The current approach to the war on terror is largely ineffective. Central to this approach are negative sanctions against actual and potential terrorists coupled with attempts to spread liberal democracy through war, occupation and reconstruction. We argue that negative sanctions are unsuccessful and in many cases counter productive in reducing terrorism. Further, we postulate that efforts to impose liberal democracy in weak and failed states via occupation and reconstruction have in large part failed. Only be returning to a position of principled non-intervention can the war on terror ultimately be won.