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Rumsfeld Remarks Fortune Magazine Global Forum

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

No. 576-02 (703)697-5131(media) IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 11, 2002 (703)428-0711(public/industry)


The following are as prepared remarks for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to the Fortune Magazine Global Forum and are embargoed until 7:15 p.m. EST today:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Richard Parsons, I thank you for those kind words of introduction.

Before turning to questions, I thought I would discuss some of the fundamental changes affecting the world's security landscape, and offer some thoughts as to how we might best defend ourselves in the new 21st Century security environment.

Today, for most countries, national security and economic security share the important characteristic that interlocking ties of mutual interest bind us together. No company, much less a nation, is truly isolated from others. While every nation is ultimately responsible for defending its own interests, most civilized nations today recognize that the most serious threats to our security affect many nations in similar ways, and that they are best deterred and defended against by working together.

That reality was certainly driven home by the attacks of September 11 -- and by the world's response. Citizens of more than 80 nations died that day. And citizens of every nation saw in an instant that the threat of terrorism is not confined by borders in either its origin or the targets of its deadly acts.

In the global war against terrorism, we have assembled the largest coalition in the history of the world. The scope of this alliance is breathtaking. Some 90 nations -- nearly half the countries on the face of the earth -- are participating. Never before have the interests of civilized nations more clearly overlapped. And never before have the nations of the world so effectively cooperated to defend them.

It is clear that our shared future is evolving international partnerships that reflect the evolving global perils.

National leaders can benefit from another lesson business leaders must know to survive: that the world is constantly changing.

We must change as well to survive. Many of the civilized world's most dangerous enemies have neither nations nor armies. They may employ weapons from suitcase bombs to biological agents. Some are terrorist states, others global terrorist organizations. The nexus between terrorist networks and terrorist regimes possessing, and developing and proliferating weapons of mass destruction is the critical new reality of this new century.

Our margin for error is small. Much different than in the 20th century, a single weapon of mass destruction obtained from a rogue regime and detonated by a terrorist network could, in an instant -- any instant -- unleash destruction that could kill tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

The one way to confront terrorists with weapons of mass destruction is to stop them before they attack.

Today is Veterans Day. On this Veterans Day, it is appropriate to consider: What lessons can we draw from military service?

A first lesson is that we honor the example of veterans when we do not shy from taking risks. A second is that we honor their service when we are thoughtful about the circumstances under which we send men and women in uniform into battle. And last, that we honor their service when we embrace a clear American ideal: that there are principles so central to our way of life that it is worth putting lives at risk to defend them.

Will all those who have served in the armed forces of any nation please stand? I'd like to say thank you to each of you for your service in the defense of freedom.

It is in the spirit of those lessons that I discuss an important question: - when and how we decide to use military force and what guidelines ought we to consider when doing so.

To begin, before our Nation commits military force, we ought to ask and answer several tough questions.

First, is the action necessary?

If lives are going to be put at risk, as they will be, whatever we do must be in our national interest. In short, if our forces and others are to be put at risk, there must be a darn good reason.

If we judge an action to be necessary, we must next ask: Is it doable?

When we commit force, the task must be achievable. It must be something we are capable of accomplishing. We need to recognize that there are limitations.

There should be clear, well considered and well understood goals that define the purpose of the engagement and an understanding of what would constitute success.

The military capabilities needed to achieve these goals must be available and cannot be committed or subject to call elsewhere before the engagement has been completed.

The command structure should be clear -- not a collective command structure in which a committee is needed to make decisions - the men and women at risk deserve clarity.

If there is to be a coalition to achieve the goal, as will almost always be the case, coalition partners should agree that they will do what might be needed to achieve the agreed-upon goals. We need to avoid trying so hard to persuade others to join a coalition that in doing so we compromise the goals or jeopardize the command structure.

If an action is necessary and doable, we must ask, finally: Is it worth it?

If an engagement is worth undertaking, the U.S. and coalition partners need to be willing to put lives at risk.

It is not enough for leaders to judge a mission worthwhile; public support is needed. If public support is weak at the outset, leaders must be willing to invest the time, effort and political capital to marshal support to sustain the effort for whatever period may be required. The risks should be acknowledged at the outset, rather than allowing our people to believe erroneously that an engagement can be undertaken antiseptically, on the cheap, with zero or few casualties.

Before committing, we should consider the implications of the decision in other parts of the world if we prevail, if we fail, and, equally important, if we decide not to act. Both action and inaction in one place is read around the world and contributes favorably or unfavorably to the deterrent. We need to ask if we are comfortable with the precedent or, if you will, the lesson a proposed action or inaction would establish.

If we answer these questions -- if the mission is necessary, doable and worthwhile -- we must next consider how it should be undertaken. I suggest these guidelines:

First, as President Bush recently said, "The war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action."

Second, we should not restrict our options.

In working to fashion a coalition or trying to persuade parliaments or our publics to support an action, leadership must not dumb down what is needed by promising not to do things - "not to use ground forces, not to bomb below 15,000 feet, not to risk lives." That simplifies the problem for the enemy and makes our task vastly more difficult.

Nor should political leadership set arbitrary deadlines as to when it will end or the enemy can simply wait us out. If it is worth doing, it is worth staying as long as it takes. If it is not, it may not be worth doing.

Third, military force should be but one component of our country's efforts -- the last choice, not the first.

Terrorists depend on a steady supply of money and the hospitality of nation-states. Therefore, our efforts must be multi-faceted - to include economic, intelligence and law enforcement, among others.

Finally, and most important, we must be brutally honest with ourselves, the public and with coalition partners. We should not make a task sound any easier or less costly than it could become. Promise no more than we can deliver. It is a truth that it is a great deal easier to get into something than it is to get out of it.

These guidelines are offered not as rules or a formula to encourage or to inhibit acting. Rather, they are offered merely as a checklist to consider, as we seek to assure that when and if we do engage, we do so with a full appreciation of our responsibilities, the risks and the opportunities, and that we do so decisively.

Decisions of this magnitude will almost always be based on incomplete and imperfect information and made under extreme pressure of time. While these guidelines do not provide clear answers, they may be helpful in framing what information is available.

To conclude, I offer these thoughts on this Veterans Day, because the legacy of the veterans of all nations is one of courageous risk. To keep pace with change in the 21st Century, that is a legacy we must embrace.

When the mission is the security and freedom of our people, those whose service we honor today have given us their answer.

Thank you. I look forward to your questions. [Web version:]


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