by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security
Ministers, distinguished ministers, Parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen, the representatives from the United States Congress, who I will be testifying before next week. I look forward to seeing you, and hoping and praying for your enthusiastic response to the President’s budget.
It is certainly good to see Chancellor Merkel here in her new role and we certainly appreciated her successful visit to the United States and her thoughtful and important remarks today on the role of NATO and the transatlantic partnership. The President of Georgia last evening made some important remarks which I appreciated about the march of freedom from his perspective and usefully commented on Belarus and other matters of importance to all of us.
It is said that America is somewhat unusual among nations, because most of our citizens trace their origins to somewhere else, whether Asia or Africa, or the Middle East, central or South America, and of course, particularly here in Europe. A list of descendents of German immigrants would include such world-famous Americans as President Eisenhower, Elvis, and even Babe Ruth, to name but a few.
I mention this because often when we talk about relations between the United States and Europe, we tend to think of two truly separate entities. But in a real sense we are a community, with shared histories, common values, and an abiding faith in democracy.
Today, there is a threat to our community -- to our way of life. Violent extremism is a danger posed as much to Europe as to America and elsewhere. And, as during the Cold War, the struggle ahead promises to be a “long war” -- that will cause us all to recalibrate our strategies, and perhaps further adjust some of our institutions, and certainly work even closer together.
We have done a good deal since the “wake up call” of September 11, 2001. We have begun an historic transformation of NATO, reached out in partnership to non-NATO nations, responded with compassion to the tsunami in Southeast Asia and to the devastating earthquake in Pakistan.
We are helping to battle determined enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unlike previous struggles, the enemy today is not a country, or even one particular organization. While al Qaeda is the principal enemy, there are others that are equally dangerous.
Consider that before September 11, 2001, terrorists:
an Air France jet;
A war has been declared on our nations and on our people; and our futures depend on unity in what Chancellor Merkel has correctly labeled, “the greatest challenge to our security in the 21st century.”
The world’s great democracies – anchored by NATO – cannot become complacent in meeting this challenge.
Have no doubt – the terrorists intend to kill still more of our people. They have said so. It’s important that we listen.
al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan said of civilians in Europe and America: “Their
wives will be widowed, and their children will be orphaned.”
According to their own words, they seek to take over governments from North Africa to South Asia and to re-establish a caliphate they hope, one day, will include every continent. They have designed and distributed a map where national borders are erased and replaced by a global extremist empire.
Today, they call Iraq the central front in their war against the civilized world. And they hope to turn it into the same sort of haven for training and recruitment that Afghanistan once served for al Qaeda.
That is their strategy.
But we and our friends and Allies have a strategy as well.
to use all elements of national power to try to prevent them from obtaining weapons
of mass destruction;
In Iraq, the United States and our Allies have sent our very best men and women to help Iraqis build a government that is dramatically different from the regime it replaces. We must help ensure that new government succeeds.
And in Iran, we must continue to work together to seek a diplomatic solution to stopping the development of an uranium enrichment program. The Iranian regime is today the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The world does not want -- and must work together to avoid -- a nuclear Iran.
While we oppose the actions of Iran’s regime, we stand with the Iranian people – the women and the young people -- who want a peaceful and democratic future. They have no desire to see their country isolated from the rest of the civilized world.
In this long war, the enemy has tried to cast the struggle as a war between the West and the Muslim world. In fact, it is not. It is more a war within the Muslim world. Most of the people in the Middle East do not share the violent ideology of al-Qaeda or other violent extremists. They don’t want the terrorists to prevail.
Many in the Middle East have been inspired by the example of some 50 million Muslims in the new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq. A recent survey shows that a large and growing number of Muslims believe freedom can work in their countries, and it shows that support is declining for al Qaeda and bin Laden.
Surveys indicate that more than 80 percent of Afghans say their country is moving in the right direction. Only 5 percent have a favorable view of bin Laden. In Iraq, a growing majority wants a representative government.
We have an opportunity -- an opening that we need to seize -- to help to write a new chapter in the history of freedom while these enemies are on the defensive.
This is -- as it has been for decades -- a time to work closely together. No nation can succeed in the War on Terror without the close cooperation with other nations.
Working together, our tasks ahead are to:
work to make the Proliferation Security Initiative a success. Consider how markedly
our world would change, overnight, if a handful of terrorists managed to obtain
and launch a chemical, biological, or a radiological weapon in Munich, Paris,
or New York;
Today 3.7 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States goes towards our national defense and the defense of our friends and Allies – 3.7 percent. Only six of our 25 NATO allies spend even 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense, and 19 Allies – I repeat, 19 NATO allies – do not even spend 2 percent. Without the U.S. contribution to NATO, the nations collectively spend only 1.8 percent, down from 1.9 percent over the last two years. It is unlikely that these levels of investment will prove to be sufficient to protect the free people of our NATO nations in the decades ahead.
And this is in my view flies in the face of the reality that the availability of weapons of greatly increased lethality is growing. I suggest that we need to carefully consider together where this dangerous trend could take us.
In many ways, this war is different from any we have ever fought. But in other ways, our situation today resembles that of free nations in the early days of the Cold War. Over the course of what President Kennedy called “a long twilight struggle,” our countries disagreed on some things from time to time. But fortunately for us, and for our children, and for their children, we did not lose our will -- over many decades -- and through many changes in political leadership in all of our countries -- political leadership of all political parties.
Our free nations did not waver when the Premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, promised to “bury” us. Nor when he predicted that our grandchildren would live under communism. Quite the contrary.
Today we live in a world where the son of Nikita Khrushchev has chosen to become an American citizen.
And where a woman raised in this country’s communist East -- where the state decided where you could work, what you could read, whether you could pray -- is now the newly elected Chancellor of a united and democratic Federal Republic of Germany.
I’m told that Chancellor Merkel has said, “I did not expect to live in a free society before I reached the age of retirement." As we consider those words, we note that the Cold War was not won through fate or good luck.
Freedom prevailed because our free people demonstrated resolve when retreat would have been easier, showed courage when concession seemed simpler and more attractive.
Today, our countries also have a choice to make. We could choose to pretend, as some suggest, that the enemy is not at our doorstep. We could choose to believe, as some contend, that the threat is exaggerated.
But those who would follow such a course must ask: what if they are wrong? What if at this moment, the enemy is counting on being underestimated, counting on being dismissed, counting on our pre-occupation with other domestic matters.
Ultimately, history teaches that success depends on will. So let us today speak with one voice:
those who murder children;
Let us warn them not to mistake periodic differences for disunity, or our respect for life as a fear of fighting.
Let us continue to show them that the nations of this great alliance will meet the threatening peril of our age.
And that liberty, the legacy of our forefathers and the right of our children, will not, by us, be idly surrendered or bargained away but rather will live and endure for generations to come.
Thank you very much.
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Updated: April 2006