Defanging The Nihilists
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It seems to me that the Islamofascists of Hezbollah have made a parlous mistake. They have demonstrated that they have missiles that can cause dreadful localized carnage and that they are continuing to improve those missiles. Someday these weapons will be able to cause widespread carnage. Hezbollah’s killers have demonstrated that they will infiltrate their brutes into civilian neighborhoods and use suicide bombers. They have refused to abide by United Nations resolutions. They have revealed that they have powerful supporters in Syria and Iran. Actually the Syrians and Iranians have not been coy about showing their support for Hezbollah’s brutal asymmetrical warfare, and here they too have made a mistake. In their unconscionable bellicosity Hezbollah’s guerrillas, the Syrians, and the Iranians have all donned bull’s-eyes. They have made themselves targets.
That is the only rational deduction. Quite obviously rational deduction does not have a place in the mentality of Hezbollah’s leader, the Rev. Hassan Nasrallah, in the mentality of the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who raves on about how Israel must be destroyed and the misery he is going to cause America. Rational deduction does play a role in the mentality of the Israelis and the Americans. Both are now aware of how dangerous Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran are. And the clock is ticking, for as the distinguished scholar of the Middle Eastern affairs, Bernard Lewis, noted in the Wall Street Journal the other day, “It seems increasingly likely that the Iranians either have or very soon will have nuclear weapons at their disposal.”
So what is the rational deduction we are to make regarding brutal irrational opponents who are on their way to controlling nuclear weapons? Mayor Giuliani stated it in an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly when he said that in dealing with Iran and its nuclear program, “I don’t think you can take the military option off the table.” Surely this does not mean sending an army into Iran. Our forces, mainly the superb soldiers of the English-speaking countries, are stretched; and one would not expect support from NATO’s mainly ceremonial armies. They do well in military parades and occasionally even in military maneuvers, but they avoid war zones. As I say, their armies are mainly ceremonial, and if they have any plans to upgrade them it might be best if they contained their refitting to sartorial matters. Perhaps they might adopt colorful sashes and plumed helmets after the manner of the uniforms they wore in the Nineteenth Century, what for them constituted the “good old days.”
So how might we adopt Giuliani’s suggestion? First, let us take up the Syrians. Writing in the New York Sun, the veteran Middle Eastern reporter Youssef Ibrahim suggests that the Israeli air force “stop bombing Lebanon and start bombing Hezbollah’s primary enabler, Syria, with crippling blows to its leadership, air force, infrastructure, and, yes, oil industry.” He adds: “A 21-day bombing campaign will shift the balance of power and encourage many friendly Lebanese to come out of hiding.”
Then there is Iran. Its nuclear menace will be far graver than the nuclear match-up of the Cold War. The prospect of “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) restrained both sides from initiating a nuclear attack on the other during the Cold War. Such rationality, however, will not restrain the Iranians, driven as they are by dreams of martyrdom. In 1981 an Israeli aerial attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor eliminated his nuclear threat for the foreseeable future. It is argued that with the Iranians’ nuclear facilities spread out among as many as 100 sites, most of them hardened, a similar attack is impossible.
Edward Luttwak, a respected student of warfare modern and ancient, argued in the Wall Street Journal this past February, that “the odds are rather good” that our vastly superior aircraft and bunker-busting bombs could “demolish a few critical installations to delay [Iran’s nuclear] program for years — and perhaps longer because it would become harder or impossible for Iran to buy the materials it bought when its efforts [to build nuclear weapons] were still secret.” Luttwak believes that we need only destroy a handful of the Iranians’ nuclear sites because the route to nuclear weaponry devised by the Iranians “requires a number of different plants operating in series.” They may be hardened, but he believes the Iranians have “not kept up with the performance of the latest penetration bombs.”
Thus the rational response to the nihilists in Hezbollah and Iran is clear. The popular term is to “defang” them. That will mean hitting Syria and Iran, and in the case of Iran the aerial attacks do not have to be very bloody. But Islamofascists with nukes is unthinkable.
Mr. Tyrrell is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.