Seal of the Department of Defense U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public contact:
or +1 (703) 571-3343

"The Gathering Storm: The Threat of Global Terror and Asia/Pacific Security"
As Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz , Singapore, Saturday, June 01, 2002

I well remember the day thirteen years ago when I left the post of ambassador to Indonesia to return to the United States to begin my second tour of duty at the Defense Department. I had mixed feelings: I looked forward with anticipation to my new post, but I knew I would miss a remarkable region that I had grown to deeply admire. I am always delighted to have a chance to come back.

I am especially pleased to be able to be here to take part in this conference. Through the years, the IISS has promoted discussions of important international issues and provided a forum to put these issues into perspective. And I can’t think of a time when that perspective is needed more. I’d like to thank all of you who have made this conference possible.

Like most in this audience, I share the view that the Pacific is as important as any region in this world, perhaps the most important when we contemplate the challenges of the next half-century and the extraordinary dynamism of the Asia-Pacific region. Developing America’s relationship with our Pacific partners is one of our highest security priorities. Twelve months ago, I might have called it our biggest challenge. But last September 11th, another enormous challenge intruded. We are now engaged in a relentless war on international terrorism. Yet it remains equally important to work on building a better and more secure future, and a large part of that future will be built right here in the Asia-Pacific region.

Terrorism is Everyone’s Problem

How vibrant that future might be depends in great measure on our ability to preserve stability and security. Last September, terrorists struck America’s shores. But terrorism is no stranger to Asia. I still recall my own experience sixteen years ago this month when a terrorist bomb, launched by an improvised mortar, struck the roof of my office in the American Embassy in Jakarta and landed in the courtyard. Fortunately, the fuse did not work so the bomb failed to spread its deadly load of nails and shrapnel. Almost simultaneously, the Japanese Embassy and the British Cultural Center were struck, while the Japanese Red Army terrorist who set up all three devices was on a plane out of the country.

Thanks to close cooperation between Japanese and Americans, he was eventually caught and tried and now serves a long sentence in an American jail. But fanatics like him later produced the much more serious attack on the Tokyo subway. And much worse can happen if the Al Qaeda terrorists who are plotting today in East Asia realize their evil aims. For make no mistake: while New York and Washington may be thousands of miles away, the terrorists have Asia in their sights as well. I stand before you—as someone who cares deeply about the future of this region—to tell you in no uncertain terms that this scourge of terrorism threatens us all—all of us. It is a truly global threat, and we must respond forcefully, thoughtfully and decisively.

When evil of this magnitude is loose in the world, it will not stop until it has claimed for itself the ultimate power of wrenching from people across the globe any sense of peace and security they now enjoy. Unchecked, this evil will spread. It threatens not only America. It threatens hundreds of millions of moderate Muslims in East Asia who are among the principal targets of the terrorists. And it threatens the fundamental dreams of freedom and tolerance and democracy that embody what the terrorists hate.

In the first volume of his memoirs, called "The Gathering Storm," Winston Churchill describes the events that combined to bring about the deadliest and costliest war the world has known. Looking back over those events, Churchill concluded: "There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle."

Now, certainly no one would say that terrorists willing to lose their own lives will be easy to stop. But like the world between the two World Wars there are warning signs to help us chart our response. The signs tell us that as terrorists continue to murder innocents, their methods will only grow more deadly. It would be a mistake to think that we have seen either the last or the worst of such attacks. It would be a mistake to think that, in the future, they will strike only in the United States. A mistake, too, to think that a precision-guided airplane would be the deadliest bomb that terrorists would use, if they could get their hands on weapons that could kill thousands or even millions. How attractive they would find that. How efficient. How horrific. While it will not be easy to stop them, through a great deal of cooperation and a very great deal of hard work by those dedicated to victory over terror, we can win this historic war against global terrorism.

We will never completely eradicate the threat posed by those who are willing to kill themselves to kill others. But there is much we can do: to preempt their actions; to keep them from acquiring the most deadly weapons ever invented; to expose the lies at the heart of their methods; to convince their potential followers that their path is a blind alley leading to defeat and ignominy. But make no mistake. Unless we dissipate its energy, the gathering storm of terrorism will unleash its fury on us all.

Words are inadequate to describe how Americans experienced the fury of September 11th; how it affected the people of the United States, how it changed our day-to-day life. We had long grown used to the idea that the oceans that embrace our shores somehow isolate us from the sort of violence that has been commonplace in other parts of the world. We were shocked into a stark reality on that September morning. Many people are still in shock. One woman who works in Washington, D.C., said recently, "I can’t get over the fact that people are still out there whose sole intent is to try once again to kill my children."

Mothers and fathers now face a new reality—being alert to danger, wondering if sporting events or American national holidays will be occasions for more evil. In short, the very liberty we had come to take for granted—going where we wanted, doing what we wanted, when we wanted, living free from the fear of attack—has been curtailed in ways that are very real to us.

And yet, although the attacks took place in the United States, we should not lose sight of the fact that when the World Trade Towers were brought down, people from some 80 nations were killed as well. And many of citizens of the Asia-Pacific region were lost that day: People from Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Russia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines are numbered among the victims. And those innocent victims were not only Christians and Jews. The dead included innocent Muslims as well.

This global attack requires a global response, and we have received support from close to 70 nations. The commitment of our allies and partners demonstrates that we are not alone in this defense of freedom and justice and peace. And, as President Bush said in his State of the Union address in January, our objective is greater than "eliminating threats and containing resentment. We seek a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror."

President Bush also affirmed that we will continue to work with our coalition partners to thwart those states and their terrorist allies who seek even greater weapons of mass destruction to threaten peace in the world. "America," he went on to say, "will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security. We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons. Our war on terror is well begun," he said four months ago, "but it is only begun. This campaign may not be finished on our watch—yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch." "The price of indifference," he said, "would be catastrophic."

We’ve had wonderful support from our NATO allies in this campaign, including Britain and France who are represented here at this conference. And we have had great support from our partners in this region. Singapore, our gracious host country, has provided critical support for U.S. forces, and has also made tremendous strides in rounding up terrorists linked to al Qaeda—both here and in the region.

In this same spirit of cooperation, Japan’s Self Defense Forces have refueled American and British ships, as well as a number of C-130s, and recently pledged to a six-month extension of these efforts. Even more important, Japan has taken a leadership role in organizing the international effort to provide critically needed assistance for the reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan. The United States is committed to helping Afghanistan become a viable nation that can provide for its own safety and security. We are grateful that many other nations see this an obligation—not only to the people of Afghanistan, but to the world community as well.

Australia has once again proven to be one of our most reliable and militarily effective allies, joining in combat in Afghanistan with its Special Operations Forces as well as sending fighter aircraft for combat air patrol at Diego Garcia.

Korea has contributed key logistics support and has helped ferry humanitarian relief supplies for Afghanistan.

Speaking in Tokyo recently, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, observed the unfortunate truth that "even terrorism [rides] the wave of globalization," adding that one of the means of fighting this development is for [the Asia-Pacific] "to cultivate deeper security relations." The Philippines has taken bold steps to contend with terrorist groups on its own soil, including the Abu Sayyaf Group, a terrorist organization with ties to al Qaeda. And it has been a leader in the region in organizing multilateral cooperation against terrorism.

New Zealand has provided logistics and humanitarian support and its troops work alongside the multinational force now in Afghanistan, filling an important role in helping stabilize the area.

Recent arrests in Malaysia, the Philippines and here in Singapore are encouraging signs of what individual countries can do. The recent tri-lateral counter-terrorism agreement between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia gives us hope of even greater success as nations in the region work more closely together. We encourage other countries to see what they can do by themselves or by working with their neighbors.

China has supported our counter-terrorism efforts at the U.N., and it has shared intelligence. It has pledged money for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

This is just a partial list of what countries in this region have done to help in the war on terrorism. In doing so, they are not just helping us, but are also helping themselves. With our transatlantic partners and our NATO allies, whose efforts have also been indispensable to this on-going effort, we have a truly global response that can match the global threat.

Cooperating to Build a Better World

We are determined to fight so hard because what we share and what we stand for is worth fighting for. At the beginning of our nation, our founding fathers understood that a new nation purchased with toil and blood would have lasting meaning only if the character of the nation matched the sacrifice of those who fought for its independence. Only if the independence of that new nation were secured on the pillars of justice and freedom. America is a place where people can live free from persecution and fear, where religion is a matter of personal conscience, where people may enjoy peace and prosperity, safety and security, where they may find God and worship him in their own way. That is what the United States of America stands for.

But, these values are not exclusively American. They are universal values on which people around the world seek to build stable and prosperous societies. We would like nothing better than to see the people of other nations enjoy the benefits of self-determination, justice and freedom and to reap the fruits of their labors…. America remains optimistic. With the steady support of allies and friends, we will win this war on terrorism.

I have long noticed in Asia a similar optimism, optimism tempered by realism—an enormous talent for solving problems and preparing for the future. Not that Asia has a shortage of problems: there are historic animosities that affect relations between almost every pair of Asian neighbors; there are complex territorial disputes; and despite the remarkable economic growth of the last decades of the 20th Century, many Asian economies are still struggling in the wake of the financial collapse of 1997. Moreover, unlike Europe, Asia lacks the integrating institutions and deeper reconciliations that have brought historic peace and freedom to Europe.

But Asia’s problems can be solved, and in the last half century, Asians have developed a culture of farsightedness and problem solving. Indeed, if there once may have been truth to the clichéd phrase "oriental fatalism," East Asia’s record in the last half century has changed that. One of the great satisfactions of working on Asian policy over the last 20 years has been the opportunity to work with people who put their enormous energies into solving problems rather than creating problems.

This conference is one of many efforts to begin creating Asian structures and Asian institutions that can respond to the unique characteristics of Asia. In building that better future, the Asia-Pacific region has great intrinsic strengths of which five are worth particular mention.

First: the critical U.S. commitment to the region, to our alliances in the region, and to stability and progress in the region is supported by a strong bipartisan consensus among the American public. Fears that the end of the Cold War might lead to an American retreat from Asia have been laid to rest.

America’s long-standing relationships with its treaty allies in the Pacific—Japan, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines—are no less critical to regional stability today, even though patterns of multi-lateral cooperation are growing. To the contrary, those bilateral relationships provide a firm foundation on which multi-lateral structures can grow.

America’s firm commitment to South Korea’s security has enabled that country to prosper economically and transform itself politically, and it has also given them confidence to reach out to North Korea with creative diplomatic initiatives. The U.S.-Japan security relationship enables that great Asian democracy to achieve its security objectives without arousing the fears and antagonisms of past history and to play a constructive role in Asian security. Our Australian ally is a key partner in the global war on terrorism while the Philippines and Thailand play key roles in Southeast Asia.

Second, the countries of the region have shown by their response to a variety of challenges that cooperation—rather than opportunistic quest for unilateral advantage—is becoming a kind of a habit. We can see this in the response of the wealthier countries of the region to the 1997 financial crisis. We have seen it in the willingness of so many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Fiji, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore and Japan to contribute peacekeepers to secure the future of an independent East Timor.

We see it in the many cooperative efforts led by the ASEAN countries--cooperation that helped to bring about a political solution to the war in Cambodia that welcomed old enemies into new structures of partnership, and that led the way in seeking solutions to the disputes over territorial waters in Southeast Asia.

Third: one particularly important example of that habit of cooperation can be seen in the way the region as a whole has responded to the prospect of China’s growing power. Historically, the emergence of major new powers has frequently threatened the stability of the existing order, but we can be much more hopeful of a positive outcome in China’s case because all of the countries of the region are prepared to welcome a strong Chinese role in a constructive regional order. Even as we seek to deter conflict, at the same time we are committed to ensuring that the region’s problems are solved peacefully.

We have seen some interesting developments in China. It has a substantial private sector whose scope and sphere are growing. And it is in the interests of all of us in the region, certainly the United States, Taiwan and Hong Kong to encourage that growth and trade with the world which will be helped by China’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

As we look to where China is going, we cannot ignore our differences, especially on the issues of human rights, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and Taiwan. As China’s strength grows, it will become increasingly important to encourage Beijing to see that a continuation of the peaceful status quo in the Western-Pacific best serves China’s own interests.

We have made it clear that the United States opposes any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means. We have reiterated our one China policy. And we have made it clear that we expect Taiwan’s future to be determined in a manner acceptable to the people on both sides of the straight. President Bush has also made it clear that he will do whatever it takes to help Taiwan defend itself against any use of force by Beijing.

Secretary Rumsfeld and I recently met with China’s Vice President Hu Jintao at the Pentagon, and we discussed several defense-related issues, including military-to-military contacts and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. One of the promising outcomes of our meeting is that Assistant Secretary Peter Rodman will travel to Beijing later this month.

As we seek to improve our relations, we hope we may be guided by an old Chinese principle: hu jing, hu hui -- mutual respect, mutual benefit.

Fourth: Russia and India are positioned to play important and positive roles in East Asian security. The relationship between the United States and Russia has been strengthened enormously by our common response to the tragedy of September 11th. The effects of this relationship have been felt most dramatically in Europe, where the recent signing of the Rome Declaration established the NATO-Russia Council. However, it is also important to remember that Russia is a Pacific power, a country that can play an important role in shaping the future of the region and whose own future will be shaped by what happens in this region.

Our relationship with India has also entered a new era. As the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States embrace what we have in common. We look forward to strengthening this relationship, based on the fundamental principles we share, a system of government that makes us, in Prime Minister Vajpayee’s words, "natural allies."

Finally, the half billion Muslims in the countries of the Pacific Rim can be key allies in the war against terrorism, particularly since they represent some of the most moderate and tolerant traditions in Islam. Indeed, they can be our allies in bridging what I referred to a month ago in a speech to the World Affairs Council in Monterey, California, as the "dangerous gap" between the West and the Muslim world.

Bridging the Gap with the Muslim World

Now that speech in a small community on the West Coast drew some notice, both at home and abroad. And if it helped spur some serious debate on the significance of this gap between East and West, I am pleased. Because to succeed in winning the war against terrorism, we must win the larger struggle—the battle of ideas. This larger war is a struggle against the enemies of tolerance and freedom, against the enemies of modernity and secularism, of pluralism and democracy, and real economic development. So, we must work, not only to understand, but to promote a real understanding of, the many facets of the Muslim world, and of the common values that we all share. History has proven that free markets and open societies do improve lives.

To win the war against terrorism and help shape a more peaceful world, we must speak to the hundreds of millions of moderate and tolerant people in the Muslim world, regardless of where they live, who aspire to enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy and free enterprise. These values are sometimes described as "Western values," but, in fact, we see them in Asia and elsewhere because they are universal values born of a common human aspiration. And it is important to realize that nearly half the world’s Muslims live in this region—more than half a billion Muslims live in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, China and other countries of the Pacific Rim.

We need to recognize that the terrorists target not only the West, but they also target their fellow Muslims, upon whom they would impose a medieval, intolerant and tyrannical way of life. Those hundreds of millions of Muslims who aspire to freedom and prosperity are, in many cases, on the frontlines of the struggle against terrorism. We have an obligation to help them—and we have a self-interest to do so. By helping them to stand against the terrorists without fear, we help ourselves. We help to lay the foundations for the just and peaceful world that President Bush envisions after the war against terror has been won.

It would be a mistake for the nations of the West to think we could be the ones to lead the way, but we must do what we can to encourage the moderate Muslim voices that can. This is a debate about Muslim values that must take place among Muslims. But, it makes a difference when we recognize and encourage those who are defending universal values. And, when we help give them moral and material support against the opposition they encounter, we are indeed helping to lay the foundations for peace. These voices are essential to bridging the dangerous gap that now exists between the West and the Muslim world.

According to a Malaysian scholar Karim Raslan, "Moderate Muslims must reclaim center stage. Reform must be driven from within the Islamic world. Such changes cannot be imposed from outside. Muslim elites must ensure that issues concerning good governance, corruption and human rights abuse are given priority.

"The vile interpretations of the Koran," he continued, "that spawned Osama bin Laden and his Qaida terrorist network can be addressed and rebutted only from within the faith. Muslims," he continued, "must depend on and promote serious Islamic scholars and thinkers, such as Indonesia’s Nurcholish Majid and Iran’s Abdul Saroush. They are engaged in a battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims, trying to extract the prophetic truths from the Koran to show the inherent compatibility of modern-day concerns with the sacred texts."

And in a recent article, Barry Desker, Singapore’s former ambassador to Indonesia during the time I was U.S. ambassador, and his co-author Professor Kumar Ramakrishna write that the war of ideas must project success outward from Southeast Asia. To do so, they say, is critical. "It implies deliberately and extensively promoting Southeast Asian Islam, along with its intrinsic tolerance of other faiths and creeds as well as its relative success in embracing secular modernity, as a powerful, ideological counterweight to the worldview of the radical Islamic exclusionists."

The gap I have spoken of is not an inevitable clash of civilizations, as has been said, but a collision of misunderstanding.

There are those who would say that the current campaign on terrorism is a war against the people of Afghanistan, or a war against Islam. This is not true. It is neither.

Americans who fight for freedom in Afghanistan are not just fighting for Americans. Their bravery has enabled the people of a tortured nation that lost a million lives to war in the last decade to go back to their homes and their schools, and have a chance for what we have in America. If the people of Afghanistan were not happy to have been delivered from the tyranny they endured so long, they would not have met their liberation with such joy. Women would not have returned to the schools and the learning that they were denied under the Taliban. Even the twisted and tyrannical philosophies of the Taliban and al Qaeda could not extinguish the hopes of the Afghan people, could not put out the dream of liberty that burns within them still. The young men and women of Afghanistan now have a chance at a real future, one that we must all continue to help them build.

The war against terrorism is definitely not a war against Islam or against Muslims. In our own time, the United States has tried to help others achieve the dream of peace, regardless of their creed. In fact, in just the last decade or so, on six different occasions, the men and women of America’s Armed Forces risked their lives to defend others against aggression or war-induced famine. In each one of those cases, we did so, not only because it was in America’s interests, but because it was the right thing to do.

But as it happens, in each one of those cases—whether it was Kuwaitis, or Iraqi Kurds, or Somalis, or Bosnians or Kosovars or, most recently, Afghans—the people we were defending were predominantly Muslim. And we helped them, not because they are Muslims, but because they are human beings.

The ideals of freedom and democracy have been the most powerful engines of change in the last 50 years, and should also give us hope for further development in the Muslim world.

One possible model for the aspirations of the Muslim world for democratic progress and prosperity can be found in a country that straddles the strategic crossroads between East and West—Turkey.

Indonesia, is another important example of a nation seeking to build a democratic government based on a culture of inclusion and participation, even in the face of severe economic obstacles. But, there is every reason to believe Indonesia, with its rich traditions and culture, can move forward.

We must also support countries in the Arab world like Morocco that are struggling to make progress. Although a monarchy, Morocco has held open elections for the parliament and is preparing to do so again. And in what may prove to be one of the most significant, though not well known—developments in the Muslim world today, the king of Morocco established a Royal Commission to reform the laws pertaining to women.

In Pakistan we see a country that has much further to go, but has possibly more at stake in this fight against terrorism than any other. No leader has taken greater risks, or faces more daunting challenges from within and without, than President Musharraf.

Jordan is another Muslim country that is making one of the largest contributions to the coalitions in Afghanistan, and its king, Abdullah, has courageously condemned terrorism in clear and heart-felt language.

Strikingly, even in a portion of Iraq—in the Kurdish-controlled areas in the North—we see an example of the kind of self-government Muslims can achieve. There, beyond the reach of the Baghdad regime, people are healthy and enjoy a level of prosperity that far surpasses the rest of Iraq. Even though this area is under the same sanctions as the rest of Iraq, its people are doing far better economically.

We must help these countries, but we must also reach out beyond governments, good ones as well as bad, to individuals as well. We must work to appeal to a broad population, as well as the voices struggling to rise above the din of extremism, voices that tell us the Islam of Muhammed is not the religion of bin Ladan and suicide bombers.

I am convinced that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims have no use for the extreme doctrines espoused by groups such as al Qaeda or the Taliban. Very much to the contrary. They abhor terrorism. They abhor terrorists who have not only hijacked airplanes, but have attempted to hijack one of the world’s great religions. They have absolutely no use for people who deny fundamental rights to women or who indoctrinate children with superstition and hatred.

This truth we know: that the single greatest threat to peace and freedom in our time is terrorism. So this truth we should also affirm: that the future does not belong to the terrorists. The future belongs to those who dream the oldest and noblest dream of all, the dream of peace and freedom.

When I was the Assistant Secretary of State for Far East Asia, my boss George Shultz referred me to an idea General Douglas MacArthur had expressed some 50 years ago. In words that are as true today as they were then, the man who had spent a great deal of his life as a warrior in Asia reminded America’s lawmakers and diplomats that the most pressing issues are global issues, issues, in his words, "so interlocked that to consider the problems of one sector oblivious to those of another is but to court disaster for the whole. While Asia is commonly referred to as the Gateway to Europe," he said, "it is no less true that Europe is the Gateway to Asia, and the broad influence of the one cannot fail to have its impact on the other."

Implied in his statement, of course, is that what happens in both these regions affects the United States. In the very same way, what happens in the United States cannot fail to have its impact on Asia and Europe and indeed the rest of the world. It was no mistake that the World Trade Center, America’s hub of economic activity, was a target last September. While the American market was damaged, shock waves were felt throughout the world. Especially here in Asia, the effects linger still. Quite literally then, an attack on one, is an attack on us all.

I have spent a good deal of my career, some 20 years, thinking about this region; I’ve been fortunate to work with leaders who have been accustomed to gaze across the vast Pacific and think about what lay beyond the horizon. And my experiences have convinced me that East and West share common ground that only continues to grow. It is on this ground we can build the ancient dreams of peace and prosperity, safety and security that we share. Working together—in the war against terror and to strengthen security in this vitally important region—we can ensure that the peace that the Pacific region enjoys today can be preserved for future generations.