To some, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are ancient history, a one-time horror.
Many believe that if we could just capture Osama bin Laden, and get out of Iraq, our 54-month nightmare would be over. Others believe that the Middle East should solve its own problems and that Iran, even with nukes, cannot seriously threaten America.
Such wishful thinking is dangerous.
We must be concerned, focused on the enemy and united in addressing the war on terrorism. It threatens future generations.
Unfortunately, nationwide, we're focused inwardly. The 9/11 commission focused on where our country's intelligence agencies failed, but never pondered, "Who are they? What are their ambitions?"
Dismayed by incomprehensible headlines from an Iraq war we all hate, frustrated and defenseless against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and homicide bombers, we ask: "Did the administration lie about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?" and "Who outed Valerie Plame?" We don't even bother to investigate what actually happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons.
As the National Security Agency searches for clues about terrorist plans, President Bush is accused of illegally eavesdropping on Americans. And the president's opponents propose censure or impeachment, to the delight of al-Qaida and Al-Jazeera.
As terrorists kidnap, behead and drag charred bodies through the streets, we focus on Abu Gharib and baseless innuendo of U.S. torture elsewhere.
Islamaphobia rules when an Arab firm plans to operate some U.S. ports. Desperately needing moderate Arab allies, we wave "Du-bye" to the United Arab Emirates, the most moderate and pro-American of all Arab nations. We ignore the reality that foreign firms already manage 100 percent of cargo headed here from global ports of origin, where security is a far greater concern.
This inward focus cannot lead to success — but could secure victory for the jihadis. We must quit this internal squabbling, and focus outside — on the real enemy.
We must learn why jihadis believe their atrocities are justified, and why mainstream Muslims tolerate them. We must tune into this radical enemy and listen to what they've been preaching for centuries.
Violent jihadism dates back 700 years.
Espoused initially around 1300, this ideology evolved for 600 years, intensified in 1920s Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood, and today flourishes globally as al-Qaida.
It predates the industrial age, predates oil, predates the very existence of the United States and predates the Arab-Israeli conflict. The movement is bent on world domination and extermination of all who disagree with its tenets, including fellow Muslims who are insufficiently radical. Asking, "Why do they hate us?" is irrelevant. They see everyone as their enemy!
These "true believers" are intent on a worldwide Islamic paradise. This vision justifies extermination of all considered "nonbelievers." Jihadis want to destroy Jews, Christians, America, democracy, atheism, communism, liberalism, polytheism and everything declared "unbelief."
There will be no compromise, no reasoning and no accommodation with these fanatics. They are hard-core ideologues. Any deviation from their beliefs would undermine their very purpose for existence. Their way is the only way. All others are "infidels."
They will never accept modernization.
They are anti-democratic, anti-pluralism, anti-nationalism, anti-anything except "purist" Islam. They believe solely in a world ruled by Allah, under Sharia law.
Anything less is rule by man, apostasy.
Their dream is totalitarian Islamic rule, worldwide. No other thought, ideology, government, religious belief or societal organization is permitted.
For decades, before 9/11, we ignored this virulent form of fundamentalism.
We hoped it would just go away, or at least not threaten us at home. But now, the need to meet this threat head-on is no longer a question.
We are in for some tough sledding in the years ahead. This is an unbending, global, delusional and outrageous ideology. It must be fought with every method and means at the disposal of the free world. It must be defeated, for it threatens the entire world order.
Their Achilles' heel may be the fact that mainstream Muslims have more to fear from jihadis than we do. To offer an alternative to the jihadis' dream, moderate Muslim leaders must and hopefully will emerge to win the hearts and minds of their fellow Muslims. Only then can representative governments in the Muslim world expel jihad into the dustbins of history.
Just as throughout U.S. history, many will suffer and die in the process. Let's reflect on our own Civil War, when 1 million out of a population of 12 million Americans died in our struggle for union. Lets remember the tens of millions lost as totalitarianism, fascism and communism gave way to democracies in the last century.
Then let's end our internal bickering, and do everything we can to help our Muslim brothers and sisters on their journey toward freedom.
Jack Tymann retired as president of Westinghouse International and later founded Homeland Security Partners, focused on counterterrorism technologies. He was chairman of the Clinton-Mubarak Presidents' Council for the Middle East from 1993 to 2001 and now serves on the board of AMIDEAST, promoting mutual understanding between Americans and the Arab world.