Wednesday, December 15, 2010

While the Duck is Lame

(based on a thread of Wretchard’s at the Belmont Club)

Deterrence works and the inverse is true. Failure to respond in the face of aggression will yield more aggression or in tabloid form, Yielding to Push Yields More Push. When responding we need to pick a target the perpetrator cares about and then respond so effectively that they will not seek to calibrate our reactions. Both are important. We cannot show Jihadis how tough we are by ruthlessly beating up Israel or crushing the opposition to DADT repeal. We shall not deter future underwear bombers by locating the ticket counter for Salafi Air and then pulling our pants down and handing out DVDs of our biggest bomb, Ishtar. Unless backed by a strong economy and a strong military Diplomacy is worth nothing. Reality is very unromantic and conservative. You can't beat something with nothing.

Sometimes we do need to be ambiguous about our responses. We assured the world, not just the Soviets, that we would respond to any attack on either the US or our allies in a time and manner of our own choosing. That threat was credible because we were building a surplus capacity and had recently demonstrated the will to use it. Sometimes we need to be very explicit.

Now we have two linked threats. The threat of Islamic terror and the threat of China distributing Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) to the Taliban. Also there are news reports of thousands of Russian MANPADS being sent to Chavez, with some likely to go to Iran and Latin American guerillas or narco-terrorists. By the way to complete your joy this season remember that Iran's proxy Hezbollah is in Mexico. In these cases we need to be explicit and credible.

We need to announce a massive buildup of both conventional and strategic forces, to at least the levels of twenty years ago. We need to announce that any successful attack will result in the destruction of targets drawn from a list including Mecca, Medina, and the 18 largest cities in Dar al-Islam. We need to announce that any use of MANPADS will result in the imposition of a blockade on the country of origin of that missile.

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