It's nearly two years since 9/11 and President Bush's declaring a "war on terror." How fare the forces of militant Islam?
Paradoxically, their biggest loss was in Afghanistan and their biggest gain in Iraq. In Afghanistan, they lost the Taliban regime and the safe haven it provided. In Iraq, the fall of Saddam Hussein and the new presence of 200,000 Westerners in a situation of semi-anarchy offers unwonted opportunities to establish a militant Islamic order.
In the larger world, counterterrorist efforts have been impressively successful, money flows staunched, suspects rounded up, and organizations disrupted. Although the drumbeat of deaths continues - with particularly large numbers of deaths in Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Morocco - no incidents of mega-terrorism have taken place since 9/11.
Many governments have still not woken up to the threat of militant Islamic terrorism, but still lumber along with pre-9/11 attitudes. One example of this took place in June 2003, when a Dutch court acquitted 12 men accused of recruiting for al-Qaida and plotting jihad against the West ("The prosecution's case was hit during the three-and-a-half week trial," reads the Reuters account, "when judges ruled evidence provided by the Dutch secret service inadmissible.")
Then there is the case of the Saudi government, which keeps pretending to be against all forms of militant Islam, whereas it seems to be only against that relatively small element that seeks the monarchy's overthrow.
International coordination has been fairly successful, though it remains in the getting-to-know-you stage, as law enforcement, military forces, and intelligence agencies around the world begin efforts at coordination.
One eyebrow-raising case came to light earlier this month, when British counter-espionage, American law enforcement, and Russian state security together put together a complex sting operation that netted a London-based arms dealer on grounds that he planned to sell a ground-to-air missile to terrorists for use against a US airliner. This suggests progress is being made.
President Bush coined the phrase "war against terrorism" on the evening of September 11, 2001, before he had specific information on the perpetrators' identities, so such vagueness was necessary. But nearly two years later, the retention of this term, and the official reluctance to acknowledge the ideology of militant Islam, makes it harder to prosecute the war.
Ironically, even the Saudi interior minister has accepted that the problem lies in an ideology and in the convictions of the terrorists. If he can take this step, surely non-Muslim authorities can do likewise.
Surveying the war effort as a whole, there has been a rousing from the deep sleep of pre- 9/11. But with notable exceptions, there is not a state of full awakening and the forces of militant Islam remain no less of a threat than they were two years ago.