It's a mistake to underestimate the danger in the world. Many countries are controlled by gangs of criminals determined to maintain power by any means possible. The instability of these countries continues to fuel regional and internal conflicts. There is also a history in the U.S. of our government misusing power and applying interventionist strategies causing needless conflicts and needless death and destruction.
There's evidence though that countries can learn from their past mistakes and develope more peaceful means by which to co-exist in the world. The risk of major powers fighting in world wars has been lessened through economic interdependencies and the assured destruction which would be caused by dangerous weapons of war more deadly and destructive than anything used in previous wars. Global trade and non-interventionist policies are the hope for the future, along with the demise of the power of nation-states. Global markets will deepen interdependence and lessen the importance of military dominance. A strong defense will be necessary for all countries, because the world will most likely never be safe from all aggression.
Ruthless tyrants are not amenable to the normal reasoned approach used by most of the world's countries to settle disagreements and develope treaties regarding co-operation and co-existence issues. These countries under tyrannical rule can not last much longer because they're falling too far behind in a world of technology and production. The ones relying on oil will fold when alternatives are developed and they have nothing with which to replace the income.
After 9/11 a response was called for to determine the extent of what we were dealing with, but now we know. Whether the response was the correct response will be determined by history, but we haven't experienced repeated attacks in U.S. There's not much benefit in being a second-guesser when all the information is not available.
It does seem that now we can begin readjusting our foreign relations policies. What we've learned about terrorism ought to enable us to create a much better defense against attacks, while preserving our rights as free citizens. There's no need to give up rights of privacy, or speech, or property, or person in general in order to combat terrorism. The threat is not greater than our Constitution.
I have no way of knowing the right timing, but at some point relatively soon the U.S. would be better off if we removed all military personell from overseas military bases and returned defense responsibilities to countries we've been supporting militarily. Global trade is the movement to a more peaceful world. Free trade coupled with a policy of non-military intervention would set the tone for the shift from military solutions to economic solutions. The rise of NGOs is a movement that should be encouraged globally so that no few nations are acting as Super-Police on the world stage. Supporting these organizations without political influence will be a tricky endeavor, but it's worth the effort. International politics within the incompetent mechanizations of the UN have failed. Just as private solutions are more effective intranationally, they'll be more effective internationally. The motives to find real solutions will be present, while statist politics will often benefit from conflict. The US would be smart to remove itself from statist politics.
Terrorism would have to stretch its hatred to lengths even sympathetic countries would find unbelievable if the US is no longer maintaining an interventionist policy in international affairs. This doesn't mean we back down from threats, it merely means we transcend the backward notion of interventionist military solutions and go beyond through technology and capitalist economic growth. We can build a defense system which will be capable of keeping the country safe and answering any real threat, but we must change the game and not be drawn into impossible conflict-games where terrorists and anti-capitalists make the rules.