The war on terror creates an entirely different kind of security environment. And a military that was designed for the mid-to-late 20th century must now become a force that is lighter, more adaptable, more agile, and more lethal in action.Well said, sir!
At the same time, we're keeping our eye on the fundamentals, and one of those is sea power. Naval operations are every bit as important, if not more so, than they were in the last century. Nothing takes the place of a convoy, able to enter any ocean, project great force from over the horizon, keep terrorists from disrupting the sea lanes or using them to transport operatives or weapons. Sea power allows the Commander-in-Chief to commit forces while retaining flexibility. With ships in place, we can fire precision strikes, launch sea-based rockets and missiles, deploy SEALS and Marine air-ground task forces by night or day, from close range or afar. Expeditionary Strike Groups are essential in the new security environment because they are so mobile and so adaptable. With ESGs, we have great offensive capability, wider operational reach, a maritime interdiction force without equal, and an even better intelligence-gathering network.
After we were attacked on 9/11, sea power provided the capability to go in and take down the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was vital as well in removing the dictator in Iraq, and we depend on sea power every day as we pursue the global war on terror.
This war is unlike any we've ever known. In the case of the terror network, we are not dealing with large armies we can track, or uniforms we can see, or men having territory of their own to defend. Instead, these enemies are hidden, diffuse, secretive in their movements, and asymmetrical in their tactics. They regard the entire world as a battlefield, and their goal is to plot, and plan, and strike wherever they can gain a foothold. They came into our country and murdered thousands of innocent, unsuspecting men, women, and children. They continue attempting to evade our strengths and to search for our weakness, in order to find ways to strike us again. And the greatest danger to civilization is the prospect of a terror network, on its own or with the help of an outlaw regime, acquiring chemical, nuclear or biological weapons -- and thereby gaining the power to kill hundreds of thousands, and to blackmail entire nations.
As long as these enemies threaten us, we'll have to wage the fight on many fronts. For us, this conflict began nearly five years ago. But for the terrorists, it's been going on for more than 20 years. For much of that time, they had the initiative, they were on the offensive. They carried out one attack after another -- on U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983; on the World Trade Center in New York in 1993; and the same year on American special forces in Somalia. They attacked American embassies in Africa in 1998; the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996; killed sailors on the USS Cole in 2000. Over time, the terrorists kept hitting America but America did not hit back hard enough. And then, finally, came the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Those attacks changed everything for our country. And America and the civilized world made a decision: Wherever terrorists operate, we will find them and bring them to justice. As long as it takes, we will stay on the offensive, and stay in the fight until the fight is won.
By taking the offensive, we've been able to avoid another gathering -- having another attack in -- such as 9/11. No one can guarantee that we won't be hit again, and the enemy is trying desperately to strike us. But the relative safety of the recent past is no accident. We've been safe because of the hard work every day, around the clock -- and men and women involved in law enforcement, in homeland security, and the especially in the United States military have done a superb job for all of us.
The central front of the war on terror is now Iraq. Having removed a dictator, our coalition is working with Iraqi leaders toward the same goal: a democratic country that can defend itself, that will not be a safe haven for terrorists, and that will be a model for freedom in a troubled part of the world. Our strategy in Iraq is clear and our tactics remain flexible. Iraq today has the most progressive constitution and the strongest democratic mandate in the entire Arab world. Despite threats from assassins and car-bombers, the Iraqis came forward by the millions to cast their votes and proclaim their rights as citizens of a free country. And Iraq now has a unity government committed to the future of freedom for all Iraqis. None of this progress has come easily, but there is no denying the hopeful signs, and we can look to the future with confidence. All of us live in a better world because Zarqawi is dead, Saddam Hussein is on trial, and Iraq is free. (Applause.)
Our coalition has also put great effort into standing up Iraqi Security Forces. And that work also is going well. At present more than a quarter of a million trained and equipped Iraqi forces are in the fight on behalf of the Iraqi people. As those forces gain strength and experience, and as the political process advances, we'll be able to bring down our troop levels. But the President will make that call. And he will do so based on the judgment of military commanders and conditions on the ground -- not according to artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.
We are going to keep at this mission until it is completed -- because we have given our word, and because freedom's victory in Iraq is vital to our own security. If the terrorists were to succeed, they would return Iraq to the rule of tyrants and make it a source once again of instability in the Middle East. And if that region remains a place of tyranny and resentment, we can expect more violence directed against the United States and other free countries. Yet if people are given a say in their own affairs, and the Middle East is allowed to grow in liberty and freedom, then tyrants and terrorists will lose their appeal. And if freedom and democracy take hold in that part of the world, we'll have a better chance for a future of security and peace.
Landing the Big One
Friday, July 07, 2006
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