Saturday, August 13, 2011

What we have gotten wrong about the war on terror

The following is a broad brush analysis paper of The Jacksonian Party.

This is a multi-part hat-tip, first to Instapundit linking most recently to a piece by Abe Greenwald at Commentary Magazine on What We Got Right In The War On Terror.  He had also linked to this piece by John Podhoretz at PowerLine which also links to the Greenwald article, but can no longer find that quick link from Instapundit.

To be up front, I am not going to do an analysis of the Greenwald article, because we have gotten many things right in the war on terror.  As an example the employment of police methodologies to go after terror cells in places like Iraq was first implemented in that war for finding Saddam Hussein, but has proven an excellent tool for in-group analysis to find out who is connected with whom inside and outside terror organizations.  The United States Armed Forces have proven to be the most flexible and dedicated armies ever seen on this planet and have proven a very hard adversary for in-country terrorists in the theaters of war we are engaged in: Iraq, Af-Pak, Philippines, Colombia, Kenya.

Other major pluses include:

1) The use of UAV/UCAV platforms to go after terror cell sustainment and after higher terror organization leadership.  Pinpoint attacks to remove supply lines run by small groups and to go after higher level operatives of al Qaeda have proven quite effective.

2) Utilizing SPEC OPS forces to take down 'tough nuts' and to serve as intermediaries to local populations prior to the introduction (or re-introduction) of regular armed forces.  Their stories in places like the Kurdish areas of Iraq, Anbar Province, and the border highlands of Afghanistan will not be known for years if not decades, and yet their effects are enormous.

3) Interoperating and cooperating with INTEL organizations by the military so that military forces and the 'shadow warriors' have a means to exchange information and utilize each other's strengths are, like the SPEC OPS forces, stories that will remain untold but their effects to help find the outside and inside actors for terror organizations is one that has proven effective time and again.

4) Moving from 'set piece' military ready for a 'two front major conflict' to an adaptable and responsive military as a system is something that is so overlooked that it isn't even mentioned, and yet the military organization on the ground, today, is not the one we started out with. The legacy of Gen. David Petraeus and the utilization of modern communications and data exchanges by the US Armed Forces have now tightened an entire loop of doctrine, training, and results analysis from years to days.  This is a revolution in military affairs, yet little is spoken about it.

5) The very basic thing of recognizing that al Qaeda is a threat and that for all that it is a very lightly funded organization, they utilize their limited resources to great effect.  Going after such an organization is not an easy task and yet our Armed Forces have shown us key weaknesses not just in their structure but in their sociology and inability to adapt to even modest differences in tribal cultures.  The early imprint of African tribal cultures stuck with al Qaeda through its early years in Afghanistan and then that was still applied to places like Iraq.  To this day we still hear of how al Qaeda doesn't work to 'fit in' and, instead, utilize terror and killing to force themselves (often literally) on civilian populations.  After being around more than 15 years in three major cultural regions with highly variant views on tribalism one would think that al Qaeda could adapt well, and yet they have not adapted at all.

The list of successes goes on and on.

There is a problem with such lists, however.

What is described is a Grand Tactical vision of success, not a Grand Strategic one.  Some of my earliest writings ask for just that: a basic Grand Strategic set of guidelines so we can know what it is we must do to WIN.  I put down some of the very basic things that are required for a victory in Goals in the Global War on Terror (25 FEB 2006), and thought them relatively common sense strategic venues that were at once asymmetrical and descriptive of what is necessary to seriously address the problems of Transnational Terrorism.  Someone had to at least post something like this because no one was putting that strategic vision forward.  And that has remained the case to this day and is one of the most painful things to say because it is blindingly obvious and yet none will speak of it.

Why is this important?

To use the military cliche: 'Amateurs talk tactics, Professionals talk logistics.'

All the lovely Grand Tactical stuff must have a deep seated Grand Strategy with active goals in mind or else, at the end of the fighting, you have won  nothing.  To fight against an asymmetrical power on the logistics front one must pursue their logistics supply chain.  That doesn't start with a jihadi and an AK-47 terrorizing a remote village in Afghanistan, it starts with where the money came from to recruit the jihadi, train the jihadi, transport the jihadi, infiltrated that jihadi in-theater, clothe and feed the jihadi, and then get that jihadi to that village to fire rounds around shouting 'allahu akbar!'. 

Your spelling may vary. 

For all the lovely tactical kills our Armed Forces have done, there has been very little done on the strategic side.  For all of the great talking points of protecting America from attack since 9/11, we have had the Ft. Hood shooting and at least one plot festering against Ft. Dix.  We have also had a group from Trinidad & Tobago plot against JFK airport in NY, and the attempted missions to get into the US for New Year's Eve bombings.  More worrying still are the jackets found in the US SW desert areas that are from Egypt and indicate al Qaeda training organizations, and as very little has come up from that realm in the way of al Qaeda espionage/financial groups, the concept that the US will remain terror-free is misguided.  To this day we still do not do a full 100% cargo inspection verification for cargo ships coming to our shores, and all it takes is one 'dirty bomb' (radiation, biological or persistent chemicals) to ruin the economic balance of the US by removing just a small percentage of critical transportation transfer areas at one harbor.

It is indeed wonderful that we have degraded al Qaeda's operational capability since 9/11!  But then it had spent a decade working up to that and the organization still remembers some of its skills necessary to operate with less in the way of operatives and support.  Killing off the veteran combatants is a huge plus, don't get me wrong, but for all the documents and such we have gotten to show how they work from the inside, we still have not addressed hemming them in from the outside.  This sort of thing works pretty well with organized crime because they must restrict themselves to a very few venues and set of operatives due to their internal trust-relationship system. 

Terrorists, however, get backing wherever they can, which includes far more than Nation States, and includes religious tithing, terror taxing, smuggling of illegal goods, trafficking in semi-precious stones and metals, extortion, murder for hire, charity front groups, semi-legitimate establishments in the goods production and retail systems, bank and credit card fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud.... estimates of the amount that a larger organization like Hezbollah gets from non-State sources (mostly Iran) ranges from 40% to 60%.  Because we treat many of these venues as merely 'criminal' in nature, we do not apply the Laws of War to them when they are put in place to support terrorist groups.  And it is this disconnect that is the main thing we have gotten wrong on the war on terror.

Social Fundamentals

I didn't know it when I started blogging, but the #1 item I kept on coming back to was 'what is terrorism?', and not just in the suicide bomber sense or the religio-/politico-/communist-oriented variety of 'justifications' but the actual activity itself.  Here is where the internal opponents of Western culture, namely the political Left, supplied the clue as the main talking point they put forward on terrorism is that it is only a 'tactic'.  When you are talking tactics that involve killing people then you are talking 'war'.  Yet this was not a conventional style, 20th century war nor even something that we normally saw in the latter half of the 19th century, but something a bit different from the wars we all got stories about.  The great deficit of the modern Left is the intellectual lack of curiosity and lack of mental rigor to actually carry their invective and slurs to conclusions and, instead, use them as facile talking points to corrode common education and understanding of what it means to be civilized.  We could not forget what terrorism actually is as an activity if we had not had it so often compared to legitimate warfare of the Nation State sort.  The lack of traditional, 19th century education of the 'shelves of vital books of civilization' sort, came to an end with the adoption of bureaucratic departments of education that were no longer based solely within districts but put political hands in control of much funding at the State and then federal level.  If you cannot have the intellectual honesty to state what form of war 'terror' is a tactic in as practiced by 'terrorists' then, really, you are only spreading ignorance and reinforcing it, not dispelling it.

Up to the US Civil War there was a deep understanding of this type of warfare and what it means due to the Barbary Pirates and the US use of Privateers during the Revolution.  The simple upshot of it is that Terrorists are Pirates.  Now that does beg the question of: what is piracy?  Here is a question that has actually been answered throughout human history and it is revealing that 'piracy' has very little to do with rum, parrots, peg legs, eye patches, or even ships, although ships have served most often as a platform for piracy, there have been many pirate armies (also known under many names like 'army of thieves') that do the same thing on land and have always been treated the same way with minor allowances for the lack of law outside of ships on the High Seas.  That is a wider view of terrorism, and it goes far beyond men in robes with AK-47's spraying bullets around hoping to hit someone other than themselves.  No, this stuff goes back to the beginning of recorded history and we do have the records to demonstrate just what piracy is and how it is performed and what form of warfare it actually is.

From all of this we find that piracy, terrorism, and all those who wage war outside of the Nation State or sovereign grant are fighting the most horrific kind of war possible: Private War.

Almost all of our great war stories come from that other venue, Public War, of Nations warring on Nations after declaring war on each other.  By not examining the more horrific kind of man against all mankind, we have blinded ourselves to the simple fact that war isn't something waged by Nations but comes from the heart of man and that civilized man creates government so as to regularize and restrict warfare, and that by agreeing to those restrictions we are allowed to exercise our positive liberties to a greater extent and build society thereby.  Our Negative Liberty we put into the hands of government for self-defense of our society, and we agree not to exercise it as individuals so that we may actually have a family, have a community and create a Nation in doing so.  Any who attempt to blur this line, and it is the most necessary line of keeping man civilized that we know, is trying to bring down civilization by equating unrestricted barbaric war with restricted and accountable Nation State war.  This first major line for mankind isn't drawn on treaties or maps, but in the hearts of men and when one agrees to not wage war without grant by the organ of society known as government, one agrees to act in a civil manner towards his fellow man and men of other Nations who do not attack him.

If we cannot fix this fundamental and self-evident truth in our minds, then all that has led up to our culture, our time, and our being here will crumble in the face of unrestricted Private War which is accountable only to the Laws of Nature, red of tooth and claw.  The fight to retain what is civilized is nearly lost in Western culture and is only strong elsewhere only where it can be enforced by something other than clans and tribes.  This is what we fight in the Af-Pak theater, the personal war contingent of strong tribesmen which are called Lashkars.  A Lashkar is a group of 3,000 to 5,000 fighters (or more) that are loyal personally to a leader and, usually, his tribe.  Our historical equivalents are the Gers, the Gauls, and the Scots amongst many hundreds of cultures in our own past that have practiced this most primitive and brutal kind of war via warlords.  That is where the name 'warlord' denotes and it is a proper usage for those not wishing to be held accountable via a governing system but rule by war and terror.

There it is again: terror as a tactic.

'But, but, but... Hiroshima!!  DRESDEN!!!'  I hear the hue and cry from the Left.

There is a brutal logic to Total War, that is war done by industrialized States against each other and it goes like this.

-  An Army or other military force is a representative of the economic capacity of a Nation to field such a force.

-  Economic capacity does not start on the battlefield, but the Laws of War trace that capacity back along the supply chain to the producers of those goods for a conflict.

-  Any organization or individual taking part in that support is taking part in the war, and the infrastructure to produce war goods is a prime and vital target of industrialized war.

-  You warn the population that these places are targets and that civilians should get as far away from those targets as they can for their own safety.

The UK dropped leaflets before they were even properly engaged in World War II to tell the German civilians that if they lived in those cities and areas supporting such war industries that they were in a target zone and should leave for their own safety.  The US also did the same there and in Japan.  Mind you this is more than similar populations have ever gotten in other wars all the way up to the 19th century and you don't have to reach far back to get to Sherman's march across the South and to the bombardment of armory cities in multiple wars in Europe.  That is the irreducible logic of warfare in the modern age and it is brutal and yet fully understandable.  In contrast Germany did not do this with the USSR nor did Japan do this with China, Philippines, and other Nations in the region during World War II.  The rape of Nanking by the Japanese and the wholesale slaughter of peasants by the Germans in the USSR are likewise representative of the absolute brutality taken on civilians in captured territory who do not have the capacity to wage war or support it which is against all codes of civilized war and those armies had reverted to pure savagery.  That is not the case with the various firebombings and nuclear bombings done by the UK and US during that same conflict as that was waged against targets fully engaged in war support. 

None of this can be equated to individuals and unaccountable groups willing to strike anywhere, at anytime, with no warning and no just cause and no sanction to their cause.  To do so is to dismiss civilized behavior in the brutal arena of war and by putting accountable actors between ourselves and that waging of war, we agree to the limits necessitated by those actors we put in place and restrict our actions to what those actors agree to on our behalf.  That is what it means to be civilized, in case it has been missed.  Part of the brutality against Germany and Japan was done in response to the unregulated and highly illegal methods used against captive populations by both Nations that violated all sense and sensibility of how to fight legitimate war and achieve its objectives while sparing the innocent.  For pirates and terrorists there is no thought of sparing the innocent as the innocent are the target.

Military Fundamentals

If the conflict in Iraq has been 20th century conventional, the war in the Af-Pak theater has been anything but that.  In Iraq pulling down a dictator, performing Counter-Insurgency (COIN) and helping the locals to establish a new government system is one that goes on well trodden paths because Iraq has had some background in what it means to be a civilization and culture, even if their country is relatively recent as these things go, their cultural heritage is ancient.  That heritage is being part of the cradle of civilization between the Two Rivers and while composed of a very tribal based ethnic system, the habits of being a Nation are deeply ingrained.  While still not up to where Western standards were circa 1900... of course we aren't up to those standards, come to think of it... Iraq has the benefit of having civilization start and collapse so many times over 6,000 years that this recent is a mere hiccup in that chain of comings and goings.  The only difference this time is that the outsiders are from further away than the Khan's armies and share very little with the Iraqi people as a basis beyond being controlled by Britain for a time post-WWI and, before that, having the Romans march around a bit, and then before that was Alexander.  You can sum up most of Western culture there: Alexander, Rome, Britain, United States.  At least the people there actually agree that having a Nation is a worthwhile endeavor.

Afghanistan only had brushes with Alexander and Britain and, of the two, the respect for Alexander is still sung about by tribal bards to this day.  If Iraq was a limited but recognizable modern war, Afghanistan is something out of the deep past of mankind.  The basis for a government in Afghanistan is a tribal based Parliamentary system that has counterparts in ancient times in Scotland, Gaul, and amongst Germanic peoples.  In this scenario a Nation is a generalized cooperative effort that takes secondary status to internal disagreements and divisions.  Cultures in Afghanistan remain tribal and they fight war on the tribal and Private War basis with minimal accountability for anyone involved in them, which creates long standing disagreements and feuds lasting... thousands of years.  While there are some deep feelings of support for the generalized Afghan culture and its heritage, that tends to be both in the artifacts of it and the rivalries still played out amongst the tribes as a living form of testimony to how enduring this semi-civilized state can be.  Afghanistan has seen ruling Nations and Empires come... and go... USSR, Britain, Persia, Genghis Khan... and that is just keeping it to recent history.

Fundamentals of warfare account for logistics, first, as there is a stark difference between putting a soldier anywhere on the planet and doing that and keeping him supplied with clothes, food, shelter, warmth, and all the vital necessary parts to run a military operation.  Getting a soldier in and out is tactics, getting him there for a long-term mission is logistics.  Both Iraq and Afghanistan have logistical problems for the US.

In Iraq it is the problem of having one vital sea access that is tiny, and has a potential belligerent (Iran) on one side of it.  There is no overland route that is secure from, say, Turkey to Iraq as the Turks made their displeasure clear about our offensive operations just before they started by revoking the US logistic support to attack out of Turkey.  Likewise we can't secure real overland supplies via Israel through Jordan due to the problems in both those lands.  KSA is problematical and while it would do nicely for enhanced port use, there is the sticky problem of causing unrest there and increased support for the terrorists we are going against.  There is a major crying need for a second supply chain system for operations in Iraq.  Still any shoreline that can get you to ocean-going vessels is better than none.

Afghanistan has none.  Our supply lines come through two ports in Pakistan which has been semi-bribed to semi-less belligerence, and at times one or both of those supply routes that carry 90% of the supplies for our forces have been interdicted by al Qaeda aligned tribes.  The rest comes in by air over Pakistani airspace.  This is not a good position to be in, particularly when in a land of warrior cultures who have been warrior cultures longer than all of Western civilization and, indeed, before the Jews differentiated themselves from other Ugaritic tribes.  What is totally disheartening is that examples in the past with overland and sea-based supply routes have failed: the Brits and Persians.  With a huge overland capability but weak economy, the USSR failed and fell on its sword in Afghanistan.  All of the past examples, save one, have had far more robust supply chains than the US has in Afghanistan today.  That singular one may point to a road to success, but it is not anywhere close to the road we are on.

That singular, though short-term success, was done by an Emperor putting together an Empire and having it fall apart with his untimely death.  He was Alexander the Great and he took out the territory we know as Afghanistan, today, by fighting with a lean force with a long, long, long overland logistical supply chain that went all the way back to Greece but was supported by conquered territories along the way.  By the time he got to the region he had a compact group of veteran Greeks and auxiliary troops he picked up along the way from other lands.  The Afghan highlands must have reminded him a lot of Macedonia, save with less water and colder climate plus the soaring daytime temps in the summer.  With a modicum of forces he fought as the locals fought, save better, by staging night attacks on citadel fortresses on mountaintops with just a handful of men.  He did the impossible and not only fought in a way the locals understood but fought them harder and better than they could fight him.  In solidifying the supply chain he laid down changes in language that can still be traced across the map today.

The problem with being supplied through hostile territory has a remedy: get a second supply route in place.  The United States has tried, and failed, to convince the two regional powers of Russia and China to help us on this, and that is a failure of diplomacy to support our mission in Afghanistan of the highest order.  With that said there is a third route to go and that is through Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and then through Georgia to the Black Sea.  This would take the creation of a diplomatic approach to weave between Russia and Iran to create a new mixed mode supply system that would parallel that of Alexander the Great who used an overland supply route.  This would be a geostrategic move, as well as it would put US interests across supply routes that are plied by the Russians to aid Iran, and yet remain neutral to that support.  There might need to be a rail link created between Azerbaijan and Georgia, and some reinforcement of their ports plus that of Turkmenistan, yes, but that would be a benefit to those Nations in supporting us and would give a relatively unhindered trade route across that system that would then open up Central Asia to increased trade with the West.  Each of those Nations involved would understand their importance to such a vital link, benefit from it and also know that while each of them hold it hostage that is a mutual system and to keep it open they would require diplomatic ties separate from those with Russia.

Government Fundamentals

No matter what part of the political spectrum you reside in, the lack of understanding that war must be supported is a key concept that has been held by all Nations, at all times save for the US in recent decades.  When the Nation supports a war it wins, when it doesn't, then we fail with much blood and destruction and little to show for it.  That is not just destructive to other Nations, but it is an abdication by the people of the United States to support the National interests as expressed by their political representatives.  In a representative democracy the will of the majority is what governs and it has respect for the minority to hear out opposing points of view and then attempt to craft policy that still reflects the will of the majority and takes into concern the minority.  That does not mean that the minority gets its way, but is part of the process of governing in a civil fashion and that the respect shown by the majority to the minority, no matter what part of politics it is in, that the minority will then exercise reciprocity when it is in the majority and the roles are reversed. 

In the last 50 years on military and war policy it is the minority that has been lobbying for veto over the will of the majority even when that will is expressed across political lines.  Protests for civil rights were solemn, respectful and those doing such marches expected much pain to be suffered by those doing the marching as they were making a moral and ethical comment about society and government.  Those protesting wars, however, have moved from one or two mass rallies that were semi-civil to events where costumes, bands, puppets and sloganeering against the majority have been the norm.  In that latter part of putting slurs against the majority and then adding that in to protests then makes the protest about the people doing the protesting and not about the object of their protest. The sentiment that is being expressed is not a civil one of wanting to work in an agreeable fashion to see if some sort of accommodation can be made so as to change strategic objectives so as to bring a faster end to the conflict and yet still achieve National goals, but to make the protest about the protesters alone and to put forth a concept that it is their way or the highway.  When that is done civil society is corroded as those protesting seek to put themselves above the will of the majority and dictate to the majority just what is 'right', what is 'fair', and what the majority 'must do' to satisfy the minority.

Worse, still, are the politicians who seek to co-opt such self-serving organizations to their own political ends.  At some point protesting against war is lost and protesting to support pure political, not national, goals is put in its place.  Only when both political parties are in disrepute do protests evince any sincerity, but even in those cases the co-opting of them by political factions continues so that the message by them is then harnessed to other messages which the protesters are seen as supporting by their silence to those other messages.  Supporting an end to a conflict is an end in itself, not a means to 'global peace' or a mask to hide 'global revolution', and yet we see little to none of the sincere protesting and much of the willingly co-opted to have their message diluted away by those seeking political ends alone.  At that point those doing such protesting are no longer supporting a representative democracy but are putting forth that they are an elite structure who see themselves as more able and fit to rule than the majority is to govern.  This message has been reinforced by glib and patronizing snippets of quotes from larger texts taken out of context of original document meaning and that has been slowly inculcated into the school systems of the Nation via political operatives working on the same platform as those co-opting the original movement.  That is neither honest nor in support of the ideals of representative democracy to run a diverse Nation State and is, instead, trying to place down fundamentals of an authoritarian or totalitarian state against the wishes of the majority.

War is a serious business as it is something on the Public side that requires open support and acknowledgement of the Nation State even when you disagree with the policy in question.  When attacked the population is to acknowledge that it has been attacked, to seek redress against the attackers and then prepare for war.  Not be told to go shopping.  The political elite has made war optional for itself since the 1950's.  First it has gotten politicians to put in exemptions into the previous draft so that those going to college or otherwise involved in certain affairs of life that are not open to the many save via deep finances, are given a waiver on being drafted.  Those people feel they should be exempt from the common burden of warfare.  The remedy in a Nation of free people, is to make military service voluntary and doing that during the Cold War required a fast and hard restructuring of the military system that must still retained cohesive capability during that transition period.  As the Armed Services of the United States had done this after two previous conflicts with widespread conscription (US Civil War and World War I) the lessons of those eras were retained at the War Colleges and a properly re-scoped and yet capable force took a mere decade to cohere.  As the service is voluntary, it takes commitment, courage, skill and knowing you won't get paid much for the privilege and for the sacrifice you offer to your Nation. 

The elite establishment then worked to isolate themselves from that by throwing off ROTC recruiters from campuses and not offering military recruiters spots at job fairs. 

Pacifism is not sustainable due to the nature of man, which comes from the Law of Nature and what it offers is not a viewpoint on the morals and ethics of war but now gains a following that seeks to denigrate war and then be unable, like prior generations of pacifists, to support their Nation during wartime by offering their bodies and time to the Nation, often for the hazardous privilege of medical experimentation or as in-theater combat medics.  That is a deep and honorable way to be a pacifist and shows a moral and ethical commitment to the Nation while retaining complete adherence to one's beliefs.  Modern pacifists are, sadly, just anti-war and seeking to excuse themselves from any commitment to their Nation by not volunteering themselves for the same sorts of hazardous experiments that are still available to further the cause of helping mankind against disease which is a common enemy to all peoples.  Instead of commitment to Nation they are told to go shopping, become more isolated from the Nation and let their 'betters' handle things for them... so that they can then protest the very few willing to sacrifice their time and lives for the Nation and make it a worse place to come home to instead of a better one.

In that elite class which spans across political, economic and even military lines, there has been a loss of understanding that wars must have this thing known as objectives.  These are the concerns that sets the Nation to war and are the point of making war.  A clear and succinct set of objectives are necessary for successful war-making so that the Nation removes threats to it in a long-range fashion.  To go after these objectives requires a grand strategy which are the major goals that must be gained militarily to meet the requirements set by the objectives.  The grand strategy dictates war doctrine, which is how the war is to be fought and the venues it must be fought in to gain the objectives.

A very simple thing to ask, then:  what are the objectives of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The answer lies within the Congressional Authorizations for each of those conflicts and therein lies the problem.  For Iraq, alone, there are 23 points (if memory serves) that need to be addressed as objectives and some of them, like removing terrorist influence inside Iraq, are so nebulous that they cannot be achieved.  A President, who is Commander in Chief, is to then boil these Congressional objectives down to a grand strategy with the help of his military advisors, so as to put down a hard set of goals that can then be achieved so that when they are met the war is over.  It is then his duty to tell Congress what can be achieved and what can't be achieved, and he will carry out what can be achieved and leave further debate on those that can't be achieved up to Congress.

We the People of the United States have not gotten that from two Presidents.

That is an abysmal failure in our government and the elite class, both, in that they cannot understand the fundamentals of war and why we go to war.  This is true across the Western World at this point in time.

The horror of not knowing the difference between Public and Private war is extreme and deep.

Not knowing the functions of legitimate Public War is to invite the public to become barbarians, directly, and accept war as a thing to be done for any reason or no reason at all so as to follow the leadership of a blind and self-serving elite.  An elite who don't understand that it requires a civilized society to have such a large number of elites and that if the society goes down around them, then their status as elites, their money and, indeed, their very lives don't matter any more.  That is a direct outcome of elite propaganda, protestors and transnational movements that co-opt those venues and spread ignorance that is self-serving to its goals.  The ignorance isn't just in the general population but in the elites, as well, as they are members of society and they are not exempt from the trends and direction of education as the educational systems are compromised on a wide scale in the Western World. 

Is war a horror?  Without a doubt but there are differences between Public and Private war and legitimate and illegitimate Public War that have been known for centuries and before the founding of the United States.  We no longer teach this stuff.  And yet that is the basis for having personal relationships as we must understand that we must put aside personal violence to live in a civil society and then use our will as a people, when necessary and no other venue is open, to have redress of grievances against other Nations addressed on the field of battle.  War isn't the last resort nor is it the first, but it does fit in the top 5 after negotiations fail and then one last attempt is used to have an opponent see reason.  Put it at about #3 for all practical purposes as good faith must be shown and turned down more than once, but by the time you get past 3 times you have lost the will to actually have a functioning Nation.  Soon you will stop teaching your children about what Public and Private War are and the differences between legitimate and illegitimate Public War.

So after 10 years from 9/11 are we actually getting some things right in the war on terror?

Yes, undoubtedly.

It is unfortunate that we aren't doing the necessary things to make plain and clear that all those achievements have an objective in mind.  And if you are going to actually mean what you say about fighting terrorists, then it doesn't stop with al Qaeda and that organization isn't even a waypoint to the larger set of objectives if you mean 'war on terrorism'.  To fight terrorism you must have a society that understands what it is, why it is illegitimate, why it is a danger to all Nations and then have plain and simple laws available to deal with these enemies of mankind that cannot be misunderstood via pages of verbiage but made plain in one to two sentences, which include the penalty for doing it.  Unfortunately we are not serious about this war, and because of that no matter what the achievements are, we are on the path away from victory because we do not mean what we say, because we can no longer understand what it is we are saying.