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Cruise missiles lit up the skies over Afghanistan and Sudan last
week. Seventy-five fell on terrorist training camps and on the bad
factory in Khartoum. The going rate for a cruise these days is a million
bucks. Throw in what it cost to launch and follow up on the strikes, and
you’ve got a $200 million bonfire of the vanities.
You can declare war on terrorists with missiles. They make the kind
of noise the whole world can hear. And there’s no question that the
sent needed to be sent. The problem is that while we can declare war
our tomahawks, we can’t really fight terrorists with them. Worse, we
win if we do.
The counterstrikes last week killed 50-odd terrorists in
Afghanistan at a huge dollar cost, leaving who knows how many tens of
thousands to go. You don’t have to be H&R Block to do the math. Reach
for the tomahawk every
time and you’ll go broke long before the bad guys belly up.
Various reports put Osama bin Laden’s personal fortune at anywhere
from $150 million to $5 billion. That’s what he’s got to spend. Here’s
interesting thought: If we agreed to limit ourselves to the same assets
made it his $5 billion against our $5 billion, who do you think would
Right. Because bin Laden is being a lot sharper than we are. That’s
what guerrillas and terrorists do. They don’t outshoot us. They outsmart
Here are the basics. In the war that both sides have now declared,
the United States presents a very big, fixed target. The terrorists
very small, very mobile target. As soon as the President and Secretary
Defense, both of whom dodged the draft in Vietnam and have no first hand
knowledge of the basics, get over congratulating themselves on the
they are going to have to take a harder look at the truth.
When you’ve been badly stung by a bee, it ain’t exactly swift to try
take out its nest with a baseball bat.
The terrorist strikes on our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were an
outrage that demanded retaliation. And the missile strikes did make our
intentions clear. That’s not the question. Once again, what we need to
figure out is what’s the smartest way to wage this war.
And the record shows that the sledgehammer approach seldom works
terrorists. Israel’s been fighting terrorists for 50 years. When a bomb
explodes in that tormented land, bet on it, the suspect’s home bases get
clobbered. But has all this firepower worked? Nope. A month seldom
when a terrorist bomb doesn’t explode on the streets of Israel.
In 1986, Libyan terrorists blew up a Berlin disco, killing U.S.
soldiers. Ronald Reagan responded with bombs. Reagan’s security advisors
did attaboys for several years — until Libyan terrorists struck back,
killing 270 people over Scotland on a Pam Am flight.
The Cruise missiles did four things: batted the bee’s nest; gave the
zealot’s cause the world-wide propaganda coup that’s always the
endgame: “Just look at what that bully, the Great Satan, has done to us
now. Look at all the innocent dead”; unified Arab anti-American feelings
around the globe; and made a ton of money for the missile makers while
justifying all those expensive ships.
The Brits, who’ve been under terrorist siege since the invention of
powder, take a different approach. While they take the occasional hit,
their MO is to catch terrorists through detective and intelligence work.
Yes, they believe in punishing the terrorist, but they learned a long
ago that traditional military solutions don’t work. So they use a
rather than a sledgehammer, brains over brawn.
We should ask our British cousins to show us their way. Fighting
just ain’t about whoever makes the most noise. The smart way is through
deterrence and prevention — through clever intelligence, well trained
people and a strong proactive plan.
I hope our generals and admirals change their
“bomb-them-back-to-the-Stone-Age” mind-set. Sure, the sledgehammer
worked in World War II, but it didn’t in Vietnam. And it’s a recipe for
failure in our newest war.