Victor Davis Hanson

Fourth, jihadists have already scored successes in all sorts of ways beyond altering the very nature of air travel. Cartoonists now lampoon everyone and everything - except Muslims. The pope must weigh his words carefully. Otherwise, priests and nuns are attacked abroad. A single false Newsweek story about one flushed Koran led to riot and death.

The net result is that terrified millions in Western societies silently accept that for the first time in centuries they cannot talk or write honestly about what they think of Islam and the Koran.

Fifth, everything from our 401(k) plans to municipal water plants depend on sophisticated computers and communications. And you don't need a missile to take them down. Two oceans no longer protect the United States - not when the Internet knows no boundaries, our borders are relatively wide open, and dozens of ships dock and hundreds of flights arrive daily.

A germ, some spent nuclear fuel or a vial of nerve gas could cause as much mayhem and calamity as an armored division in Hitler's army. The Soviets were considered rational enemies who accepted the bleak laws of nuclear deterrence. But the jihadists claim that they welcome death if their martyrdom results in thousands of dead Americans.

Finally, radical Islamists largely arise from the oil-rich Middle East. Since 9/11, the price of oil has skyrocketed, transferring trillions of dollars from successful Western, Indian and Chinese economies to unsuccessful Arab and Iranian autocracies.

Terrorists know that blowing up a Saudi oil field or getting control of Iraqi petroleum reserves - and they attempt both all the time - will alter the world economy. Even their mere threats give us psychological fits and their sponsors more cash.

This is a strange war. Our successes in avoiding attack convince some that the real danger has passed. And when we kill jihadists abroad, we are told it is peripheral to the war or only incites more terrorism.

But despite the current efforts at denial, the war against Islamic terrorism remains real and deadly. We can't wish it away until Middle Eastern dictatorships reform - or we end their oil stranglehold over the world economy.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.