, we take comfort from the presence of police with
guns on their hips, secure in the knowledge that effective, forceful help is
always at hand should we need it. America
However, somewhere along the way, our military and civilian leaders have developed the misguided notion that we must, as a country, look peaceful and that the way to do that is to hide any visible display of force. In other words, we must look weak in order to look peaceful.
This is absolute bilgewater. The rest of the world does not want to see us looking peaceful, they want to see us looking strong and ready to step in at a moment’s notice to protect them just like the police officer on the corner of the street.
You don’t look strong and ready by leaving your weapons in barracks or walking around with unloaded guns. You look strong and ready by having all the guns and ammo with you that you might need.
Of course, there’s one other aspect to looking strong and ready and that is you have to occasionally demonstrate that you’re willing to use them. You can’t surrender two boats, ten crew, and overwhelming weapon superiority to the Iranian equivalent of the Three Stooges.
Much (all) of our comfort and sense of security when we see police comes from the knowledge that they will, with absolute certainty, act when a crime is committed. Of course, of late, this principle has been violated repeatedly and ordinary citizens are beginning to lose faith in the police and the police themselves are beginning to hesitate to do their duty due to, again, misguided efforts to create scapegoats out of the police – but that’s for some other blog to address.
In the 1983 Lebanon Marine barracks bombing, the sentries did not have magazines loaded in their weapons and could not respond to the suicide vehicle.
We failed to act when
seized our boats and crews and now Iran is engaged in more aggressive acts, not less. A recent example is the incident involving
four Iranian boats approaching an American destroyer at high speed before
breaking off at 300 yds, well within rocket attack range (1). Our previous failure to use force is creating
more unsafe incidents. Iran
Theodore Roosevelt is credited with the saying,
“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
Hand in hand with that is the implication that the stick must be used now and then.
Of course, hand in hand with using the stick occasionally is the need for the usage to be meaningful. Our recent retaliatory Tomahawk strikes on some isolated radar sites that no one appears to have claimed ownership of (if the sites even existed) is not a meaningful use of the stick. It harmed no one to any appreciable extent and, therefore, meant nothing. Conversely, the recent Tomahawk strike on the Libyan airbase associated with chemical weapons was somewhat more meaningful but even that stopped short of sending an unequivocal “don’t tread on me” message.
We are so afraid of collateral damage that we have relegated our big stick to a twig.
Other countries, in particular our potential enemies, understand this and are working to create their own big sticks and, when necessary, use them.
From the recent Russian “National Security Strategy” document comes this,
“…the role of force as a factor in international relations is not declining.” (2)
“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Those who abdicate their military power also abdicate their political power. Such is the position the
finds itself in today. We are speaking loudly but no one is
listening because our stick has shrunk and we refuse to use it. Contrast this with our enemies. US
We need to rebuild our stick, stop talking uselessly, and start using our stick judiciously so that when we speak, someone will actually listen. The stick makes the words effective. We’ve lost that and we need to regain it.
(1)USNI News website, “Video: Destroyer USS Nitze Harassed by Iranian Patrol Boats”, Sam LaGrone,
(2)Defense Intelligence Agency, “
Military Power”, 2017 Russia