LONDON - British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Thursday the notion of a "war on terror" was "misleading and mistaken", in an outspoken critique of a key policy of outgoing US President George W. Bush.
Writing in the Guardian, Miliband said the phrase gave the idea of a unified enemy where none existed, and also encouraged a primarily military response to problems that top generals admitted the West could not "kill its way out of".
The article appears to be a comprehensive attempt to discard what was a defining mission of the Bush administration, which comes to an end on Tuesday.
"The idea of a 'war on terror' gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda," wrote Miliband, who is currently in India.
"The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate."
He added: "The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common."
Miliband rejected the notion that fighting violent extremism could only be done by military means.
"As (US) General (David) Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife," he wrote.
He argued that only cooperation between states could break up terror networks, saying if India and Pakistan could resolve their dispute over Kashmir it would deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms.
Miliband added that democratic countries must not abandon their values, citing the US military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba.
"We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society," he wrote.
"We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is surely the lesson of Guantanamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama's commitment to close it."