Paul Wolfowitz

Remarks at the 38th Verkunde Conference on Security Policy

delivered 2 February 2002, Munich, Germany



Ten years ago, at the end of the Cold War, many people -- on both sides of the Atlantic -- said that we didn't need NATO any more. Some said that the threat had gone away. Others said that America's involvement in European security was no longer needed. Yet ten years later, NATO continues to be the key to security and stability in Europe, most notably in the Balkans, where, as President Bush said in Warsaw last June, "we went in ... together, and we will come out together." And now, for the first time in its history, NATO has invoked Article V, not because of an attack on Europe, but because the United States itself has been attacked by terrorists operating from abroad.

Following the attacks of September 11th, those who might have consigned NATO to oblivion can no longer question the value of this alliance of nations dedicated to freedom. The ensuing war on terror has underscored that our transatlantic ties are not obsolete. They are essential.

From this podium last year, Secretary Rumsfeld said that even though "the landscape changes...the mandate [of NATO] remains the same: it is to preserve peace and security and to promote freedom and democratic ideals." September 11th was a stark reminder that mortal threats to national security did not end with the Cold War or with the passing of the last century. New challenges to national security can be expected to surprise us again.

But, the response of NATO to September 11th demonstrated that this alliance of democracies can deal with uncertainty and uncharted territory. This alliance has proven itself a flexible instrument, adapting even as the challenges change dramatically.

As we have waged this war on terror, we have been harvesting the fruits of more than 50 years of joint planning, training and operations in the NATO framework. Today, NATO as an Alliance and NATO members individually are playing important roles in the war on terror.

For the first time in the Alliance's history, AWACS from NATO are helping to monitor U.S. airspace to prevent further terrorist attacks. Currently, seven NATO AWACS, flying out of Tinker Air Force Base, are patrolling the skies of the United States, relieving a significant burden on the U.S. AWACS fleet, which is strained by operations in two theaters. In Afghanistan itself, individual NATO countries, along with many others from around the world, are contributing to the war effort and to the post-Taliban reconstruction effort.

In Afghanistan alone, our coalition partners are contributing 3,500 troops to Operation Enduring Freedom and to the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, nearly half of the 8,000 non-Afghan forces in the country today. In fact, because we have been deliberately trying to keep our footprint in that country small, we have had far more offers of help than we have been able to use so far -- but the campaign is far from over.

Twenty-seven coalition partners now work together at the United States Central Command Headquarters in Tampa, and sixteen nations serve side by side in the theater. Most are NATO allies but others, notably Jordan and Australia, also have significant forces. Another 66 nations have contributed various forms of support throughout the campaign. And we could not possibly have achieved what we have so far without the support and assistance of a number of countries in the region, most importantly, Pakistan.

Today, I want to focus on four questions that are important in addressing the security challenges that we face today:

- What have we learned from the events of September 11th?

- What can we learn from the conduct of the war on terrorism so far?

- How can we expand the alliance against terrorism, particularly within the Muslim world?

- And how can we build a stronger security foundation for the 21st Century?

- What Have We Learned From the Events of September 11th?

For too many years, the international community treated terrorism as an ugly fact of international life, one with tragic and occasionally terrible consequences, but something we had to live with -- and something we could manage to live with. Often terrorism was treated simply as a problem of law enforcement. The goal was to catch terrorists, try them, and punish them, hoping that doing so would deter others -- although it didn't. People spoke frequently of retaliation -- but rarely acted. And when they did act, it was more often against the lower- level perpetrators of terrorist acts than against those who were ultimately responsible. It would be an overstatement to say that terrorism came to be regarded as nasty but "acceptable," but we were far from a policy of zero tolerance for terrorism.

September 11th changed all of that. On that day we learned, at enormous cost, that the problem goes beyond crime and punishment. The attacks of that day not only demonstrate the failure of previous approaches, they also underscore the dangers we will face if we continue living with terrorism. What happened on September eleven, terrible though it was, is but a pale shadow of what will happen if terrorists use weapons of massive destruction.

As President Bush made clear, "Every nation now knows that we cannot accept—and we will not accept -- states that harbor, finance, train, or equip the agents of terror. Those nations that violate this principle will be regarded as hostile regimes. They have been warned, they are being watched, and they will be held to account."¹

Our approach has to aim at prevention and not merely punishment. We are at war. As Secretary Rumsfeld said recently, self-defense "requires prevention and sometimes preemption." It is not possible to defend against "every threat, in every place, at every conceivable time." The only defense against terrorism is to "take the war to the enemy"; the best defense is a good offense. The terrorists' great advantage is their ability to hide, not merely in the mountains of Afghanistan, but in the towns and cities of Europe and the United States. We need to hunt them down relentlessly, but we also need to deny them the sanctuaries in which they can safely plan and organize and to deprive them of the financial and material resources they need to operate -- as Secretary Rumsfeld has said, "to drain the swamp" in which they live.

To meet this goal, President Bush has mounted a far-reaching campaign, a campaign that is not just military, but one that integrates all the elements of national power. As the President said in his address to the nation following the attack, "We will direct every resource at our command --every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of Jaw enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network."

No one who has seen the images of September 11th can doubt that our response must be wide-ranging; nor should anyone doubt the far greater destruction terrorists could wreak with weapons of greater power. As President Bush has noted, what has been found in the caves of Afghanistan indicates the scope of what we could face: diagrams of American nuclear power plants and water facilities, maps of our cities and descriptions of landmarks, not just in America but around the world, along with detailed instructions for making chemical weapons.

Those who plotted in the caves share a kinship with states who seek to export terror. They pose a clear and direct threat to international security that could prove far more cataclysmic than what we have experienced already. After September 11th, we have a visceral understanding of what terrorists can do with commercial aircraft, in a way that seemed remote and hypothetical before. We cannot afford to wait until we have a visceral understanding of what terrorists can do with weapons of mass destruction, before we act to prevent it.

Facing that danger, countries must make a choice. Those that stand for peace, security and the rule of law -- the great majority of countries in the world -- stand united with us in this struggle between good and evil. Those countries that choose to tolerate terrorism and refuse to take action -- or worse, those that continue to support it -- will face consequences. As President Bush said last Tuesday, "Make no mistake about it: If they do not act, America will." Nations cannot afford to act like those neutral nations 60 years ago, of whom Winston Churchill so acidly observed: "Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last."

What can we learn from the conduct of the war on terrorism so far?

President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld have repeatedly emphasized that the war on terrorism will be a long struggle. Although much has been accomplished already in Afghanistan and in attacking terrorist cells worldwide, even in Afghanistan there is still much work to be done.

Yet, there are already important lessons to be learned from what has been accomplished so far, with implications not only for the war on terrorism, but for the transformation of our military.

From the beginning of the campaign against terrorism, Secretary Rumsfeld has emphasized the importance of setting the key goals and the key concepts of the operation correctly. Recently, he made a list of those that have been critical to the campaign so far. It's a long list, but let me share with you today a few of the most significant ones.

One of the most important concepts concerns the nature of coalitions in this campaign and the idea that "the mission must determine the coalition, the coalition must not determine the mission." Otherwise, as the Secretary says, the mission will be reduced to "the lowest common denominator."

As a corollary, there will not be a single coalition, but rather different coalitions for different missions, "flexible" coalitions, as the Secretary calls them, This means that the coalition will not "unravel" if some country stops doing something or fails to join in some missions. As Rumsfeld expressed it, "Since no single coalition has 'raveled,' it is unlikely to unravel."

In fact, our policy in this war has been to accept help from countries on whatever basis is most comfortable to them. Some will join us publicly; others will choose quiet and discrete forms of cooperation. We recognize that it is best for each country to characterize how they are helping, instead of doing it for them. Ultimately, this maximizes their cooperation and our effectiveness.

Perhaps our most important coalition partners were the Afghans themselves. Because of the historic Afghan hostility to foreign invaders, we strived from the beginning to keep our footprint small and emphasized that we were not in Afghanistan to stay. Instead, we leveraged the desire of the Afghan people to be liberated from the Taliban and to be rid of the foreign terrorists who brought so much destruction to their country. After the liberation of Mazar-e Sharif, the Afghan people greeted the arrival of their liberators with joy. That was a sentiment that soon echoed throughout Afghanistan. And from the very first day, we emphasized humanitarian operations as part of our military effort.

Another key concept was not to rule out anything, including the use of ground forces. From the beginning, we understood this would not be an antiseptic, "cruise missile war." We were willing to put "boots on the ground" where and when appropriate. Indeed, military success in this campaign was only truly achieved when we inserted Special Forces on the ground, dramatically improving the effectiveness of the air campaign. Jointness in peacetime allowed us to achieve jointness in wartime. We saw soldiers armed with rifles, maneuvering on horseback, using advanced communications to direct strikes by 50-year-old bombers. When reporters asked Secretary Rumsfeld about the reintroduction of the horse cavalry in modern war, he said: "It's all part of my transformation plan."

How can we expand the alliance against terrorism, particularly within the Muslim world?

The fight against terrorism is not just a fight of the Western countries, but of all who aspire to peace and freedom throughout the world, and most emphatically in the Muslim world itself. From my own experience in Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim population of any in the world, I know that the vast majority of the world's Muslims have no use for the extreme doctrines espoused by such groups as Al Qaida and the Taliban. To the contrary, they abhor terrorism and the way that the terrorists have not only hijacked airplanes but also attempted to highjack one of the world's great religions.

To win the war against terrorism we have to reach out to the hundreds of millions of moderate and tolerant people in the Muslim world, including the Arab world. They are on the front line of the struggle against terrorism. We not only have an obligation to help them. By helping them to stand up against the terrorists without fear, we help ourselves. Equally important, we help to lay the foundations for a better world after the battle against terrorism has been won.

Our goal should be more than just defeating the terrorists and eliminating the terrorist networks. As President Bush said in his State of the Union message, "we have a great opportunity during this time of war to lead the world toward the values that will bring lasting peace....Let the skeptics look to Islam's own rich history, with its centuries of learning, and tolerance and progress. We have no intention of imposing our culture. America will take the side of brave men and women who advocate these values around the world, including the Islamic world, because we have a greater objective than eliminating threats and containing resentment. We seek a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror."

No leader has taken greater risks in the struggle against terrorism than President Musharraf of Pakistan and no country has more at stake in the fight. This past week, in his address to the American people, President Bush commended President Musharraf's strong leadership. Pakistan's success will be a success for all of us in the fight against terrorism and Pakistan deserves support from us all.

Right here in NATO we have an ally, Turkey, that is a model for the Muslim world's aspirations for democratic progress and prosperity. Turkey, too, deserves our support. Those who would criticize Turkey for its problems confuse what is problematic with what is fundamental, focus too much on where Turkey is today and ignore where it is going.

What is fundamental is Turkey's democratic character. It changes its leaders at the ballot box, and stood with us during the long struggle of the Cold War. A Turkey that overcomes its present problems and continues the progress that country made over the course of the last century can become an example for the Muslim world -- an example of the possibility of reconciling religious belief with modern secular democratic institutions.

Indonesia is another important example of a nation seeking to build a democratic government based on a culture of tolerance. But it does so in the face of severe economic obstacles. If we are serious about opposing terrorism we should also be serious about helping that country, with the largest population in the Muslim world, in its quest for a stable democracy.

And, we need more examples of success in the Arab world itself. Where countries are struggling to make progress, as Jordan and Morocco are doing, they need our support. (It is no accident that Jordan today is making one of the largest contributions to the coalition in Afghanistan, or that King Abdullah has condemned terrorism in clear and heart-felt language.) Our support should extend beyond governments to those "brave men and women" President Bush spoke of. As Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, one of the son's of the founder of the Saudi monarchy, said recently, speaking of his own country and the Arab world: "We need movement because the world is changing and the world around us is changing. Kuwait has elections, Qatar has communal elections, there's change in Bahrain, Oman, Yemen...The system has to progress and evolve..."

How can we build a stronger security foundation in Europe for the 21st Century?

As difficult as it is to think about other challenges in the middle of this great effort, it is important to think beyond the war on terrorism if we wish to build a solid foundation for peace and security in this century. Strengthening and enlarging NATO and building a new relationship with Russia are key to building that foundation in Europe.

In Warsaw last June, President Bush emphasized the importance of "NATO membership for all of Europe's democracies that seek it and are ready to share the responsibility that NATO brings." That is as important today as it was before September 11th.

Contradicting the gloomy predictions that were heard at the time, the first round of NATO enlargement did not build a new wall down the middle of Europe. It has built new structures, but these are bridges, not walls. It has provided incentives for countries to reform their political systems, strengthen their relationships with their neighbors, and bring their military forces under civilian control.

As we plan for the Prague summit, we should heed President Bush's call that we should "not calculate how little we can get away with, but how much we can do to advance the cause of freedom." All those countries that aspire to be members of NATO need to work seriously to meet the standards of membership, and the standards for membership should be kept high. But experience has shown that NATO enlargement has strengthened security and promoted stability throughout Europe. All countries have benefited from this process, including Russia. Further enlargement will also result in improving relations among NATO members and between members and non-members.

Today we have an historic opportunity to build a new relationship with Russia. Recently, the United States and Russia have engaged in a new dialogue that we hope will fashion a new strategic relationship -- one that puts Cold War animosities behind us, and that also contributes a new role of Russia in Europe.

We have made a conscious decision to move beyond a relationship with Russia centered on preserving the mutual threat of massive nuclear destruction to a relationship that is based instead on common security interests: a relationship that is normal among states that no longer regard themselves as deadly rivals. One expression of that is our common interest in fighting global terrorism. In moving toward a normal, healthy relationship, we have been able to set aside the fears of the past and plan for radical reductions in the legacy nuclear forces of the Cold War.

NATO as an alliance has a crucial role to play in integrating Russia into the framework of European security. As President Bush also said in Warsaw, "The Europe we are building must also be open to Russia...we look for the day when Russia is fully reformed, fully democratic and closely bound to the rest of Europe." In the Joint Statement issued after their November meeting in Crawford, President Bush and President Putin affirmed their determination to "work, together with NATO and other NATO members, to improve, strengthen, and enhance the relationship between NATO and Russia."

NATO has seized this opportunity by resolving to find ways for the Alliance and Russia to work together "at 20." It is important that we get started with practical, concrete forms of cooperation that build on NATO's and Russia's mutual security interests. It is also essential, as NATO and Russia work together where we can, that NATO retain its independent ability to decide and act on important security issues.

As NATO enlarges, and builds a new relationship with Russia, we must not forget that NATO is fundamentally a military alliance. And NATO's credibility and ability to prevent war depends critically on its military strength.

To ensure NATO can deal with surprise and uncertainty in the decades ahead, NATO must improve its structures and capabilities. A key objective for the Prague summit should be to launch a military transformation agenda.

A key component of that agenda should be to develop NATO's capacities in counterterrorism. Fighting terrorism, which has been so clearly linked to weapons of mass destruction, is part of NATO's basic job description: Collective Defense.

The Prague summit also provides an appropriate time to launch a reform of the Alliance command structure to make it leaner, more streamlined, more cost efficient, and, above all, more flexible.

These initiatives should be buttressed by an even more fundamental reform, one that would have profound implications for how the Alliance has done business over the last fifty years. During the Cold War, NATO sized and shaped its forces against specific geographic threats. The only Article V attack in NATO's history came from an unexpected source, in an unexpected form. What this tells us is that our old assumptions, our old plans, and our old capabilities are out-of-date. Article V threats can come from anywhere, in many forms.

Rather than trying to guess which enemy the Alliance will confront years from now, or where wars may occur, we should focus on what capabilities adversaries could use against us, on shoring up our own vulnerabilities, and on exploiting new capabilities to extend our own military advantages. This is the essence of a capabilities-based approach to defense planning.

We are in a new era, facing new risks, and we must have new capabilities. This should be our main objective as we approach the Prague summit.


At the heart of the NATO's success and its ability to continue to play such a crucial role in greatly changed circumstances is not only its military strength but the values that are at its core. What Ronald Reagan called "man's instinctive desire for freedom and self-determination" has brought about extraordinary and wonderful change over the last twenty years -- the end of the Cold War and of the tragic division of Europe, the demise of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, on both sides of the Cold War divide. Today, the desire for freedom is a powerful force in the war on terrorism.

The democracies of the world govern by the rule of law and the consent of the governed. The Taliban, like other tyrants, ruled by terror. It is not an accident that every state that sponsors terrorism also terrorizes its own people.

But that is a fundamental weakness of those regimes and a fundamental advantage for us in the fight against terrorism. People who are terrorized by their rulers can become our best allies pressuring those rulers to get out of the business of supporting terrorism. The desire for freedom and self- government is also what has held this Alliance together for more than half a century. As President Reagan said on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion: "We are bound today by what bound us [then] -- the same loyalties, traditions, beliefs. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes; and your destiny is our destiny."

That spirit is still alive and strong twenty years later. Just two weeks after September 11th, a German Navy destroyer, the Lutjens, asked for permission to come alongside the USS Winston Churchill. When Lutjens drew close enough, the U.S. sailors were moved to see an American flag flying at half- mast. As the Lutjens drew even closer, her entire crew could be seen manning the rails in their dress uniforms, displaying a sign that said, "We Stand By You." One young American Naval officer, calling it "the most powerful thing I have seen in my entire life," reported back home: "...there was not a dry eye on the bridge as they stayed alongside us for a few minutes and we cut our salutes...The German Navy did an incredible thing for this crew.....[T]o see the unity that is being demonstrated throughout Europe and the world makes us all feel proud to be out here doing our job."

As an alliance, we have never been stronger. We have never been more united. We have never been more resolved to move forward together. Let us make this journey with the promise of one ally's sailors to another: "we stand by you."

Thank you very much.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Text Source: Berlin Information Center to Transatlantic Security (BITS)

Image Source:

Page Updated: 1/15/21

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Uncertain. Image = Public domain.













































































































Top 100 American Speeches

Online Speech Bank

© Copyright 2001-Present. 
American Rhetoric.