There is some logic in chopping at the roots of the tree. What makes the Big Man so big? It is all the little men below him. Mao said the revolutionaries swim among the people like fish in the sea. If we drain the sea, or induce all the remoras to turn into piranhas then the big shark goes away. More realistically we can hope to get the little fish to avoid the big fish. My hope is for a cinematic image of Chavez types in funny hats wandering around an empty palace and looking for a replacement toilet paper roll because no one wants to go near them.
In the modern world when we go to war, especially when this is a protracted struggle, it is not personal dispute over an asset like a legal case is or most traditional conflicts were. It is a clash between cultures and communities who produce leaders. People who try to reduce the Arab Israeli conflict to the level of a tort claim over territory, as if it were some 18th century dispute between two monarchs over who owned a rock, fundamentally do not get the nature of what is at stake.
The leaders themselves in wars should be attacked for only two reasons;
1. to lance a boil and effect regime change in rare instances,
2. to humiliate and discredit the ideology that brought that leader power.
The best thing we did in Iraq was drag Saddam out of his spider hole. The second best thing was to hunt down the second level with the deck of cards. We have now supported the Iraqi government in ending deBaathification. It makes sense at some point to allow former supporters of the regime to rejoin public life. Not every German who had joined the NSDAP was a sadistic agent of the SS or Gestapo. What we must insist on is the permanent repudiation of the totalitarian ideologies that rallied the foot soldiers to support the tyrants. In AfPak we should hunt down the Taliban and enablers among the Pakistani ISI until they abandon the doctrine of permanent war with the dar al Harb. If North Korean officers just died every time they appeared in public, airborne lasers and snipers with a three mile range can do amazing things, and their ships just sank without any public comment Krazy Kim would end up trapped alone in corner when his starving people come for him. I envision that ending like a George Romero movie. If the bankers and brokers they used in Milan or Geneva or London found their cell phones explosively malfunctioning then no one would help the Norks ship weapons to Hamas, as they were caught attempting to do today.
Actions have consequences. That is what an action, as opposed to a purely internalized thought, is. At every level in life there has been a movement towards off loading responsibility.
The Palestinians face no consequences for their 45 year bloody campaign of terror, as if they were captives not of the Israelis but of the terrorists of Hamas that they voted for. In America's cities people complain about crime and filth while cursing the police and business and tossing trash around. The two extremes are linked.
Under Bush there was at least an ideological construct supporting the tactical responses as being linked to efforts to change the beliefs that produced radicalism. That has all been abandoned.