When President Bush declared war on terrorism, he did not, legally, put the country on a war footing.
Up until now, we have never accurately named the enemy or the danger. If the government can't speak the real name and nature of the enemy, it becomes impossible to explain, or even design, a policy for victory.
This is why Mr. Bush -- who has tried to talk around the problem of radical Islam -- has seemed (to his critics) foolish or deceitful, neither of which he is.
What we need is a clear congressional declaration of war, as prescribed by the Constitution. Congress should declare war on the Islamist jihadists.
Naming the formal enemy limits the focus of our war effort to the militant Islamists who have declared jihad against the West. There are many terrorist groups in the world. Many are no threat to the United States. The current danger is the Islamist one.
Naming the threat also expands the scope of our war effort to all the networks of radical Islam, including mosques, schools and radical sites on the Internet. It is not only terrorist acts that we are confronting, but the propaganda and organizations that make them possible.
Some people would argue that we would be declaring a religious war against more than a billion Muslims. But this is not true. We would be declaring war on a particular, violent, political ideology within Islam that threatens the West and the health of Muslim societies themselves.
By declaring war on the Islamist jihadists, we can underline why we stand side by side with peaceful and democratic Muslims and are opposed in Afghanistan and Iraq only by those Muslims who believe in car bombs, terrorism and murder.