It has been about two and a half years since September 11, 2001. Two and a half years after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor -- that is, by mid-1944 -- the U.S. and its allies had rallied decisively against the Axis: Allied forces had successfully landed in Normandy and U.S forces in the Pacific were leap-frogging toward the Japanese homeland.
But World War II was far from over in two and a half years. It took another year of bloody fighting in Europe -- and more than a year in the Pacific -- to defeat the Axis. Yet the Germans and Japanese waged conventional war: Their units were identifiable. They could be found, attacked, and destroyed, without ambiguity.
Why, then, would anyone expect that we should be near victory over al Qaeda and its allies after a mere two and a half years? The enemy is within our borders, and within the borders of other Western nations. The enemy is hard to identify and, therefore, hard to attack and destroy. Unlike World War II and previous wars, we cannot measure the march toward victory by the rate of advance toward an enemy's capital.
We have done much to disrupt the enemy's plans, communications, and financing through our successes in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and through other successes that cannot be publicized without telling the enemy what we know and how we know it. Despite all the press about bloody acts of "resistance" in Iraq and bloody acts of terror elsewhere, we are winning.
Victory in the war on terror will not come in another year or two, but it will surely come if we persist -- and only if we persist. Our persistence will be tested by more bloody acts, inside and outside our borders. Those acts will test our resolve to "provide for the common defence."
Will we fight the enemy or try to appease him? I am not confident of the answer. The United States of 2004 lacks the moral fiber of the United States of 1941.