On the fourth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Mark Steyn has words that are worth repeating and remembering:
On this fourth anniversary we are in a bizarre situation: The war is being won -- in Afghanistan, Iraq, the broader Middle East and many other places where America has changed the conditions on the ground in its favor. But at home the war about the war is being lost. When the media look at those Bush approval ratings -- currently hovering around 40 percent -- they carelessly assume the 60 percent is some unified Kerry-Hillary-Cindy bloc. It's not. It undoubtedly includes people who are enthusiastic for whacking America's enemies, but who don't quite get the point of this somewhat desultory listless phase. If the "war" is now a push for democratization and liberalization in Middle East dictatorships, that's a worthy cause but not one sufficiently primal to keep the attention of the American people. You'd have had the same problem in the Second World War if four years after Pearl Harbor we were postponing D-Day in order to nation-build in the Solomon Islands.Do read the whole thing.
And, as the years go by, it becomes clearer that the war aspects -- the attacks in New York, Washington, Bali, Madrid, Istanbul, London -- are really spasmodic flashes of a much more elusive enemy. Although Islamism is the first truly global terrorist insurgency, it shares more similarities with conventional terror movements -- the IRA or the Basque separatists -- than many of us thought four years ago. Terror groups persist because of a lack of confidence on the part of their targets: the IRA, for example, calculated correctly that the British had the capability to smash them totally but not the will. So they knew that while they could never win militarily, they also could never be defeated. That's what the Islamists have bet.
Only a tiny minority of Muslims want to be suicide bombers, and only a slightly larger minority want actively to provide support networks for suicide bombers, but big majorities of Muslims support almost all the terrorists' strategic goals: For example, according to a recent poll, over 60 percent of British Muslims want to live under sharia in the United Kingdom. That's a "moderate" Westernized Muslim: He wants stoning for adultery to be introduced in Liverpool, but he's a "moderate" because it's not such a priority that he's prepared to fly a plane into a skyscraper.
As with IRA killers and the broader Irish nationalist population, these shared aims provide a large comfort zone in which terror networks can operate. And it enables the non-violent lobby groups to use the terrorists -- or the threat of terrorists -- as part of a good cop/bad cop routine. Thus, the Islamic lobby groups pressure governments to make concessions to them rather than to the terrorists -- even though both elements share the same aims. You can pluck out news items at random: In London, a religious "hate crimes" law that makes honest discussion of Islam even more difficult; in Ontario, the moves toward sharia courts for Muslim community disputes; in Seattle, the introduction of gender-separate, Muslim-only swimming sessions in municipal pools. The 9/11 terrorists were in favor of all these things.
So four years on we're winning in the Middle East and Central Asia, floundering in Europe and North America. War is hell, but a war that half the country refuses to recognize as such staggers on as a very contemporary kind of purgatory.