15 January 2004
New Threats Required New Strategies, Cheney Says
Vice president addresses Los Angeles World Affairs Council
U.S. national security strategy shifted with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney told the Los Angeles World Affairs Council January 14.
"There are certain moments in history when the gravest threats reveal themselves. And in those moments, the response of our government must be swift, and it must be right," Cheney said.
Prior to the 2001 attacks, the various terrorist incidents against the United States tended to be treated as individual criminal acts, the vice president said. Now, he said, "we know to a certainty that terrorists will kill as many innocent people as they possibly can, limited only by the means at their disposal. We know ... that they are doing everything they can to gain the ultimate weapons: chemical, biological, radiological, and even nuclear weapons. Should they ever acquire such weapons, they would use them without constraint of reason or morality."
Cheney also noted that the Cold War security strategy of deterrence and containment are no longer sufficient to meet the new threat of terrorism. "It's hard to deter an enemy that has no territory to defend, no standing army to counter and no real assets to destroy in order to discourage them from attacking you," he said.
"Remembering what we saw on 9/11," Cheney said, "and knowing the nature of these enemies, we have as clear a responsibility as could ever fall to government: We must do everything in our power to keep terrorists from gaining weapons of mass destruction."
According to Cheney, what has come to be known as the Bush doctrine -- any person or government that supports, protects or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account -- grew from that fundamental responsibility.
The corollary is also true, according to the vice president: "Leaders who abandon the pursuit of weapons [of mass destruction] will find an open path to better relations with the United States of America and other free nations."
The vice president said that the use of military force by the United States is the last option in its defense against terrorism, but sometimes it must be used. Being clear in intent and matching resolutions with resolve, Cheney said, can not only remove a specific danger but also make it more likely that other dangers can be dealt with through diplomatic means.
Seeking enduring security, the Bush administration is committed to "the global expansion of democracy, and the hope and progress it brings," he said, "as the alternative to instability, hatred, and terror." That is why, Cheney said, the United States is "pursuing a forward strategy for freedom in the greater Middle East."
Cheney also answered questions on illegal immigration, the Kyoto Treaty, the Middle East road map, North Korea, and the reorganization of the U.S. military.
Following is the transcript of Cheney's remarks:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
January 14, 2004
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT TO THE LOS ANGELES WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL FOLLOWED BY BRIEF QUESTION-AND-ANSWER SESSION
The Beverly Hilton
Beverly Hills, California
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. I appreciate the warm welcome today in California and the opportunity to be back in you great city of Los Angeles. Let me also thank Eli Broad for his kind words, and the Los Angeles World Affairs Council for the invitation to join all of you today.
This is a distinguished group. I see some old friends in the audience, and I'm also pleased to spend some time with your board of directors and your officers.
This is not my first meeting with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, but it has been a while. I was last here in April of 1990, when I was Secretary of Defense, back in the days when I had a position of real power and influence in Washington, D.C. (Laughter.)
My former job now belongs, of course, to a man some of you know quite well, Don Rumsfeld. Don and I have a fine working relationship these days, but things didn't start out all that smoothly. He and I first met in the 1960s, when he was a congressman and I was a graduate student looking for a fellowship on Capitol Hill. He agreed to see me for an interview; 15 minutes later I found myself back out in the hallway. Don thought I was a detached academic type, and I thought he was a brash young politician. We were both onto something. (Laughter.)
When I finished my term as secretary of defense, I had no thought of ever becoming vice president. And even a few years ago, no one would have bet on my joining the ticket. The odds, I suppose, were roughly comparable to that of an action star becoming governor of California. (Laughter.) I had a chance today to meet again with your new governor, and my impression of him is proving correct. I think Arnold Schwarzenegger is a fine man, a very capable executive, and he's well suited to the job that you Californians have given him. (Applause.)
It was three years ago next Tuesday that President Bush and I took up our own responsibilities. And next Tuesday, the president will give his annual report on the State of the Union. Much has happened since he addressed Congress, and we begin the new year as a stronger, more prosperous, and more secure nation. The economy is showing continued signs of recovery, and steady growth, higher productivity, and expanding exports. Strong growth has also begun to bring down the unemployment rate -- and that is a critical objective, as well, going forward.
Our administration and Congress have also addressed other urgent needs in domestic policy -- among them, historic Medicare reform legislation, giving seniors coverage for prescription drugs for the first time; and tax relief for every person who pays income taxes; further vital actions in homeland security, reforms in the forest management to help prevent the kind of catastrophic wildfires you have seen here in Southern California this past year.
On a whole range of issues, President Bush has worked with members of Congress, regardless of party, to make progress for the nation. He believes and has shown that the only way to seize new opportunities for reform is to get beyond some of the old debates and grievances in Washington, D.C.
As the president has said many times, he came to office to solve problems, not simply pass them on to future generations. And in that spirit, his speech next week will set forth our priorities for the new year. You can expect a full domestic agenda, and a thorough report on the progress the nation is making in the war on terror.
The year 2003 ended with two very significant victories. The first was the capture of Saddam Hussein by our troops in Iraq, which provides final confirmation -- (applause) -- provides final confirmation to the people of Iraq that they will never again have to live in fear of Saddam Hussein. Then five days later, came the announcement by Libya's Colonel Muammar Ghadafi that his regime would voluntarily reveal and dismantle its nuclear and chemical weapons programs, as well as its longer -range missiles and biological weapons-related efforts. Each of these events was dramatic in its own way. And each came about through the clear resolve of the United States of America and our allies.
The undoing of Saddam's regime, and the welcome commitments from Colonel Ghadafi, will bring greater security to the American people, and to our friends and allies. Yet especially in moments of success, we need to remember the long-term nature of the struggle we are in, and the serious dangers that still exist.
On September 11, 2001, our nation made a fundamental commitment that will take many years to see through. On that morning, we saw the grief and the destruction that 19 terrorists could inflict with box cutters and airline tickets. And we became aware of the far worse harm that these terrorists intend for us. Thousands received training in the terrorists camps in the years before the attack of 9/11. Scattered in more than 50 nations, the al-Qaeda network and other terrorist groups constitute an enemy unlike any other that we have ever faced. They have attacked and killed innocent people many times since September 11th -- in Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombasa, Istanbul, Bali, Jerusalem, Jakarta, Najaf, and Baghdad. And as our intelligence shows, the terrorists continue plotting to kill on an ever-larger scale, including here in the United States.
Terrorists were at war with our country long before 2001. And for many years, they were the ones on the offensive. They grew bolder in their belief that if they killed Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 of our service members. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 American soldiers. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia. The decade of the '90s saw many more attacks: the bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993; the murders at the Saudi Arabian National Guard Training Center in Riyadh in 1995; the killings at the Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, which cost the lives of some 17 American sailors.
Over time, the terrorists came to believe that they could strike America with relative impunity. There was, among policy makers, a tendency to treat terror attacks as individual criminal acts, to be handled primarily through law enforcement. Consider the example of Ramzi Yousef, who participated in and perpetuated the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. The U.S. government tracked him down, arrested him, and got a conviction. After he was sent to serve a 240-year sentence in a federal prison, some might have thought, case closed. But we now know that behind that one man, Ramzi Yousef, was a growing network with operatives inside and outside the United States, waging war against our country. That 1993 attack was probably the first al Qaeda attack on the U.S. homeland.
Six people died in the '93 attack on the World Trade Center. Eight years later, the casualties ran into the thousands. We know to a certainty that terrorists will kill as many innocent people as they possibly can, limited only by the means at their disposal. We know, as well, from the training manuals we found in Afghanistan and from the interrogations of terrorists we have captured that they are doing everything they can to gain the ultimate weapons: chemical, biological, radiological, and even nuclear weapons. Should they ever acquire such weapons, they would use them without any constraint of reason or morality. Instead of losing thousands of lives, we might lose tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives as the result of a single attack, or a set coordinated of attacks.
Remembering what we saw on 9/11, and knowing the nature of these enemies, we have as clear a responsibility as could ever fall to government: We must do everything in our power to keep terrorists from gaining weapons of mass destruction.
This urgent responsibility has required, above all, a shift in America's national security strategy. There are certain moments in history when the gravest threats reveal themselves. And in those moments, the response of our government must be swift, and it must be right.
September 11th has been aptly compared to December 7, 1941 -- another day in our history that brought sudden attack, national emergency, and the beginning of a sustained conflict. Perhaps a closer analogy can be drawn, not to the days of Franklin Roosevelt and World War II, but to the decisions that faced Harry Truman at the outset of the Cold War.
Within a few years, after Germany and Japan surrendered, Truman and his advisers saw the rise of new dangers. Imperial communism presented a challenge of global reach, demanding a comprehensive, long-term response on many fronts. President Truman made clear at the outset that the United States recognized the danger, and that -- for the sake of future generations -- we would face it squarely. In a short time, our government created the architecture of national security we know today: the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council. To defend ourselves and free Europe, the United States helped to found NATO. To build and strengthen new democracies, our government led in the reconstruction of Japan, and devoted the present-day equivalent of over $100 billion to European assistance through the Marshall Plan. And when aggression occurred on the Korean Peninsula, it was President Truman's decision and America's sacrifice that saved South Korea.
All those early commitments, made by one president and carried forward by eight of his successors, helped to bring victory in the Cold War, and unprecedented success for the cause of freedom. In this new century, facing new dangers, the commitments we make will also be decisive. President Bush has recognized this from the beginning. And by the strategy he has set for our government, we will overcome the threats of our own time, and, as the president has said, advance the cause of freedom and the peace that freedom brings.
To make the United States safer from terrorist attacks, we have created the Department of Homeland Security -- the largest reorganization of the federal government since the Truman years, bringing together 22 agencies and more than 170,000 federal employees in one department. In a free country, especially a vast continental democracy like ours, there is no such thing as perfect security. But this new department allows us to track and prevent acts of terror in a systematic way -- analyzing threats, guarding our borders and airports, protecting critical infrastructure, and coordinating the response of the nation in any future emergency.
To strengthen the international battle against terrorism, the United States is working with our allies in an enlarged NATO. The presence of new nations in NATO surely indicates the historic turn our time has taken. President Bush has also challenged the United Nations to live up to its promise, to become a body that not only passes resolutions, but enforces them. We are currently working with the U.N. Secretary General to return U.N. teams to Iraq, and to have them play an important role there in the months ahead. And in Afghanistan, NATO is taking a leading role in securing peace in that war-torn country.
Our national security strategy also recognizes that the doctrines of deterrence and containment, which served us so well during the Cold War, are not sufficient to meet the threat of terrorism. It's hard to deter an enemy that has no territory to defend, no standing army to counter, and no real assets to destroy in order to discourage them from attacking you. Containment is meaningless in the case of terrorists. And neither containment nor deterrence offers protection against rogue regimes that develop weapons of mass destruction and are willing to pass along those weapons secretly to a terrorist on a suicide mission.
Given these realities, there can be no waiting until the danger has fully materialized. By then it would be too late. And so we are waging this war in the only way it can be won -- by taking the fight directly to the enemy.
In these 28 months, we -- and our friends and allies in many countries -- have inflicted heavy losses on al-Qaeda's leadership and foot soldiers, tracking and finding them hiding in places from Pakistan to Indonesia. Those not yet captured or killed live in fear, and their fears are well-founded. We are also working with governments on every continent to take down the financial networks that support terror -- the hidden bank accounts, front groups, and phony charities that have helped them function. And our government is working closely with intelligence services all over the globe, and our own officers continue to be engaged in some of the most perilous and sensitive intelligence work ever carried out. This work has brought many successes -- including the discovery of terror plots that we were able to stop in their tracks. Americans can be grateful every day for the skillful and the daring service of our nation's intelligence professionals.
On the very night this nation was attacked, President Bush declared that the United States would make no distinction between terrorists and those who support them. This principle -- it's come to be known as the Bush doctrine -- is now understood by all: any person or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account.
The first to see its application were the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan by violence, while turning that country into a training camp for terror. With fine allies at our side, we took down the regime and destroyed the al-Qaeda camps. Our work there continues. We have 13,000 soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan, as part of an international security force that now includes 38 nations and a major role for NATO. This force is on the hunt for the remaining Taliban and al-Qaeda members. We are helping to train a new Afghan army, and providing security as the new government takes shape.
On the political front, the loya jirga has now approved a constitution that reflects the values of tolerance and equal rights for women. Under President Karzai's leadership, and with the help of our coalition, the Afghan people are building a decent, a just, and a democratic society -- and a nation fully joined in the war against terror.
In Iraq, the United States and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our future peace and security. Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. His regime cultivated ties to terror, including the al-Qaeda network, and had built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction. Year after year, the U.N. Security Council demanded that he account for those weapons and that he comply with all the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire. Year after year, he refused.
Against that background, the Congress of the United States voted overwhelmingly to authorize the use of force in Iraq. The U.N. Security Council unanimously found Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowed serious consequences in the event Saddam Hussein did not comply. When Saddam Hussein continued his defiance, our coalition acted to deliver those serious consequences.
In the liberation of Iraq, the American military acted with speed, with precision and with skill. And to this hour they continue their work -- striking hard against the forces of murder and chaos, conducting raids, countering attacks, seizing weapons and capturing killers. Members of our active duty Armed Forces, the National Guard, and Reserves have faced tough duty, long deployments, and the loss of comrades. We have, today, more than 125,000 Americans serving in Iraq. They are confronting terrorists every day in that country, so that we do not one day meet the same enemies on the streets of our own cities. At the same time, American and coalition forces are treating Iraqi citizens with compassion, and showing respect for Iraq's great culture. Our servicemen and women are demonstrating the best qualities of the United States, and we are proud of each and every one of them. (Applause.)
The use of military force is, for the United States, always the last option in defending ourselves and our interests. But sometimes the last resort must be taken. And by acting in Iraq to enforce the just demands of the U.N. Security Council, America and our allies not only removed one danger, but made it more likely that other dangers can be dealt with through diplomatic means. In making our intentions clear, and in matching resolutions with actual resolve, we have seen and sent an unmistakable message: The pursuit of weapons of mass destruction only invites isolation and carries other costs. By the same token, leaders who abandon the pursuit of those weapons will find an open path to better relations with the United States of America and other free nations.
In the case of Libya, the announcement in December by Colonel Ghadafi is a very significant development. Already, with the cooperation of Libya's government, American, British, and international inspectors have examined a sizeable lethal weapons program. In the months to come, the inspectors will complete a full inventory, and assist Libya in dismantling its entire WMD programs and its longer-range missiles. As Libya keeps its pledges and cooperates fully in the international fight against terrorism, that nation will have a chance to rejoin the community of nations. America, Britain, and other nations stand ready to help the Libyan people build a country that is more prosperous and more free.
As our administration carries forward our commitment to overcoming new dangers, we recognize that lasting security depends on more than military power. As President Bush has said, America seeks the "global expansion of democracy, and the hope and progress it brings, as the alternative to instability, hatred, and terror."
Here, too, we find a lesson from history. Twice in the last century, the United States sent armies to Europe in order to prevent the destruction of liberty on that continent. Yet in the decades after World War II, dangers in Europe fell away as the frontiers of democracy advanced -- in Germany and Italy, and then behind the Iron Curtain. The lesson is that the spread of democratic institutions is the surest way to bring peace among nations.
That's why America today is pursuing a forward strategy for freedom in the greater Middle East. Millions in that region have known decades of dictatorship and theocratic rule -- resulting in misery, bitterness, and ideologies of violence that directly threaten us. And as the world has witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan, people liberated from dictatorship welcome the arrival of freedom, welcome the chance for a better life, welcome the responsibilities of governing their own country.
By its very nature, freedom must be chosen. And the path to democracy is not an easy one. It takes time and effort and patience for democracy to take hold, and the greater Middle East has a long way to go. But all who choose the path, by opposing terrorism and encouraging reforms, can know this: They will have the friendship and support of the United States of America.
In answering the great challenges that have come to us, our government will go forward with confidence, but without illusion. Defeating a resourceful and determined enemy, and advancing the cause of human freedom in a vital and troubled region will place great demands on us far into the future.
At the start of the Cold War, President Truman said: "Events have brought our American democracy to new influence and new responsibilities. They will test our courage, our devotion to duty, our concept of liberty." Fifty-five years later, America and our allies look back with pride on the perseverance and the moral clarity that saw us through those many tests. Americans of today, and our president, have those same qualities, as we have seen many times since the morning of September 11, 2001. We cannot know every turn that lies ahead. Yet we can be certain that by the strength and character of this country, and by the rightness of our cause, we will prevail.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, many questions here on illegal immigration. There's a major problem here in California. Why should we give millions of people in our state a break for a prima facie breaking of the law? Is there any other country in the world, including Europe and Latin America, that would do so?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You're talking about illegal immigration?
Q: Illegal immigration.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. There's no question it's a serious problem. The president last week announced a new initiative, a new proposal that we would like to see considered by the Congress and, hopefully, ultimately adopted that basically provides for a temporary worker program, for people to be able to come into the United States, take a job, receive approval and authorization to be here, take jobs that -- where they, in effect, come in when they know there is a job there, a job that an American will not fill, to regularize that flow.
The problem we have today is we have millions of illegal, undocumented workers in our midst. We do not know when they came. We do not know how long they stay. We do not know what they do while they're here. We do not know when they leave. From the standpoint of homeland security and securing the nation's borders, it is a major hole, if you will, in terms of our overall situation.
And we think -- the president believes, as he's discussed in the last few days, that it's very important for us to try to get a handle on that. It's also a humane measure, as well, at the same time. Those illegal, undocumented workers who come in and take these jobs, in often cases, live in the shadows of our society. They're exploited unfairly and oppressed, in many cases. And we think it would be far better for us to take this approach of, in effect, a temporary worker program.
We are not supporting amnesty. We do not believe in granting citizenship to people who broke the law to get here, nor do we believe these people should get at the head of the line when being considered for citizenship. They need to return to their home countries and come through normal procedures.
But we think this is the right way to go. We expect it will generate a significant debate, as it should. These are important issues. They're controversial. And they're never easy for us to deal with as a government. But we think the issue needs to be addressed, and the president has given us, I think, a good proposal.
Q: Several questions here -- (Applause.) Several questions on global warming. Why is it that we did not confirm the Kyoto Treaty? And what are we doing to reduce global warming after our failure to endorse the Kyoto Treaty?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the Kyoto Treaty -- it's important to remember had been signed at the last minute by our predecessors. A proposition that embodied the basic principles of the Kyoto Treaty had been considered by the United States Senate -- before we ever arrived -- and rejected 99-zip. There was almost no support in the United States Congress for the exact provisions of that treaty.
We believe that it was inequitable in terms of how it applied, and that it would not seriously address the problem that it was intended to address. For that reason, the president basically made the decision that he did.
That doesn't mean global warming is not a problem, but we think it ought to be addressed through the development of hard science. We've spent a fair amount of time on the issue since, and we'll continue to work on it. It's an issue that does need to be addressed. But we need to address it based upon facts and not just emotion. And that's the process that we're involved in now.
Q: Would you comment on the Bush administration's road map in the Middle East? When we will see -- will we see a more active effort to bring the nations of the Middle East together for progress in achieving peace?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think -- the road map, of course, refers specifically to the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It was put together with the United States working with the European Union, with the United Nations, and with the Russians. It lays out specific steps that parties on both sides of the dispute should undertake. It's still on the table. It has not been implemented, certainly. By the same token, right now, it's about the only plan in town.
With respect to the president's commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian question in terms of trying to resolve it, he is the only president who has ever stood up and come forward and stated specifically that he will support a Palestinian state as a part of the process here that ultimately leads to resolution of this conflict.
He traveled to the Middle East last year, met with Middle East leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh; later on, had sessions with the then-Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and with Prime Minister Sharon. He's devoted significant time and effort to the problem. The difficulty we have -- and it is a continuing problem -- is that after years of effort, it's become clear that as long as Yasser Arafat is the interlocutor on behalf of the Palestinians, as long as he is in control, we think any serious progress is virtually impossible.
I'm always struck by the memory that I'll always carry of January 20, 2001, when President Bush and I were sworn in. We went to -- as is traditional that day, you go to church service, and then you go over to the White House and have coffee with the outgoing administration -- in this case, President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and their families. And you spend several hours together by the time you go through the ceremony, the swearing in and so forth. And Bill Clinton talked repeatedly all day long about his disappointment in Yasser Arafat, how Arafat had, in effect, torpedoed the peace process.
Arafat was in the White House and the West Wing more often than any other foreign leader during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton did everything he could to try to put together a settlement and came fairly close. In the final analysis, Arafat refused to say yes.
Subsequent to that, the president made a speech in June of 2002 that laid out our basic principles. And at the front of that was the notion that there has to be reform of the Palestinian Authority, that before we get an interlocutor, somebody we can trust, somebody we can relate to, somebody that we can work with in terms of trying to make progress. The Israelis are never going to sign up, nor should they sign up to a peace unless, in fact, they've got confidence that there's someone there on the Palestinian side prepared to keep those commitments.
There has to be a way found to end terror emerging from the Palestinian areas into the Israeli areas. We had another four deaths just within the last 24 hours in Gaza, with a suicide bomber. And until the Palestinians have an organization, a government in place that's capable of dealing effectively with the structure of terror, I don't think significant progress is likely.
In the meantime, we'll keep working it. The president is engaged. A lot of us have spent time on the problem, but it's going to be essential that that authority be transformed, I think, before anybody can realistically expect a positive outcome.
Q: How do you see our relationship with the U.N.? And would we take action in North Korea without a Security Council resolution?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Repeat the last part of your question, would we --
Q: Would we take action in North Korea without a Security Council resolution?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what we've done with respect to North Korea is to approach it on a regional basis. It has not yet gone to the United Nations, although, obviously that's a step that could be taken given the fact that they've -- the North Koreans have kicked out inspectors and appear to be in violation of the nonproliferation treaty that they're signatory to.
The president made the decision, and I think a very sound one, that we would work specifically with the Chinese, but also the Japanese, the South Koreans, and the Russians to convey the message to the North Koreans that the only choice available to them if they want to have any kind of a relationship at all and have access to the international community is for them to give up their aspirations to acquire and deploy nuclear weapons.
To date, I think we feel like we've made some progress. There have been two sessions in Beijing. First the session with the Chinese, the Americans and the North Koreans. The second one, of course, with all six of us. We've had extended conversations with the Chinese and are now working on convening another session going forward. The Chinese have been crucial in the process, and I might say they've been very responsible in the process. And we're doing our best to get the matter resolved by peaceful diplomatic means, and that requires a concerted effort by all of those nations that are directly affected.
It's not in anybody's interest to have nuclear weapons deployed on the Korean Peninsula. It's clearly -- if that happens, it begins to change the balance in that part of the world. And then other nations there may find it necessary to alter their policy and their attitude towards those same kinds of systems, and that's not in China's interest. It's not in our interest. Clearly, we all have a stake in trying to resolve that matter peacefully as soon as possible. And that's what we're doing.
Q: Before Mr. Broad comes back to close the program, we're going to have time for this last question. Let me combine the two here. Would you please comment on Secretary Rumsfeld's plans for the reorganization for the Defense Department in light of the changing geopolitical conditions in the world? And concurrently with that, does our strategic plan need to be revised? Or are we still able to respond to two MRCs (nearly simultaneous Multiple Regional Contingencies) at a given time?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we have revised our thinking, I think, in many respects, and are in the process of revising our thinking as a result of the lessons learned over the last few years. There's nothing like the operations we went through, for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq to lead us to study those and see if there are lessons learned that need to be applied in terms of force structure, strategy, doctrine and so forth. And Don is actively involved in doing that.
I think if I had to speculate that we'll see -- one of the legacies of this administration will be some of the most sweeping changes in our military, and our national security strategy as it relates to the military, and force structure, and how we're based, and how we used it in the last 50 or 60 years, probably since World War II. I think the changes are that dramatic.
Certainly, Secretary Rumsfeld is spending a great deal of time on it, as are our senior uniformed personnel, the chiefs and other seniors officials of the department. The president is. The president has spent a fair amount of time on these sessions, as well, too.
So I am quite confident that we will make significant changes going forward. I don't want to speak for the secretary -- well, why not? (Laughter.) No, I -- as I say, I am a great believer that we very much need to do that. And we'll see some changes that are badly needed.
We're still positioned, if you think about it -- if you look at Europe, when I was secretary -- that was back in '89 to '93 -- we made significant changes in our posture there. We inherited the Cold War. We had 330,000 troops in Europe. We cut that back to about 100,000 -- but our base structure and where they were deployed and the kinds of forces we had, basically just a scaled-down version of the Cold War force. If you go to Asia, the same thing.
The United States needs to be forward-deployed. We don't want to end that practice at all. It's going to be vital for us to maintain our relationships and our alliances around the world to do that. But what we're finding increasingly is we need forces that can move on relatively short notice. We need warm bases, bases we can fall in on, in a crisis and have present the capabilities we need to operate from. But today, we've got forces deployed in places like Uzbekistan, as a result of operations in Afghanistan over the last couple of years.
We're much more reliant these days on Special Operations Forces, on those kinds of units that can go in and do what we did in Afghanistan, where we married up our Special Forces, A teams, CIA agents, some of our Special Ops folks and were able to go in using their linkage to our precision air capabilities now. And with a few thousand people, in effect, wrap up that problem in Afghanistan in a matter of weeks -- a very different scenario than was true in the past.
So I think we've only seen the very beginning of an important debate in this area. I do expect and have a high degree of confidence that we'll see a lot more and that Secretary Rumsfeld and his folks at the Pentagon, following the president's wishes, are, in fact, aggressively addressing these kinds of questions.
Thank you. (Applause.)
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