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The Cold War Wasn't Won Through Fate or Luck
The Cold War Wasn't Won Through Fate or Luck
Speech delivered by Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy. Munich, (Bavaria), February 4, 2006. Source: 2006 Munich Conference on Security Policy.

2006 Munich Conference on Security Policy: Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, USA, during his speech. Photo by Sebastian Zwez.

Donald H. Rumsfeld during his speech - Photo by Sebastian Zwez

    Ministers, parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to be back at this important gathering and to see so many old friends.

It is sometimes said that America is somewhat unusual among nations, because most of our citizens trace their origins to someplace else. To Asia and Africa. The Middle East. Central and South America. And of course, here in Europe. During America's Civil War, a Confederate commander said if you took the Germans out of the Union Army, the South might win easily. A list of descendents of German immigrants since then 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 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 very 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, perhaps further adjust our institutions, and certainly work closely together. We have done a good deal since the "wake up call" of September 11, 2001. We have begun a historic transformation of NATO, reached out in partnership to non-NATO nations, and responded with compassion to the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the devastating earthquake in Pakistan. We are helping to battle determined enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we will need to continue to stay on the offense against them.

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 equally dangerous. Consider that before September 11, 2001, terrorists:

  • Hijacked an Air France jet
  • Bombed several airplanes traveling to and from Europe, including the Lockerbie flight
  • Attacked airports in Rome and Vienna, and
  • Here in this city, kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli Olympians

And, since September 11, 2001, when 3,000 people were killed on a single day, terrorists have murdered hundreds more in places like:

  • Karachi
  • Jerusalem
  • Bali
  • Casablanca
  • Istanbul
  • Madrid
  • Beslan
  • Jakarta
  • Cairo and
  • London

A war has been declared on all of our nations. Our futures depend on determination and unity in the face of the terrorist threat that Chancellor Merkel has so correctly labeled "the greatest challenge to our security in the 21st century." And the world's great democracies - anchored by NATO - must stay united to meet this challenge. Have no doubt - the terrorists intend to kill still more of our people. They have said so.

  • An al-Qaeda operative in Afghanistan said of civilians in Europe and America: "Their wives will be widowed, and their children will be orphaned".
  • A radical cleric said after the London bombings: "I would like to see the Islamic flag fly, not only over Number 10 Downing Street, but the whole world".
  • And the leader of the Khobar Towers attacks boasted: "We tied the infidel [a Briton] by one leg [behind the car] … The infidel's clothing was torn to shreds … We found a Swedish infidel. [We] cut off his head, and put it on the gate so that it would be seen by all those entering and exiting. … We found Filipino Christians … and Hindu engineers and we cut their throats, too".

No fewer than 18 organizations - loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda - have conducted terrorist acts in places such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Somalia, Algeria, Russia, and Indonesia. And it is worth noting that those nations were attacked by terrorists even though none had forces in Iraq. So any argument that Iraq might have been a trigger is inconsistent with the facts.

According to their own words, they seek to take over governments from North Africa to Southeast 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 Islamic 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 was for al-Qaeda. That is their strategy. But we and our friends and Allies have a strategy as well.

  • First, to use all elements of national power to try to prevent them from obtaining weapons of mass destruction
  • Second, to defend our homelands, through sharing intelligence, law-enforcement, and more integrated homeland defense
  • And third, to help friendly nations increase their capabilities to fight terrorism in their own countries

In Afghanistan, as our NATO mission moves south, we must give Afghans the assistance they need to nurture their new democracy. In Iraq, the United States and our Allies have sent our best men and women to help Iraqis build a government that is dramatically different from the regime it replaced. We must help ensure its new government succeeds. And in Iran, we must continue to work together to seek a diplomatic solution to stopping the development of its 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 prevent - a nuclear Iran. While we oppose the actions of Iran's regime, we stand with the Iranian people who want a peaceful, democratic future. They have no desire to see the country they love 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 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 the some 50 million Muslims in the new democracies of 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. A survey indicates 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 in earlier decades - a time to work together closely. No nation can succeed in the War on Terror without close cooperation with other nations. Working together, our tasks ahead are to:

  • All 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 radiological weapon in Munich, Paris, or New York
  • To help countries like Georgia train their security forces, and work with nations in the Caucasus and Central Asia through the increasingly important Partnership for Peace programs
  • And to continue to transform NATO for the 21st Century, invest in the NATO Response Force, broader common funding, and encourage NATO to develop an expeditionary culture and capability

This commitment cannot be done on the cheap. It may be easier for all of us to use our scarce tax dollars to meet urgent needs we all have at home. But unless we invest in our defense and security, our homelands will be at risk. Today 3.7 percent of every American tax dollar goes toward our national defense and the defense of our friends and allies. Six of our 25 NATO allies spend 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense, but 19 Allies - 19 - do not even spend 2 percent. Without the U.S. contribution, NATO nations collectively spend only 1.8 percent. 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 happening in the face of the reality that the availability of weapons of greatly increased lethality is growing. We all need to consider where this risky trend could take us. In many ways, this war is different than 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 have disagreed on some things from time to time. But fortunately for us, and for our children, we did not lose our will - over many decades, and through many changes in political leadership in all of our countries. 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, and 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 wasn't won through fate or luck. Freedom prevailed because our free nations showed resolve when retreat would have been easier, and showed courage when concession seemed simpler. Today, our countries have another 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, and counting on our preoccupation. Ultimately, history teaches that success depends on will. So let us today speak with one voice:

  • To those who murder children
  • To those who kidnap diplomats
  • To those who behead aid workers
  • To those who slaughter journalists
  • And to those who claim the moral high ground for a cause that is anything but moral

Let us warn them not to mistake periodic differences for disunity, nor 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 great 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. Instead it will live and endure for generations to come.

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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).