.

We may need to take a hard look at our existing security arrangements and institutions and examine whether they're sufficiently effective and agile to operate in a world that hostage-takers, suicide-bombers, and terrorists.

You know, you think back to the end of World War II and VJ-Day, no one really could have imagined quite what course the world would take in the following 50 or 60 years.  So too today.  It's very difficult to think what the world might look like in 20, 30, 40 years, and what kinds of challenges and tasks that we may be facing.

The focus of our attention today is properly on the global war on terror, the struggle against violent extremists, the battles taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Within future decades, some of those priorities will change, and of course, much of what we are called upon to do and to think about in that period will be determined by choices made by others.

Consider Russia, a nation of vast natural resources, an educated people, a rich heritage, scientific and cultural achievements.  Like our people, they're threatened as well by violent extremists.  They're a partner with us in some security issues, and on the whole, our relationship has, of course, dramatically increased since the Cold War.  In other ways, though, Russia has not been helpful with regard to the use of energy resources as a political weapon, with their resistance to the positive changes that are trying to be made in some of their neighboring republics.

And then, China.  Chinese people are educated and talented, live in a nation that has great potential.  They have high growth rates, industrious workforce.  But nonetheless, there are aspects of China's actions that remain somewhat unsettling and complicate our relationship.  Last year, the Department of Defense report that's required by Congress noted that Chinese defense expenditures, for example, are probably two or three times that which they publicly indicate.  That issue of the lack of transparency is something that causes some of their neighbors and others to look at it and wonder:  Why is that?  What is it that's going on that they, for whatever reason, seem to not want the free countries of the world to know?

In addition to the choices that these and other countries make, of course, there's the question of the choices that our country makes, and from time to time, America's gone through periods when public sentiment has weighed against our having an active role in the world.  I am from Chicago, and I can remember in the pre-World War II period, the "America First" and the strong current against any international involvement or entanglement or commitment to friends or allies.

And in the early 1970s, when I was ambassador to NATO, I can remember being called back to testify before Congress because there were amendments in the Congress to pull our troops home.  Just at the very moment when the Soviet Union was building up their massive military capability, we had people who were suggesting that we should toss in the towel and that we couldn't win the Cold War.

And then that was a period when Euro-communism was in fashion, and people said, "Oh, it's not that bad.  There's some bad communists and some good communists," and not to worry.  And fortunately, political leadership in this country of successive administrations of both political parties, and the political leadership in other countries and the people that supported those people and elected them and put them in office, stood fast and were purposeful and persevered through very tough times in the Cold War.

We look back now and think, oh, it was written that we'd win the Cold War.  It wasn't even written that we would continue to persist during that period -- but we did.  It didn't happen by accident or by chance.  And I must say that looking forward, I am convinced that 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 -- and there's no question but that our country is currently facing difficulty in Iraq and difficulty in Afghanistan, and threats from elsewhere around the globe, but I have every confidence that if we preserve, if we prevail in this test of wills.  And it is a test of wills.  The battle seems to be in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it isn't.  There's no way the terrorists can win a single battle over there.  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, and the battle -- it is a test of wills.  It is going to require staying power for us.

And I think that the victory in that “long war” -- and it is a “long war”, just as the Cold War was a “long war” -- against violent extremists and against the other threats that may emerge in this still uncertain new century, is a task that the people in this room face, that we all face; that our friends and allies around the world who are free people and believe in freedom, and how important it is for you to able to get up in the morning and say what you want, and go where you wish, and 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.  And it is that which we must not allow to happen.

Thank you very much.

For a complete transcript, including questions and answers, please visit:
http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2006/tr20060504-12979.html