Vice President's Remarks to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue
9:35 A.M. (Local)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, and thank you for the warm welcome, and for letting me spend some time with you today. It's good to be here. I started out this trip in Washington on Monday, been in Tokyo since then, and stopped in Guam, as well, before arriving here late last night. It was a short night, but I'm delighted to begin the day in such fine company.
This is a wonderful country, and Sydney is one of the world's great cities. I've been fortunate to visit many times over the years, and I've been looking forward especially to this return visit. I'm especially pleased to be able to have the opportunity to spend some time with an old friend, your Prime Minister, John Howard.
I always recall -- looking down out of the hotel on Sydney Harbor this morning -- the events 15 years ago when we marked the 50th anniversary of the Coral Sea Battle, and I came down as Secretary of Defense and brought an aircraft carrier battle group with me. The Independence was docked here in the harbor for some time. As I recall, we sent the various ships with the Independence, married them up with Australian vessels and then visited ports all around the continent. The sailors had a very good time. (Laughter.) They still reminisce about it.
I'm delighted to see my old friend Kim Beazley here this morning, as well, too. We shared some time together as defense secretaries in years past.
Let me thank Ambassador Robert McCallum for his introduction. As Robert noted, I did serve in the U.S. Congress from Wyoming. I was elected six times. I always like to tell the story about that last campaign, you know after you've served 10 years, you're running the sixth time for office, you've been on television, name has been in the newspapers, you assume everybody knows who you are, but you never wanted to take a vote for granted. And my last campaign, I always remember walking down the street in a small town, wanting to shake all the hands of the folks there. I walk up to one old cowboy with a cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes, and reached out and grabbed him by the hand, said, hi, I'm Dick Cheney. I'm running for Congress. I'd like your vote.
He said, you got it; that fool we got in there now is no damn good. (Laughter.)
I understand that here in Australia, you also have a place called Wyoming a little north of here, and I'll bet they know how to keep their politicians humble, too.
Your country and mine are filled with people who speak plainly and honestly. And surely that's one of the reasons we're natural friends. When Americans think of Australia, we think of a place with a pioneering spirit much like our own. We think of a country that shares our founding commitments to liberty and to equality, and to our traditions of justice and tolerance. We think, above all, of the character of the Australian people -- self-reliant, practical, and good-hearted. President Ronald Reagan stated the case very well. He said, Australia and America "see the world from similar perspectives, though no two countries could be more opposite on the ends of the globe... we were born in the same era, sprang from the same stock, and live for the same ideals. Australia and America share an affinity that reaches to our souls."
Over time, that deep affinity has grown into a great alliance. Together we've confronted common dangers. We've given generously to the relief of suffering from famine, disease, and natural disaster. We've defended democratic ideals; worked for regional stability and security; and added to the prosperity for both our countries. Yet the United States and Australia do not take each other for granted.
This alliance is strong because we want it to be, and because we work at it, and because we respect each other as equals. That's the spirit of the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue -- and I thank the men and women of this organization for your tremendous contributions to the good of our alliance.
In this year 2007, our two countries are enjoying wealth and prosperity on an unprecedented scale. This did not come about by chance. It results from the energy and effort of millions -- and from common sense, pro-growth policies on the parts of our governments. By rewarding enterprise and encouraging risk-takers, we have turned loose the productive genius of our peoples. And they have responded with new inventions, more small businesses, and many new jobs. Americans and Australians believe in free enterprise because we have seen its good effect on our own countries, and on our own lives. And we've shown a watching world that the best way to ensure long-term prosperity is to preserve individual freedom.
Our two countries provide another kind of example, as well. In the words of Prime Minister Howard, we have "demonstrated to the world that values based on freedom and individual liberty in the end win acceptance. But they only win acceptance if behind the commitment is a determination . . . to defend those values, if necessary fight for them, and always to be ready to repel those who would seek to take those freedoms away."
John Howard spoke those words on September 10th, 2001, on a visit to the city of Washington. He stuck to those words one day later -- and he has stuck to them every day since. Prime Minister Howard and the nation he serves have never wavered in the war on terror. The United States appreciates it -- and the whole world respects you for it.
The business of our alliance goes forward, and it begins with the fundamental duty to protect our people from danger. Having stood together in every major conflict of the last 100 years, the U.S. and Australia now stand together in the decisive struggle against terrorism.
We've learned many lessons since September 11th, 2001. We have learned that threats can gather across oceans and continents and find us at home. The notion that free countries can turn our backs on what happens in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other possible safe haven for terrorists is an option that we simply cannot indulge.
The evil that appeared on 9/11 has returned many times since. And we have learned that terrorist attacks -- whether in New York, or London, or Madrid, or Casablanca, or Jakarta, or Bali -- are not merely criminal acts by tiny bands of men. Instead, they represent a movement that is global in scope, that formed over a period of decades, and that is determined to sow chaos and destruction within civilized countries.
We have learned the nature of the enemy's beliefs, and the extent of his ambitions. The terrorists have adopted the pretense of an aggrieved party, claiming to speak for the powerless against modern imperialists. The fact is they're at war with practically every liberal ideal -- and in their vision, everyone would be powerless except them. Their ideology rejects tolerance and denies freedom of conscience. They would condemn women to servitude, gays to death, minority religions to persecution. An ideology so violent, so hateful, can take hold only by force or intimidation, and so those who refuse to bow to the tyrants face brutalization or murder -- and no person or group, not even fellow Muslims, is exempt.
And it is they, the terrorists, who have ambitions of empire. Their goal in the broader Middle East is to seize control of a country, so they have a base from which they can launch attacks against governments that refuse to meet their demands. Their ultimate aim -- and one they boldly proclaim -- is to establish a caliphate covering a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia. And it wouldn't stop there.
Their creed is narrow and backward-looking -- yet their methods are modern and sophisticated. The terrorists use the Internet to spread propaganda and to find new recruits, and they're employing every other tool of communication and finance to carry out their plans. They have proclaimed, as well, the goal of arming themselves with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. So armed, they would attempt to impose their will by mass murder and blackmail -- and no argument, no principle of moral law, and no appeal to reason or mercy could be expected to stop them.
Nor, indeed, does self-preservation even concern them. The terrorists value death in the same way you and I value life. Civilized, decent societies will never fully understand the kind of mind set that drives men to strap on bombs, or fly airplanes into buildings -- all for the purpose of killing unsuspecting men, women, and children who they have never met, and who have done them no wrong. But that is the very kind of blind, prideful hatred we're up against.
As Prime Minister Tony Blair has pointed out, these enemies believe they have two paramount strategic advantages: terror and time. They believe we lack the resolve and the courage for a long struggle. And they are absolutely convinced that with enough acts of horror, they can wear us down, force us to change our policies, and get us to abandon our interests in the world. Because free societies are open and tolerant, because we respect every life and mourn every loss, the terrorists have concluded that we are decadent in spirit, weak in character, and conquerable.
We've never had a fight like this, and it's not a fight we can win using the strategies from other wars. An enemy that operates in the shadows, and views the entire world as a battlefield, is not one that can be contained or deterred. An enemy with fantasies of martyrdom is not going to sit down at a table for peaceful negotiations. The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive -- face the threat directly, patiently, and systematically, until the enemy is destroyed. (Applause.)
The war on terror is more than a contest of arms, and more than a test of will. It is a battle of ideas. We now know to a certainty that when people across the Middle East are denied all freedom, and left to the mercy of fanatical tyrants and false prophets, that is a direct strategic concern of free nations everywhere. By taking the side of moderates, reformers, and advocates for democracy; by providing an alternative to hateful ideologies; we improve the chances for a lasting peace, and we advance our own security interests.
In the last two years, we have seen hopeful changes, as men and women showed their desire to live in freedom. And we have seen the enemy's fierce reaction. In 2005, the people of Lebanon proclaimed their Cedar Revolution and chose new leaders. That same year, the people of Afghanistan elected a parliament. And in Iraq, citizens voted in three national elections -- turning out in the millions, defying killers and car-bombers, and electing a government that serves under the most progressive constitution in the Arab world.
In 2006, freedom's enemies struck back with new tactics and greater fury. In Lebanon, terrorists sowed regional conflict and worked to undermine that country's government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters waged new offensives against Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, Sunni and Shia extremists engaged in an escalating sectarian struggle that continues to this day.
Free nations must face up to all of these challenges with realism, and with resolve -- and we are doing so. In Iraq our goal remains a democratic nation that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them with security, and is an ally in the war on terror. But for this to happen, Baghdad must be secured. So we're pursuing a new strategy that brings in reinforcements to help Iraqi forces secure the capital, so that nation can move forward and the political process can turn toward reconciliation.
We are determined to prevail in Iraq because we understand the consequences of failure. If our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance of the country. The violence would likely spread throughout the country, and be difficult to contain. Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions. Many would head for Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. Others would set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more sorrow and discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments. Still others would find their targets and victims in other countries on other continents. Such chaos and mounting danger does not have to occur. It is, however, the enemy's objective. And for the sake of our own long-term security, we have a duty to stand in their way.
There is still a great deal of work to be done -- not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan and other fronts in the war on terror. And very fortunately, ladies and gentlemen, the nations of our coalition are defended by some of the bravest men and women our societies have ever produced. From my own experiences as Vice President, and previously as Secretary of Defense, I have only grown in admiration for the skill and the toughness of the Australian Defense Force. From engineers to SAS, from aircrew to logisticians, from infantry to armor, mechanics to medics -- Australian Defense personnel are not afraid of work that is difficult, pressing, and often dangerous. And they have a right -- of getting the job done right.
Later today I'm going to meet with some members of the Australian military. My purpose is simply to thank them and their comrades for extraordinary service in a time of testing. Americans know that for this country, "standing by your mate when he's in a fight" are more than words in a song, and they signify a way of life. Having Australia's friendship makes my country very grateful and very proud.
As leading democracies, Australia and the United States feel a deep sense of responsibility for security and peace in our world. The cooperation between our governments has risen to a new level, with stronger ties of defense and counterterrorism, and much broader cooperation on intelligence and information sharing. We're working closely on the Joint Strike Fighter and on Ballistic Missile Defense. Together with other nations, we founded the Proliferation Security Initiative, with the urgent business of keeping nuclear technology out of irresponsible hands.
To this end, the six-party process has produced agreement on specific actions that will bring us closer to a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. We go into this deal with our eyes open. In light of North Korea's missile tests last July, its nuclear test in October, and its record of proliferation and human rights abuses, the regime in Pyongyang has much to prove. Yet this agreement represents a first hopeful step towards a better future for the North Korean people.
China has played an especially important role in the six-party process, because the Chinese understand that a nuclear North Korea would be a threat to their own security. We hope China will join us in our efforts to prevent the deployment and the proliferation of deadly technologies, whether in Asia or in the Middle East. Other actions by the Chinese government send a different message.
Last month's anti-satellite test, and China's continued fast-paced military buildup are less constructive and are not consistent with China's stated goal of a "peaceful rise." For our part, the United States and Australia have the same hopes for the future of China -- that its people will enjoy greater freedom and prosperity; that its government will be a force for stability and peace in this region.
In this neighborhood of the globe, millions look to our countries to promote security, economic progress, and democratic ideals. As President Bush said when he spoke to your Parliament, America will continue a forward presence in Asia, and continue our close partnership with Australia. And we'll help to build a better world through our strong and continuing friendship with Japan.
Earlier this week in Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe and I reaffirmed the commitment of both our nations to the trilateral security structure with Australia. I hope Prime Minister Howard feels the same way, and will underscore that commitment on his visit to Japan next month. The growing closeness among our three countries sends an unmistakable message -- that we are united in the cause of peace and freedom across the region.
Success for our countries, and for our principles, depends on our willingness to act where action is required. Australia has shown that willingness throughout this area. You've provided military and civilian authorities to help maintain peace and stability in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. Your government has provided critical leadership on counterterrorism in Indonesia, the Philippines and other lands. And Australia's contribution to security and good governance in the Pacific island countries is principled; it's effective and it's indispensable.
Australia has been equally effective in promoting free market values. The free-trade agreement between our countries, now in its third year, is creating jobs on both sides -- and it's a model of the kind of integration that can lift up economies across the region and beyond. Australian leadership brought about the first gathering of APEC nations nearly two decades ago. The APEC Summit returns here this year, and I know President Bush looks forward to the journey. Every step we take to promote economic development and free market ideals will add not just to our prosperity, but to the safety of the environment, and the health of our world, and to the long-term security of us all.
Vigorous, growing economies generate the technologies and the means to fight hunger and disease, and to provide better stewardship of the land and the life around us. Vigorous, growing economies offer upward mobility, and give people the hope of a better life for themselves and for their children. And everywhere those hopes are realized, men and women will turn their creative gifts to the pursuit of peace, and ideologies of resentment and violence will lose their appeal.
Ladies and gentlemen, our two countries have great objectives before us, and our alliance is as important now as it has ever been. One of America's great historians, David McCullough, has noted that "among the most difficult and important concepts to convey in teaching or writing history is the simple fact that things never had to turn out as they did. Events past were never on a track. Nothing was foreordained any more then than now."
Whether in Battle of Hamel in 1918, or 65 years ago in the Coral Sea, Americans and Australians were not mere witnesses to the unfolding of events. They were acting -- bravely, decisively, and together -- to turn events toward victory. And so much of the life we know today is a credit to the decisions and the actions of those who came before.
Our generation, here and now, is also writing history. Present events are not on a track. In the war on terror, one side will win and the other will lose. Civilization will continue its upward course, or go in different direction.
It can be sobering to take stock of all the serious work that needs doing; to realize all the duties that fall to us in a perilous time. Yet it's no reason to be afraid. Rather, it's a reason to be confident. We are not hostages to fortune. Our forbears were not the sort to be intimidated, or worn down by adversaries -- and neither are we. Today, as before, Australians and Americans are people of determination, of moral courage, and decency. We are strong countries that have sacrificed greatly for peace and freedom at home and on distant shores. Our purposes in this world are good and right.
So we have made our decision. Once again, we choose to face challenges squarely. And once again, we go forward -- as allies, as comrades-in-arms, and, above all, as friends.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 9:58 A.M. (Local)
Richard B. Cheney, Vice President's Remarks to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/284385