Rumsfeld sees Iraq effort as an international cause

Posted in United States | 31-May-04 | Author: Marc Santora| Source: The New York Times

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed autographs, including some for possible future cadets, after his commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Mr. Rumsfeld told the graduating class America┬┤s cause in Iraq was "an international one."
WEST POINT, New York Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has told graduates at the U.S. Military Academy that for the United States to prevail in Iraq and the wider campaign against terrorism, it must persuade other nations to join in the struggle. "This cause is an international one," Rumsfeld said. "Its success depends on convincing friends and allies with whom we are so interdependent to not be terrorized by threats or isolated by fears."

Concerning the conflict in Iraq, he said, "We are facing a test of wills, with an enemy that seeks to derail the Iraqi people's path to self-governance."

Rumsfeld's speech on Saturday struck a decidedly less confrontational tone than President George W. Bush's own talk at West Point two years ago. Bush said then, "We must take the battle to the enemy." That speech, after American forces had become engaged in Afghanistan but before the war in Iraq, set forth the Bush doctrine of pre-emption for the first time.

In Rumsfeld's speech, which drew polite applause, the secretary outlined a series of priorities for the American military to adapt to "an era of the unexpected."

First, he said, it needs to strengthen partnerships around the world. He also said that the United States should only have forces "where they are wanted."

John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic challenger to Bush, has been harshly critical of what he says is a failure by the Bush administration to gain international support in Iraq. Rumsfeld said he planned in the coming months to elaborate on the themes he laid out Saturday.

The international landscape has been vastly transformed in the four years since the 945 cadets who graduated on Saturday first entered West Point, the oldest U.S. military institution. They started here, for example, before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on New York City and the Pentagon. "I suspect that when you first arrived in July 2000, you imagined that your most challenging times as an army officer might involve activities like enforcing peace in the Balkans," he said. "But, as we have seen, life is not predictable."

The speech made no mention of the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. After the ceremony, Rumsfeld stayed at West Point for about 40 minutes, shaking hands and greeting well-wishers.