The three-year-plus war that began on September 11 is the strangest conflict in our history. It is not just that the first day saw the worst attack on American soil since our creation, or that we are publicly pledged to fighting a method -- "terror" -- rather than the concrete enemy of Islamic fascism that employs it.
Our dilemma is that we have not sought to defeat and humiliate the enemy as much as wean a people from the thrall of Islamic autocracy. That is our challenge, and explains our exasperating strategy of half-measures and apologies -- and the inability to articulate exactly whom we are fighting and why.
Imagine that a weak Hitler in the mid-1930s never planned conventional war with the democracies. Instead, he stealthily would fund and train thousands of SS fanatics on neutral ground to permeate European society, convinced of its decadence and the need to return to a mythical time when a purer Aryan Volk reigned supreme. Such terrorists would bomb, assassinate, promulgate fascistic hatred in the media, and whine about Versailles, hoping insidiously to gain concessions from wearied liberal societies that would make ever more excuses as they looked inward and blamed themselves for the presence of such inexplicable evil. All the while, Nazi Germany would deny any connections to these "indigenous movements" and "deplore" such "terrorism," even as the German people got a certain buzz from seeing the victors of World War I squirm in their discomfort. A triangulating Mussolini or Franco would use their good graces to "bridge the gap," and seek a "peaceful resolution," while we sought to "liberate" rather than defeat the German nation.
So to recap: The real enemy is an Islamic fascist ideology that is promulgated by a few thousand. They wear no uniforms and are deeply embedded within and protected by Muslim society.
Beyond the terrorists, a larger percentage of Middle Easterners, if it cost them little, gain psychological satisfaction when fellow defiant Muslims (terrorists or not) "stand up" to Westerners, who enjoy power, status, and wealth undreamed of in the Middle East.