Most of our readers know the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Gettysburg. Ordered to hold Little Round Top at all costs, Chamberlain’s 20th Maine fended off one attack after another. Finally, Chamberlain’s men were nearly out of ammunition and it was clear they would not be able to withstand another assault. Prudence counseled retreat, but Chamberlain’s orders forbade it. The Maine regiment could neither fall back nor stay where it was, so Chamberlain took the only course open to him: he told his men to fix bayonets and prepare to charge.
It strikes me that you, President Bush, are in a similar situation in Iraq. You know (if many liberals do not) that retreat is out of the question. Yet the status quo is untenable. Support for your administration’s policy is evaporating. Iraq is being pacified too slowly if at all, and minor tinkering around the edges–a few more men, some more training of Iraqis–won’t make much difference. You need a decisive stroke. You need to tip the table over. You need to attack.
Here is how you can do it. In late November, U.S. military sources revealed that they had found irrefutable evidence that Iran is arming the militias who are killing American soldiers:
U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.
Iranian-made munitions found in Iraq include advanced IEDs designed to pierce armor and anti-tank weapons. U.S. intelligence believes the weapons have been supplied to Iraq’s growing Shia militias from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is also believed to be training Iraqi militia fighters in Iran.
So here is what you, President Bush, should do: take as a model the Cuban Missile Crisis. First John Kennedy, then Adlai Stevenson, laid before the world the evidence, in the form of aerial photographs, that the Soviet Union was installing nuclear arms in Cuba. The proof was taken as conclusive, and, consequently, the Kennedy administration’s actions enjoyed universal support at home, and widespread support abroad.
Do something similar here. Commandeer a half hour in prime time to tell the American people, and the world, that we have clear evidence of Iran’s involvement in killing American servicemen. Show the captured munitions. Explain exactly how they have contributed to American casualties. Display aerial photos of the training camps. No doubt there is much more evidence that can be presented or described.
You should say that Iran’s supplying of weapons in order to kill Americans is an act of war. In the dramatic finale of your speech, announce that thirty minutes earlier, American airplanes stationed in the Middle East took off, their destination, one of the munitions plants or training camps of which you have shown pictures. That training camp, you say, no longer exists. You say that if Iran does not immediately cease all support for, and fomenting of, violence in Iraq, we will continue to strike military targets inside Iran.
A forceful and dramatic conclusion. But that isn’t quite the end; instead, in the manner of Columbo or Steve Jobs, you add just one more thing: you declare that no nation that is engaged in killing American servicemen on the field of battle will be permitted to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Iran must either open all nuclear-related facilities to inspection by an international group headed by the U.S. (not the U.N.), immediately and for the foreseeable future, or those facilities, too, will be destroyed, along with the economic infrastructure that supports them.
If you do this, will the country back you? Not all of it. The liberals are too far gone. But half the country–your half–will, and maybe more. It is, after all, a little hard to explain why we should not respond to acts of war committed against us by a hostile nation that has vowed to destroy us.
You are beset right now, Mr. President, by a sea of troubles. Any passive policy will fail; only boldness offers hope. The calculus not just in Iraq, but throughout the region, must be fundamentally changed. Many are counting you out, Mr. President, but the fact is that you still hold the highest cards: the American armed forces. It is time to give the Army, the Marines, and, this time, the Air Force, the order: fix bayonets and prepare to charge.
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