President George W. Bush
Last Saturday in my “Week in Review” column, I noted that the
most important speech President Bush had given over the prior
week was not his television address to the nation on Homeland
Security, but rather his commencement speech at West Point on
June 1st. In the past few days, everyone seems to have picked up
on this, including the lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal on
So, this is a good spot to reprint it, *minus the President’s
introductory remarks. This is the future, at least some of us who
desire a more aggressive stance against terrorism hope it is.
President George W. Bush
Every West Point class is commissioned to the Armed Forces.
Some West Point classes are also commissioned by history, to
take part in a great new calling for their country. Speaking here
to the class of 1942 – six months after Pearl Harbor – General
Marshall said, “We’re determined that before the sun sets on this
terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the
world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand, and of
overwhelming power on the other.”
Officers graduating that year helped fulfill that mission,
defeating Japan and Germany, and then reconstructing those
nations as allies. West Point graduates of the 1940s saw the rise
of a deadly new challenge – the challenge of imperial
communism – and opposed it from Korea to Berlin, to Vietnam,
and in the Cold War, from beginning to end. And as the sun set
on their struggle, many of those West Point officers lived to see a
History has also issued its call to your generation. In your last
year, America was attacked by a ruthless and resourceful enemy.
You graduate from this Academy in a time of war, taking your
place in an American military that is powerful and is honorable.
Our war on terror is only begun, but in Afghanistan it was begun
I am proud of the men and women who fought on my orders.
America is profoundly grateful for all who serve the cause of
freedom, and for all who have given their lives in its defense.
This nation respects and trusts our military, and we are confident
in your victories to come.
This war will take many turns we cannot predict. Yet I am
certain of this: Wherever we carry it, the American flag will
stand not only for our power, but for freedom. Our nation’s
cause has always been larger than our nation’s defense. We
fight, as we always fight, for a just peace – a peace that favors
human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from
terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building
good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the
peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.
Building this just peace is America’s opportunity, and America’s
duty. From this day forward, it is your challenge, as well, and
we will meet this challenge together. You will wear the uniform
of a great and unique country. America has no empire to extend
or utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish for
ourselves – safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the
hope for a better life.
In defending the peace, we face a threat with no precedent.
Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial
capabilities to endanger the American people and our nation.
The attacks of September the 11th required a few hundred
thousand dollars in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded
men. All of the chaos and suffering they caused came at much
less than the cost of a single tank. The dangers have not passed.
This government and the American people are on watch, we are
ready, because we know the terrorists have more money and
more men and more plans.
The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of
radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and
biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile
technology – when that occurs, even weak states and small
groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations.
Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been
caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability
to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends – and we
will oppose them with all our power.
For much of the last century, America’s defense relied on the
Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some
cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require
new thinking. Deterrence – the promise of massive retaliation
against nations – means nothing against shadowy terrorist
networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is
not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass
destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly
provide them to terrorist allies.
We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the
best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who
solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systematically
break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will
have waited too long.
Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger
security, and they’re essential priorities for America. Yet 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. And this nation will act.
Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats
hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will
require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so
they’re prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our
security will require transforming the military you will lead – a
military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any
dark corner of the world. And our security will require all
Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for
preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to
defend our lives.
The work ahead is difficult. The choices we will face are
complex. We must uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries,
using every tool of finance, intelligence and law enforcement.
Along with our friends and allies, we must oppose proliferation
and confront regimes that sponsor terror, as each case requires.
Some nations need military training to fight terror, and we’ll
provide it. Other nations oppose terror, but tolerate the hatred
that leads to terror – and that must change. We will send
diplomats where they are needed, and we will send you, our
soldiers, where you’re needed.
All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price.
We will not leave the safety of America and the peace of the
planet at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants. We will
lift this dark threat from our country and from the world.
Because the war on terror will require resolve and patience, it
will also require firm moral purpose. In this way our struggle is
similar to the Cold War. Now, as then, our enemies are
totalitarians, holding a creed of power with no place for human
dignity. Now, as then, they seek to impose a joyless conformity,
to control every life and all of life.
America confronted imperial communism in many different
ways – diplomatic, economic, and military. Yet moral clarity
was essential to our victory in the Cold War. When leaders like
John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan refused to gloss over the
brutality of tyrants, they gave hope to prisoners and dissidents
and exiles, and rallied free nations to a great cause.
Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak
the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different
circumstances require different methods, but not different
moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every
time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder
is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is
always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality
between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty.
We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will
call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes,
we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will
lead the world in opposing it.
As we defend the peace, we also have an historic opportunity to
preserve the peace. We have our best chance since the rise of the
nation state in the 17th century to build a world where the great
powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war. The history
of the last century, in particular, was dominated by a series of
destructive national rivalries that left battlefields and graveyards
across the Earth. Germany fought France, the Axis fought the
Allies, and then the East fought the West, in proxy wars and
tense standoffs, against a backdrop of nuclear Armageddon.
Competition between great nations is inevitable, but armed
conflict in our world is not. More and more, civilized nations
find ourselves on the same side – united by common dangers of
terrorist violence and chaos. America has, and intends to keep,
military strengths beyond challenge – thereby, making the
destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting
rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.
Today the great powers are also increasingly united by common
values, instead of divided by conflicting ideologies. The United
States, Japan and our Pacific friends, and now all of Europe,
share a deep commitment to human freedom, embodied in strong
alliances such as NATO. And the tide of liberty is rising in
many other nations.
Generations of West Point officers planned and practiced for
battles with Soviet Russia. I’ve just returned from a new Russia,
now a country reaching toward democracy, and our partner in the
war against terror. Even in China, leaders are discovering that
economic freedom is the only lasting source of national wealth.
In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the
only true source of national greatness.
When the great powers share common values, we are better able
to confront serious regional conflicts together, better able to
cooperate in preventing the spread of violence or economic
chaos. In the past, great power rivals took sides in difficult
regional problems, making divisions deeper and more
complicated. Today, from the Middle East to South Asia, we are
gathering broad international coalitions to increase the pressure
for peace. We must build strong and great power relations when
times are good; to help manage crisis when times are bad.
America needs partners to preserve the peace, and we will work
with every nation that shares this noble goal.
And finally, America stands for more than the absence of war.
We have a great opportunity to extend a just peace, by replacing
poverty, repression, and resentment around the world with hope
of a better day. Through most of history, poverty was persistent,
inescapable, and almost universal. In the last few decades, we’ve
seen nations from Chile to South Korea build modern economies
and freer societies, lifting millions of people out of despair and
want. And there’s no mystery to this achievement.
The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human
progress, based on non-negotiable demands of human dignity,
the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for
women and private property and free speech and equal justice
and religious tolerance. America cannot impose this vision – yet
we can support and reward governments that make the right
choices for their own people. In our development aid, in our
diplomatic efforts, in our international broadcasting, and in our
educational assistance, the United States will promote
moderation and tolerance and human rights. And we will defend
the peace that makes all progress possible.
When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and
women, there is no clash of civilizations. The requirements of
freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire
Islamic world. The peoples of the Islamic nations want and
deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every
nation. And their governments should listen to their hopes.
A truly strong nation will permit legal avenues of dissent for all
groups that pursue their aspirations without violence. An
advancing nation will pursue economic reform, to unleash the
great entrepreneurial energy of its people. A thriving nation will
respect the rights of women, because no society can prosper
while denying opportunity to half its citizens. Mothers and
fathers and children across the Islamic world, and all the world,
share the same fears and aspirations. In poverty, they struggle.
In tyranny, they suffer. And as we saw in Afghanistan, in
liberation they celebrate.
America has a greater objective than controlling threats and
containing resentment. We will work for a just and peaceful
world beyond the war on terror.
The bicentennial class of West Point now enters this drama.
With all in the United States Army, you will stand between your
fellow citizens and grave danger. You will help establish a peace
that allows millions around the world to live in liberty and to
grow in prosperity. You will face times of calm, and times of
crisis. And every test will find you prepared -–because you''re
the men and women of West Point. You leave here marked by
the character of this Academy, carrying with you the highest
ideals of our nation.
Toward the end of his life, Dwight Eisenhower recalled the first
day he stood on the plain at West Point. “The feeling came over
me,” he said, “that the expression ‘the United States of America’
would now and henceforth mean something different than it had
ever before. From here on, it would be the nation I would be
serving, not myself.”
Today, your last day at West Point, you begin a life of service in
a career unlike any other. You’ve answered a calling to hardship
and purpose, to risk and honor. At the end of every day you will
know that you have faithfully done your duty. May you always
bring to that duty the high standards of this great American
institution. May you always be worthy of the long gray line that
stretches two centuries behind you.
As you read the above, you can’t help but think about the U.S.
relationship with Saudi Arabia. The President is laying out a set
of rules we expect the civilized world to abide by. Saudi Arabia
does not currently follow any of them.
Hott Spotts will return next week. I may get back to Turkey, as I
had noted last week.