I think in the end it is better to live in a free country with a legitimate government that isn't coping well with terrorism, rather than an oppressive regime where even the terrorists are too afraid to step out of line.
I agree. Let's consider what Jack Bauer would do in each situation.
1) a free country, with a legitimate government, but poor security forces
Jack would personally take over security and kill the terrorists, thus creating a free country with no downsides.
2) an oppressive regime with terrorists too scared to step out of line
Jack would personally kill the oppressive regime, *then* personally take over security for the country. He'd kill the oppressor and the terrorists. We'd end up with the same final result: a free country with no downsides.
So, what's the difference? In scenario 2, Jack has to kill more people. Thus, scenario 2 is further away from a good, free country.