30 May 2004
U.S. Refocusing Military Strategy for War on Terror, Rumsfeld
Defense secretary speaks at military academy graduation
The U.S. military has re-structured its global posture since the
war on terror began in 2001, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
said May 29 during a commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy
in West Point, New York.
The new concepts guiding U.S. responsibilities in the world are
based in partnerships with allies, greater force flexibility, rapid
deployment capabilities and a cross-regional strategy, Rumsfeld
"This cause is an international one, important to all civilized
societies," Rumsfeld said. "Success depends on encouraging friends
and allies with whom we are so interdependent, to not be terrorized
by threats, or isolated by fears."
The graduating class of 2004 entered the academy in 2001 shortly
before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The cadets have undergone their training with the knowledge that
they will graduate to become U.S. military officers in the global
war on terror. Rumsfeld reminded the graduates of the seriousness
of the responsibilities before them.
"Today, civilized societies face adversaries unlike any we've
known. They seek no armistice; they have no territory to defend;
they have no public to answer to," Rumsfeld said. "They threaten
us through shadowy networks not easily weeded out. And they have
a powerful advantage: A terrorist needs to succeed only occasionally;
but as defenders, we need to be successful always."
The 935 graduates were commissioned as second lieutenants in the
U.S. Army upon their graduation from West Point, a institution
of military education for more than 200 years.
Following is the Defense Department transcript of the Rumsfeld
United States Department of Defense
United States Military Academy Commencement
Remarks as delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld,
Michie Stadium, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY,
Saturday, May 29, 2004.
Thank you, General Lennox; thank you very much.
Secretary Les Brownlee, Representative Kelly, Former Representative
Gilman, distinguished guests, Senator Tom Daschle - we're pleased
you are here, General Brooks, General Kaufman, faculty and staff.
We have seen the family and friends of the Class of 2004 recognized,
as we should. And I say greetings to that section as well.
And the Corps of Cadets, I guess they have you right up there
[CHEERS]. You're looking good.
And most especially "For Country and Corps, 2004." [CHEERS].
I thank you for this honor. It's a privilege to be here in the
shadows of some of the greatest leaders of our age, and to celebrate
today with the leaders who will follow in their footsteps and help
shape America's future.
Now, I know that every cadet has performed exceptionally well.
And I assume that none of you has received a demerit or a punishment
tour. But the Commander-in-Chief has nonetheless asked me to do
something that probably won't apply to any of you. But on the chance
that it might, I hereby grant each of you complete amnesty for
any minor conduct offenses.
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]
Graduates of the Class of 2004, you are among the select to finish
this intense program that is the Academy. I know you will carry
with you many memories -- of "Beast" Barracks. The "best summer
of your life" at Camp Buckner. [LAUGHTER] And possibly even walking
Today, that journey ends. And you have our admiration and our
respect. So ladies and gentlemen, please join me in hailing these
who soon will be the newest second lieutenants in the greatest
Army on the face of the Earth.
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE, STANDING OVATION FOR GRADUATES]
This is a very special day for your families as well. They come
from all across the fifty states and American Samoa, and I'm told
Cameroon, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Jordan, Kazakhstan,
the Philippines, and Taiwan. You know how important their support
has been. And most of all, you have benefited from their love,
their confidence, their reassurance. So God bless them all.
Many years ago, there was a West Point graduate from my home state
of Illinois. He marched on the same Plain as you, took similar
classes, and no doubt wondered about his future, as you may have
from time to time. He was not an exceptional student, I'm told.
Nor did he seem marked for greatness. Interestingly, his name was
incorrectly transcribed on his record.
That name was Ulysses S. Grant.
Somehow, history put Grant into a place, at a critical time, and
in a critical moment. I have no doubt that West Point instilled
in him those special qualities of leadership necessary to one day
help preserve our Union.
In the years ahead, history may well call upon you at a critical
time, in a critical moment -- and you will be ready.
Recently, a journalist visited West Point and became so impressed
that he stayed for several years. David Lipsky was amazed to find
a place in this country where students talked openly about the
importance of character, the love of country, and the need to make
sacrifices so that our nation could endure.
Interestingly, he found that West Point cadets were the happiest
of any college students he had studied. [LAUGHTER]. That may surprise
some of you. But he discovered something important - that there
is a relationship between personal fulfillment and "Duty, Honor,
Mr. Lipsky took the title of his book from something President
Theodore Roosevelt once said about the Academy. Roosevelt said, "Of
all the institutions in this country, none is more absolutely American;
none ... more ... democratic.... Here we care nothing for ... birthplace
... creed, nor ... social standing.... Here you come together as
representatives of America in a higher ... sense than can possibly
be true of any other institution ..."
It is these "absolutely American" values that have led West Point
graduates throughout history to distinguish themselves in the defense
of our nation.
I suspect that when you first arrived in July of 2000, you imagined
that your most challenging time as a professional Army officer
might involve activities like enforcing the peace in the Balkans.
But as we have seen, life is not predictable.
A few years ago, for example, a young man sat in one of your chairs.
He was probably dreaming about his upcoming graduation leave. Some
of you may remember K.C. Hughes, Class of 2001.
Well, fast-forward to Iraq, a year ago last Thursday. A pickup
truck charged one of his platoon's control points, firing AK-47s.
As his soldiers fired back, Hughes raced from a quarter mile away
and began evacuating six wounded. Other enemies arrived in a follow-on
Directing fire and helping to pull his troops to safety, he was
shot in his shoulder and back, yet he continued leading the counterattack.
He refused to be evacuated until his wounded were rescued. He made
it out, and was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor.
The civilized world will win the global war against terror because
of people like Lieutenant Hughes, and because of those of you here
What the terrorists do not see is that America -- our free society
-- needs and has multiple leadership centers from all sectors of
society. Enemies have tried many times to pull us apart. They will
I know you understand this, because every person in this stadium
has a personal connection to leadership -- and to leadership of
a nation at war.
Since you arrived here, our world has changed dramatically. That
change started on September 11th of your Yearling year, when terrorists
converted commercial airplanes into guided missiles, striking the
Twin Towers. I was in my office when a third plane hit the Pentagon.
A fourth went down in a Pennsylvania field, thanks to some brave
souls on board -- one of whom left us with that battle cry: "Let's
roll!" And that is exactly what our country did.
Our Commander-in-Chief moved rapidly to strengthen ties with new
friends and send forces abroad. As radicals and extremists attempted
to hijack a religion and send us their worst, America sent its
President Bush formed an 80-nation global coalition. In less than
three years, this coalition of civilized nations has overthrown
two vicious regimes, liberated 50 million people, disrupted terrorist
cells across the globe, and thwarted many terrorist attacks.
Yet despite those successes, the truth is, we are closer to the
beginning of this struggle -- this global insurgency -- than to
Today, civilized societies face adversaries unlike any we've known.
They seek no armistice; they have no territory to defend; they
have no public to answer to. They threaten us through shadowy networks
not easily weeded out. And they have a powerful advantage: A terrorist
needs to succeed only occasionally; but as defenders, we need to
be successful always.
Our task is further complicated by our openness, our trust --
indeed the very trust that makes us the most productive, free society
in the world -- but which also makes us uniquely vulnerable to
those who would try to take advantage of that trust and our freedoms.
It is impossible to defend against attacks in every place, at
every time, against every conceivable technique. So the only way
to prevail in this struggle is to root out the terrorists before
they develop still more powerful means to inflict damage on still
greater numbers of innocent people.
To confront this new challenge, our nation and its military have
had to adapt. Since the Cold War ended, we've been about the task
of refocusing our military to meet the new challenges of this 21st
Now that effort has taken on added urgency.
Your Army has been doing a truly outstanding job under the leadership
of Les Brownlee and Pete Schoomaker. It's adapting to deal with
asymmetrical threats, counter-terrorism, peacemaking, peacekeeping,
postwar reconstruction and stability operations, and new special
operations assignments. The mindset is expeditionary, emphasizing
a return to that "Warrior Ethos" - mission first, never accepting
defeat, and never leaving a fallen comrade.
Let me offer an example. Almost a hundred years ago, the Division
replaced the Corps as the basic unit of combined arms. Today, Army
leadership has concluded that technology can bring the needed capabilities
down to the Brigade-level, making deploying units more modular,
interchangeable, and adaptable.
We've also been rethinking our global posture. After the Cold
War, U.S. forces remained essentially where they were, in a static
defense posture, arranged to defend against a Soviet Empire that
no longer exists. Today, dangers come from enemies that are unpredictable,
who can strike around the globe with little or no warning. So we've
fashioned a set of concepts to help guide America's responsibilities
in this new world, working in close consultation with our allies
and with the Congress. You'll be hearing more about this in the
coming months. But let me set out some priorities:
-- Foremost is strengthening our partnerships with our existing
allies and working with new ones;
-- Developing greater flexibility to deal with the unexpected;
-- Focusing on more rapidly deployable capabilities, rather than
simply presence or mass;
-- And working within and across regions.
-- And I would add, having our forces where they are wanted.
Of special note to you is that this approach should translate
into somewhat fewer moves over a career, with less disruptions
to spouses and families. It's correctly said that we recruit Soldiers,
but we retain families. We are keeping that reality in mind.
In short, we will be keeping our existing commitments in this
still dangerous and untidy world, but we will better arrange them
for an era of the unexpected.
In Iraq, we are facing a "test of wills" -- with an enemy that
seeks to derail the Iraqi people's path to self-government. The
extremists know that the rise of a free, self-governing Iraq, at
peace with its neighbors, respectful of all religions, and committed
to representative government, would deal them a decisive blow.
They fear that one day the Middle East might shed itself of tyranny
and violence, and carve a new future that does not include them.
This cause is an international one, important to all civilized
societies. Success depends on encouraging friends and allies with
whom we are so interdependent, to not be terrorized by threats,
or isolated by fears.
As have the brave generations of the past, you, too, will face
the enemies of freedom. Because of who you are, and because of
what this Academy stands for, there is no doubt of your success.
And let me add a word about the young men and women you will have
the privilege to lead: "The American Soldier," Time magazine's
Person of the Year. They are the sons and daughters of America,
and some of the finest people you will ever meet. Take good care
of them. Lead them. Respect them.
Your love for Soldiers must be as unconditional as it is for your
own families. Use the skills you've learned here to bring out the
very best in them, including respect for others. And always fall
back on the moral clarity of the Honor Code that you've learned
here. In its spirit is the ultimate system of trust I spoke of
earlier - the roots of a civil society.
This afternoon, I will be attending the dedication of the World
War II Memorial in Washington. The heroes of that conflict went
overseas to defend freedom. They believed in freedom, and they
knew it was worth fighting for.
Today, the duty to defend freedom falls to you. It will take you
across the globe as well; and it will call upon you to live the
lessons that you've learned here at the Academy. I know that you
will answer that call with courage and the spirit that is America.
We are counting on you. Serve our nation well!
And in the years to come, I hope you will remember the love you
feel around you today from family and friends, from classmates
and teammates, from the faculty who supported you.
I speak to you on behalf of a President, and on behalf of a nation
that is deeply grateful to you -- for your service, for your dedication,
for your sacrifice.
"For Country and Corps, 2004," my congratulations. Our country's
future is in capable hands. God bless you; God bless your wonderful
families; and God bless the United States of America.