The Obama's administration's top counter terror official, John Brennan, offered the clearest view of how we're dealing with Osama bin Laden and the other criminals who use terror against the US and its allies. Boil Brennan's speech and subsequent remarks down to the headline and you have the essence.
Brennan argued that it's not about Osama, "It’s about what he represents -- the organization that he has tried to build. Clearly, the leadership of al-Qaeda is something that is very important. It’s part of our strategy. I think it is important to dismantle that leadership."
To that end, Brennan and the national security team, has "presented President Obama with a number of actions and initiatives against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Not only has he approved these operations; he has encouraged us to be even more aggressive, even more proactive and even more innovative, to seek out new ways and new opportunities for taking down these terrorists before they can kill more innocent men, women and children," Brennan said during a major policy address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
One crucial difference between the Bush administration and Obama's: "We cannot shoot ourselves out of this challenge." Given that simple truth, the administration is also "devoting new resources, investing in new capabilities, approving new actions and adapting our policies across the board."
Interestingly, Brennan cast the increase in the size of the Army and Marines, as well as the expansion of Special Forces and the deployment of ISR to Afghanistan, in terms of responding to the possibility that terrorists will obtain and use a nuclear weapon. "The risk of just one terrorist with just one nuclear weapon is a risk we simply cannot afford to take," he said.
But the president's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism presented a broader vision that included not just the terror threat but also how to address its causes.
"Rather than looking at allies and other nations through the narrow prism of terrorism, whether they are with us or against us, the administration is now engaging other countries and people across a broader range of areas. Rather than treating so many of our foreign affairs programs – foreign assistance, development and democracy promotion – as simply extensions of the fight against terrorists, we will do these things, promote economic growth, advocate good governance, transparency and accountability, because they serve our common interests and common security, not just in regions gripped by violent extremism, but around the world," he said.
And there will be rewards for those who eschew the crimes of terror. They will, Brennan said, "gain favor with the United States. The same thing in the Palestinian community – those Palestinians that are really going to ensure that they pursue a path towards peace that does not bring terrorism to bear are going to be partners with the United States."
Obama's administration has laid out its case. Now they must execute.