Identifying terrorists has gotten harder, since they're no longer all middle eastern ethnicity anymore. However, so far, they are all still Muslims between age 17 and 40, mostly males. In my opinion, it is way past time to profile on that description. "Clear and present danger" overrides all other considerations.
In the long term, a seemingly-infinite supply of terrorist recruits must be dried up. They come from a region of the world dominated by a perversion of Islam, one that tells people to kill for God, and to blame the West for all troubles. This perversion has been taught as Islam for decades now throughout the "Muslim World", a belt of over a billion folks stretching from Africa around southern Asia, and on to the Philippines.
This same evil creed is now spreading into the West with immigrants who refuse to assimilate. There is something appealing to undereducated poor folks about a harsh, black-or-white view of things, and a ready scapegoat to blame. The same sort of effect was appealing enough in 1933 Germany to allow the Nazis to take over.
Now, the "Muslim World" is pretty much synonymous with the "Third World". Most countries in it are too poor to have secular school systems, and their populations are completely illiterate and desperately poor. They are very susceptible to that evil creed masquerading as Islam.
The only schools over there are the "madrassas", which teach only the evil creed (not the traditional Islam in my textbook from 50 years ago), and not reading or writing. Graduates are functionally illiterate, and cannot read their Koran for themselves to see the deception. Our "friends" the Saudis have financed this with oil revenues, since the mid-1950's. They invented the evil creed to appear "holier-than-thou", meaning more extremely fundamentalist, so that their neighbors would not invade them.
This mis-education has been going on since the 50's or 60's throughout the Muslim World. As early as they breed and die over there, that's 4-6 generations. All the oldsters who knew the truth about Islam are long dead. So, that is why there are almost a billion willing recruits screaming to join the jihad against the West, and the US in particular.
Long term, it would be far cheaper and more effective than waging war to create secular schools over there to teach the truth, and the literacy skills to find it!
In the mid term, this stuff is funded mostly by oil revenues, and to a lesser extent (primarily the Taliban) illegal drug revenue. Without money, their evil enterprise grinds to a halt, because payrolls, training, weapons, and travel are expensive.
The best things we could do are (1) cease needing their damned oil, and (2) legalize the drugs they grow to knock the price down to nothing.
I've been doing my bit with the ethanol car experiments for item (1). At a national level, implementation of alternative fuels and electricity should be an effort resembling the Manhattan Project. We are already decades late getting started. Item (2) is self-explanatory, and should be obvious to the casual observer: legalize it, regulate it, and tax it, but not too much. We want that stuff dirt cheap, to deny the enemy his money.
In the short term, we have to respond to attacks. Preferably by killing off the leaders before they can attack, but killing somebody in any event. I have to ask the question: why, after all these years, is Osama bin Laden (and several others) still alive? The answer (or lack thereof) clearly shows that we have been doing the wrong things with our military.
I have not yet seen a thing, in 8-1/2 years of war, that I think would actually lead to anything resembling victory.
Invasions and occupations clearly did not work to build effective democracies, but did kill thousands of our sons and daughters, and waste our treasure and our time. What we should do is get in lightning fast, kill the bad guys, and get out. Never stay.
It also means we need spies on the ground speaking the local language and blending in, to find the targets, because the remote sensing clearly doesn't do that job the way we need it done. We don't have these spies, and with the corruption and bureaucratic infighting among our intelligence agencies, we will not have them any time soon, if ever.
We will have to change out the intelligence agencies in order to massively change their culture. The one we want resembles the WW2-era OSS more than anything else I can point to today. We the people do not get to vote for that, directly. Congress does.
To change out bureaucratic agencies requires that we change out the Congress that creates and funds them.
Party politics is irrelevant to this. In point of fact, I think the agendas of both parties are useless extremized crap. Both GOP extremized laissez-faire economic policies, and Democrat extremized big-government spending policies, are worse than useless by themselves. I'd be more favorable to the "tea parties" if they didn't so clearly overlap the far right wing of the GOP.
Now, Obama is no socialist, and I am tired of seeing that lie circulated about him, among a plethora of other lies. He is a centrist politician, more so than most of his party. But, the problem is that his party is the big-government party. And that's quite clearly a problem, or the "tea parties" wouldn't be so popular.
"W" on the other hand was part of the far right wing of the GOP, that recently finished purging itself of "moderates" (really "centrists" who think more like the common folk). To them, most of us "centrists" are "liberals". To this bunch, "free market" means "market free of rules", which is what let all the Wall Street tycoons and investment bankers misbehave. They misbehaved long and greedily and egregiously, and finally burst the "bubbles" that now so vex all of us. What a load of crap to let that happen!
On the other hand, I'll give "W" credit - he (reluctantly) started the spending surge so necessary to arrest the free-falling economy when the crash came. Remember, the first $700B of the $1.2 trillion bailout was spent by Bush and the GOP, not Obama and the Democrats. It was and still is the right thing to do, although I'd much rather it had been targeted upon people and small businesses, instead of the greedy, guilty giants.
The problem with the Democrats is that, generally speaking, they never know when to quit spending. You have to stop spending before inflation explodes, but not too soon before the economy restarts (that's a typical GOP failing). It's very hard to judge. Carter misjudged it, and spent too much for too long a time. That's (in part) why we had stagflation into Reagan's second term.
On the other hand, Reagan/GOP "trickle-down economics" is (and always was) a fiction, too. Sounds good at election time, but it just doesn't work. Without strings, the rich just pocket the money we give them (rules on the marketplace and all that nonsense!). Turns out, Reagan/GOP policy had very little to do with the economic recovery in the late 80's. But low energy prices did!
In point of fact, when you look at gasoline price history expressed in constant 2009 dollars, you can see that every recession is preceded by a fuel price spike. The longer and higher the spike, the worse the recession. The really bad one we are having now should be no surprise, seeing as to how it was preceded by 2-3 years of $3-4/gallon gasoline (even higher for diesel).
I can also correlate these fuel price spikes to things we did that pissed off the middle eastern OPEC nations. They understand how to wreck our economy with high oil prices, and they have been using that weapon, for decades now. And "our" oil companies profit mightily every time OPEC makes things miserable for our people.
Further, one should remember that terrorism is fueled mostly by oil revenues. The key phrase "aid and comfort to the enemy" comes to my mind, whenever I see an oil company commercial or ad. It should come to yours, too. (That key phrase is in the legal definition of treason.) The major oil companies make huge profits every time OPEC wrecks our economy with high oil prices. I have never seen them do anything to restrain OPEC price hikes.
The key to fixing all of this is a Congress that works for the people, not the special interests. We so very clearly don't have one!
So, what I recommend is "vote for no incumbent unless you can personally verify that he did more good than harm while in office". Very few qualify: out of about a hundred of names on the typical ballot, I know of 3 worth keeping here in McLennan County, Texas.
Cleaning out that rat's nest and putting new, as-yet uncorrupted blood in those offices, is the only way I know to clean up the cesspit that is our Congress, short of armed revolution in the streets. (I'd rather keep it civil at the ballot box: less mess to clean up afterward.)
Do not vote for a party! Vote for "new blood", almost always. Parties, policies, and politics almost don't matter, in comparison. Corruption and lobbyist/special interest connections do matter, and we don't want that anymore! We have to clean up the mess, or we never will get an honest, even modestly-effective, government.
It's up to you. I'm already doing my bits.