New counterterror strategy to spell out Obama vision

Administration's plan seeks an international order that promotes peace, security and opportunity.

The top White House counterterrorism official on Wednesday previewed President Obama's new national security strategy, which he said seeks to counter the global threat of terrorism and protect the homeland with a mix of military and intelligence capabilities, diplomacy and promotion of America's values.

The strategy, to be released Wednesday, addresses the "near-term challenge of destroying al-Qaida and its extremist affiliates, and the longer-term challenge of confronting violent extremism generally," John Brennan said.

The strategy makes it clear that America is at war with terrorist groups and sets a mission to not just degrade them or to prevent attacks against us, Brennan said. "Instead, the United States will disrupt, dismantle, collapse and defeat al-Qaida and its extremist affiliates."

Brennan said the strategy reflects Obama's "vision for confronting the most daunting challenges of our time, while seizing the opportunities of an increasingly globalized world." And it "strives to renew American leadership in the 21st century by rebuilding the fundamental sources of American strength, security, prosperity and influence in the world."

The "first and foremost" goal of the strategy is national security, Brennan said in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The security of the United States, its citizens and U.S. allies and partners is and always will be paramount," he said.

But the plan also emphasizes prosperity, "based on an innovative and growing economy." And it stresses values -- "respect for the universal values at home and around the world that define who we are and what we hold dear," he said.

The strategy seeks an international order that promotes peace, security and opportunity, to prevent conditions that allow al-Qaida to recruit terrorists, he said.

Brennan said the president's strategy "is absolutely clear about the threat we face."

The enemy is not terrorism, because that is just a tactic, and it is not terror, "because terror is a state of mind, and, as Americans we refuse to live in fear," he said.

The strategy also will not "describe our enemies as Jihadists or Islamist," because Jihad is a holy struggle, and "there is nothing holy or legitimate about murdering innocent men, women and children," he said.

"Indeed, characterizing our enemy this way would actually be counterproductive. It would play to the false perception that they are religious leaders fighting for a holy cause, when in fact they are nothing but murderers," Brennan said.

And describing the enemy in religious terms, he added, would give credence to al-Qaida's lie that the United States is at war with Islam.

The administration has been criticized by some Republicans and others for refusing to call the nation's enemies "Islamic extremists."

Brennan noted that the threat has changed because of the successful attacks on al-Qaida's leaders and the increased security at airports. Al-Qaida is not able to plan and conduct an elaborate attack with trained terrorists, so it is trying to conduct small attacks using untrained individuals, such as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas "underwear bomber," and Faisal Shahzad, who is accused of trying to set off a car bomb in Times Square, he said.

While he touted the successes against al-Qaida and its affiliates, Brennan noted that the terrorists only have to succeed once "and no nation can protect itself against every attack." So the strategy also seeks to build a strong and resilient society that can withstand an attack, he said.

The new strategy is to be presented in greater detail by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White House National Security Adviser James Jones, Brennan said.