Kansas State University Landon Lecture
Good morning. General Dick Myers. Thank you for those words.
Later today, we will be attending a dedication of a building here at Kansas State in General Myers’ honor — a well-deserved tribute to one of this school’s most distinguished alumni. I understand that Dick and Mary Jo were college sweethearts, and were married on this campus.
My wife, Joyce, and I go back a long way as well. We met in high school and have been married just shy of 52 years. Someone once asked her, “How could you have stayed married to Rumsfeld all those years?” She promptly replied, “He travels a lot.” I thought she was kidding, but I’m not so sure!
Well, Dick Myers has traveled a good bit himself, but I’m sure Mary Jo would never say that.
Over the years, Dick and Mary Jo Myers have been through countless moves and have traveled to places across the globe in service to our nation, but I can tell you that their hearts have always belonged to Kansas. And I think everyone here will agree that they have done Kansas proud. Indeed they have done our nation proud.
President Wefald, Mr. Reagan, and Mr. Seaton, I appreciate the invitation to be here today.
Mr. Adams, members of the faculty;
Mr. Maddy, students;
Congressman Ryun, I want to thank you for coming today. And I thank you for your service to the nation.
We are also honored to have a special veteran with us. Born here in Manhattan, a hero in the Battle for Normandy, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Walter Ehlers. Thank you for your service.
General Petraeus, General Ham; a special greeting to the men and women here from Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, and the Kansas State Army and Air Force ROTC cadets. We are grateful to you for your service, and for your commitment to the defense of the nation.
I would like to start on a personal note. In my time as Secretary of Defense, I have come away continually inspired by the professionalism, the dedication, and the dignity of our military men and women, and the folks at the Department of Defense who work every day to keep our country safe.
When I was in Afghanistan not long ago, a young soldier told me, “I can’t believe that we’re being allowed to do something so important.” And you know, I feel the same way. I am so honored to have had the chance to be part of something so important — so vital to the future of our country and to the cause of human freedom.
It has been the highest honor of my life to serve our country and our outstanding troops.
It is a pleasure to take part in this lecture series named for Alf Landon. He was, of course, a governor, a presidential candidate, a statesman of great civility, but perhaps what Alf Landon was most proud of was that he was a Kansan.
I’m told that the geographic center of the lower 48 states is right here in Kansas. That is fitting — because if you think about it, this part of the world has given our nation some of the great leaders of the last century. Along with Governor Landon was General Eisenhower from Abilene; and Senator Bob Dole from Russell. Harry Truman next door in Missouri. One of Ronald Reagan’s biographers said that he never understood President Reagan until he went to Illinois, and experienced firsthand where the president grew up.
These individuals embodied the values instilled in the sons and daughters of this part of the Great Plains and Midwest. Here folks tend to have a good perspective about things, about the difference between right and wrong — they have grown up with an appreciation for the splendor and decency of America and of the American people.
We meet today at a time of peril for our nation and for the principles that it represents. In a sense, this is not new. In different ways, at different times, and from different sources, our nation and our values have been threatened since our very beginnings.
But today, in the first war of the 21st century, we face an enemy that, in many ways, is unlike any our country has ever faced. We are engaged in a new and unfamiliar war that our country does not yet fully understand. One that requires us — our country, our government, our military — to think and act differently. I want to spend a few minutes talking about this challenge before responding to some questions.
I’m told that Kansas State has a Cold War Studies program that examines the history of that “long, twilight struggle.” Well, like the Cold War, this era finds America and our allies in a struggle against an “ideology of global reach.” And like the Cold War, this era requires us to adapt and adjust our strategies, our way of thinking and our institutions. In fact, 40 years ago, Governor Landon spoke here about the challenge of that era and the need to face what he called the “new realities of international life.”
When he spoke, in 1966, there was most certainly no assurance that America would prevail against the Soviet Union. That year the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam nearly doubled to more than 300,000, in an increasingly divisive conflict. No less than seven violent coups occurred around the world. There was doubt and division, even among our allies. France pulled out of the NATO defense structure and threw the NATO headquarters out of France.
I remember when I was U.S. Ambassador to NATO, I had to return to Washington to testify to a U.S. Senate Committee against an amendment to withdraw our forces from Europe. Euro-Communism — the so-called “good” Communism — was very much in vogue.
Many of the so-called elites in our country argued that America was the problem. That the arms race was a big misunderstanding. Millions of demonstrators marched — not against the Soviet Union — but against the United States and our European Allies.
Almost until the day of its demise, many argued that Communism was the wave of the future — but the secret was that Communism was a failure.
President Reagan used to tell the story of a young Soviet who finally saved up enough money for a car. A Soviet clerk stamped the man’s papers and told him that he would get his car in 10 years. The young man asked, “Will it come in the morning or afternoon?”
The clerk, astonished, responded: “What difference does that make?”
The young man replied, “Because the plumber is coming in the morning.”
The great lesson of the Cold War is that totalitarianism — to rule by fear and terror — in whatever guise it takes, ultimately does not work. And when people realize that truth, the system that dominates them cannot be sustained.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall — the most visible symbol of the end of an era and a bankrupt ideology. When thousands of Berliners climbed over that wall to reunite with friends and family, they went in one direction, to the West, and the free world vividly understood what it was it had been fighting for all those years.
I’ve talked about the similarities of the Cold War with the struggle against violent extremism, but this long war in the 21st century presents unprecedented challenges — wholly unlike any the United States has ever faced.
There can be no doubt that murderous Communist regimes imprisoned, starved and sometimes massacred their own citizens. But they were nation-states. They had capitals. They had laws and five-year plans. They had diplomats to sign agreements.
Unlike the Cold War, our enemy today has no state, territories or citizens to protect. They murder innocent Muslim civilians by the thousands — men, women and children alike. The enemy cannot be deterred through rational self-interest. Today’s threats come less from nation-states but rather from enemies that operate in the shadows, that strike through asymmetric and irregular means.
On 9/11, we saw the deadly effects of this type of warfare. Armed with five-dollar box-cutters, 19 hijackers killed 3,000 Americans and inflicted hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage. In Iraq and Afghanistan, insurgents fashion deadly IEDs and roadside bombs using propane tanks and garage door openers. Nations like Iran and Syria seek to undermine U.S. interests and those of our allies by moving weapons and money to terrorist groups like Hezbollah and insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the future, there could be attacks on computer networks, on water supplies, on communications systems.
Our military was ill-equipped for this new era of asymmetric and irregular warfare. In fact, for much of the past century the U.S. Armed Forces operated as separate, even competing branches of service.
In 1986, Congress passed legislation to restructure the military into a more joint force. Since then, our military has been learning to fight as a single, coordinated Armed Force. This reform of the military has been one of the singular most impressive achievements of our government of the past century.
But to win in this global struggle against violent extremism, all elements of national power — all agencies of the government — as well as a broad coalition of nations must be brought to bear effectively.
So I would suggest we consider new ways of working together:
First, to the extent possible, we can no longer afford to have the Defense and State Departments, CIA and Homeland Security, Treasury and Justice, Agriculture and Commerce, each waging their own campaigns, with their own rules and restrictions, each overseen by separate Congressional committees and subcommittees. National security policies can no longer be separated into the functions of defense, diplomacy and development.
In Afghanistan, for example, Provincial Reconstruction Teams draw on resources and expertise from a range of government agencies. These teams have achieved a good deal, but their success has been limited because these activities too often are thought to remain almost exclusively in the responsibility of the Department of Defense.
Second, we need to recognize that this struggle against extremism cannot and will not be won primarily by the United States. It will be won by the hundreds of millions of Muslims — Iraqis, Afghans, Egyptians, Indonesians, as well as European and American Muslims — who will ultimately be responsible for driving out the extremist ideologies of hate.
The Defense Department has asked for significant increases in funding and authority to build the capacity and capabilities of partner nations. No doubt this will be a difficult shift. Change is hard, and it is not easy for Americans to watch while others do. Ours is a nation and a military with a hands-on, can-do spirit. But today’s war against a global enemy requires first and foremost that we enable allies, especially those in the Muslim world, to confront and defeat the extremists within their borders and on their airwaves.
We are doing this by training and equipping the security forces of Afghanistan and Iraq. When the U.S. military routinely makes the impossible possible, it can be difficult, even frustrating, to watch newly trained foreign militaries struggle to defend their own country.
The shift towards building the capabilities of our partners requires, for example, some of our best military personnel to become advisors, embedded with local security forces. I understand that we have a number of folks here today who are currently training at Fort Riley as part of Military Transition Teams. These teams will be undertaking a critical task when they deploy to train, stand up, and mentor Afghan and Iraqi Security Forces. There is perhaps no more important mission. I thank you for all you have done and all you will do.
In the past, U.S. efforts to train foreign security forces have been burdened by outdated regulations. In Afghanistan, for instance, building up the Afghan Army was unnecessarily and harmfully delayed because there was no such category in the U.S. federal budget at the time. The painful delays in training the Afghan and Iraqi police forces were a result of the fact that the Department of Defense was prohibited from doing the training.
The realities on the ground in the rest of the world do not correspond to the yearly federal budgetary process — where it can take one year to craft a budget, another to get it approved by Congress, and then a third year to execute that then somewhat stale program.
The Defense Department is currently drawing up proposed legislation to reform existing regulations and authorities — some that date back to the early 1960’s — that still hamper effective U.S. action.
Third, another area of government that needs substantial reform is communications. Today’s global, 24-hour media presents new challenges for a government that operates on a different schedule. Al-Qaeda’s second in command, al-Zawahiri, has said: “More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.”
The enemy we face has skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media age, but for the most part, our country and our government have not. The enemy is fast. With headline-grabbing attacks, by doctoring photographs, lying to the media, and being trained to allege torture, the enemy successfully manipulates the world’s free press — a press that they would never allow to be free — and they do so purposefully to intimidate and break the collective will of free peoples. We need to understand the ruthlessness, the skillfulness of this enemy.
In 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower, spoke to the nation for the last time as President. He warned of a long struggle ahead. He said:
“We face a hostile ideology — global in scope…ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method… to meet it successfully we must carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle — with liberty the stake.”
As we look back on those critical years during the Cold War, so too our grandchildren will one day look back on this time as a defining moment in America’s history. History will judge whether we did all we could to defeat a vicious extremist enemy that threatened our security, our freedom, our very way of life. Or, if we left it to the next generations to try to fight an enemy strengthened by our weakness, and emboldened by our lack of resolve.
Over my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to live in times of great consequence, times of war and times of peace. I have met countless Americans from every corner of our magnificent country, and I have developed an abiding faith in the wisdom and good judgment of free people over time to come to the right decisions. I have seen us triumph over dictators and tyrannies of many forms, and I believe that if we persevere today — and I am convinced we will — if we make the right choices, and develop a clear understanding of the war we face today, we can overcome the increasingly lethal threats of this young century.
Despite all the enemy tries to do to make the world think otherwise, America is not what is wrong with the world. America is a force for good. We are on the right side of history. Let there be no doubt that the great sweep of human history is for freedom and we are freedom’s side.
We are engaged in a new and unfamiliar war that our country does not yet fully understand. One that requires us — our country, our government, our military — to think and act differently.
Ya, we're all a bunch of dumbfucks who just can't understand why our "leaders" need to have dictatorial powers. Why they can't be bothered with the inconveniences of monotonous jury trials and "god dam pieces of paper” that get in the way of their elite and hallowed decisions.
I'm glad he made so clear.
-Tasha Rhodes Libertarian
Tasha Rhodes libertarian girl libertarian blog