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American Forces Press Service

Rumsfeld Says Country Faces Two Options in War on Terror

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2003 - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told service members at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, today that only two options faced the United States in its war on terror: Fight the terrorists where they live today, or fight them in America tomorrow.

Rumsfeld said the war on terrorism is unlike any war the United States fought in the past. Sept. 11 ushered in a new age of asymmetric warfare. "The threats we have faced have not been so much large armies, large navies and large air forces locked in great battle, but suicide bombers, cyberterrorists and low-intensity warfare and the spreading contagion of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

These unconventional dangers threaten the safety and security of Americans and free people around the world as certain as the totalitarian regimes the World War II generation confronted. "Like the greatest generation that saved the world from the tyranny of their time, your generation has been called to greatness as well," Rumsfeld said.

"Our freedom, our future depends on the courage and the determination of our forces and what they bring to this world. All across the globe, people long for what we have, for what each of you has volunteered to defend - liberty, democracy, tolerance and a future without fear."

Rumsfeld said the United States did not ask for the war on terrorism. "But it is a war we have to fight and we have to win," he said. "There is no safe, easy, middle ground. Either we take the war to the terrorists and fight them where they are - at this moment in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere - or at some point we will have to fight them here at home.

"This war is real, it is difficult, it is dangerous and it is far from over, but we are making good progress," he said.

In the 22 months since the attacks in New York and Washington, the United States has made great strides against the shadowy enemy, Rumsfeld noted. "Two terrorist regimes have been removed and two peoples have been freed from years of fear and years of oppression," he said. "We're working to lay the foundations of freedom and helping to build the pillars upon which liberty and representative government will rest."

The 100-plus days since Iraq's liberation have been days of difficulty, but also progress, he said. The secretary mentioned the establishment of the Iraqi Governing Council, the formation of dozens of local city councils, the establishment of a central bank and the resumption of oil exports as examples of the progress.

The secretary observed that setbacks in the war on terror will continue. "But there will be more successes and the outcome is not in doubt," he said. The fact that enlistments and retention figures are up is indication of the morale and dedication of the U.S. military. "They are doing important work," he said.

Rumsfeld said he did not know how long the United States will remain in Iraq. He said the answer is "not knowable" today. "I wish it were, but it really depends on when the Iraqi people are able to get themselves on a path towards a sovereign and representative government," he said. "This much is certain: The president said we will stay as long as it takes to finish the job and not a day longer. Our task is to lift the threat of terrorist violence from our people and our future."

Rumsfeld answered some questions from the estimated 3,000 assembled service members.

One asked about proposals to raise the military retirement age. Rumsfeld said he has not made a specific recommendation but noted there are some jobs that people need to serve in longer. He said quick turnovers mean turmoil, more permanent change of stations and so forth. "It also creates a situation where people move through jobs so fast they don't have a chance to clean up their own mistakes," he said. "That's an important learning experience."

He also spoke of proposals to "rebalance" the mix between active and reserve components. He said some high-demand skills, now concentrated in the reserve component, may need to have some units moved to the active duty side. "No one person is smart enough to know exactly what that means, but we've got ... each of the services, plus the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, working on it," he said. "There should be proposals coming forward in a reasonable period of time."

Rumsfeld discussed the deployment and redeployment process and said he didn't want to call it "ugly" but rather "imperfect."

In the case of the Army, "at one point, they were averaging only five days' notice for a call-up for reserve and Guard," he said. "Now that's just not right. It's not fair to the families. It's not fair to their reservists. It's not fair to their employers.

"The people are the most important thing we have, and we've got to see that we manage that force in a way that's respectful of people and that gives them a degree of certainty, a degree of predictability," he continued. "So we've got to fix that."

Rumsfeld said the deployment process is an Industrial Age process "where either the big lever is off - it's peace, or it's on - and it's World War III."

Reality is not so black and white, and the country is much more likely to have a series of activities and requirements and contingencies that have to be addressed. The process needs to be much more nuanced, he said.

Rumsfeld said the United States is actively seeking allies for help in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said the United States is speaking with more than 70 countries about assistance. "I think the number currently is somewhere around 40 countries (that) are participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom in one way or another," he said. "We do need international support and assistance. It's a big help."

He said it is not likely, however, that U.S. forces will be serving under U.N. leadership in Iraq. "That is not to say that there are not important places and roles that could be played by United Nations forces," he said.

Finally, Rumsfeld was asked about blue battle-dress uniforms the Air Force leadership is proposing. "I guess the answer is if it's as bad as you say it is, I hope it's not coming," the secretary responded. He said he'd ask Air Force chief of staff Gen. John Jumper about that when he returned "and explain to him that at least a few handfuls of folks down here have a minimum of high regard for what they think they're doing."

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