Some set the matter aside as being nothing more than verbal play for the benefit of word-men. What term properly designates what we are doing, and what we are enduring, in many parts of the world, the symbolic center of which is the Twin Towers site in Manhattan? Sometimes the words chosen can mean the justification of an additional measure of military power. Always they calibrate the public mood and the public perception of what is going on.
I am informed that French pacifists, ensconced in the French Academy in 1939 and determined to understate Nazi military exercises (even those being done as close by as Czechoslovakia), refused to acknowledge such a creature as a "bombardier." Right, "bombardier" would have meant "bomber pilot." The pacifists were prepared to use the word bombardier, but only as the flying instrument -- an airplane from which one drops bombs. Since no such creature as a pilot who drops bombs from such an airplane was acknowledged to exist, the schoolmen of the academy at first refused to authorize that use of the word.
Norman Podhoretz, a gifted writer and analyst, does not cavil in these matters, and his new book is called "World War IV." By Podhoretz's calculations, World War II ended with the surrender of Berlin and Tokyo. This was followed by another and very serious war, which we termed the Cold War. That pretty well ended when the Soviet Union allowed the gates in Berlin to open and, two years later, abandoned the Soviet flag. But the end of World War III did not augur an end to global warfare. The new enemy is referred to in certain quarters as Islamofascism. And Podhoretz is the chief taxonomist of that awful combine.
He quotes in his book Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum. Pipes is off to a rollicking and reassuring start in what becomes the deadliest paragraph in town. Begin with our military superiority, which would appear to make victory inevitable. "Islamists have nothing like the military machine the Axis deployed in World War II, nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. What do the Islamists have to compare with the Wehrmacht or the Red Army? The SS or Spetznaz? The Gestapo or the KGB? Or, for that matter, to Auschwitz or the Gulag?"
A thoughtful answer to that question is sobering. The Islamists have:
-- A potential access to weapons of mass destruction that could devastate Western life.
-- A religious appeal that provides deeper resonance and greater staying power than the artificial ideologies of fascism or communism.
-- An impressively conceptualized, funded and organized institutional machinery that successfully builds credibility, goodwill and electoral success.
-- An ideology capable of appealing to Muslims of every size and shape, from Lumpenproletariat to privileged, from illiterates to Ph.D.s, from the well-adjusted to psychopaths, from Yemenis to Canadians."
Add to the above "a huge number of committed cadres. If Islamists constitute 10 percent to 15 percent of the Muslim population worldwide, they number some 125 million to 200 million persons, or a far greater total than all the fascists and communists, combined, who ever lived."
Recognition, then, of the scale of the pretensions of the Islamist enemy has to precede substantial measures against it. In the matter of Iraq, for instance, the ambiguity of our engagement and the enlarging political cry against it would alter dramatically if one accepted the premises of the Fourth World War so ineluctably spelled out in Podhoretz's little volume, which takes time here and there to demolish such arguments as were mounted in protest against President Bush's mention in his 2003 State of the Union address of yellowcake hunting in Niger.
Those critics who insist that it is only a small war-party faction of the Islamists that we have to fear might have been asked a generation ago if it was not merely a small number of Germans and Russians we were properly exercised about. Sixty million people were dead after that misreckoning.