“Captain! Two cruise missiles on an intercept course!”
“Very well. Prepare to return fire.”
“Aye, Captain, prepare to return fire. Targets locked, ready to fire, Captain!”
“No, no! Not now! I have to call up the chain, and the President will decide what to do, eventually. Maybe in a week or so. But stand ready…”
“Uh, aye, Captain…”
Max Boot, in Commentary, speaks sense of the kind once understood and acted upon by American leaders of any party, in an article titled: Acts of War Cannot Go Ignored:
On Sunday night, as Americans were transfixed by the spectacle of the second presidential debate, events occurred off the coast of Yemen that remind us of the kind of challenges with which a president must contend. Two ballistic missiles were fired at a U.S. destroyer in international waters from the part of Yemen controlled by the Houthis, an Iranian-back militia. The missiles did not hit the USS Mason, although it’s unclear if they had some internal defect or whether the ship defended itself with its suite of missile-defense systems.
U.S. warships do not routinely come under attack. When they do, it’s called an act of war. So someone has committed an act of war against the United States. The proximate culprit appears to be the Houthi movement, which is mad at America for backing an assault on it by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Just last week, an Emirati ship was destroyed off the same part of the Yemen coast. But the Houthis are hardly lone actors. They do not manufacture their own missiles. They get them from Iran. That suggests this could be seen as an act of war by Iran against the United States.
It is an incident that is far more serious than the way it is being treated. It is, in fact, almost entirely overshadowed by the furor over the Trump campaign. The Obama administration should not be allowed to ignore it–if that is, in fact, its intent.
‘A senior Obama administration official’ told the Washington Post: ‘Our first priority is the safety and security of Americans overseas, and we will take all appropriate actions to protect our men and women in uniform in the region.
Sure it is. Sure they will. The senior Obama administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said (via the Washington Post):
…the United States condemns the ‘unjustified and unprovoked action’ against the USS Mason, commends the officers and crew aboard the ship and welcomes the news that no one was injured.
They also added this stern and powerful message:
…the airstrikes on the funeral and the missile attacks Sunday ‘underscore the urgent need to deescalate this conflict and pursue a political solution.
And with rhetoric that will surely cause the mad mullahs of Tehran to shiver in their sandals:
The administration called for all parties involved in the ongoing conflict to commit to a cessation of hostilities based on terms laid out in April. ‘We remind all parties that U.S. commanders retain the right of self-defense and possess the capabilities to exercise that right at all times,’ the official said.
What, no calling the Houthis and Iranians “unprofessional?” No reminding them that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice? No reminding them that they are not acting within international norms? No drawing a red line in the sand, and moving it as often as necessary, which would be whenever our enemies cross it? Boot again:
Retaliating by bombing Houthi positions would be the simplest recourse but not necessarily the one that would do the greatest damage to Iran. Targeting the aircraft of Bashar Assad, a more important Iranian ally, would send an even stronger message. There are also, of course, a range of sanctions that could be applied.
Just as it’s imperative to retaliate for Russian aggression, such as the cyber-attack on the DNC, so, too, is it necessary to retaliate for Iranian aggression such as firing missiles at our ships. A failure to punish these predatory regimes now won’t lead to peace in our time. It will only lead to a bigger and costlier war in the future. Standing up to bullies is not only the right course morally; it is also the right course strategically.
Well, yes. Unfortunately, Boot is also right that Obama will do nothing to annoy the mad mullahs. I’m always fascinated to hear pundits speaking/writing as though it is assumed that due to the “deal,” Iran is not actively pursuing its nuclear program, and will wait a decade honoring the feckless deal it began ignoring before the ink was dry, before trotting out its nuclear arsenal. And if you believe that, I’m a Nigerian prince in exile and if you’ll give me your bank account number and routing code, I’ll put millions in your account for safekeeping. You can keep ten percent. Really. Truly.
Iran has already violated that “deal” in innumerable ways, even though the clueless John Kerry, and master of surrender, Mr. Obama, gave them everything they wanted and achieved nothing for America. And now they’re firing missiles at our warships. There can be little doubt Iranian operatives were present assisting the Houthis in preparing and firing those missiles. That’s the usual Iranian pattern.
So what will Barack Obama do? That’s rather an important question, because it provides a clear window into what Hillary Clinton is likely not to do. He’ll certainly do nothing effective. He’ll do nothing that might convince our enemies they should have the slightest fear of us. He’ll do nothing to assure our allies we’re trustworthy.
Remember, these are the people that behold what they’ve wrought in the Middle East and think it good. These are the people that behold Russian aggression expanding in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and believe the reset worked brilliantly. These are the people that behold terrorist attacks throughout Europe and in America and think the world is safer than ever. These are the people that go berserk when Israel builds a few hundred homes, but can only trot out tepid—in diplomatic terms—language when our enemies try to sink one of our warships.
Consider too that Russia has moved nuclear capable Iskander missiles near the Polish border. Russia does not think in the same terms we do. Putin would use tactical nuclear missiles against our military, particularly if he believed America’s president would not respond in kind, or respond at all, as is the case with Mr. Obama. One might be tempted to think Hillary Clinton might be more willing to appropriately use military force until they remember the plane full of Marine rescuers stuck on the ground in Spain, repeatedly changing clothing as Hillary tried to make up her mind whether they would go to Benghazi—a terrorist snakepit—as armed Marines, or unarmed and wearing civilian clothing. They were delayed so long, they didn’t arrive until 23 hours after everything was over.
Oh, there may be a drone strike or two against the Houthis. An anti-tank missile might strike a car carrying a few terrorists, or perhaps blow up a café where a few suspected terrorists are having a spot of tea, causing plenty of collateral damage, but nothing designed to convince our enemies that attacking our people is too costly to contemplate will be done. Why, that might jeopardize Mr. Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, you know, the one he was given a week or so after taking office? The one he got for being Barack Obama, the man who would lower the seas and heal the planet?
And America is about to vote for another four to eight years of that kind of feckless arrogance and stupidity. It’s going to be a very rough ride, gentle readers.
Preposting Update: Reuters reports:
A U.S. Navy destroyer was targeted on Wednesday [three days after the first attack] in a failed missile attack from territory in Yemen controlled by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, the second such incident in four days, the U.S. military said.
The USS Mason fired defensive salvos in response to at least one missile which did not hit the ship or caused any damage as it operated north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the Pentagon said. Indications are that the second salvo brought down an incoming missile, one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The renewed attempt to target the U.S. Navy destroyer will add pressure on the U.S. military to retaliate, a move that would represent the first direct U.S. military action against Houthis in Yemen’s conflict. The Pentagon said it would respond ‘at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.
Sure we will. And this:
The rebels appeared to use small skiffs as spotters to help direct the missile attack on the warship on Sunday. The United States is also investigating the possibility that a radar station under Houthi control in Yemen might have also ‘painted’ the USS Mason, something that would have helped the Houthi fighters pass along coordinates for a strike, the officials have said.
As I understand it, 5” gun ammunition is relatively inexpensive. And if that’s too much for the Obamites, Destroyers carry .50 caliber machineguns. That ammo is even less expensive.
Second Preposting Update. Remember this?
We remind all parties that U.S. commanders retain the right of self-defense and possess the capabilities to exercise that right at all times,’ the official said.
Only this week, several days after the Houthis—Iran’s proxy—again fired missiles at a US warship, we fired several missiles in retaliation, destroying—according to Administration sources—three radar sites. While this may sound muscular, it’s in truth, flaccid, but I’ll explain that shortly. First, consider this from the invaluable Carolyn Glick:
Off the coast of Yemen and at the UN Security Council we are seeing the strategic endgame of Barack Obama’s administration. And it isn’t pretty.
Since Sunday, Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen have attacked US naval craft three times in the Bab al Mandab, the narrow straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. The Bab al Mandab controls maritime traffic in the Red Sea, and ultimately control the Suez Canal.
Whether the Iranians directed these assaults or simply greenlighted them is really beside the point. The point is that these are Iranian strikes on the US. The Houthis would never have exposed themselves to US military retaliation if they hadn’t been ordered to do so by their Iranian overlords.
The question is why has Iran chosen to open up an assault on the US?
The simple answer is that Iran has challenged US power at the mouth of the Red Sea because it believes that doing so advances its strategic aims in the region.
Iran’s game is clear enough. It wishes to replace the US as the regional hegemon, at the US’s expense.
Since Obama entered office nearly eight years ago, Iran’s record in advancing its aims has been of uninterrupted success.
I earlier predicted that Mr. Obama might shoot off a few drone-launched missiles, a token response. The actual response is in the same category. An absolutely minimum, token response to a direct and unmistakable act of war, not only by the militarily insignificant Houthis, but by Iran, the terrorist state that is supplying and surely, directing them.
Consider what actually happened. Over the period of nearly a week, Houthis fired twice on a single US warship. Keep in mind, gentle readers, this may be inaccurate. I don’t trust anything the Obama Administration says, however, it’s what we have to work with for now. If anything, they would tend to hide the truth. If they’re willing to admit to two attacks, who knows how many actually occurred?
Supposedly, the first attempt failed without the expenditure of defensive weaponry, but the second required such expenditure. Why didn’t the USS Mason immediately return fire? Presumably, the weapons used against her could have badly damaged the ship, killed crew, perhaps even sunk her. Why should an American warship traveling in a very dangerous part of the world, fail to immediately retaliate against enemies trying to destroy her?
Certainly, there are rules of engagement that require the captain to get permission from his royal majesty, Emperor Barack The First, before taking such steps. It may, in fact, be impossible for our sailors to fight back under any circumstance without such permission. Oh, the ROEs might not specifically say that, but any captain knows where his limits are in the age of Obama.
We know nothing of the specific ordinance used by our Navy. It may have been nothing more than anti-radiation missiles, designed to destroy the radar equipment of a missile site. It could have been a Tomahawk cruise missile, which would, properly aimed, have caused more widespread damage. Either way, it was a pinprick, and militarily insignificant.
All Iran need do is send new equipment and the Houthi will be able to shoot again. The Iranians, the real power behind the acts of war, remain unscathed so that Mr. Obama can keep his deal in place. Glick again:
Early Sunday morning, the US responded to the Houthi/Iranian missile assaults by attacking three radar stations in Houthi controlled territory. The nature of the US moves gives credence to the fear that the US will surrender Yemen to Iran.
This is so for three reasons. First, the administration did not allow the USS Mason to respond to the sources of the missile attack against it immediately. Instead, the response was delayed until Obama himself could determine how best to ‘send a message.’ That is, he denied US forces the right to defend themselves.
Second, it is far from clear that destroying the radar stations will inhibit the Houthis/Iranians. It is not apparent that radar stations are necessary for them to continue to assault US naval craft operating in the area.
Finally, the State Department responded to the attack by reaching out to the Houthis. In other words, the administration is continuing to view the Iranian proxy is a legitimate actor rather than an enemy despite its unprovoked missile assaults on the US navy.
We will lose a warship one day, and more brave Americans will die to maintain the political viability of the likes of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Our enemies are playing for keeps. What will Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton do? Just as in these incidents, virtually nothing, and certainly nothing effective.
UPDATE, 10-16-16 1340 CST: It’s shocking, I know, but two days after Mr. Obama’s bold act–in response to multiple acts of war–in possibly destroying a few missile radars, those darned Houthi/Iranians are at it again, via Fox News:
Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen may have launched missiles at U.S. Navy ships for the third time this week, defense officials said Saturday.
Initially, a U.S. defense official said multiple missiles were fired at three ships patrolling international waters at around 3:30 p.m. ET. U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson appeared to confirm that assesment, telling reporters the vessels seemed ‘to have come under attack in the Red Sea, again from coastal defense cruise missiles fired from the coast of Yemen.’
However, a Pentagon official later said only that the vessels “detected possible inbound missile threats and deployed appropriate defensive measures.”
The official added that all U.S. warships and vessels in the area were safe and that ‘post-event assessment is ongoing,’ but declined to give further details.
Two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Mason and USS Nitze, as well as the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce were patrolling north of the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, when the incident occurred.
The USS Mason launched countermeasures, according to one official, likely using SM-2 surface-to-air missiles to engage the possible Houthi cruise missiles.
This attack has been confirmed by numerous sources. I’m sure Mr. Obama will get around to responding, but he’s very busy these days, and has far more important things to do other than respond to Iranian acts of war. One of these times, the Iranians are going to get lucky…