U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has compared the war on terror to the Cold War, telling an audience in the midwestern United States that the country will need the same level of perseverance and help from allies, and a long period of time, in order to win.
Speaking at a library dedicated to the memory of President Harry Truman, Secretary Rumsfeld said the late president who led the United States through the early years of the Cold War in the late 1940s and early 50s, demonstrated the same kind of strength and dedication that the country needs today.
"The task of free people was to hold firm, to defend ourselves over many long decades, and trust that the truth would eventually win out," said Donald Rumsfeld. "That, I would submit, is our task today in the global war on terror, the struggle against violent extremists."
Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged that there are significant differences between the Cold War and the war on terrorism, but he said there are enough similarities to provide useful lessons.
"Both required our nation to gird for a long, sustained struggle, punctuated by periods of military conflict," he said. "Both required the use of all elements of national power to defeat the enemy. Both required a transition from arrangements that were successful in the previous war to arrangements that were much better suited for this new and different era. And above all, both required perseverance by the American people and by their leadership to be sure."
The secretary also said both conflicts were "fundamentally ideological," with an enemy that was relatively ill-defined, compared to a traditional war. He said both conflicts also required the United States to help build capability among friendly countries, and that today that includes Afghanistan and Iraq.
Secretary Rumsfeld said new institutions will be needed to use modern technology to engage in the public relations parts of the current war, just as U.S. international radio broadcasts reached out to reformers in communist countries during the Cold War. And he expressed support for plans to expand U.S. broadcasts to Iran.
"In many ways, many critical battles in the war on terror will be fought in the newsrooms and the editorial board rooms," continued Donald Rumsfeld. "Unlike the Cold War, this is an era of far more rapid communications, with the Internet, and bloggers, and chat rooms, and 24-hour news channels and satellite radio. Just as millions who were trapped in Eastern Europe during the Cold War were given hope by messages that filtered in from the West, similarly, I believe there are reformers in the Middle East who have been silenced and intimidated, and who want their countries to be free."
The secretary also noted that victory in the Cold War was not inevitable, and that President Truman and his successors had many critics for their policies, just as President Bush has today.
"It should be noted that few, if any, of his foreign policy initiatives won universal acclaim here at home or abroad for that matter," he said. "President Truman and his successors in both political parties had the courage, however, to hold firm, understanding the necessity of helping other nations become democratic allies for the long struggle ahead."
Secretary Rumsfeld said there was no clear idea when the Cold War would end, just as there is no clear idea today of when the war on terrorism will end. But he said it will last "a good many years" and will require "patience and courage," just as President Truman correctly predicted the Cold War would.