The War on Terror is unlike any other war our nation has ever fought. We've not declared war on a country. Our enemy plans its attacks from within our borders. They operate irregardless of nationality.
Instead, what drives them is an ideology: Islamic Fundamentalism. Not the Islam of millions of peace-loving Muslims all over the world. This is a twisted, deranged, homicidal cult which seems to attract psychotics and maniacs. It gives them purpose by validating their hatred, and providing an outlet for it. This is our enemy. And they are everywhere.
In World War II, there was a common enemy: The Axis, composed of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy.
The citizenry of that trio of nations had found a leader in each of their dictators which had come to power. The people, or at least the majority, had chosen them to lead their countries to victory. And in doing so, accepted the consequences of their defeat.
Islamic Fundamentalism, instead of hijacking a nation, has hijacked a religion. Its followers have effectively ensured that any conflict started by them will create a backlash against innocent Muslims, therefore alienating more people against America and its Allies. This is exactly how more Islamic extremists are made. They also have no qualms about killing innocent civilians; these apparently are acceptable casualties in the fight to defeat us. Actually, the killing and maiming of women and children serves the purpose of turning the population against us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost as if to say, "Yes, it's true Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but we didn't have roadside bombs while he was in power".
When I first arrived in Iraq, the civilian population were overjoyed that Saddam was overthrown. They welcomed us with open arms, for the most part. As the weeks turned into months, resentment began to build on both sides. The insurgents accomplished this by targeting our soldiers, ambushing them with roadside bombs, automatic weapons, and rocket-propelled grenades; many of the operations were suicide attacks. American soldiers learned to trust no one; every local was a potential bomb, with the ability to send their brothers and sisters home in a metal box. The Iraqi civilians, who were at first turning in insurgents and Saddam's old henchman, began to look the other way when these bloodthirsty murderers were planting IED's and stockpiling weapons. And we began to raid more homes and mosques, sending the detainees to Abu Ghraib prison. We were caught in a vicious cycle.
So, how do we win against this enemy? An enemy that hides behind innocent men, women, and children, and draws them into the crossfire? There are no enemy troops, planes, or ships to defeat, something at which our military has traditionally excelled. No matter how many of these fanatics we kill or capture, more take their place. It's as if our military is playing chess, and our enemy has decided to play Parcheesi instead, because they know how to win at that.
It's a war of words and ideas.