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The Summer of Terror By: Dr. Earl Tilford
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 20, 2007


“There is nothing so dreadful as a great victory … excepting a great defeat.”
—Sir Arthur Wellesley,
the Duke of Wellington

A lot has happened in the past two weeks to refocus attention on terrorism and the global war against Islamist Jihadists in which the United States, Israel and, indeed, the Judeo-Christian world is engaged. Indeed, the war may be entering a critical phase. Soon, U.S. forces may be in Pakistan hunting down al Qaeda and Israel may be heavily engaged in Gaza exterminating Hamas. Furthermore, the sooner the United States deals with Iran the better.

Iran is at war with the United States and has been since 1979. The world cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Normal parameters of deterrence will not work with an enemy anxious to die prompting an apocalypse. If Tehran goes nuclear, it will use its bombs—and not just on Israel.

In the 1970s, I served as a warnings indication analyst on the intelligence staff at Headquarters Strategic Air Command. My job was to examine intelligence data and provide warnings in advance of possible enemy action. We watched Soviet bomber and submarine operations, monitored communications, especially those associated with missile forces, and kept track of the movement of principal Communist Party leaders. I tried to think like the enemy. Let me apply that technique to see what Tehran might come up with as a possible “threat assessment” concerning possible military action by the United States.

President George W. Bush has stated that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. Although his political capital is low, events may force his hand sooner rather than later. If Bush does not act this year, it is less likely he would take decisive action in 2008, an election year. There are risks in any military operation. If an all-out conventional attack to denude Iran of its nuclear capability works and Iran is unable—or unwilling—to respond effectively, the president’s approval ratings may soar and the Republicans could find themselves big winners in November 2008. On the other hand, if it fails, as any half-hearted attack is likely to do, Bush could face impeachment and the Republican Party will be consigned to political purgatory.

The American political left may have misread the public’s dissatisfaction with the war. Most Americans want to defeat al Qaeda, Hezbollah, associated groups and nations that sponsor them. It is inaction that frustrates the public. Historically, during the Vietnam War, public support for the war effort rose sharply when the United States took concerted action like mining Haiphong harbor and bombing North Vietnam purposefully during Operation Linebacker I, the air power response to North Vietnam’s “Easter Offensive” of 1972. Additionally, while the media and the political left excoriated President Richard Nixon for the so-called “Christmas Bombing” (Linebacker II), the American public overwhelmingly approved. Ultimately, the continuing din of negative politics may push Bush to act sooner rather than later.

Currently three carrier battle groups are operating in the Persian Gulf. Their approximately 300 naval aircraft, coupled with hundreds of cruise missiles, along with the several hundred U.S. Air Force fighter-bombers stationed in the region, provide the United States with an enormously powerful air advantage. If the United States strikes, the blow must obliterate Iran’s nuclear-weapons-making capabilities, “decapitate” the government and degrade its ability to respond militarily. This cannot be a half-baked operation.

Central Command recently changed leadership from an Army general to a Navy admiral, possibly presaging a shift from the tactical and operational orientation of day-to-day combat in Iraq and Afghanistan to a more strategically-oriented approach appropriate to a wider and more encompassing war carried into Iran and Pakistan.

Additionally, Israel must move soon to destroy Hamas in Gaza or face continuing and increasing harassment from rockets and terrorists. If Israel moves on Gaza, Syria and Hezbollah will respond with strikes at the Golan Heights and rocket barrages into northern Israel from Lebanon. Two Israeli armored divisions and an infantry division are moving into place in southern Israel. Again, this is a matter of timing. While Israel lingers, its enemies gain strength. Imagine dealing with this problem after Tehran has nuclear weapons. Imagine what Hezbollah or Hamas would do if they gained access to nukes.

War is a sure and effective way to end—not just to deal with—evil. War should never be undertaken lightly nor engaged in with half-measures. The United States is at war with Iran. Whose rockets and roadside bombs daily kill Americans in Iraq? Iran’s. What terrorist group ranks as No. 2 in taking the lives of Americans? Hezbollah, funded and controlled by Iran.

Douglas MacArthur said it best: “In war there can be no substitute for victory.”


Dr. Earl Tilford is Professor of History at Grove City College and enjoyed an extensive military career in the U.S. Air Force. He is former director of research at the U.S. Army's Strategic Studies Institute, where he worked on a project that looked at future terrorist threats. He also authored three books on the Vietnam War and co-edited one book on Operation Desert Storm.


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