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Will the West Defend Itself? By: Walter Williams
Washington Times | Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Does the United States have the power to eliminate terrorists and the states that support them? In terms of capacity, as opposed to will, the answer is a clear yes.

Think about it. Currently, the U.S. has an arsenal of 18 Ohio class submarines. Just one submarine is loaded with 24 Trident nuclear missiles. Each Trident missile has eight nuclear warheads capable of being independently targeted. That means the U.S. alone has the capacity to wipe out Iran, Syria or any other state that supports terrorist groups or engages in terrorism -- without risking the life of a single soldier.

Terrorist supporters know we have this capacity, but because of worldwide public opinion, which often appears to be on their side, coupled with our weak will, we'll never use it. Today's Americans are vastly different from those of my generation who fought the life-and-death struggle of World War II. Any attempt to annihilate our Middle East enemies would create all sorts of handwringing about the innocent lives lost, so-called collateral damage.

Such an argument would have fallen on deaf ears during World War II when we firebombed cities in Germany and Japan. The loss of lives through saturation bombing far exceeded those lost through the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the battle of Midway, and the long string of Japanese defeats in the Pacific, including Guam, Okinawa and the Philippines, had today's Americans been around, they'd be willing to negotiate with Japan for peace, pointing to the additional loss of lives if we continued the war. More than likely they would have made the same argument in 1945, when German defeat was imminent. Of course, had there been a peace agreement with Japan and Germany, all it would have achieved would have been to give them time to recoup their losses and resume their aggression at a later time, possibly equipped with nuclear weapons.

We might also note that the occupation of Germany and Japan didn't pose the occupation problems we face in Iraq. The reason is we completely demoralized our enemies, leaving them with neither the will nor the means to resist.

Our adversaries in the Middle East have advantages that the axis powers didn't have -- the Western press and public opinion. We've seen widespread condemnation of alleged atrocities and prisoner mistreatment by the U.S., but how much media condemnation have you seen of beheadings and other gross atrocities by Islamists?

Terrorists must be pleased by statements of some members of Congress, such as those by Rep. John Dingell, Michigan Democrat, who recently said, "I don't take sides for or against Hezbollah." Hezbollah, backed by Iran, is responsible for the 1983 bombing of Beirut barracks that killed 241 U.S. service members.

I'm not suggesting that we rush to use our nuclear capacity to crush states that support terrorism. I'm sure there are other less drastic military options. What I am suggesting is that I know of no instances where appeasement, such as the current Western modus operandi, has borne fruit.

What Europeans say about what should be done about terrorist states should fall on deaf ears. Their history of weakness and cowardice during the 1930s goes a long way toward accounting for the 60 million lives lost during World War II. During the mid-1930s, when Hitler started violating the arms limitations of the Versailles Treaty, France and Britain alone could have handily defeated him, but they pursued the appeasement route.

Anyone who thinks current Western appeasement efforts will get Iran to end its nuclear weapons program and end its desire to eliminate Israel is dumber than dumb. Appeasement will strengthen Iran's hand, and it looks as if the West, including the United States, is willing to be complicit in that strengthening.

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Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., and a syndicated columnist.


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