Andy Blumenthal
Leadership With Heart

The Doctrine of Deterrence Has Failed

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The United States is Israel’s greatest ally in the world. So, it is troubling that the U.S. seems to be losing much of its deterrent powers on the world stage.

Here are four intertwined examples of this dangerous trend:

Russia thumbs its nose at the U.S.

Recently, on March 15, a Russian SU-27 fighter jet hit and forced down into the Black Sea a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone that had been flying in international airspace. On top of this embarrassing, unprovoked attack, the U.S. was unable to save the drone and had to let whatever pieces were left fall into the hands of their enemy, the Russians.

Also, Russia boldly invaded Ukraine in 2014 and again in 2022, and despite all U.S. efforts to stop it, Russia still controls about 20% of this fragile democracy, which the U.S. has put a lot of money and effort into.

Even with the International Criminal Court putting out an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes, Russia took this as yet another opportunity to once again threaten the world with an escalation to nuclear war if any country would dare arrest their leader.

China responds to diplomacy with saber-rattling.

China is threatening to invade Taiwan, and what we say about it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. For example, when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to Taiwan on official business last year, the Chinese responded with warplane incursions, cyberattacks, and the firing of ballistic missiles to show the U.S. how angry they were and how determined they were to unite Taiwan with China. Also, Chinese President Xi Jinping has told his military to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027, despite our building up our own military in the area.

Iran attacks U.S. bases with impunity.

On Thursday this week, Iranian-based militants attacked a U.S. base with drones. Then, after the U.S. conducted a limited, tepid bombing response, the militants attacked us again, firing 10 rockets at another U.S. base. getting in the last word. As the Wall Street Journal reported today, this pattern is long-standing, with Iranian militant attacks in the Middle East occurring 78 times since 2001 and the U.S. responding militarily just three times.

North Korea threatens the U.S. with missile strikes

Last month, North Korea was emboldened by U.S.-South Korean planned military drills and threatened an “unprecedented” response. This is in the context of North Korea test-firing 90 cruise and ballistic missiles in 2022, more than in any other year. Additionally, experts have warned of more nuclear tests by North Korea on the horizon. North Korea, which has the ability to target any city in the continental United States, has also been testing submarine-based nuclear missiles that can be used against us in a surprise attack.

I remember my martial arts instructor always telling us:

Never pull out a weapon unless you are intending to use it.

Similarly, while the U.S. can project its power anywhere and anytime around the globe, we need to be absolutely certain when we will actually enter into a deadly conflict, putting our honored troops and vital interests in harm’s way to verily defend our constitution, freedom, people, and land of this great country. With our enemies testing us in major conflict zones around the world, it’s a decision that we will need to make sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, after World War II, the U.S. became the policeman of the world order, spending more on defense than the next nine largest countries combined. The U.S. has fought wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as a number of other “interventions” around the world. As a result, some experts say that the country has become either apathetic or tired of war. Of course, this is certainly understandable after the loss of so much valuable U.S. blood and treasure in a century of conflict that seems to be moving ever closer to a devastating World War III.

To me, the real question is: which conflicts are worth getting involved with and which aren’t?

As we move toward a multipolar world with many nuclear-armed powers (not to mention those with chemical, biological, radiological, and cyber weapons), we need to carefully consider how far we should go to protect lands and peoples that are not ours. It is one thing to be in a situation like Ukraine, which is fighting for its very survival, and quite another to be sending our troops thousands of miles overseas to fight for others.

While it is true that the U.S. does not want to become trapped in a world where Communist or Caliphate empires are virulently expanding, not every threat out there is earth-shattering or existential. Apparently our enemies know this, and they seem willing to bet their house that we will blink in the global game of chicken.

To strengthen our country and that of our allies, we need to be honest with ourselves about what we are willing to risk (in “guns and butter”) for various and impending conflicts. If we set and violate our own “red lines,” like former President Obama did when Syria used chemical weapons, then we shatter any genuine deterrence that we have tried so hard to achieve.

Instead, if we acknowledge that we are not willing to lose “our” Main Street, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the nation’s capital, and more to get into devastating conflicts to liberally protect others (who often aren’t even paying their own fair share), then we can make better decisions about when we should actually “fight the good fight.”

Moreover, it’s not enough to just put up a show of some limited and hollow resistance; rather, when we do fight, it must be with our full determination to win. Unfortunately, too often we have gone in militarily with “shock and awe,” but turned abruptly tail in a politically wishy-washy “shame and retreat.” It’s high time to make U.S. deterrence mean something inescapably formidable once again.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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