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Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Saturday, May 08, 1999

[Lieutenant General] Ed [Baca, Ret.], I thank you for your very gracious comments. Senator [Pete] Domenici, it is a real joy to be here. I must tell you, he was somewhat instrumental in my getting here. He called and said, "I think you ought to accept this invitation," and since he is the head of the budget committee, I was in no position to say no. [Laughter.] I'm delighted to be invited. Thank you, Senator.

Congresswoman Heather Wilson, it is very nice to meet you. I have not had the pleasure before now. It is a real joy to see a path-breaker like you, the first woman member of Congress who has also served on active duty in the military, in the Air Force. We congratulate you. Thank you. [Applause.]

It is also wonderful to see an old friend, [Former Air Force Chief of Staff, General] Ron Fogelman [Ret.], here tonight. I must say I think of you often, Ron. It is great to have you here. [Applause.]

This has been really a remarkable visit to Albuquerque. I came out yesterday afternoon and spent some time at Sandia [National Laboratory]. What a remarkable place and a spectacular afternoon. Then we went to Nevada for some activities and this afternoon came back here to Albuquerque.

I had a wonderful opportunity this afternoon. Many of you probably know, but many others in New Mexico may not know, that it is here at Albuquerque that we train pararescue teams for the Air Force. These are these remarkable young men who are a combination of Iron Man meets ER. [Laughter.] These are enormously capable, physically fit young men who are all basically field surgeons. They have the ability to jump out of a helicopter, and in five minutes suture up a wounded airman, then get him back in the helicopter again. They are a remarkable group, and it was really inspiring. So I thought I came out here to give you something and instead, I got something from you, which was to see these tremendous young men. I must say America is lucky to have them.

It is the custom at a dinner like this for the speaker to give a rather light and breezy presentation. But I think the gravity of our day precludes that. So if you'll forgive me, I intend to give you a relatively serious speech tonight. I think events of our time demand it.

Our young country – we are only 220 years old - has lived through five distinct security policy and posture epochs in our history. The first began with the Revolutionary War and continued up to the War of 1812. Of course, the War of 1812 didn't go all that well. You'll recall Washington was burned. But we got through that. The demarcation of that epoch was 1820 with the war of the Barbary pirates. This first epoch gave America grounding in its first security experiences.

The second epoch was from 1820 to about the turn of the century. This was the period when, for other reasons, Europe turned inward, leaving the United States relatively alone. It was a period of remarkable expansion for the United States, but it wasn't without its brutal moments. We went through a very painful Civil War. But in an international security sense, we were largely left alone and spent our energies expanding into the heartland of the United States.

That period ended when America entered its third epoch, which we might call its imperial phase, starting with the Spanish-American War in 1898. This epoch continued until 1917 when we lent ourselves to a posture we never thought we would take. That posture was to get involved in a land war in Europe.

The fourth security epoch of American history was the inter-war period, not particularly distinguished from America's standpoint. This epoch saw the rise of the two great forces that dominated the rest of the 20th Century: The rise of Communism and the rise of Fascism. Those two forces ultimately brought the entire world to war. At the conclusion of this epoch, America was left standing very strong, but confronting a very ominous opponent. We then spent 50 years in dealing with that.

That epoch ended in 1989. It's hard to remember that was just ten years ago. Thinking back, it was a remarkable period. Remember those golden days when the Wall was coming down in Germany? When the old Warsaw Pact was falling apart? Never in my lifetime [had I] thought I would live long enough to see the end of the Iron Curtain. It was a lovely, wonderful thing.

We are now on the edge of a new security period in America. It is hard to see exactly what it will be. It's not going to be an easy time. I think we all know that now. We are left with some of the forces and the elements of the previous security period, which will plague us. But there are new qualities to this security epoch. While it is always hard to try to look out in advance to see the forces that will characterize history that you can clearly see after the fact, I think we can see at least three or four major dimensions to this new sixth security epoch for American history.

First, we will see that this new epoch appears to be characterized by an unusual degree of almost tribal nationalism. There are very troubling conflicts breaking out all over. There are over 50 civil wars or active hostile actions underway around the world right now. It is startling. The Cold War period created a certain stasis that was imposed on the rest of the world and gave some predictability and order to it. That now is gone and we see explosions all over. Most currently and brutally we see it, of course, in Kosovo. Bosnia is nearby, of course. Chechnya. East Timor. A terrible, dreadful battle in Congo. A sad and senseless war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. There is a raw tribalism that seems to be characterizing strife in this era.

This [tribal nationalism] is accompanied by the rise of transnational actors who move in and out of structures of government. Osama Bin Laden sometimes acts with the help and support of governments, and at other times acts independently at the expense of governments. We also see a period when the old Soviet empire is dissolved, but left in its wake is a very bad residue, for instance, an astounding arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. Probably even more troublesome is the huge inventory of talented individuals who know how to build [weapons of mass destruction] and who are now hungry.

What does all this mean for the United States as we look out to the future? As we think about security for our children and our grandchildren? First, national security is now much more complex than ever before. The threats aren't gone by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, they are dramatically more difficult.

Second, it is troubling that we do not have the clear connection that American power deters actors in this new era the way it reliably did in the past. How do you deter an Osama Bin Laden in this era? How do you deter transnational actors who think of history as ending with their acts? They think of history as being culminated by their destructive actions. How do you deter a Milosevic who clearly understood that the world was going oppose to him, yet he still launched a genocide that has over a million human beings sleeping every night without a roof over their heads? How do you deter that?

One of the great questions that we face in this period is the underlying strength and validity of deterrence. What is its connection to nuclear power? One of the reasons we wanted to move forward with a national missile defense program is the way in which it reconnects nuclear deterrence with conventional actions. It is one of those steps we have to restore the credibility of deterrence in this new epoch.

Third – and this is a frightful new dimension -- this is the epoch that in retrospect we'll say was the period of homeland defense. We have all grown up with the luxury of not worrying about an invasion of our own country. There isn’t a single American that has had to think about that. We are very fortunate. There are very few people around the world who have had the luxury of not worrying about security at their border. But we have been secure.

This new period is a period when two, three, or ten people can wage war on the most powerful country in the world. It is one of the reasons why we must place a high priority on counterproliferation. This is one of the things that I discussed with Paul [Robinson] and his remarkable staff out at Sandia yesterday. This is an organization that is probably working more creatively on the counterproliferation problem than any organization in America. But it is a tremendous problem.

Ours is a world where tourists could come across through an airport, carrying a five-pound bag of anthrax. We have had a hundred "anthrax attack" incidences in the past year. They have all been fake, but we have had a hundred times when people have called in and said that they were threatening the use of anthrax in this country. At some point, this is going to be real. We must be ready for that.

I know there are people in America who are frightened by the idea that the Department of Defense would get involved in dealing with a terrorist incident in the United States involving chemical or biological weapons; civil libertarians on the left and survivalists on the right. They don't want the government involved in such things. Yet I don't know what I would say to the President of the United States or to the senators or to the members of the House when they asked, "Why didn't do something?" And I responded, "Well, we just didn't get ready. We didn't think it was important." Would any American forgive us if we took that approach? I'm afraid we must get ready. We must take very, very serious action.

There is another dimension that creates problems for us. It is the inherent dynamism and creativity of America itself. This is a very large, open and porous country. We are currently preoccupied in Washington with the idea that we have spies in our midst. Do we have spies in the United States? Sure. I don't doubt that. But let me say that we cannot adopt a solution to this problem that is an inappropriate nostalgia for the solutions of the past. You are not going to close the borders of America and say, "We're just going to run this place with Anglos." It's impossible. If we had said that back in the late '40s, we wouldn't have ICBMs [Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles] or space boosters.

Right now, we are on this preoccupation that you can't trust people who have a hyphenated name. I'm a Norwegian-American. [My family] has been in this country probably less than half the time as some of the "hyphenated" scientists out at Sandia. We must get over this hang up that you can't trust anybody just because we have a problem. When we were talking yesterday, Paul said, "You know, Aldrich Ames did far more damage to this country. A white guy did far more damage to this country." He said to his Asian-American employees, "And so if you don't hold it against me, I won't hold it against you." We must get over this preoccupation. We must fix the problem the right way, not by adopting inappropriate solutions that are only going to cripple our national assets. We can't afford to have these remarkable institutions damaged through recklessness in the heat of the moment. This is something Senator Domenici has spoken to me about numerous times. Nobody is more aware of that than is he.

It is our obligation right now to make sure that we don't hurt ourselves for the sake of our political anger over an event that we have no right to be angry about. We must find a way to fix it the right way.

Let me also say a word about Kosovo. We, of course, had a tragedy yesterday. We didn't intend to hit the Chinese Embassy, but we did. We go to great pains to minimize collateral damage. We genuinely grieve when we have unintended victims through our actions. None of us wants that. But we are dealing with an opponent who is trying to maximize collateral damage of innocents. It was 50 years ago in Europe when an army came raging into the countryside and would paint yellow Stars of David on certain houses and roust those people out, humiliate the families, separate the men and the women. The last thing the women would see was their father or their husband or their son kneeling with his hands behind his head. Only to hear gunshots as they walked over the hill. That is happening now. We cannot accept that. The leader of the world's free people cannot accept the kind of genocide that's underway right now.

Some people say we shouldn't be there. We have to be there. For the peaceful evolution of a prosperous Europe, we must stay with this. We are making progress. Things are going to turn out in our favor. We could think of other ways to do this if we were doing it alone, but we are leading a coalition. This is the first time that [our] coalition has ever gone to war, and we are doing well. Our pilots are doing a terrific job. I don't want anyone to take out of context the fact that we've lost two airplanes. We have flown 14,000 sorties. We have only lost two airplanes. As Ron Fogelman knows, there isn't an air campaign in history with that kind of success. The opponent has fired over 400 SAMs [Surface-to-Air Missiles] at us. Our troops and our airmen are doing a terrific job. We did have an accident yesterday. But we cannot lose our nerve now when it is very important that we press ahead and bring this to a successful conclusion.

Let me conclude on a personal note. I have a picture in my office. It is a well-known picture in the Department of Defense. It is a picture of George Washington by himself in the winter woods. He's kneeling. His face is illuminated by the weak light of the closing day. And he's praying. Legend has it that he is praying for his troops. It's obviously cold and he's praying for his troops that they not freeze this night at Valley Forge.

I believe that we all have an obligation to do the same thing. So I ask that each of you join with me and remember our airmen and our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. Remember them in your prayers. Pray that they are kept safe and they are brought back safely to us. And if danger comes, that the Good Lord fills their hearts with confidence and hope, knowing that their cause was just, their service was honorable and their sacrifice will never be forgotten. And to this, may the people say Amen.

Thank you and goodnight. [Applause.]