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"Dangerous and Frustrating" Time Ahead for America, Former CIA Director Predicts in Ubben Lecture

December 3, 2001

December 3, 2001, Greencastle, Ind. - Despite the American military's successes in overtaking the Taliban in Afghanistan, former CIA Director Robert M. Gates holds little hope for a quick end to the war on terrorism. Tonight, he told an audience in DePauw University's Kresge Auditorium, Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Dangerous and Frustrating" 889KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Dangerous and Frustrating" 525KB] "I believe the time ahead will be dangerous and frustrating. Frustrating because a clear cut victory over terrorism may be a long time coming... Frustrating because patience will be needed, and that has never been a particular strength of Americans," Gates said in his Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture, entitled "Terrorism: A New Face, A New World."

Dr. Gates (at right with DePauw President Robert G. Bottoms), who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George H. W. Bush and spent nearly twenty seven years as an intelligence professional, serving six presidents, further predicts that Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Sustaining Support" 434KB] "sustaining popular support at home will eventually prove difficult, especially as the cost and the inconvenience of the war grow, and especially as the months pass without another attack."

Gates talked more about that issue at an afternoon news conference at Watson Forum of the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media, telling reporters, Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Big Challenge" 1225KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Big Challenge" 628KB] "As the attacks are further behind us, and especially if there are no further attacks for some period to come, I think that getting people to remember why they're bearing that cost will be a challenge for our political leaders."

Gates says many, if not all government agencies have Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "LESSONS LEARNED" 901KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "LESSONS LEARNED" 552KB]  "political leaders in the White House and in the Congress in the 1990s, who neglected all of the elements of what we now call "homeland defense."

Dr. Gates began his day at DePauw by meeting with political science faculty and students over breakfast. He says in the post Cold War period, Americans, especially younger citizens, had lost sight of what it's like to face an enemy. Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Wake-up Call" 503KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Wake-up Call" 282KB] "September eleventh was a wake-up call that no generation can escape having to defend the country," Gates told reporters. "Just when you think all the problems of the world have been solved, you're reminded history isn't dead."

Gates says today's terrorists have a "new face." In the 1970's and 80's, he says terror organizations were sponsored by governments, which made tracking them easier. Modern day terrorists are independent, "free lancers" according to Gates, who are better armed than their predecessors, whose agenda is less likely to be political and who will not resist killing innocent civilians to make their point. Terrorists have been at war with America for at least 8 years, much longer than the battle the nation began waging a few months ago, Gates reminded his audience. He says this protracted and difficult campaign will require much more than military might. Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Necessaey Step" 953KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Necessary Step" 607KB] "In addition to our military .. and intelligence and law enforcement campaign, we also need a positive component to our strategy: a diplomatic, economic, political, humanitarian component that addresses some of the issues in the region that provide fertile recruitment grounds for these terrorist groups," Gates said. "You'll never stop the leaders, but maybe you can make it harder for them to recruit their armies."

With the U.S. turning back the Taliban, "the area in which (Osama) bin Laden can hide shrinks every day," Gates asserted. Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Tough Issue" 426KB] But the eventual end of the effort in Afghanistan "will bring a very tough issue to the fore for the administration: whether to turn its attention to other countries harboring terrorist groups, above all, Iraq." Gates says there is "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein's country, Syria and other nations are indeed supporting terrorism. He says, if America is determined to eliminate terror groups, the campaign would need to be expanded, but doing so would erase some of the international support the U.S. is enjoying now.

Gates (seen below with DePauw Director of Media Relations Ken Owen '82 at the news conference), also sees a potential obstacle on Capitol Hill, where the competing jurisdictions of congressional committees could interfere with the efforts of the nation's first Homeland Security Director, Tom Ridge. Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "HOMELAND HANGUP" 1031KB] "The number of departments and agencies that Ridge is going to have to coordinate probably is numbered in the scores, and they probably range across dozens of committees. The congressional leadership in both parties is probably going to have to sit back and say 'How do we help in this? How do we play a constructive, appropriate role for the Congress without our committees going at each other's throats' because their turf is being trampled on, inasmuch as these responsibilities don't fall into the neat packages that existed before. How do you reconcile the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committees, the intelligence committees, the judiciary committees and the energy committees when it comes to homeland defense of pipelines, refineries, chemical plants and so on? Because they all have some kind of a role in that," Gates said.

As violence rages in the Middle East, where today Israel launched strikes on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound, Gates offered this assessment of the leadership and the prospects for peace." Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Sharon & Arafat" 734KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Sharon & Arafat" 414KB] "It is hard for me to imagine Israel ever making peace with the Palestinians under Ariel Sharon... By the same token, I believe that it's equally difficult to imagine the Palestinians making peace under Arafat." Gates says the best America and its allies can hope for is a cease fire in the Middle East, not a brokered peace. He added, Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Arafat's Power" 840KB] "I think there's a real chance that Arafat can no longer control of the Palestinians. I think there is a generational gap in the West Bank and Gaza, and that the younger people are very sympathetic to Hamas, the terrorist group that has claimed responsibility, I guess, for at least some of the suicide bombings over the weekend, and I think that Arafat has probably feared that if he tried to crack down, he would probably lose control altogether. His primary objective is to maintain his position, not to solve the problem," Gates opined.

Despite his concerns about the toll the war on terrorism will take on America, its people and its resources, Robert Gates wrapped up his Ubben Lecture with some words of hope. Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Two Certainties" 500KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Two Certainties" 283KB] "America has taken a hard blow," he said. "There are probably others still to come. But amid so much uncertainty, two things are certain: as a people we will not be found wanting, and we will prevail."

Tonight's speech was covered by (among other outlets) Indianapolis stations WISH-TV and WRTV.

Endowed by Timothy and Sharon Ubben, both 1958 graduates of DePauw, the Ubben Lecture Series is designed to bring the world's top leaders, thinkers and creative minds to the Greencastle campus. See a list of all Ubben Lecturers by clicking here.

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