The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday that new ways of deterrence that address those factors that make individuals vulnerable to coercion were essential in tackling the threats of the 21st century.

Adm. Mike Mullen, in a speech at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, said Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and al-Qaida can be deterred by the threat of retaliation, but efforts to attack the basis of extremism were essential through support of education and development.

“Attacking the humiliation, the hopelessness, the illiteracy and abject poverty which lie at the core of the attraction to extremist thought will do more to turn the tide against terrorism than anything else,” the chairman said. “We can continue to hunt and kill their leaders, and we will. But when a person learns to read, he enters a gateway toward independent education and thought. He becomes more capable, more employable, and enjoys a sense of purpose in his life.

“He will understand the Quran for what it is and not merely what his mullah tells him it is, who is equally uneducated,” Mullen continued. “He can raise his children to a higher standard of living than the one he knew, an aspiration shared by parents around the world. And his wife will help him prevent the despair that might lead a child of theirs into the arms of al-Qaida or the Taliban.”

However, Mullen's words took on a much different tack in some Middle East outlets, with Iran Press TV, with the headline "US to deter Qur'an followers" declaring that Mullen said "uneducated mullahs and their followers are the new challenge the United States faces today." Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV in Lebanon reported, "US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen says people learning the way of the Qur'an are the subject of new American deterrence."

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting went further, accusing Mullen of using "insulting words against Islamic scholars."

"US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen betrayed his hostility to God's final revelation to mankind, the holy Qur'an, by saying people learning the way of the heavenly scripture are the subject of new American deterrence," the IRIB reported.