The current situation is somewhat different, in that the war on terror is not being fought against a nation. That makes agreement on strategy and tactics even more difficult, and disagreement much easier. Everyone is inventing it as we go along, and no one will know who is right until its all over. Actually, the disagreements will probably continue, with one faction insisting that if things had been done their way, the terrorists would have been defeated much sooner.
But what is, the plan currently in use for defeating Islamic terrorism? There is a plan, although for political reasons, all details cannot be admitted. Some knowledge of military (and terrorism) history, plus a close look at what has been done so far, makes it pretty clear what the plan is.
The first move was to round up as many members of the organization that planned and supported the 911 attacks. That included taking down the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and closing all the terrorist training facilities there. The world-wide roundup resulted in the arrests of thousands of suspects, and the jailing of most of the known al Qaeda leaders. We tend to forget that, while focusing on the few who are still at large.
Then came the invasion of Iraq. This was apparently done for two reasons. The main one, based on everyones agreement (including Bill Clinton, France and Russia), was that Iraq had chemical, biological, and possibly nuclear, weapons, and would be likely to supply terrorists with such weapons. Many terrorists had taken refuge in Iraq, and Saddam was known to use terrorists to do his dirty work (like the Iranian rebel groups he hosted, and helped to carry out terrorist operations inside Iran.) Such use of terrorists was common throughout the Middle East, but Saddam was seen as very unpredictable and unreliable, even by Middle Eastern standards. There was general agreement that the removal of Saddam would be a good thing.
The second reason for going into Iraq was given less play, but was more important. The Arab world needed a wake-up call on the subject of Islamic terrorism, and the reason for most of it (corrupt government). Overthrowing Saddam, and giving the Iraqi people an opportunity to create a democracy, confronted the Islamic terrorists in the sharpest possible way. Al Qaeda, and many Islamic conservatives, have pronounced democracy as unIslamic. One reason Islamic radicals hate the West is because of their decadent attitudes towards elections, women and freedom of speech. By invading Iraq, and preventing any more attacks inside the United States, the Islamic terrorists are revealed as impotent loudmouths. This, naturally, enrages many Moslems who back Islamic terror, but it also forces the vast majority of Moslems to reconsider their tolerance for Islamic terror, and the corruption in their societies that they all complain about, but wont deal with. The Iraqis are now forced to deal with it. The Sunni Arab minority, that had long dominated Iraq, refused to surrender, and, along with Islamic radicals, sought to show that the old tricks (terrorism) still worked. Who will win? That's what some of the arguments are about.
Thats The Plan. What are the complications? The first one is that the Arabs may not be able, or willing, to deal with their own, largely self-inflicted, problems. So far, Iraqis have turned out, despite death threats, to elect a government. Theres no shortage of volunteers for the police and security forces. But the terrorists have plenty of volunteers as well, and corruption is still a problem.
To further complicate things, Europe, and much of the rest of the world, loudly opposes The Plan. This is partly a knee-jerk reaction to the defeat of the leftist Democrat government in the United States in 2000. Europeans felt more comfortable with the Democrats, even to the enthusiastic call for American participation in the invasion of Kosovo in 1999 (which, like the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was carried out to overthrow a terrorist state in an operation the UN would not approve.) The Europeans also felt that they could live with thugs like Saddam, and convince him to stop supporting terrorists. Iraq, like several other Middle Eastern nations (Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen), had been willing to host, or at least tolerate, al Qaeda operations. Europeans are not big on bold moves and risk taking. They would rather try a bribe or a well timed assassination. But now they are stuck with the after-effects of the antics of those American cowboys, and they dont like it, especially if the American tactics work.
Arabs, and Moslems in general, opposed the invasion of Iraq because the leaders of most Moslem states operated the same way Saddam did, just more discretely. The people got their information from sensationalistic, and rabidly anti-Semitic mass media, that portrayed all the ills of the world as a Jewish conspiracy. Despite this revival of Nazi doctrine (and, with some Islamic radical groups, the Nazi salute), Europeans looked the other way. That has also started to change, as the European attitude towards Moslem migrants produced a far more fertile breeding ground for Islamic radicals that in the United States. Europeans largely dismissed this at first, until the bombs went off in Spain (2004) and Britain (2005). No one likes to admit they are on the wrong side of history, so most Europeans continue to contort themselves into positions that dismiss The Plan, yet still allow them to do what needs to be done to deal with their more immediate (than those wrongheaded Americans) exposure to more terrorist attacks.
The savage criticism of the way America is fighting the war on terror is nothing new in American politics. In every major war, the party (or parties) out of power were sharp and brutal in their criticism of how the government was fighting the war of the moment. You can look it up. Thats a lot easier with Google, but if you have access to a major university or research library, you can find microfilm copies of newspapers from World War II, World War I, or even earlier. Makes interesting reading, and induces a measure of dj vu.