Since the savage attack on Israeli civilians on October 7, one of Iran’s terrorist proxies, the Houthi, have launched drones and ballistic missiles 100 times against our military and commercial shipping in the Red Sea, through which 10% of global trade passes. Twenty-five crewmen of one ship have been held hostage for over a month.
The U.S., with two Carrier Battle Groups in the region, has not responded with significant force, content to play defense by knocking down missiles and drones, but not destroying the launch sites, stores of missiles and drones, or other military assets. Such hesitation bespeaks in part a fear of “escalation,” a scare-word redolent of the appeasing “Vietnam syndrome.” But why aren’t Iran and its proxies afraid to escalate against an enemy many orders of magnitude more powerful?
Of course, we all know that electoral political calculations are hamstringing the Biden team, already fretting over the president’s tanking poll numbers and the Biden family pay-to-play scandals circling the DNC like buzzards. But to restore our power of deterrence, we must start destroying military assets, especially Iran’s, the funder and director of several terrorist groups responsible for most of the region’s mayhem.
These attacks by Iran’s proxies, moreover, are not spurred by outrage over the Israelis’ existence or right to defend themselves. They are opportunistic tactical moves against the U.S. and the West, and their “rules-based international order” that protects global trade and security. Iran and its new BFFs Russia and China are exposing the West’s weaknesses and failure of nerve.
It’s also showing the rest of the world that their triumvirate of tyranny is a better bet to take over global hegemony than suicidal Western nations that skimp on defence spending, splurge on redistributing money, obsess over apocalyptic “climate change,” and dismantle its vital energy industry that provides cheap, abundant fossil fuels.
Striking at critical waterways with impunity, as China and Iran have been doing for years, is another dramatic demonstration of the West’s tottering “new world order.” And it’s working, as several shipping companies have stopped transiting the Red Sea, slowing down global commerce and supply chains, and raising insurance costs.
These challenges reflect the erosion of our power to deter aggressors. Those rivals know something the current defense and foreign policy establishment idealists seems to have forgotten––as the Roman poet Vergil put it, “They have power because they seem to have power.” A country’s prestige, its reputation for being a reliable ally and a fierce, fearsome enemy, must be cultivated and publicly reinforced with action in order to concentrate the minds of would-be aggressors.
But ambitious enemies will continually test its foes to gauge their willingness to reciprocate decisively––not an “eye for an eye,” but “two+ eyes for an eye.” Timid threats, disappearing “red lines,” and weak sanctions only communicate weakness. Except for Donald Trump’s term, we have relied on such diplomatic empty rhetoric and missish responses that glorified gangs like the Houthi and Hezbollah contemptuously ignore.
We had a typical example last week. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced, “Iran’s support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop.” Add this to the catalog of prissy “you just don’t” scolding that Barack Obama and John Kerry indulged in response to Putin’s seizure and occupation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea in 2014. Like them, Austin hasn’t thought about the usual challenge to such talk: “Or what?”
So far, we’ve heard that Austin announced Operation Prosperity Guardian to be deployed to the Red Sea to escort container ships through the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. As The Wall Street Journal reports, “Mr. Austin says the goal of the coalition of at least 10 nations is to protect the ‘freedom of navigation for all countries’ while ‘bolstering regional security.’” And “he called the Houthi threat an ‘international challenge that demands collective action.’” Along with the UK and France, whose war-fighting capacities have been strapped by sending armaments to Ukraine, the coalition comprises the Netherlands, Spain, Bahrain, the Seychelles, and Canada.
Seriously? Do we really think a coalition of military pygmies will spook the Houthi, let alone Iran? The two U.S. Battle Carrier Groups deployed in the region alone have enough fire power to send both aggressors a wake-up call, if they were unleashed, which for now seems unlikely. Back in 2003, the destruction we wreaked next door against Iraq and Saddam Hussein was enough to make Iran play nice for a while, and convince Libya’s Gaddafi to surrender his nuclear weapons program.
But today, the grand crusade and “turning point” touted by Nato nations a few years ago––with so much virtue-signaling and bravado about stopping Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine––have created a meat-grinding stalemate. Now the Nato nations are by necessity drifting towards pressuring Ukraine to cede to Russia its stolen territories.
And why aren’t more Nato nations joining a “multilateral” coalition of the sort so beloved by the cheerleaders for the “rules-based international order”? Decades of under-funded militaries and the Ukraine adventure have depleted their already ailing military stockpiles, and taxed their arms production industries.
Take the UK, for example. According to the Journal, “The U.K. hasn’t allocated the money to cover the investments it has planned to make in weaponry and equipment through 2033. The auditors’ report raises alarm about a £16.9 billion defense shortfall—the biggest since the auditors began examining these 10-year plans in 2012. Under some scenarios the funding gap could rise to £29.8 billion, the report says.”
Yet we are facing a similar weakness in our Navy. As retired Navy captain and navalist Jerry Hendrix writes in the Journal, the boldness of Houthi attacks on our ships “show that American naval deterrence is failing,” despite our global commitments and the continuing growth of China’s navy. Hendrix continues, “But the shrinking American fleet—down from a Reagan administration high of 594 ships in 1987 to 291 ships today—and the rapid expansion of the Chinese navy—composed of 340 warships today and expected to rise to 400 ships by 2025—has placed the value of American presence in question.”
The Operation Prosperity Guardian coalition and Austin’s blustering that Iran “must stop,” then, will not impress the Mullahs or their henchmen, whom our leaders have long been appeasing, most recently by asking the Houthi, no doubt in elegant diplospeak, to stop their attacks, and throwing in some limited sanctions. Such cringing requests, slap-on-the wrist sanctions, and Austin’s “must stop” aren’t improved by a Potemkin coalition, which seems like an exercise in diplomacy in order to avoid what is necessary but politically dicey.
Also notice the stale received wisdom of the “moralizing internationalism” that guides our foreign policy. Because we think international approval is necessary for us to act, rather than our own estimation of what is required to serve our national security and interests, there has to be a “we are the world” multinational coalition on board, even a lilliputian one like Austin’s, to keep the “global community” from criticizing us as “colonialist” adventurers and “imperialist” bullies.
This feckless evasion of necessary action is what the globalists perfume as “smart diplomacy.” But any diplomacy without serious action can be criminally stupid. Right now the Biden administration is pressuring Israel to cut short its military operation to destroy Hamas’ capacity for slaughter. A “diplomatic” settlement, we keep hearing, that gives the Palestinian Arabs a state, is the only way to resolve the crisis and bring peace. No matter that the Arabs violently rejected that solution in 1948, turning to more invasion and terrorism instead, and that every Israeli surrender of territory breeds more violence.
More shameful, Biden and his crew are being intimidated by international opinion, and its mouthpiece the UN. But these opinions reflect not principle or even common sense, but rather those nations’ own national interests which necessarily will clash with ours and those of our allies. Even more despicable is Biden’s worry that the “woke” Dems’ radical minority––especially their demands for a cease fire that would leave Hamas in power––will show up on election day not to vote, but to protest.
These domestic leftist activists and antisemites care nothing for this country or its interests and security. They have only one principle–– use “any means necessary” to usher in their tyrannical “woke” utopia. So in a tight election with a senile candidate underwater in the polls, even domestic antisemites and Holocaust apologists must be courted and indulged.
History has repeatedly taught us the wages of wishful thinking that talk and deals and empty threats can allow us to evade the risks of action, at least for a while. Instead they create the illusion of action that emboldens our enemies and gives them time to prepare for their attacks. Only serious action will restore our deterrence.