By General George William Casey, Jr.October 27, 2008
I must say, I'm not accustomed to getting awards or recognition from academic institutions. I think the last time was Student of the Month. [Laughter].
Aca,!Ac Chancellor Coombe,
Aca,!Ac Members of the Board of Trustees,
Aca,!Ac Dean Farer,
Aca,!Ac John and Pam Korbel, it was great to have the opportunity to meet you. I had the opportunity to share the dais with Madeleine Albright last Wednesday where she received the George Marshall Award from the Association of the United States Army.
Aca,!Ac Former Governor Bill Owens is here. Thank you for coming out.
Aca,!Ac And congratulations to the Hamiltons, to Fred and Jane, on your award.
I'd like to recognize a couple of my professors I think may be here tonight-and believe me, I'm as surprised as you are. [Laughter]. Karen Feste may be out there. And Arthur Gilbert. I don't know if Jonathan Adelman is here, but if he is, I'd like to recognize him. Also a group of friends and family: Thank you for coming to be here tonight. Special recognition of my mom and dad, Elaine and Ray Murphy,... And my wife, Sheila. [Applause].
Some of you may know, we spent a lot of time in Colorado, down in Colorado Springs, and I actually commuted up here from Colorado Springs when I went to Denver University. I started 30 years ago in January, so it's been quite a while. I actually thought at one time I was going to retire here in Colorado, but once you start having grandchildren on the East Coast, I was told I could do that if I wanted to, but alone. [Laughter]. But it is great to be back in Colorado.
I've been thinking about this for the last week or so. As I thought about it and I looked back over the 30 years I've come to realize how fortunate I was to have studied here, and to be able to say that as I was going through the experience of graduate school here at the Korbel School, I could not have told you that I would take and put to good use what I was learning there every day. In fact I had no idea that I'd use some of the things that I did.
I was an infantry captain, and I'd been in the Army about eight years. I'd spent all of my time in an infantry battalion. In a peacetime Army, spending all your time at that level gets really boring. I was looking for something else. In fact I was kind of at a point in my career when I said, "Surely there has to be more to life than this." So I applied to a program called foreign area officer. I was accepted and chosen for a fully funded graduate school program. I was to be a foreign area officer. My area of specialty was going to be Northeast Asia. As luck, would have it, the Korbel School just had a professor who returned from a year in Japan so I came up here and signed on.
It was fascinating for me because after spending all that time dealing with fairly mundane issues in an infantry battalion, I had to pour myself into my studies here and it was actually a great awakening point. This was very different for me because in college I had poured different kinds of things than my studies. [Laughter].
It took a little time for me, frankly, to come out of a hard-charging infantry battalion and try to get into the academic culture. I went to a couple of faculty meetings. After going to two, I marked those down as, "This is not how you make decisions." [Laughter]. I also was a little reluctant at first to speak up in class. I was sure people here knew more than I did. Although I had done the reading, which was a big enlightenment to me from college. [Laughter]. I do remember in one of my classes, and I can't remember if it was Karen Feste or Katherine Callahan where I finally, after about three seminars, raised my hand for the first time. She said, "Aha, the laconic Mr. Casey." [Laughter]. I asked my question and we went on. But ever since then I've been known to my wife as the laconic Mr. Casey. [Laughter].
As I said, I had no idea where I would wind up. I knew I would use some of my studies because I knew I was going to be a foreign area officer, but I had no idea. I was reading an article I saw in some of the papers that the Dean sent me. There was a student who just graduated from Denver University and said that she never in her wildest imagination thought she'd work for the government, one; and two, thought that she'd ever work on a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. She has done both.
I can assure you that I never dreamed that I would run elections in Bosnia, and in Iraq; and I never dreamed that I would command coalition forces for 32 months in a place as complicated and as complex as Iraq. As I look back at some of the classes that I took here, I remember a course taught by Arthur Gilbert, and it was How Wars Start. And when I went through that course I found it fascinating, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would wind up at a clandestine meeting with the Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav Army to find a way to turn off his air defenses in Montenegro so we could end the war before it started.
And I never thought that I would be teamed with Dick Holbrooke to go in and visit Slobodan MiloA...A!eviA,,aEUR! ten days before the NATO ultimatum ran out to give him one last chance to end the war. I was always The General, and it came to the point they said, "If you don't do this, General Casey's guys will get you." [Laughter].
I do remember something from that class, and Arthur I hope you'll feel proud about this, but I took away one of the things Arthur said which was, "Nations fight when they disagree on their relative strength."
I took several courses on the Soviet Union from Jonathan Adelman. Secretary of State Rice and I, both in Baghdad and in the situation room in Washington, have talked about our experiences here with Jonathan Adelman. Six months after I left here, after studying the Soviet Union, I was on the Suez Canal with just myself and three Russian officers, discussing the merits of communism versus capitalism. Twenty years later, I was on a team that negotiated with the Russians the Russian presence in the Kosovo mission at the end of the Kosovo War.
Another Arthur Gilbert course came to bear, a course called How Wars End. You had to take that after the first one to find out how to end it. [Laughter]. I never dreamed I'd be on a team with Strobe Talbot and President Ahtisaari of Finland, who has just won the Nobel Prize, negotiating the end of the Kosovo War with Viktor Chernomyrdin and Strobe Talbot and Ahtisaari. They used to have what they called the fourth chair. They would sit at the table and there would be a fourth chair, and that was for MiloA...A!eviA,,aEUR! because everyone knew that once the Russians agreed to the deal, they would sell it to MiloA...A!eviA,,aEUR!, which is exactly what happened.
I also did courses in international economics and international security policy and international politics in general. And never did I dream I would wind up teaching three Prime Ministers of Iraq how to set up the security infrastructure of their country.
I was 30 years old when I came here. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since that time. When I was here, I felt like I was surrounded by people who were passionately committed to expanding their knowledge about what was going on in the world, and they were committed to passing that passion on to others. They passed that passion on to me.
So as I look back, I frankly feel like I took more from here than I've given back, but I look forward to giving back more in the future. So I'm honored to thank you for this award tonight. I very much appreciate that.
I'd like to shift gears just a second and talk a little bit about my role as the Chief of Staff of the Army. A lot of people see a four star general and they assume you just go around and tell everybody to do what they need to do. I serve a well defined role and I do not have an operational role. My job is to prepare Army forces for combat and to provide them to the combatant commanders to do what the combatant commanders need them to do. So I recruit them. Train them. Educate them. Equip them. And send them out the door.
I do have a strategic role as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to provide the best military advice to the President and the Secretary of Defense on a range of issues.
So as the Chief of Staff of the Army one of the things that I have to do is look to the future. We're responsible for ensuring that the nation is not surprised, much as we were on September 11th. We did not have the Army the nation needed for the 21st century on September 11th. It's taken us a number of years to build the Army that the country needed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will tell you that we have very much succeeded in that but it has been a tough challenge.
As we look to the future we do so with a view that you never get it quite right. As Yogi Berra said, "Predictions are hard, especially when you're talking about the future." [Laughter]. So we work hard at this.
As I look to the future I see a couple of things. First of all, it may not seem like it to you, but we are at war with a global extremist network and they are out to destroy our way of life. And they're not going to quit and they're not going to give up easily. We've been at war for seven years and our forces, as good as they are, are feeling the stress of seven years of combat. And as we look at what's going on right now, and I can only say that what's going on in the financial world can only complicate a very difficult situation, here's what I see for global trends. They will more likely exacerbate rather than ameliorate the challenges that we face here in the coming years. Trends like globalization. There's no question that globalization is providing prosperity in many parts of the world. That's a good thing. But the prosperity is very unevenly distributed. If you look at places like South America, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, you can see societies have not been evenly developed around the world. And, there are estimates that in the next decade over 2.5 billion people around the world will live in poverty.
Technology is a double-edged sword also. The same technology that's being used to bring knowledge to anyone with a computer and hookup, is also being used by terrorists to export terror around the globe.
Demographics are going in the wrong direction. The populations of some of the developing countries like Pakistan, for example, are expected to double in the next ten years grossly complicating the management problems for the governments. I'm leaving here tonight for India--the Middle Class of India exceeds the population of the United States. That's a lot of two-car families. You can imagine what that does to the competition for resources.
The two things that worry me most. Save havens, where indigenous governments can't or won't deny their territory to terrorists; and weapons of mass destruction. We know that there are about 1200 terrorist organizations around the world and they're seeking weapons of mass destruction. There's no doubt in my mind when they get one, they will attempt to use it against a developed country. So as we look at what's going on now and where the trends are taking us, it leads me to believe that we are in for a decade or so of what I call persistent conflict. Persistent conflict being a period of protracted confrontation among state, non-state and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to achieve their political and ideological objectives. That's what I think we're dealing with and that's what we're preparing ourselves for.
Now as Chief of Staff of the Army it's not enough to say okay, that's the environment. I have to look at the character of conflicts. What's war going to look like in the 21st century' I will tell you, I believe it's going to look a lot different than it has in the 38 years I've been in the service. We prepared ourselves to fight fixed battles on the plains of Europe against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. That's not the operational environment that we see coming at us.
When I look to the future operating environment I don't necessarily look to Iraq and Afghanistan. Those are fairly well known. I look at Lebanon in the summer of 2006 when about 3,000 Hezbollah operatives employed a variety of means to hold off about 30,000 well-armed, well equipped Israeli forces. How did they do it'
First of all, Hezbollah is a non-state actor. They were operating inside another state, Lebanon; fighting yet another state, Israel; supported by a third state, Iran. They started the war with about 13,000 rockets. And not just the small rockets they shoot at our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, but major rockets they shot at the Israeli population centers. They embedded themselves in the population north of the Israeli border. They used improvised explosive devices to channelize the Israeli forces and to kill with modern anti-tank guided missiles that they got from the Iranians. They shot down an Israeli helicopter with a modern surface-to-air missile. They hit an Israeli ship in the Mediterranean Sea with a modern cruise missile. They used unmanned aerial vehicles to find these Israeli forces and attack them. They used encrypted cell phones and encrypted computers for command and control. And, oh by the way, they got their message out on the local media.
That's the type of actors that we're going to be operating against here in the 21st century. It's a far more complex environment than a fixed enemy and we have to prepare ourselves and prepare our leaders to deal with those challenges. And as we look at the complexities of this 21st century warfare, it is clear to us that leadership is the key. We not only have to grow military leaders who are supremely confident in their military capabilities, but they're also broad enough to deal with all of the elements of hard and soft power, because that's what it's going to take to win. And graduate experiences like the Korbel School are exactly the kinds of things that we're looking for for our military officers, to broaden them so they can deal with the complexities of these environments.
I also get a lot of questions about how is the Army doing' Can the Army lead us in this environment' You hear about the Army being broken and the Army being hollow. It's just not true. This is the most resilient, professional combat seasoned force that I've been associated with in 38 years of service. And our people are the key. You can be very, very proud of the men and women of the American armed forces and what they're doing for this country today.
I'd like to share a story with you about one of those soldiers. His name is Sergeant Scott Ruske. He was a member of the 101st Airborne Division. He and his fellow soldiers were out on a patrol in a very rugged area of Afghanistan. They were attacked by Taliban with a heavy concentration of rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine gun and rifle fire. They were cut off from their vehicles, and his unit was exposed and isolated.
He took charge and returned fire so that his men could move to cover. As he was doing this, he was shot in the hip. He didn't know it, but he was shot in the hip. He was so focused on the battle.
As the battle went on he looked down and he saw two Afghani policemen trying to get away from the fire of the Taliban. One was wounded, lying face down. He could look down and he could see the dirt kicking up about six inches from the policeman's head. Without regard for his own safety, he directed covering fire and ran into the kill zone, grabbed the Afghani policeman. It was a distance of about 100 yards out and 100 yards back under fire. Dragged the Afghani policeman behind a wall and saved his life. For that selfless act he was awarded the nation's third highest award for valor, the Silver Star. He is one of only four Army Reserve soldiers who has received that award. He's with us tonight. I'd ask him to stand up. He's from Denver- He's a local resident.
In this war, since September 11th there have been 11,000 Americans recognized for valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let me just close and wrap this up here by saying that about a month ago we celebrated the 7th Anniversary of September 11th by opening the Pentagon Memorial to those killed there on that day. It's a very moving memorial. Every individual has a bench. Every individual's name is on the bench in a way where if you're standing and reading the name and you look up, you see sky if that person was on the airplane. And if you're standing and reading the name and you're looking at the Pentagon, that person was killed in the Pentagon. There are 184 benches. They're arrayed in age lines, the youngest being three years old; the oldest being 71 years old. As I sat there, as the President dedicated the memorial, I thought to myself how much our lives have changed since that day.
And then last week was the 7th Anniversary of Operation Enduring Freedom where the U.S. and allied forces responded to those attacks by cleaning out the safe havens in Afghanistan. That day began another long chapter in our history of defending freedom. It's a freedom that as Joseph Korbel said in 1964, that "knows no national barriers. It scatters and deepens in all directions. An understanding of the changing face of freedom unveils the secret of progress and to peace." It's a freedom that should not be taken for granted. As Madeleine Albright reminded us last week as she related a fundamental lesson her parents had passed on to her. That is "the honor and value of liberty, and you never take for granted the blessings that come with living in this world's greatest democracy."
Freedom isn't free. It only comes when diplomats and educators like Joseph Korbel and Madeleine Albright keep those values and ideals alive. And soldiers like Scott Ruske hold them so dear that they're willing to die for them. That combination makes this country what it is today, the greatest nation on earth. It's what makes institutions like the Korbel School so valuable for our future.
So I'm honored tonight to be recognized and I thank you for the great gift I received here, and I thank you for this award. Thank you very much.