For the past few weeks, the U.S. response to Iran’s 11th-hour nuclear weapons threat has been focused on red lines. Israel — whose very existence is at stake — has urged us to establish such lines by warning Iran that crossing them will trigger a strong U.S. reaction. President Obama has refused.
This is yet further indication that Mr. Obama denies the fundamental American defense strategy of deterrence, which has kept us safe since the dawn of the nuclear era. The 11 presidents prior to Mr. Obama, five Democrats and six Republicans, staked our nation’s life on deterrence — and won. It’s important for every American voter to understand exactly what the president is doing in abandoning this cornerstone of American foreign policy and national security.
It seems clear that Mr. Obama doesn’t understand deterrence. Deterrence isn’t something you have, like nuclear weapons in silos. It’s something you do, with words and actions. Deterrence is based upon fear. The very root of the Latin word (de plus terrere) connotes not just fear, but terror. We use deterrence to convince an adversary to comply with our wishes without resorting to violence.
There are two steps to deterrence: First, we directly threaten our adversary with consequences so terrifying and so certain that they vastly outweigh any gain he might have thought possible from his intended actions. Second, we embark on a major series of reinforcing measures to convince him beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have the capability, the will and the intention of carrying out our threat without delay.
In the case of Iran, our president should threaten that if the Iranian government doesn’t terminate its nuclear weapons program immediately and disassemble all of its nuclear facilities, we will be forced to destroy them by military action.
Our reinforcing measures with conventional forces, all highly publicized, should include such activities as:
Accelerated research and development of improved weapons specialized for this mission.
Visible weapons testing on evening TV.
Rapid modification or procurement of these weapons.
Construction of mirror-image Iranian target arrays at our test ranges.
Intensive training against these ranges.
Focused counterproliferation exercises.
Announced surge deployments.
Elevated worldwide alert levels.