Commentators in the media noted recently that the Iraq Campaign in the War on Terror has now lasted longer than the US involvement in the Second World War. I think that is significant, but not in the way most of the superficial comparisons do.
First of all, most of the newsies got it wrong, claiming that the "War in Iraq has lasted longer than the Second World War." The historical fact is the Second World War lasted nearly eight years, beginning with the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 (one could argue it started earlier than that--with Japanese operations in China) and our entry as an official belligerent came halfway through the war.
Second, the correct military way to view our current operations in Iraq is as a CAMPAIGN in a larger war--a la the Pacific, African, and European Campaigns in the Second World War. If our global military operations against terrorism were confined to Iraq, then we could (still not technically correct) call it the Iraq War (or some derivative term, thereof). But they are not; we have forces (some overt; most clandestine) in the fight in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, Latin America, and in the "Stan" republics of the Former Soviet Union, to name a few of the many countries in which Islamo-fascists are fomenting hatred and plotting attacks against the interest of the US and our allies.
Third, the most important point to be drawn from the comparison of the current fight with the Second World War (and, inevitably, with our involvement in the Vietnamese Civil War of 1945--1975) is the level of commitment to absolute and rapid victory over our enemies. I've said it before, and it bears repeating (like the preacher who repeats the same sermon week after week until the congregation repents); we are fighting this war with one arm tied behind our backs and sitting in a rocking chair. President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld repeated the same mistake made by President Johnson and Secretary McNamara. Our involvement in the Vietnamese Civil War was (despite the 58,000 lives lost over a decade), for the most part, a limited application of the military and economic power of the re-United States. Unlike the 3 and 1/2 years of our full-scale involvement in the Second World War, there was no rationing or other shared privation during the 60s. Johnson did not want to jeopardize his "Great Society" goals, and he relied on McNamara's high-tech vision of future war (sound familiar?) to fight the Vietnamese communist insurgency.
If we had fought the Second World War like we fought in Vietnam, and are now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, WWII would have lasted until 1950 and we would have probably met the Soviets at the Pas de Calais (check out a map) instead of at the Rhine. But, Roosevelt committed nearly the entire economic output of the re-United States to war-making resources necessary for victory, and we (once those resources reached the fighting fronts) quickly overwhelmed Nazi Germany and the Japanese. Americans on the homefront made sacrifices for the Second World War that are unimaginable today. There was virtually no new cars or trucks for three years. Sugar, gasoline, rubber, and other resources were strictly rationed. Most colleges and universities in the land did not field football teams in 1943. And, (a little known fact that casts our worship of the patriotism of the "Greatest Generation" in a different light) the proportion of draftees in the American Armed Forces during WWII was far higher than during our "unpopular" involvement in the Vietnamese Civil War a generation later.
If we had fought the Second World War like we fought most of the war in Vietnam, and are now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, we would have not conducted the strategic bombing campaigns over the German and Japanese heartlands, but would have instead only pounded France (which is not necessarily a bad thing) to kill Vichy French, and Germans AFTER they crossed the Rhine.
The point is until we COMMIT to rapid and complete victory over our enemies, we are fighting a losing battle. To win this war, we must fight it like we fought World War Two. Our President needs to lead us in a crusade (I know that word makes Muslims mad--that's why I used it). He needs to quit trying to balance guns and butter. We need to put the Space Program on hold, devote one whole year of automobile manufacturing to building military vehicles, ration food so that we can overwhelm our Islamo-fascist sympathizers with American bounty for one year, and CALL on American men and women to join the crusade in uniform (either as fighters or as homeland support). We need to attack Iran and Syria, now, and end their support of Islamo-fascism.
I know that last paragraph sounds way over the top. It does to most who don't know the history of our empire in particular and world empires in general. Rome was at its zenith when its citizenry fought. Rome declined when its citizenry paid others to do the fighting.
I knew we were on the wrong track in this "War on Terrorism" by the late fall of 2001. I told Miss Brenda the morning of September 12th that I believed we were about to embark on the first world war of the 21st Century and that she needed to prepare herself for the agony of seeing her man and her sons go off to fight. I believed our president when he declared that we would make no distinction between terrorists and those nations that supported terrorism.
Turns out he didn't mean it.