WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday.
In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremists, with the recognition that "terror is the method they use."
Although the military is heavily engaged in the mission now, he said, future efforts require "all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities' national power." The solution is "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military," he concluded.
Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush's own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mr. Rumsfeld spoke in the new terms on Friday when he addressed an audience in Annapolis, Md., for the retirement ceremony of Adm. Vern Clark as chief of naval operations. Mr. Rumsfeld described America's efforts as it "wages the global struggle against the enemies of freedom, the enemies of civilization."
The shifting language is one of the most public changes in the administration's strategy to battle Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and it tracks closely with Mr. Bush's recent speeches emphasizing freedom, democracy and the worldwide clash of ideas.
"It is more than just a military war on terror," Steven J. Hadley, the national security adviser, said in a telephone interview. "It's broader than that. It's a global struggle against extremism. We need to dispute both the gloomy vision and offer a positive alternative."
The language shifts also come at a time when Mr. Bush, with a new appointment for one of his most trusted aides, Karen Hughes, is trying to bolster the State Department's efforts at public diplomacy.
Lawrence Di Rita, Mr. Rumsfeld's spokesman, said the shift in language "is not a shift in thinking, but a continuation of the immediate post-9/11 approach."
"The president then said we were going to use all the means of national power and influence to defeat this enemy," Mr. Di Rita said. "We must continue to be more expansive than what the public is understandably focused on now: the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq."
By emphasizing to the public that the effort is not only military, the administration may also be trying to reassure those in uniform who have begun complaining that only members of the armed forces are being asked to sacrifice for the effort.
New opinion polls show that the American public is increasingly pessimistic about the mission in Iraq, with many doubting its link to the counterterrorism mission. So, a new emphasis on reminding the public of the broader, long-term threat to the United States may allow the administration to put into broader perspective the daily mayhem in Iraq and the American casualties.
Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, said in an interview that if the nation's efforts were limited to "protecting the homeland and attacking and disrupting terrorist networks, you're on a treadmill that is likely to get faster and faster with time." The key to "ultimately winning the war," he said, "is addressing the ideological part of the war that deals with how the terrorists recruit and indoctrinate new terrorists.
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