Arms keep peace. That is an old latin proverb. For the most part of human history that has been true. You would not want to attack a powerful neighbor. Throughout the cold war the idea of MAD, mutual assured destruction, kept the United States and the USSR from launching their missiles. Yet the 21st century is a new world. Strong arms only help when your enemy has cities that could be taken or armies to be fought. But that’s not what we’re fighting now. What do you do with an enemy that has no country, no cities, no armies, an sometimes a desire to die?
The enemy is an ideology. How do you feel an idea? Bullets can’t hurt ideas. You can deploy as many troops as you want, but that will only give the enemy more targets and breed resentment in the local populations. Your security forces and soldiers can’t be everywhere at once. How do you fight these people? You can’t be in every house, every school, every place of worship where these ideas are spread. You also can’t sit back and just let them destroy you.
It’s a really tough question and I’m not sure what the answer is. I think a good direction to go in would be to try and isolate these radical groups even more by improving the lives of the people in their strongholds. If you go in and try and take over the place in an effort to stop them, they will just slip back into the shadows. The local population will just side with your enemy and try and fight you off as the oppressors. Yet if you give that local population aid, they might see that the fringe groups do not serve their best interests. The Marshall plan helped fight communism by providing at risk areas with aid, why not do the same thing with terrorism?