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February 1, 2024
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Even if you’re a blue-dog Democrat who considers Joe Biden a national security guru, do you really think our adversaries are deterred whenever they hear him, his Vice President or his secretaries of state and defense collectively mouthing the word: “Don’t”? No, I don’t think so either and not just because the Persian ancestors of today’s Iranian mullahs are often credited with inventing chess. You see, chess is a game of great subtlety where outcomes depend on discerning an opponent’s strategy, sensing when he is constructing a trap, planning a daring gambit – or simply bluffing because the game is already well past his depth. Nor would a chess master have to be particularly astute to discern the especially uneven track record that Messrs. Biden, Blinken and Austin have blundered into - from Afghanistan and Ukraine to the Chinese spy balloon and now the Israeli-Hamas war. In fact, you can make a far better counter-argument that our global adversaries have profited by consistently acting against whatever transient interest happened to be the American policy du jour. 

The odds against us are so dire that today you have to wonder if our president has any remaining “street-creds” with either our allies or our enemies. You might remember a similar situation depicted in the 1987 movie, “The Untouchables,” a fictionalized account of how Al Capone’s empire was crushed during the Prohibition era. In one of its most memorable scenes, Sean Connery plays a tough-as-nails street-cop who instructs District Attorney Elliot Ness on how deterrence is measured in Chicago’s gangland.  Their no-nonsense dialogue went something like this: “He comes at you with a knife, you answer with a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send two of his to the morgue. So what are you prepared to do, Mr. Ness?”

So what are you really prepared to do now, Mr. Biden? Can you please begin by not trembling every time you mumble that the US wants no wider war with Iran! The only message those repeated aversions produce in Teheran is the certainty that they are on a winning path, that their strategy of fighting to the last Houthi is succeeding brilliantly. Being chess masters, the Iranians understand indirection, the art of moving pawns across the board in a way that sews confusion and distress in the Nirvana of official Washington. From Foggy Bottom to the Pentagon’s five-sided puzzle palace, they endlessly plan on having plans and success is even more relative than with their Kissin’ Cousins in West Virginia. Can you possibly understand that our adversaries around the world have watched gleefully over the last three years as every quasi-threat issued by your administration has proven hollow? Sadly, that is true even here in Texas, which never needed a foreign policy until you and Mr. Mayorkas reversed Federal law and all common sense, opening our borders to the worst subversion in our collective history!

Forgive my candor but your disastrous record at home and abroad has produced the polar opposite of deterrence, ill-considered threats that lately shed the blood of our best and brightest. As you stand at Dover tomorrow to provide a dignified reception for their remains, please comfort their families and the nation which sent them by at least attempting to perform the role of their Commander-in-Chief. Understand that the whole world will be watching, wondering if the America which rode to their rescue so many times in history has become so fatally divided that its own survival is now in question.

So how are you now prepared to answer them, Mr. Biden, particularly as your spokes-persons assure us that your threats finally have real meaning? Will you be able to discern that critical dividing line between Target Destroyed and What Have We Done? Whatever your decision, will you keep faith with those brave, long-suffering soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines sent to do your bidding? Finally, try to remember that your primary duty as a wartime leader is to provide a sticking point for the nation’s will to prevail against its adversaries, no matter how unprepared you may feel for that role. And as you take those first measured steps toward conflict, have you considered doing what FDR did on D-Day and leading the nation in prayer?

 

 

Colonel (Ret.) Kenneth Allard is a former West Point faculty member, Dean of the National War College and NBC News military analyst.

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