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Terrorism Is Not Just an American Problem

Terrorism Is Not Just an American Problem

Transcript of Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, at Hoover Institution Event Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C, Wednesday, June 5, 2002.


Wolfowitz: I just want to thank you, and once again, it’s a pleasure to be able to participate in a Hoover Institution event. Before I left on this trip, actually, in fact, two hours before leaving, I was privileged to be able to participate in the presentation of an award to one of your very senior fellows, George Shultz, who was one of my graduate school professors. He’s constantly, modestly putting forth these things that he describes as "Diplomacy 101". But taken together, as I said the other night, it really is a graduate course in foreign policy. And I’m glad he’s still teaching out there in California. Good for you.

I would like to talk about this trip, not by way of what I did on my summer vacation, but rather, because I think it was an important trip. In fact, there were two purposes. One was to attend this first-ever conference in Singapore of defense ministers and security experts from around the Pacific region.

And the second purpose was to stop in the Philippines, and get a firsthand appreciation of what our troops are doing in the effort there in the Philippines in assisting the Philippine armed forces and dealing with the Muslim insurgency and the Muslim terrorist groups in the southern Philippines.

Sometime ago, when the Institute for International Strategic Studies came to Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld, they said they were hopeful of creating in Asia a kind of security conference-- an annual security conference-- that might be like the one that has been taking place now for more than 30 years in Munich, Germany, called the Werkunde Conference. The Secretary was very impressed by the project, and committed that either he or I would attend. As it turned out, I was the one who attended, and I’m going to tell you a little bit about it because I think there were significant things that happened there. And it reflects significant things about the future in that important part of the world.

I might mention, though, that on the way over, I got yet another demonstration of the extraordinary skills of our men and women in uniform. We happened to be on a KC-10-- that’s how they got us out there-- and we were refueled in the air. That’s the first time I’ve actually seen two planes come that close together for a steady, long period of time. And the cool, calm confidence of those pilots -- it’s not something that I would ever think one would ever take for granted. But obviously, they’ve been doing it day after day throughout this conflict, and in many others, and in much more difficult conditions than the ones we were under, including in more than one instance in which they were shot at.

And then I had the experience later on of going back into the tail section of the plane, and having the boom operator, whose seven years of experience in doing this very difficult and very dangerous job, explain in loving detail, how it all worked. And it’s that command of his job, that I’ve seen over and over again among our young men and women: pride in their work and knowledge about what they do. And it is terrific. It’s the greatest strength of this great American military, and something we all should be grateful for as Americans.

I’ll mention in a few minutes some similar experiences down in the southern Philippines. But it reminds me that Dick Cheney--when he was Secretary of Defense and I was working for him as his undersecretary--used to go periodically to the Persian Gulf. And he would comment invariably coming home that, "I went out there because it was supposed to be good for the morale of the troops. And the one thing I’m sure of is, it was good for my morale." There’s nothing more uplifting and exhilarating than meeting and talking with these terrific young men and women, and seeing the kind of work they’re doing. And it is really phenomenal, and it is dangerous. Even the most of the routine things have an element of danger to them.

For example, when we visited Basilan Island in the Philippines, we landed in a C-130 that had to take what they call a "combat approach" because they’re never quite sure when they might be shot at. And going into the island in a Chinook helicopter, they have to fire off their mini-guns just before they land, to make sure that they’re working. They do this every day. I mean, I’m not saying that we were in great danger, but when you do it day after day after day, the cumulative risk is real. And these young men assume it with complete calm and confidence. It’s inspiring.

Let me first talk a little bit about this conference, which, as I said, I think was a very significant event. It was the first time ever that a large collection of defense ministers from the Asia region have been gathered together. We had seven or eight defense ministers; I think almost an equal number of deputy defense ministers; and then a very large number of significant academic experts, and business leaders in the security field.

And while that kind of event has become almost commonplace in Europe -- it’s been going on every year for 30 years in Germany -- it is not commonplace at all in East Asia and the Pacific.

One of our challenges in that great and important part of the world-- it certainly is as important to our future as any other part of the world, and perhaps the most challenging area over the next few decades -- is that East Asia and the Pacific do not have the kinds of institutions that grew up during the Cold War in Europe, particularly NATO, but the structures related to NATO.

And the history of cooperation among different countries is, to put it mildly, a long way behind where it is in Europe. In fact, you don’t have to go back too far to find a period of time when almost every country in the East Asia region had a dispute with its neighbors that had the potential of armed conflict. And the fact that today, the region as a whole seems very far from war -- with the possible exception of the Korean Peninsula -- is not something to be taken for granted. It is a remarkable achievement. And it’s one that I think will be challenged in the coming decades, because the great economic growth of East Asia, and particularly the extraordinary economic growth of China, are going to pose challenges to maintaining regional peace and stability, at least if history is a guide.

A measure of how important that conference was also, I believe, was the very significant bipartisan Congressional delegation led by Senator Jack Reed and Senator Chuck Hagel, and including, among other important members, Congressman Jim Kolbe, who is Chairman of the House Appropriations Foreign Ops Sub-Committee. That representation, as well as my presence there, I think, was an important part of one of our messages for that meeting, which was reassuring the many countries in the Asia-Pacific region of that strong bipartisan American support and commitment to the region.

In fact, the four things that this trip brought home to me were first of all, once again, a reminder of just how important that region is to the United States. Secondly, how important we are to the region. Third, how welcome we are in the region. And finally, how many problems there are still out there, and how important it is to work those problems.

Before September 11th, I might have been inclined to say that the biggest challenge the region faces is the challenge of rising Chinese power and influence. And before September 11th, I believe, probably the issues of China’s future, and China’s future relationship with the region, would have dominated the conference. As it was, the Chinese presence at the conference was very important. It was very good to have China represented there, not quite at the most senior levels, but I think probably they will be next year.

And even though there was more than a little bit of debate around the presentation of the Chinese representative, actually, that was a healthy part of it. The fact that one can bring such diverse countries together, and talk fairly candidly about real problems and issues, I believe is one of the grounds for being hopeful about the future of East Asia, and hopeful that the region as a whole will be able to meet the challenge of adapting to China’s rising power; and that will, over the course of the next few decades, prove to be a constructive development.

It’s not something to be taken for granted at all. If one looks back historically at periods of great changes in the balance of power, it has, more often than not, been accompanied by turbulence, and even future wars. I’m much more optimistic that the outcome is going to be different this time. But it’s not something that will happen simply on its own. It’s going to take great effort. I think the countries of the region are committed to making that effort. And I believe -- although they don’t always sound that way -- I believe on balance, the Chinese leaders understand that that’s in China’s interest as well.

As John mentioned in his introduction, Indonesia’s the fourth largest country in the world. It’s only with neighbors like China and India that you can look small in comparison. I think we Americans are sometimes very unaware of just how big Indonesia is. Maybe it’s partly because the Mercator Projection shrinks it. It’s down there on the equator. It actually would stretch from Seattle out to Bermuda, if you put it on a map of the United States.

It’s not only about 200 million people, but as John referred to, 90 percent of those people are Muslim. I might call John with that characterization, that they’re part of the Muslim world, although they are members of the Organization of Islamic Conference. So, they have it both ways, I guess.

But one of the striking facts about Indonesia is that it is one of only two countries -- Turkey being the other -- with a Muslim majority, in which Islam is not the state religion. In the case of Turkey, it’s a strictly secular state. In the case of Indonesia, they recognize five official religions representing the major religions of their people, and have had a very long and strong tradition of religious tolerance, which is something not to be taken for granted anywhere in the world; and particularly after September 11th, not something to be taken for granted in the Muslim world.

I believe that Indonesia’s future, the success of its still tentative experiment in democracy, is very, very important to the United States, and much more important even after September 11th.

An Indonesia that is successful-- and I believe it has a real chance of being successful in establishing a Muslim majority country that is tolerant, is democratic, and is progressing on free enterprise principles-- could be a very important model for the rest of the Muslim world.

Conversely, an Indonesia that fails, an Indonesia that becomes open in different places to providing sanctuaries for terrorists, an Indonesia that degenerates into communal conflict between Christians and Muslims, or Muslims and other minority groups, is an Indonesia that would, I believe, have a seriously harmful influence, not only on East Asia, but in may ways on the world as a whole.

So, I think there’s a lot that hangs in the balance right now. And part of that, in our view, depends on an agenda of working with the Indonesian military. Or maybe I should say more precisely, working with a democratically elected government of Indonesia and its military, because this is the first time in half a century of Indonesia’s history that we’ve been talking about a democratic government. It’s a democratic government that very much wants us to resume military-to-military contacts that were essentially terminated after the tragedy in East Timor two-and-a-half years ago.

That contact with the Indonesian military, though, has to incorporate two goals at the same time. One goal is to promote the effectiveness of the Indonesian military in dealing with the security problems of the country, and including, among other things, the problems posed by ethnic or inter-religious violence between communities, particularly in places like Sulawesi and Malaku. These happen to be predominately Christian areas with very large Muslim minorities in them, and areas where there’s been serious violence over the last few years.

You can’t contain that violence without an effective military. And you need to contain that violence, in order to preserve the stability of the country, and to keep it from becoming a place where terrorists can find it easy to hang out.

So, the country needs an effective military, but also, it needs military reform. The terrible crimes that were committed two-and-a-half years ago that led to terminating our military-to-military contact are a serious problem. They’re not just a historical problem. One can’t have a successful democracy in Indonesia unless the security forces are disciplined and stop some of the past practices of abusing their own people.

I think with President Megawati (Sukarnoputri), though, we have a government that is prepared to work with us to move forward on both fronts. We got in Singapore -- and when I say, "we," it was not only myself, but the members of our Congressional delegation -- a very strong message from leaders in the region, particularly the leadership in Singapore itself, on the importance of the United States re-establishing its relations with the Indonesian military, and using that re-established relationship to achieve those two objectives I’ve just mentioned.

We’re back here in Washington now, working with the Congress to try to get some of the money needed to do it, and to try to agree on the kinds of conditions that have to be applied to that funding going forward, if we’re going to achieve the dual objectives that we have.

I’d like to talk now at greater length about the Philippines. As I mentioned, that was the second stop on my trip. It’s another important country in a very important location. In fact, although I think I’m about as familiar as anyone might be with the demographics of the Muslim populations of East Asia, it wasn’t until we were on the plane going over that I started doing the arithmetic in my head, thinking which countries were represented at that conference. And you come up with a total of well over half a billion Muslims in the countries of East Asia and South Asia; in fact, well over 600 million, if you include Pakistan, which was not there.

Southeast Asia alone has a population, a Muslim population, approaching a quarter of a billion. It is an area where the traditions of Islam are generally quite tolerant. There’s a good deal of history of successful, peaceful relationships between large Muslim populations and large Christian populations.

But they are also areas where the extremists, the al Qaeda and their kind, the terrorists, have seen potentially enormously valuable opportunities, partly because these are relatively open societies, in which -- particularly in the Philippines -- it’s easy to move around, and avoid the kind of scrutiny they’re usually put under in police states in the Middle East. Also because in a large Muslim population, even if the overwhelming majority is tolerant and open-minded, it’s easier to find that handful that you need to recruit to an evil cause.

What we’re doing in the Philippines is to help the government and the armed forces of the Philippines in dealing with some small, but very ugly, terrorist groups that are operating in the southern part of the country. In particular, one called the Abu Sayyaf group, not only targets Filipinos, but targets Americans. At the moment, it’s holding an American missionary couple hostage-- who were happily vacationing at a resort in the southern Philippines-- whom they captured over a year ago.

What we’re trying to do in the Philippines is very different from the war in Afghanistan. In the Philippines, our effort is entirely aimed at assisting the Philippine armed forces to do the job themselves. One thing both countries emphatically agreed on, is that we don’t want to run things, and they don’t want us taking over. There’s a certain sensitivity, a quite understandable sensitivity, in a country that was an American colony for more than half a century, about the dangers or the fears that the United States might be there to take over.

I believe that after nearly six months of experience, they are now quite convinced of our intentions. And what was initially a very difficult and somewhat lonely decision, I believe, for President (Gloria) Arroyo to invite the Americans in, is now a decision that seems to be very warmly supported by a very broad range of Philippine political opinion. Indeed, when you get down into the southern Philippines, it seems to be supported by almost the entire range of opinion locally, including the people of Zamboanga, which is an overwhelming Christian city, and the people of Basilan Island, which we visited, which is, I think, 100 percent Muslim.

Everywhere we went, we encountered gratitude that the American assistance to the Philippine armed forces was producing a climate of security that was improving, in important and dramatic ways, the daily life of ordinary people. When these terrorists start to work, they disrupt everything that people care about. They disturb security. In the course of disturbing security, they disturb peoples’ livelihood. They make it difficult to build roads, or to dig wells. We have a naval engineering group-- a combination of Navy Seabees and Marine engineers--who are building roads and digging wells on the island. It’s the first time in a very long time that they’ve had this kind of support.

And it’s not the kind of support, unfortunately, that could be provided by NGOs or development organizations. In fact, one of the tragedies in the southern Philippines is that most international development agencies, although they’re willing to give money, are not willing to send people down. And if you can’t send people down, ultimately, of course, you’re not willing to give money. Until you can establish a secure environment for that kind of work to go on, it’s the whole population that suffers.

So, when you think about it that way, it’s not so surprising that the whole population seems to be very receptive and very appreciative of the American role. And at the same time, the Philippine armed forces seem to be very appreciative of the fact that what we’re doing there is helping them do their job better, i.e., helping them to look good, instead of humiliating them or embarrassing them, which I think may have been some of the fear initially.

Once again though its really-- I won’t keep repeating this theme, although I could go on repeatedly -- the extraordinary capabilities of our young men and women. In this case, not just their military skills, but their human skills, their sensitivity to local concerns and local issues, even the kinds of survey research they do on this remote and primitive island, establishes what the concerns of the people are, and measures how much progress is being made, and where it’s being made. It’s a level of sophistication that you might expect in a graduate course on sociology.

These are people who carry guns and risk their lives, and build roads and dig wells. That they’re able to do that piece of the job is awesome. It’s just a very, very high quality of professionalism and dedication. And I think it has an infectious influence on the people that we work with as well.

We’re at this stage in the middle of reviewing where to go in our cooperation with the Philippines. Beyond this initial exercise, which is called in Tagalog, "Balikatin 02/1." Balikatin is Tagalog for shoulder-to-shoulder. And there have been a series of Balikatin exercises. This one is different than the ones that have come before. And it’s having such a direct set of operational objectives, but it will end on July 31st.

Our cooperation with the Philippine government will not end at that point, but we need to think through what makes sense going beyond. We’ve had a lot of success on Basilan Island. Indeed, so much success that some of the terrorists have fled the island to other places. So, that’s one of the issues we have to think about. We have not yet been successful in helping them rescue the Burnhams, the missionary couple. That’s something we will be continuing to try to achieve.

But the larger goal -- I believe the larger issue is how to help this country, which made a successful transition to democracy some 16 years ago, when they peacefully removed the long-standing dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. It’s a country with a lot of problems, but I believe also with a lot of people trying to solve those problems.

And one of those problems has a uniquely important dimension in this post-September 11th world. The Philippines is a country, a fairly large country, of some 75 million people, 5 percent or 10 percent of whom are Muslim, and a place where there have been Muslim terrorists operating, not only in the jungles of the south, but in the city of Manila itself; not only native Filipinos, but al Qaeda foreigners. In fact, Ramzi Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence in Colorado for crimes that he committed, including the ’93 World Trade Center bombing, was captured largely as a result of police work that began chasing him in Manila some seven years ago.

So, we have a great deal at stake in this war on terrorism in helping the Philippines deal successfully with Muslim terrorists within their own country. And I believe also, in the context of what the president has identified as the larger objective of building a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terrorism. A success in the Philippines of building a country that manages in a stable way to integrate a significant Muslim minority into a predominately Christian population is just as important as helping Indonesia do the same thing, with the numbers reversed.

I’d like to just conclude with a theme that I emphasized in my presentation at the conference in Singapore. It’s something that I’ve talked about before, particularly in a talk to the World Affairs Council in Monterrey, where I spoke about bridging the dangerous gap between the West and the Muslim world. I think it is a dangerous gap, but I think it is bridgeable.

I am not at all a subscriber to the theory of some inevitable clash of civilizations; very much to the contrary. I believe, based on a great deal of personal experience, including three years, as has been mentioned already, as ambassador to the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, that the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslim population, the Muslim people, would like to enjoy the same benefits that we do of a free and democratic and prosperous society.

Part of the problem is that there are very few, if any, models of success of that kind in the Muslim world today. But I think -- and I said it in that speech, and I said it again in Singapore -- part of our job has got to be to help those countries that have a chance at becoming models, that are striving to become models of that kind. Turkey, in my view, is definitely on that list. Indonesia is definitely on that list. There are countries in the Arab world, including Morocco, that deserve that kind of support and assistance.

It is as critical in the long run, I believe, as arresting, capturing and killing terrorists is important in the short run. And there are, as I said, more than half a billion Muslims in the countries of East and South Asia. And they need to be part of our attention as well.

I had a message also for that audience at the conference, which is that terrorism is not just an American problem. It is a worldwide problem. In fact, it was 16 years ago this month, I was sitting in the ambassador’s office in Jakarta, when there was a thud on the roof, and a bomb launched with an improvised mortar from a few hundred yards away from the embassy; bounced off the roof, and landed in the courtyard. Fortunately, the fuse was defective. So, the bomb, which was full of nails and shrapnel, didn’t go off. But the terrorists who had set that timed device, had simultaneously launched another homemade mortar at the Japanese embassy in Jakarta, and put a firebomb in the basement of the building that housed the British Cultural Center.

That was 16 years ago. He was a Japanese Red Army terrorist who was on his way out of the country at the time his bombs went off. Ten years later, thanks to serious cooperation between the Japanese police and our security people, he was finally brought to trial here in this country. And he’s serving a long sentence in American jail.

But terrorism is not new to East Asia. There was a much more serious incident in the Tokyo subway some years later. And there is a great deal of terrorist activity in that part of the world, some of which we’ve been able to stop -- including, to the great shock of the government of Singapore, which we also know runs one of the tightest ships in the world -- a very serious plot in that country to attack an American ship in Singapore harbor.

So, it is not something that only hits New York and Washington. It is a global threat. Even when they hit New York and Washington, I think it’s some 80 countries that had citizens killed in that attack. But most importantly, it’s an attack on values that are not just our values. They’re universal values. And I believe that -- in fact, I don’t believe -- we know from what the people of Korea have done, from what the people of the Philippines and Indonesia are trying to do, from what the people of Taiwan have done -- that those values are values that everyone in the world, or quite universally, people aspire to.

And I think we need to keep emphasizing that this is not a war between the West and Islam. It is a war on extremists who are trying to hijack one of the world’s great religions. There are a lot of points to make. One point I made in this conference, and I’ve made it before, and I’ll make it again. Six times in the last eleven years, American men and women in uniform have put their lives at risk to defend people from aggression, or from war-induced famine. Every one of those six times, the populations they were defending were predominantly Muslim, whether it was Kuwait, or northern Iraq, or Somalia, or Bosnia, or Kosovo, or most recently, Afghanistan. I guess I could add now, the southern Philippines.

We didn’t do it because they were Muslim. We didn’t do it simply to be good guys, although I think that is part of our motivation. I think it is important for the United States, it’s part of our national interest to do right in the world. But it was also -- we did it because it was in our national interest. We didn’t do it because they were Muslims. We did it because they were human beings. But they happened, in every case, to be Muslims. And I think it’s an important fact to bring out, and to keep repeating.

And most importantly, I think, it is important to keep repeating that these values that the terrorists target are not only Western values. They’re universal values. That what the terrorists most aspire to do is to take the world’s billion Muslims back to a twisted, medieval notion of what the proper order of things is. A world in which women are oppressed, in which religious bigotry and extremism are promoted, a world in which children are indoctrinated to hate is not, I believe, a world that most of the world’s Muslims want to live in. And we need to help them, and help ourselves, in fighting them.

I told in my presentation in Singapore, "The Gathering Storm" (stealing the phrase from Winston Churchill), that I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that this evil of terrorism that has grown up in the world on a particularly massive scale over the last ten years, threatens some of the same kinds of evil and destruction that fascism and Nazism threatened nearly a century ago.

I believe that the events of September 11th have galvanized this country, and galvanized dozens of countries working with us around the world to that threat, that we have gotten the storm warnings in time to act. And if we act decisively, we can defeat the terrorists. And we can, as the president said, build a better world beyond the war on terrorism. But it is a major challenge. It is a challenge, complicated and difficult, and different from the challenge of World War II. But I believe it is as great and as important and as decisive for the future of the world in this century.

Thank you very much.




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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).