War on Terror: The Good Guys (and the Bad Guys)

In his acclaimed history of the Iraq War, Thomas Ricks is pretty clear: The central failure of U.S. policy in the Iraq after the invasion was the failure to understand that the war against the insurgency was not primarily a war of military tactics, but a battle for hearts and minds.

According to Ricks, one of the first commanders to realize this was David Patraeus, whose successes began to exceed other commanders to such a degree that his innovations became policy within a year or so.

Yes, there may always be people that are best designated as the enemy: Osama bin Laden, Abu al-Zarqawi, Abu al-Baghdadi. But evidence suggests that you don’t win the war on terror just by smashing it by any means; you win it by being strong when necessary and by representing the more defensible alternative.

If you violate universal human principles of goodness, when terrorists accuse you of it, they’re right.