Fair warning; This is off topic for this blog, represents my personal feelings, and will offend at least some people. If you don't want to hear my opinion on matters pertaining to 9/11 and terrorism, click on another blog post or close the browser window.
You have been warned.
It is currently the tenth anniversary of 9/11/2001 and during the course of the last ten years we have been involved in two major wars for the purpose of reducing terrorism, as well as what could be deemed a police action in Libya (though that was not for the purpose of reducing terrorist risk). We have eliminated a number of leaders of the terrorist network Al-Qaeda, including Osama Bin Laden. The United States has not been subject to another successful terrorist attack of this scale on our home-front since, but European powers have been. Technically the goal of preventing terrorist attacks has been successful on our home front, as we have not been subject to another, and after nine years we succeeded in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.
But was it worth it? In my opinion, no. Destroying a terrorist network is a fine goal; but invading two countries, and performing numerous secret operations in a third (Pakistan) without their government or people's consent does nothing to address the causality of terrorism. Terrorism occurs because people are attempting to fight our ideology, but lack the ability to fight us directly...mostly because we are a military powerhouse that uses that power on a whim. There is no such thing as a dirty trick in war, and terrorism is little different than a guerrilla war.
What can be done to prevent terrorism? A complete reform of the United States' policies and doctrines about intervention is needed. Is it necessary for us to have a navy larger than all other fleets combined? Do we even need aircraft carriers at all when we have bases around the world, and bombers that can hit any target from domestic bases? We have fallen into the trap of preparing for the last major war, or rather for a conventional war with the USSR (which no longer exists) or China. Conventional wars do not happen between nuclear powers; why are we wasting time, talent, and treasure on such a massive scale for a military that isn't going to be needed? It certainly did us no good on 9/11; the heroes of that day were ordinary civilians...firefighters, emergency responders, and the passengers on the aircraft. Our superior aircraft carrier taskgroups, fighter jets, and drones did nothing to help (and nobody in the military has enough guts to give the order or to follow through to shoot down a hijacked jetliner).
It is not the divine right or duty of the United States to involve itself in the squabbles of the rest of the world. Doing so will lead to our downfall. Complete isolation is not necessary, but we should not be getting involved in most of the squabbles. The United Nations exists for such disputes, and we do not need cowboy diplomacy. Does this mean we should never intervene? Of course not, we should intervene only as a contributor of troops (but not the majority of troops) to the United Nations and their missions.
How would this prevent terrorism? It is easy to recruit people to fight against a monstrosity that acts by itself on its own whims and can be seen trying to take over other countries for its own desires. It is harder to recruit people to fight against the actions of a governing body composed of member countries, often including those in the country you are recruiting from. Terrorists would then be more likely to act against their own governments than against the United States (in which case, it is their domestic issue and not ours).
What about domestic terrorists? Domestic terrorists are harder to handle, as represented by the DC snipers, the Fort Hood massacre, and many other examples of domestic terrorism. However, better economic conditions (from reduced spending on the military and a restructuring of our overall spending to eliminate the budget deficit and reduce the murderous amount of money we have borrowed) and better domestic policy would decrease the occurrences of this sort of terrorism. The level of violence in our political rhetoric is shameful...and would make our founding fathers regret making the United States a republic.
The net result of the war on terrorism is a reduction in our freedoms, and a reduction of our economic stability...two things that would make a terrorist organization happy. We cannot travel by air without going through the electronic equivalent of a strip search; and actually having to remove belts, shoes, change, keys. Don't even think about bringing a small amount of liquid on the plane with you, or you'll spend a year in Guantanamo (I'm exaggerating but only slightly). Is this worth being "safe" from terrorism? Have there been any reports to prove these drastic measures have saved us from another terrorist attack? of course not. The Underwear Bomber was able to smuggle bomb material onto a plane flying from Europe to the United States. The reductions in public freedom (I'm not going to even go into the Patriot Act) are only creating the thin veneer of safety, without giving any actual security to the American People.
How are we likely to be attacked now? In my opinion, attacks are more likely to come from a domestic source, even if funded by an international one. The current political ill ease we are suffering from creates the perfect conditions for domestic terrorism. I expect to see massive backlash based off of the next presidential election, especially if Obama wins re-election (not saying that Republicans are terrorists, but Obama seems to be a partisan-creating president by his mere presence). I expect to see government employees shot in these terrorist attacks, like the attack on Gabrielle Giffords. This seems to be the most likely target for our current domestic issues, with the military being a close second. Corporate targets are also likely, but Corporations are also less shocking targets than individuals, which reduces the likelihood.
In terms of international terrorism, planes have been show to be effective bombs. I'd imagine a civilian aircraft or corporate jet could be loaded with flammable materials or explosives and used as flying bombs, much the way they were on 9/11/2001 (though there was no evidence that there were bombs in those aircraft, but they were loaded with fuel). Another shocking day like that one would cripple confidence in the government, which would be a major blow against the United States. Random smaller acts of violence would also be effective, in making people afraid of even walking around the streets or using the major roads. Imagine a stretch of Highway being shut down, and everyone for two miles driving on it being killed by one terrorist attack...or bridges being damaged or destroyed...these things would be crippling to commerce...these are the things to defend against, but the defense must be done by reform as well as by police action.
We have created our own problems in terms of terrorism. We create those that wish to oppose us by our own actions. We are to blame for terrorism directed against us.