Jonathan Last writes a column in The Philadelphia Inquirer about Islam's centuries-long war against the West. Last offers some good perspective on the nature of the conflict, and he begins with this:
Soon after 9/11, the Bush administration labeled the conflict into which it plunged this country the "war on terror." But this is no more descriptive than calling the fight in Iraq a "war on IEDs." The more pressing question is: Are we, or are we not, engaged in a larger clash of civilizations?
If the answer is "We are," the clash long predates 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and George W. Bush. It predates America itself. It is a clash between Western civilization and the Islamic world.
Harvard professor Samuel Huntington first made this case in 1993, in his famous article "The Clash of Civilizations" in the journal Foreign Affairs. "Conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for 1,300 years," he wrote. After the founding of Islam, Muslims spread their faith by the sword. Islam conquered North Africa and pushed into Europe, where it ruled in Sicily, Spain, Portugal, and parts of France. Twice, the forces of Islam laid siege to Vienna. For 1,000 years, Islam advanced and Christendom retreated.
As Pope Benedict XVI explains in his book Without Roots, the very concept of "Europe" emerged as a reaction to the surge of Islam. Not until the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 did the Islamic tide recede definitively. For the next 300 years, Western civilization was ascendant and the Islamic world stagnated.
But the conflict between the two cultures never fully abated. Throughout the 20th century, Western countries tussled with Islamic states or their non-state proxies. And, as columnist Mark Steyn points out, when you gaze at conflicts around the globe today, the one constant is Islam. Muslims are fighting, or have recently fought, Jews in the Mideast, Hindus in Kashmir, Christians in Nigeria, atheists in Russia, Buddhists in Thailand and Burma, Catholics in the Philippines, and Orthodox Christians in the Balkans.
The rest of the essay is very much worth reading.