Last semester, I took a class about terrorism. Many of the counter-insurgency tactics we discussed seemed natural. For soldiers to protect and befriend civilians, to change the mind of those in power, and to make it clear that US troops are well-intentioned makes sense—much more so than blindly shooting and bombing. Counter-insurgency tactics target the heart of the issue—anti-American sentiment. More violent strategies only exacerbate tensions.

While reading about Greg Mortenson’s mission in Three Cups of Tea, I traced the same logic that helped me to understand counter-insurgency tactics so easily.  The ultimate key to ending conflict seems to be understanding— of self, of the world, of neighbors, of enemy sects and of enemy countries. For Mortenson, this logic comes naturally. He feels immediate sympathy for children forced to study with no building or teacher, but he also sees hope for an entire region in its wisdom and educated members. “I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them,” he says, recognizing their wisdom and potential.

And because Mortenson recognizes the importance of deep understanding on both his part—of Pakistani cultures and traditions—and on the Pakistani part—of American intentions, of other cultures and of life skills, he is able to make a difference.

First, he is able to identify what must be done. He recognizes that education can engender health, peace and happiness. I agree wholeheartedly with him on this point: education is key. Educated men and women have the capabilities to serve their village, and thus don’t turn to violence. “Terror…” he writes, “happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death.” Changing this changes everything.

Additionally, he understands how to bring about those changes. He knows that knowledge and understanding are important for Pakistan, but he realizes that they are equally important for him if he wishes to help. This, therefore, brings me to the next way to help bring about peace in regions of conflict: cultivate our own understanding.

Don’t blindly send in troops with guns. Send in educated men and women, aware of local customs and culture and able to operate respectfully. They will be most able to identify not only the enemies, but also the allies they are there to protect. Not only will they be more effective—gaining cooperation and completing their mission, but their respectful behavior will slowly but surely transform the negative perceptions that fuel anti-American violence.

Through my career in journalism, I hope to spread this understanding among my people. Mortenson’s actions on behalf of the US remind me of how it feels to be proud of where I’m from. I want to help develop a generation that adds to this pride. I want to help develop a generation that realizes, in Mortenson’s words, “that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.”