WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s new national security strategy will make clear the United States is not at war with Islam, a top adviser said on Wednesday as the administration prepared for a formal break with Bush-era doctrine.
The White House on Thursday plans to roll out Obama’s first formal declaration of national security goals, which are expected to deviate sharply from the go-it-alone approach of his predecessor that included justification for pre-emptive war.
Previewing parts of the document, John Brennan, Obama’s leading counterterrorism adviser, said: “We have never been and will never be at war with Islam.”
“The president’s strategy is unequivocal with regard to our posture -- the United States of America is at war. We are at war against al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates,” he said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Brennan’s words dovetailed with Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world, where former President George W. Bush alienated many with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and his use of phrases like “war on terror” and “Islamo-fascism.”
At West Point on Saturday, Obama laid out the broad principles of his coming National Security Strategy, a document required by law of every administration, stressing international engagement over Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy.”
Grappling with a fragile U.S. economy and mounting deficits, Obama also signaled he would place new emphasis on the link between U.S. economic strength and discipline at home and restoring America’s standing in the world.
Obama has been widely credited with improving the tone of U.S. foreign policy but is still struggling with unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea, and sluggish Middle East peace efforts.
Critics say some of his efforts at diplomatic outreach show U.S. weakness.
HOMEGROWN TERRORISM THREAT
Brennan said curbing the growing threat of “homegrown” terrorism would be a top priority, along with boosting defenses against lone al Qaeda recruits who hold foreign passports that allow them to enter the United States with little to no screening.
This comes in the aftermath of the failed Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner and the botched Times Square carbomb attempt earlier this month -- incidents Brennan called part of a “new phase” of the counterterrorism fight.
Obama’s revised strategy is expected to implicitly repudiate the 2002 “Bush Doctrine” asserting the right to wage pre-emptive war against countries and terrorist groups deemed a threat to the United States, part of a policy Bush called a “distinctly American internationalism.”
What followed was the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq despite the lack of formal U.N. authorization.
But Brennan made clear there would be no let-up in the counterterrorism fight, saying the United States would need a broad campaign that “harnesses every tool of American power, military and civilian, kinetic and diplomatic.”
“We will take the fight to al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates wherever they plot and train -- in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond,” he said.
“We will not simply degrade al Qaeda’s capabilities or simply prevent terrorist attacks against our country or citizens, we will not merely respond after the fact, after an attack that has been attempted,” Brennan said.
“Instead the United States will disrupt, dismantle and ensure a lasting defeat of al Qaeda and violent extremist affiliates,” he said.
Editing by Sandra Maler
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