WEST POINT, N.Y. - Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld told graduates at the U.S. Military Academy yesterday that for the United States to prevail in Iraq and in the wider campaign against terrorism, it must persuade other nations to join in the struggle.
"This cause is an international one," Rumsfeld said, standing beneath a crisp blue sky at Michie Stadium on the banks of the Hudson River. "Its success depends on convincing friends and allies with whom we are so interdependent to not be terrorized by threats or isolated by fears."
Of the conflict in Iraq, he said, "We are facing a test of wills, with an enemy that seeks to derail the Iraqi people's path to self-governance."
Rumsfeld struck a decidedly less confrontational tone than President Bush did when he spoke at West Point two years ago and declared, "We must take the battle to the enemy."
That speech, after American forces were engaged in Afghanistan but before the war in Iraq, set forth the Bush doctrine of pre-emption.
Yesterday, in a speech that drew polite applause, Rumsfeld outlined a series of priorities for the American military to adapt to "an era of the unexpected."
First, he said, it needs to strengthen partnerships around the world. He also said that America should only have "our forces where they are wanted."
John Kerry, the presumed Democratic challenger to Bush, has been harshly critical of what he says is a failure by the Bush administration to garner international support. Rumsfeld said he planned in coming months to elaborate on the themes he laid out today.
The international landscape has been vastly transformed in the four years since the 945 cadets who graduated yesterday first entered the nation's oldest military institution. At the start of their second year, terrorists attacked New York and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I suspect that when you first arrived in July 2000, you imagined that your most challenging times as an Army officer might involve activities like enforcing peace in the Balkans," he said. "But, as we have seen, life is not predictable."
The speech made no mention of the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
After the ceremony, Rumsfeld stayed at West Point for about 40 minutes, shaking hands and greeting well-wishers.
Just outside the West Point gates, protesters lined adjacent streets. Another group demonstrated against the protesters. But there was no sign of controversy at the graduation.