The clear, present and continuing danger posed to Western civilization by the worldwide Islamist terror network cannot be overcome while the American, European and other freedom-loving peoples are neither mobilized nor steeled for the sacrifices ahead.
No serious observer minimizes the perils. The attack carried out in November at Fort Hood by Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born Muslim, showed the fatal consequences of not intercepting "ticking bombs." And the arrests of Najibullah Zazi, David Headley and five young Pakistani-Americans last year in separate plots against America irrefutably established that homegrown jihadists are a threat - just as they are in the UK, Germany and Spain.
While Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to blow up Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day, this attempted mass murder was only the latest proof that an Islamist terror network, with bases in Africa, Arabia and South Asia, cells just about everywhere else, and a noxious presence on the Internet, sees itself in a relentless state of war with the West.
A RECENT New York Times editorial concluded: "Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen? Americans have a right to feel weary. But the [Abdulmutallab] plot is a warning of why it's so important to head off full chaos in Yemen. The last thing the world needs is another haven for al-Qaida."
Indeed. But if Americans are "weary" at this stage of the conflict, it is partly because their leaders - and media - have not properly framed the nature of the threat.
Neither former president George W. Bush, who spoke mostly of a "war on terror," nor President Barack Obama, who speaks in terms of "violent extremists" - and no European leader - has had the courage to say that the enemy is global jihad.
The Islamist danger is not primarily rooted geographically - in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Iran or Arabia - but theologically and politically within the larger Muslim civilization.
The only way Westerners can connect the dots - between, say, the devastating attack against Forward Operating Base Chapman near the Pakistani border in Afghanistan (which claimed the lives of seven seasoned CIA anti-terror operatives), and the attempted ax-murder of a cartoonist in the Danish city of Aarhus over the weekend - is for their leaders to plainly say who the enemy is, what they want, and what is at stake if they succeed.
That US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's first reaction to the attack aboard Northwest Flight 253 was to think that it was unconnected to a larger plot, testifies to how hard it will be to change mind-sets. Even Obama's first reaction was that Abdulmutallab appeared to be an "isolated extremist."
Yet compared to most other world leaders, Obama is positively Churchillian. He has articulated the right goal: "To disrupt, to dismantle, and defeat the extremists who threaten usâ€¦anywhere where they are planning attacksâ€¦"
He's got the metaphysics right: "Evil does exist in the world." Furthermore, he fully understands the amorphous nature of the enemy, declaring that the "war" is against "a far-reaching network."
The missing link is naming the enemy. Only then will he be able to talk frankly about how hard - and necessary - it is to find trustworthy Muslim allies.
The murdered CIA agents were likely betrayed by Afghans they trusted. Al-Qaida in Yemen was revived partly when terrorists were freed in a prison break, possibly orchestrated by renegade elements of the Yemeni secret police.
EVEN IF Western leaders did mobilize their societies, the struggle against the Islamist menace would remain wearying. This is an enemy that is often embedded among civilians and enforces allegiance by beheading those it suspects of disloyalty. Citizens need to know this, to understand why innocent children are sometimes accidentally killed in military operations conducted by allied forces.
Obama needs to tell Americans and Europeans willing to listen that, though the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists, pretty much all terrorists are Muslim, hence the need for profiling.
An overstretched army, supported by a weary home front, against an ill-defined enemy, does not offer a viable strategy for success. Better to tell people that the enemy is radical Islam, which wants to spread its religion using the sword, and that defeat would mean an end to Western values of pluralism, minority rights and democracy.