Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage (search) told Americans who do business overseas there is no way of heading off all terror attacks.

Speaking on Wednesday to more than 800 executives, Armitage said working together with American security officials to reduce risk of attack is very important. But, he said, "no matter how good we get at this, we simply cannot stop every attack indefinitely."

Terrorism is not an army that the United States can defeat on the field of battle, Armitage said. "It's an idea, an ideology of hatred, an ideology of destruction, and the only way to kill such an idea is to offer a better idea in its place," he said.

The United States and corporations overseas are promoting the idea of freedom, prosperity and security that comes with free markets and free minds, he told the executives and U.S. government officials at an annual conference of the Overseas Security Advisory Council at the State Department.

"Prosperity and security are mutually reinforcing," Armitage said. "Indeed, you can't have one without the other."

Urging private business firms to join American officials in improving security abroad, Armitage said such partnerships would help build "a legacy of prosperity, and I believe that is, ultimately, our best defense against terrorism."

There are 99 councils of American officials and corporate executives overseas, there will be others soon, and Britain and other nations are adopting similar arrangements, he said.

"The more connected we are in our own public and private partnership but also in partnership with other nations, the harder it will be for the terrorists to succeed," Armitage said.