A program by FrontLine called Target America shows the history of America's relationship with Islamic terrorism, starting with the Reagan administration. Terrorists were hijacking planes and taking hostages and blowing things, up and it kept getting worse, no matter how each administration responded.
You can see intense frustration on the faces of the leaders of the U.S. They did not know how to deal with this new threat. The terrorists were (and still are) deliberately putting the United States into a position where no matter what they did, it would be wrong, and yet the atrocities cried out for some response.
It was painful to watch the bungling, stumbling first attempts of the U.S. to respond to terrorism, but you can see the progression of learning. American leaders have slowly gained more competence at dealing with it, regardless of what mainstream, negatively-biased journalists would have you believe.
Terrorism is designed as a no-win bind. And it has frustrated everyone who has had to deal with it. The latest response is a much more long-term solution than anyone has ever tried: Trying to create democracies in place of brutal dictatorships. Getting rid of a dictator removes one major source of financing for terrorists (Muslim dictatorships and kingdoms is where almost all their money comes from).
Every dictator who is overthrown and every democracy that grows in his place is another country where fanaticism will have a harder time developing. The terrorists (and surrounding Muslim dictatorships) know this and that's why they are resisting so hard in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is difficult and bloody work, but that's the nature of dealing with terrorism. It's going to be bloody no matter how you deal with it. You can do it with piecemeal, partial solutions and get nowhere, or you can try to apply more long-term solutions and make progress.
And helping a democracy get off the ground also spells the beginning of the end of the hypocrisy of the U.S. foreign policy. If the United States truly stands for freedom, then supporting dictatorships (as the U.S. has done with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, for example) says to the subjugated people within those countries that the U.S. is only saying it supports democracy while only looking after its own interests. But by overthrowing their dictators and helping them create their own rule, the U.S. can eventually shed its reputation (from the blunders and shortsightedness of previous administrations) as a two-faced hypocrite.
Go to the Frontline page where you can watch part of the video or learn more about it.
Read an interview with the producer of the Frontline program.
In the making of the video, they interviewed many prominent people. Read the transcripts of the full interviews.
This is a timeline of the terrorist attacks on America.