Consider that both World War II and the Global War on Terror began with a surprise air attack. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was possible only because our immigration controls, intelligence services and FBI let us down. The same was true leading up to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Strangely enough, the American death toll is almost the same: 2,403 at Pearl Harbor and 2,966 on Sept. 11.
The Pearl Harbor attack occurs after years of "warnings" that went ignored. The Japanese had made it clear that they were going to evict Europeans and Americans from the Pacific. They had been at war in China since their 1930 seizure of Manchuria and the 1937 invasion of China -- but they still caught us flatfooted.
The same kinds of events happened in 2001. Osama bin Laden had attacked the United States at the World Trade Center in 1993, in Doha, in Tanzania, in Nairobi and on the USS Cole. But we were still caught by surprise on Sept. 11.
In the Pacific, our adversaries were fanatical Japanese soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians who believed that they had a divine mission to drive us out of the Pacific. They weren't just willing to die for their cause, they wanted to die -- killing a Westerner. And it wasn't just the military. On Saipan, more than 800 Japanese civilians committed suicide rather than be captured.
The Banzai charges starting at Guadalcanal and the Kamikaze attacks that begin at Leyte were beyond the comprehension of most Americans. The Japanese routinely booby-trapped the bodies of their dead, ambushed Americans under false flags of surrender and filmed themselves committing terrible atrocities -- including beheadings. Many even wore headscarves with symbolic messages.
Today, the Jihadists believe they have a divine mission -- to drive the "infidels" out of "Islamic lands." The suicide terrorist is eulogized as a martyr; they routinely videotape and photograph the most heinous murders of their hostages and proudly display the images; if you look carefully at these horrific videos and photos, you will see many of them wearing headscarves emblazoned with verses from the Koran.
Today's enemy is every bit as brutal as the enemy we faced in the Pacific during World War II, and they are every bit as determined to destroy America. The one difference between the Pacific engagement in World War II and today's War on Terror -- though the media ignore it -- is that we are making more progress in less time than during the start of World War II.
January's elections in Iraq will make that nation more secure and will be a major step toward stability in the region. That is something for which all Americans can be thankful.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.