The ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu (search) taught his men to "know your enemy" before going into battle. For if "you know your enemy and know yourself," he wrote, "you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."
But, Sun Tzu warned, "If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat."
In my 22 years as an officer of the Marines — from Annapolis to The Basic School to the Naval War College — similar advice was drilled into us: know your enemy. It's sound guidance, pretty basic stuff, really. Yet there are apparently those in our government — people with many years of experience, supposedly learned statesmen, according to their bios and press reports — who somehow don't get it.
Our present enemy, properly identified by President George W. Bush and his national security team, is the radical Islamic jihadist terror movement. Our enemy is not limited to Usama bin Laden or Al Qaeda, though they certainly fit the bill. Radical Islamic jihadist terrorists, principally financed by Saudi petro-dollars, also carry out their vicious killings under the rubric of the Muslim Brotherhood (search), Hezbollah (search), Hamas (search), Islamic Jihad (search), the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (search), Ansar al-Islam (search), and dozens of other names. And though they use different monikers, they all have a common goal: to kill as many Americans, Christians and Jews as they can, using whatever tools they have at their disposal.
While these barbaric groups prefer mass killings and spectacular events like 9/11, they are more than willing to settle for individual atrocities: a homicide bus-bomber in Israel or the gruesome beheading of a single hostage. They know they can count on the Internet, Arabic-language broadcast media — of which Al-Jazeera is but one — and even Western press outlets to help them spread fear.
Our enemies are utterly ruthless, and indescribably brutal. Though the leaders of these groups do all they can to avoid death or capture, their "foot soldiers" are not only willing to die for their cause — they want to die. Unlike adversaries of the past, this enemy is not motivated by goals that inspired armies of old: land, treasure, strategic waterways or natural resources. Today's enemy is instead goaded by a twisted belief that they have a holy mission to advance their religion and drive Western influence — meaning Judeo-Christian values — from any Islamic territory.
And they totally ignore any of the so-called "rules of warfare" adopted by the "interntational community" of civilized nations. They are not ignorant of these rules — they simply ignore them.
The president and his team understand this enemy. Some Democrats, like Sens. Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman, do as well. Unfortunately, others who manage to command much more media attention, apparently believe that President Bush and our generals are the enemy. And their attacks on the president over these past few weeks have proved Sun Tzu's admonition, that if you don't know who your enemy really is, "for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat."
The brutal beheading of American Paul Johnson (search) is a tragic, sanguinary example of such a defeat. In the original statement issued by Paul Johnson's captors, they referred to the abuses at Abu Ghraib (search) and said Mr. Johnson would be treated the same way that prisoners there were treated. The prison issue has inflamed the Arab world because too many of our political and media elites have treated the shameful actions of a few soldiers in an Iraqi prison as though it was the modern equivalent of the My Lai massacre (search). The blood of Paul Johnson is on their hands.
Last week, President Bush met with Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy in the Oval Office. Hours earlier, a 33 year-old South Korean, Kim Sun-il (search), an Arabic translator working in Iraq, was cruelly beheaded by jihadists. The terrorists took this man hostage and threatened to kill him in an effort to influence the South Korean government to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Mr. Kim's vile murder came just days after the beheading of Paul Johnson and just six weeks after Nick Berg (search) suffered the same fate.
Surely the sophisticated scribes of the vaunted White House press corps would want to know the president's reaction to the sadistic killing of Kim Sun-il and ask what more Mr. Bush can do to win this war and protect American citizens at home and abroad. But when the opportunity arose to ask about the most recent horrific atrocity, the first question from an American reporter was to inquire of the "perception" that torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was authorized by the Bush administration. This inquiring whiz also wanted to know if the president thought it would be wise to have an independent commission look into the matter.
The media wants to know about yet another "inquiry" into American "crimes against detainees," because that's what Democrat leaders in Congress are demanding. Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her brethren held a news conference to demand that a Select Committee be established to investigate abuses, not just at Abu Ghraib, but at every prison in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Despite the White House release of hundreds of documents describing the official parameters allowable for U.S. interrogators when questioning terror suspects, there are apparently many on Capitol Hill who are convinced that the men and women of America's military are the bad guys.
Sen. Ted Kennedy, an expert in scandals, routinely refers to abuses at Abu Ghraib as "torture" and "sadistic abuses." Former Vice President Al Gore routinely accuses the president of lying and setting the "moral climate for abuses" by our Armed Forces. Regrettably, they have spent far less time denouncing murderous terrorists, calling on Islamic clerics to speak out against such barbaric behavior, or even issuing press releases condemning terror.
The War on Terror cannot be won until Americans have a common understanding of who the enemy is. And as long as Democrats target the Bush administration — not the terrorists — as the enemy, we are in trouble.
Lt. Col. Oliver L. North (ret.) serves as host of the Fox News Channel documentary series "War Stories with Oliver North." From 1983 to 1986, he served as the U.S. government's counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. "Counterfeit Lies," is his novel about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Click here for more information on Oliver North.