Former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) told the committee that “the problem with the U.S. narrative is not that we are underplaying the terror threat.”

“We are inadequately explaining our agenda to people in the U.S. – and in the region,” she said. “If we leave a vacuum, the bad guys fill it with their narrative.”

However, Harman predicted that if Secretary of State John Kerry is successful with a “heroic” Mideast peace deal and the Iran nuclear deal, it will “reset how the U.S. viewed.”

Retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane, who co-authored a policy paper that inspired the Iraq surge in the George W. Bush era, told the lawmakers “it is not true that our alliances are stronger, indeed, they are weaker because our allies are fundamentally questioning the ‘will’ of the United States; many allies believe the U.S. will not be there for them in a time of peril and, sadly, U.S. standing in the world is at its lowest since prior to WWII.”

“When American leadership is strong in the world, the world is a safer place. And when American leadership is inconsistent, indecisive, and we are willing to permit others to lead who do not have the capacity or when we are paralyzed by the fear of adverse consequence, then American leadership is weak and the world is a more dangerous place,” Keane continued. “As such, our adversaries are emboldened, they become more aggressive, they take more risks and the results are more death, more casualties and the security of the American people is threatened. Tragically, this is where we are today.”

The general stressed “the harsh reality is that radical Islam and the al-Qaeda affiliates are on the rise and the evidence is overwhelming.”

Keane highlighted the “strategic blunder” of leaving no residual force in Iraq and the danger of making the same mistake in Afghanistan, noting without support for Kabul the Taliban will “truly threaten the regime” and al-Qaeda will “return to their most desirable sanctuary, the mountains of Afghanistan.”

“Because of the failure of American leadership the term radical Islam or Islamic extremism is not mentioned in U.S. policy, which is quite astounding,” Keane said. “…What makes this movement the most threatening we have ever faced is their stated objectives to use WMD against the people of the U.S. Unchecked, radical Islam is an ideological struggle with the U.S. and its allies that will dominate most of the 21st century.”

Under questioning from lawmakers, Keane further stressed that “al-Qaeda becoming decentralized has always been part of the plan” with a strategy of spreading out across the globe in countless affiliate networks.

“Sometimes the world doesn’t cooperate with a presidential narrative and I think that’s where we are,” Lieberman said, noting there’s “something in between” sending in military forces “and just pulling out.”

If the U.S. doesn’t support the non-jihadist, anti-Assad Syrians, the Iraqi government in the fight against al-Qaeda, or the Libyans trying to build a post-Gadhafi country, “we’re going to get attacked again,” the former senator stressed. “Then we’re going to have to go back in there and risk even more American lives… if we just turn away we’re going to suffer.”

Lieberman noted that the only reason the al-Qaeda “core” in the Af-Pak region has been diminished is because of military force. “Al-Qaeda is not a social organization,” he said. “It is a brutal military organization.”

In the meantime, he said, American policy is “inviting the whirlwind.”

“There are large parts of the Obama administration’s strategy that are simply not working. This is going to go on for a large part of this century,” Lieberman said of the “fearless and ideologically driven killing machine” of Islamic terrorism.

“In the end, if we do nothing, the result will be worse.”