It's not being waged on the battlefields of Ashcanistan or I-wreck. It is being fought in the minds of the political elite, and both parties being slightly smarter than a slime mold (but better dressed!), they have arrived at this fight completely unarmed.
The central point in the War on Terror is the mindset of the people who will formulate and enact The Policy by which that war will be fought. In order to make the proper decisions that will become The Policy, and ultimately The Strategy, the people making them will have to recognize certain facts:
a. The Enemy is unrelenting.
b. The Enemy is part of an identifiable group.
c. The Enemy operates on a different wavelength and by different rules than we do.
d. The Enemy is not interested in making a deal, he's not interested in anything we can offer him.
e. The Enemy considers negotiation and conciliation as forms of weakness, unless it helps him to achieve his goal, then the good-feeling this engenders in his opponent is simply another weapon at his disposal.
f. The Enemy's Goal is World Domination, defined as the ultimate ascendancy of his religion and culture, culminating in the reduction to all those outside this scope to a position of semi-slavery with few, if any, legal or natural rights.
g. The Enemy is willing to do almost anything to achieve these goals, his philosophy having elevated those goals from mere political aims to the route towards personal salvation.
h. The Enemy has been in a state of Undeclared War with the United States since 1979.
i. The Enemy believes it's victory is pre-ordained and inevitable.
j. The Enemy is merciless and pitiless, and has no regard for the humanity of his opponents.
That is the reality of Militant Islam, and the Islamonazi political regime that comes with it. That is the kind of foe we're supposed to be fighting; implacable, pitiless, single-minded, undistracted by abstract thoughts of justice, fairness or decency. He is armed to the teeth, and has a billion potential soldiers at his command. He lives by a strict code of religious discipline, and routinely clears his ranks of shirkers and traitors by means of murder. He holds his host culture hostage with a climate of fear, religious orthodoxy and systematic violence, which he claims is his ancestral right either handed down from God, or magically bestowed upon his as a legacy of (pick one or more) racism, religious discrimination, colonialism, economic exploitation, etc, etc, etc.
The response and policies of both major political opponents, viewed against these realities, leave much to be desired, and in fact, seem woefully inadequate to meet the challenge of people willing to ran airliners into office buildings, tape high explosives to their groin, or indiscriminately launch unguided rockets into residential neighborhoods.
And the reason is because the political leadership of this country, Repub or Dem, is too frightened or stupid, to tell itself the Truth about The Enemy. Because they fail to see what's so obviously plain, their policies and pronouncements, their actions and rhetoric, are divorced from reality. In the meantime, American troops pay the price with their limbs and lives. Americans pay more for their energy, more in taxes, and make ever-more personal sacrifices in order to support the War/NotWar, and have to deal with a government who's response to terrorism is to prevent blankets from being handed out, keep nail clippers off aircraft, and restrict the use of rest rooms.
Liberals (and I'm using the term loosely, because they really aren't) see the problem of terrorism in terms of law enforcement and social welfare. They do not see The Enemy as some sort of robotic, inhuman force driven by a rabid ideology, it views him through the same lens it applies to all problems. All problems, in the liberal world, can be solved by talking and symbolism, because ultimately, all issues arise from a lack of tolerance and a dearth of 'resources' -- it would rather perform 'social outreach' (Obama's "Open hand/Clenched fist"), and get to the "root causes" of the problem (Obama's Apologies to Islam for Western Civilizations very existence and intolerance), then open a "dialogue" with them (Negotiate with Admini-doo-dad without pre-conditions), and then negotiate "terms" (Discuss the size of the bribe required for "peace"). Liberalism would rather talk, and then attach a symbolic value to that talk which is of no real value, presuming that if Obama (for example) met face-to-face with Ama-dada-doo-dad that somehow gives the Iranians a feeling that we respect them as equals, and that having been satisfied with the illusion of equality, they'll be ready to cave to our other demands, they being reasonable chaps and all that. It absolves them of the Guilt they feel when they recognize that other people are making sacrifices they don't have the courage or intelligence to make themselves.
It's an extension of the "There are no truly Bad Boys..." argument; if you talk to the Islamic Radicals, show them some respect, get down on their level, and perhaps provide them with Midnight Basketball, they won't turn into cold-blooded killers. It's like watching your middle-aged dad try to relate to your teenaged friends; he starts calling everyone "Dog", pretends an interest in rap music, tries to fit in and "be hip", high-fives everyone, and he doesn't realize how ridiculous he looks, or how embarrassing it is for you.
When that strategy fails, they always fall back on the police. Liberals, despite their protests to the contrary, actually love the power of the police...when it's used in ways they want it to be. The greatest danger to American Society in the last 20 years was not, as Libs would have you believe, John Ashcroft armed with the Patriot Act --it would have been Hillary Clinton similarly equipped.
So, when talk fails, law enforcement suddenly becomes the only answer. To everything; Can't control handguns because of the pesky Second Amendment? Law enforcement is the answer! Can't fix the social problems created by bastardy, drug abuse and rampant street crime that were a result of Liberal policies in the first place? Law enforcement is the answer! Even when law enforcement isn't the answer, it's the answer -- as when Obama went to Columbus (I think) to pose in front of 25 new police officers whose jobs were "saved" by the Stimulus Bill...But I digress.
Law Enforcement must now protect us after the magical powers of talk and symbolism have failed. However, law enforcement must do it's job handcuffed by conditions the Liberal insist upon; you can't profile (that's racist), you can't treat terrorists like terrorists and prosecute them as such (lawyers solve all problems), you can't make mention of a certain religion or ethnicity (because that might make them feel persecuted), you aren't allowed to kill the enemy on the battlefield until you can prove with (incontrovertible evidence) that he is about to kill you.
This is why Obama (and before him Clinton and Carter, to be fair) cannot come to grips with the problem of terrorism. It's why the Liberal Elite have railed against the War on Terror since it's inception (even while cynically voting for the money to prosecute the War, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, voting for the Patriot Act and all the rest -- they were all symbolic, and politically-necessary, votes). Libs would rather talk than fight, and then when talking fails, pass the buck. They ultimately end up punishing the innocent while putting up yet one obstacle to bringing the guilty to heel.
On the other side, Republicans are laboring under the mistaken impression that "everyone is basically the same, underneath it all" which is kinda strange, since it's Liberals who insist on the truthfulness of that statement -- while they accuse Republicans of being racists, elitists and exclusionary.
In this case, they don't actually believe everyone is "the same" in terms of people having equal talents, capacities, needs, etc. Instead, they believe that all people have a fundamental yearning that makes them "the same", and that yearning is for "Freedom"(always defined in strictly-American terms) and that all one must to do is to "give people Freedom" and there is some human instinct that automatically 'knows' what that means -- and then it automatically follows that people unversed in the 4,000 year-old philosophies of democracy, free-market economics and political/religious pluralism will quickly accept them, and adapt their culture to accommodate them.
That this "bringing Freedom to those who yearn for it" must be accomplished at gunpoint, under the conditions and mentality of War, doesn't seem to occur to those who believe that "Inside every Afghan/Iraqi/Iranian/Radical Muslim is an American just dying to get out..." is telling. It means that they don't fundamentally understand the historical, philosophical and social conditions and processes which have resulted in their own "Freedom", and almost reduces the whole concept to the process to that by which you install software on your PC -- you simply put the disk in and the host system (in this case, culture) simply "knows" what to do with it once it's introduced. It allows them to frame the whole War on Terror as some Noble Crusade that is, ultimately, for everyone's benefit. It makes them feel better about risking (other people's) lives and cash.
Both, in their own ways, see Man as some sort of reasonable creature who knows where his bread is buttered, and which actually believes in concepts such as equality and peace.
It's why one side will insist on open-ended commitments of American blood and treasure trying to redeem the seemingly irredeemable, and the other will seek to delay the inevitable bloodshed by the process of holistic politics. Because the alternatives, being wrong (for Conservatives) and all-out War (for Liberals) are unthinkable to either, and so are the consequences.
If anyone in power today actually knew anything about history (something which is hardly studied honestly anymore) they would recognize that the Radical Islamists are no better, and in some cases infinitely worse, than the Nazis, the Soviet Communists or the Japanese Militarists.
Defeating those enemies required realism, it required great violence, and the expenditure of much blood, iron and treasure with the goal of laying them utterly low. This Islamic Enemy will only be defeated by the same means. They cannot be "reformed" until they have been defeated in unmistakable terms, which means the destruction of their culture by overwhelming force and great suffering, wherein it will become apparent to The Enemy that whatever he hopes to achieve is impossible, and that whatever he believes is a false system that cannot achieve his goals.
Nazi Germany had to be bombed flat and defeated militarily on two continents before Germans finally lost faith in National Socialism and surrendered. Japan had to be starved, terrorized and threatened with nuclear holocaust before the Japanese began to see that they weren't a divine people imbued with a natural right to conquest and Empire. Soviet Communism had to be bankrupted before it was seen as being unable to provide the standard of living that it promised to it's people, and which Capitalism did. The same needs to be done to Islamonazis.
They need to be reduced to the level of drinking out of mud puddles and picking the undigested thistles from camel dung before they begin to realize that, perhaps, all this stuff they're busily committing suicide for is not exactly the best way of life. It is only through abject misery that people begin to question their fundamental beliefs. One side won't inflict that misery, and the other will only inflict it up to a certain point, beyond that, neither is willing to go.
And that's why any War on Terror, any regime of Airport Security, no number of Patriot Acts and Guantanamo Bays, no negotiations, bribes or concessions, will ever solve the problem of Islamic Terrorism. Doing so requires great violence of the "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" type that both find barbaric. In the meantime, one will fight a public-relations campaign with guns to no definite end, and the other will be talking it's ass off and offering your virgin daughters up to the barbarians in order to avoid violence, and achieving even less.