If there was something tragi-farcical about Steven Spielberg receiving a knighthood from Jacques Chirac last weekend for "Schindler's List," there was also something tragi-farcically apt. Here we are, facing not World War III (the Cold War), but World War IV, "the war on terror." We see the gymnasium massacre in the Caucasus, and the bus bloodbath in Beersheba. We hear of the ongoing extermination of black Africans in Sudan, and the murders of 12 Nepalese cooks and cleaners in Iraq, where Iran and Al Qaeda support terrorist cadres in their efforts to suicide-bomb their way over the nascent Iraqi society. The Western mind reels and tries to come to terms with the global bloodletting (of the week).
We are experiencing a civilization-wide failure, even three years after 9/11, to define the terrorism born of Islam's core medieval precepts: violent jihad and dehumanizing dhimmitude. We see the same kind of terrorism in Russia that we see in Israel, Sudan and Iraq. We've seen it in Spain and we've seen in it Bali, and we've certainly seen it in the United States. We see it, but maybe we don't believe it -- a failure that could ultimately be our undoing. Too many of us prefer to overlook the evils of World War IV and watch "Chevalier" Spielberg get a kiss on both cheeks from Jacques Chirac for dramatizing the evils of World War II.
"In this difficult time," Chirac told his new Hollywood knight, "it is essential that cinema" blah, blah "recalls the horror of what is unutterable." Unutterable is right. But no "cinema" -- not by Spielberg, not by anyone -- is recalling anything, utterable or not, about the colossal struggle of our age. There is no cultural echo chamber in which this conflict finds resonance. Indeed, Spielberg's next picture is a remake of H.G. Wells' 1898 Martian-invasion story "The War of the Worlds." This is a far cry from the scores of movies Hollywood made to depict World War II, including "Mrs. Miniver," "The Mortal Storm," and "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo." These days, Hollywood just hates President Bush and sticks a sock on its lens.
This is just one more reason why we haven't come to terms with the battle we've joined. I've written about this failure before. The war we wage, the United States and its coalition of friends, is not a war on generic "terrorism," but on Islamic jihad -- the spread of Islam by violent means. We wage it not against generic "terrorists," but against Islamic jihadists who dream of death and destruction, not to mention a caliphate, in their religion's name.