By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
March 19, 2008 - Americans must be as committed to defeating the terrorist enemy as that enemy is to defeating the United States and all that for which the nation stands, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said today at the Navy League's Sea, Air, Space Expo here. The deputy secretary spoke before an overflow crowd at the Expo on the fifth anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He said the war on terror will be a long war more analogous to the Cold War than a war with a definite beginning and end. He cited similarities between the post-World War II world and today.
"Then, we were beginning to adjust and counter communism," the deputy secretary said. "Today, the nation is still beginning to adjust and counter international terrorism."
England told the attendees that he often has wondered why terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and killed 3,000 men, women and children from 60 countries.
"I concluded that the reason they killed 3,000 people that day was because they did not know how to kill 30,000, or they did not know how to kill 300,000, or they did not know how to kill 3 million," he said. "But they would have if they could have, and they are still trying."
The United States can't walk away from the war on terror, he said.
"There is no going back," he said. "This fight that was brought to our shores that day will require strong, steady and sustained leadership."
England called the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the first campaigns in the long war. The Cold War lasted for 40 years, and victory against the Soviet Union was a result of sustained commitment that transcended political party lines, he said.
"In those days, the nation's security wasn't about Democrats and Republicans, liberals or conservatives," the deputy secretary said. "It was about a nation committed to freedom and liberty, a nation that understood the challenge and a nation that was willing to drive to a shared goal of victory."
No one knows where the war on terror may lead, he said.
"Iraq and Afghanistan are today the front lines in the war on terror, but they will one day surrender that distinction to some as yet unknown challenge," he said.
The long war will be a sustained conflict. He told the mostly sea services audience that another certainty is that the coming years "will be ever more the era of naval forces."
England, who twice has served as Navy secretary, said the ability of naval forces to project power forward in a lethal and integrated way will be vitally important to U.S international interests.
"Being able to deploy quickly anywhere in the world at any time is exactly the force the nation needs today and in the future," he said. "Naval forces have another unique and critical attribute: naval forces are ideally suited to build partnership capacity and build friendship with nations."
The United States will not lose the war on terror on the battlefield, England said. "But America – and our friends and allies – can't win only on the battlefield either," he added. "Ultimately, what will win the war on terror – like the Cold War – are the choices people make: whether (they choose) the terrorists' path of violence or a far better path of peace freedom and development."