No the critical ingredient is public relations. We could have burned down 10 mosques for every dead US soldier, we could have gone house to house and shot the family of anyone found to have gun, we could have poisoned wells, we could have carpet bombed anywhere insurgents were even suspected of being.
Trying to look like the good guy mattered.
No picture it being far more personal. Lefty liberals and teabaggers hate each other, no need for goodwill when its all over because the other side will be dead.
This. If you're worried about America turning into a totalitarian police state a la 1984, it is ridiculous to think that the government would pussyfoot around wiping out a small insurgency by whatever means necessary. If you think the government would treat you with at least as much decency and humanity as it has the Iraqis or the Afghans (which may not be much, but as the parent notes, still isn't on the level of carpet bombs and poisoned water supplies), then you probably don't need to worry about turning into a 1984-style police state, because that kind of restraint is incongruous with that kind of state.