Attacks on the U.S. Navy Must Not Go Unpunished

October 13, 2016 | Max Boot
About the author: Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of, among other books, Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present Day (2013).

Last Sunday, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired two ballistic missiles at an American destroyer. So far, the White House has chosen not to retaliate. Max Boot notes the dangers of continued passivity in the face of Iranian aggression:

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. . . . 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. . . .

The administration will want to do as little as possible for fear of alienating Iran and thus scuttling the nuclear deal. This is what those of us who opposed the deal predicted—that it would become a cover for Iranian aggression that the U.S. could not stop because the mullahs could always blackmail us with threats of restarting their nuclear program. But if the U.S. continues to ignore Iranian aggression, the result will be to plunge the region deeper into conflict and empower extremists of both Shiite and Sunni persuasion. . . .

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. . . .

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

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