Friday, January 17, 2020

America Strikes Back?

Friends, the only mythological character I love more than Darth Vader is Donald Trump!  I'm a little worried, though, that Trump isn't quite Vader-ish enough (ruthless, that is) when it comes to attacks on American servicemen.  My latest article takes Trump to task for letting Iran get away with missile strikes on U.S. bases in Iraq.  Sure, the media is howling, "War! War! War!"  The media howls.  That's what it does.  Nevertheless, we can't afford peace at any price, and I would hate to see the Iranians, or any other enemy, get the message that they can lob missiles at our boys (and girls) with impunity.  Check out my arguments and see if you agree...

Can A Direct Attack on American Servicemen Really Go Unanswered?

President Trump shocked the world — and mortified Democrats — when he authorized a lethal drone strike against Iranian General and super-terrorist Qassem Soleimani. The real surprise, however, wasn't that Trump suddenly found the gumption to target a high-profile Iranian — it was that it took America so long to rid the world of a man with so much American blood on his hands. Previous U.S. administrations, afraid of “escalation,” allowed the agents of Iran free rein in their murderous plots. Sooner or later, America had to push back.

What's odd, though, is that the entirely justifiable U.S. strike on Soleimani produced, in turn, a direct Iranian missile strike on two U.S. bases in Iraq. President Trump warned before these strikes occurred that America would not tolerate aggression against our servicemen and assets in the region — and a broad list of targets in Iran had been identified for potential retaliatory action.

The Iranians chose to avenge Soleimani in a particularly bold and provocative way. They launched ballistic missiles from Iran itself, targeting bases in Iraq where large numbers of U.S. servicemen are stationed. Iran could have used Iraqi proxies to do its dirty work; it could have attacked Israel or our allies in Iraq instead of U.S. soldiers. Instead it decided to go all out by mounting a direct assault on American personnel that left no doubt about who was responsible.

The missile strikes against two U.S. bases, as it happened, killed no U.S. servicemen. That is largely because Americans were able to take shelter as the missiles rained down. As recent reporting has shown, however, some soldiers were lightly injured by the concussive effects of the blasts.
President Trump chose to let sleeping dogs lie after the Iranian attack. He declared the cycle of retaliation complete, and he cheered the fact that Iran appeared to be “standing down”.

Given the apocalyptic reporting in the news media in the preceding days about an imminent “war” with Iran, Trump's restraint must have come as a surprise to Democrats and Trump haters. That Trump eschews involvement in foreign conflicts, however, has been obvious for a long time. Trump is willing to break the rules of diplomacy, yes, and even to use military force in unconventional ways, but he seemingly has no appetite for major military confrontations, and in fact he has been trying, with limited success, to disengage the United States from the grinding conflicts to which it is already committed, like the Syrian Civil War and the War in Afghanistan.

What ought to give the American people pause, however, is the strange precedent that President Trump has now set vis-a-vis foreign aggression. He punished Iran with lethal force for, as the administration described it, formulating plans to attack U.S. assets. When the Iranians directly assaulted U.S. bases, however, he demurred from retaliation.

What is the lesson here that Iran is supposed to learn? That the contemplation of terrorist acts against Americans may provoke us to violence, but the actual lobbing of sophisticated missiles at our bases, with the potential to kill dozens or hundreds of Americans, will only yield a yawn and a shrug? 

If anything, it would seem that Iran's missile strikes were what demanded a resolute response. Our failure to deliver it could embolden Iran, and other hostile actors around the world, to target U.S. military personnel and bases directly. The results could be tragic, on a human level, and deeply destabilizing on a political and strategic level, since a successful assault on American personnel would presumably produce a whirlwind of violent consequences.

The time for retaliation in the wake of Iran's dastardly missile strikes has now passed. Unfortunately, that means that President Trump missed a crucial opportunity to demonstrate his seriousness about fulfilling his number one responsibility as Commander-in-Chief: the protection of U.S. lives from foreign aggression. 

We can only hope that this oversight does not put more of our servicemen in harm's way.

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: He appears weekly on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480.

And here it is at Townhall: 

And here's a tidbit for you WWII enthusiasts.  Could Germany have won the Battle of Britain?  These mathematicians believe the answer is yes! 


  1. Firstly, welcome back to the frozen tundra (grin). I bet you miss the warm weather.

    I am pretty torn about his/the presidents actions. Part of me wants Iran to be blown to pieces; just drop the MOAB on the nuclear sites and be done with it and then there is the other part where I applaud his restraint. I have a feeling though, Iran is not done and what will be his/the U.S.A.'s response?

    Honestly, the U.S.A has a past with standing down. Take for instance the Beirut bombing in 1983 (which was my husbands unit that was affected). War isn't easy, or should I say retaliation. But, I have to tell you, this latest congressional stunt to hinder our response is troubling. Yes, I know, some say it is -the law is/was unconstitutional from when it was passed and discussion about the Necessary and Proper Clause is ongoing. I suppose that should be another discussion/post for another day.

    As for Germany possibility winning the war. I remember we briefly discussed this in your class and rightly do not remember what your answer was. I suppose, if one really wanted to spend time / mathematically this article might be onto something. Alias, we all know math is not my thing, and frankly, a lot of the stats go way above my 'pay grade'. An interesting subject, nonetheless.

  2. Dr. Waddy: I know nothing about the science of statistics and therefore can make no creditable comment upon the methodology or conclusions of the cited researchers. Here is what I think I do know:

    The RAF was close to the end of its tether early in September 1940. There were too many losses and the Luftwaffe was close to guaranteeing a precipitate decline in British resistance in the air (at least in the South and that is important because the great naval base at Scapa Flow is in the very North and important base at Rosyth is at Edinburgh. The destruction of the RAF in the South might well have enabled one or both of these strategic results: massive bombing of all British cities but London had already exemplified British resistance to this terror; but even more critical, an all out Luftwaffe onslaught on the British fleet contesting a German invasion.I strongly suggest: keep in mind that our Normandy invasion faced no surface threat remotely comparable to that which the Brits could have mustered in 1940.

  3. Dr. Waddy: The Brits had , by my count, at least 15battleships and battlecruisers available in home waters to counter an invasion fleet shielded by at the very most 4 German capital ships.Churchill would undoubtabley ordered them all in to the fray. He would have been in mind of the Armada. Could the Luftwaffe have destroyed all the British ships in the temporarily limited span of the assault (Napoleon said "I need only command the Channel for 6 hours")? And what about the Uboats? Nah! One or two surviving Brit dreadnoughts alone would have swept them! Would they have tried it again? Given Hitler's mercurial nature, maybe not. My conclusion: Britain would have survived even the defeat of the RAF and Hitler would have fluffed.

  4. Dr. Waddy: I see nothing in the history of the Luftwaffe to suggest it had developed the skills needed to invest capital ships.

  5. Dr. Waddy: A couple of other considerations: Had the RAF been knocked out in the South some of it might have survived in the North, to which the fleet would have been moved. The Germans had no long range bombers and no aircraft carriers.Once the invasion was imminent, the fleet could have sortied to the channel and it would have been able to supply some combat air patrol over the capital ships from its own carriers. Of course the Brits had a wealth of cruisers and destroyers and they had subs too, all of which would have afforded them far more surface fire power,ack-ack and some defense against Uboats. Churchill said in a radio address: "After all, we do have a Navy".

    1. I just love your comments, Jack. I'm glad you keep up on all this, smiles.

  6. Linda, I'm torn on Iran too. I can't imagine how a war could be good for either side...but a short, sharp bombing campaign might bring the regime to its knees, and it certainly might devastate Iran's nuclear program. I think it would be a mistake to take bombing off the table in North Korea and Iran. It might be our best move. Ultimately, if they know we won't use meaningful force against them, there's little reason for them to behave. Thus, once in a while our bite has to be as bad as our bark...

    And yes -- I do believe the Germans could have prevailed in the Battle of Britain. The key would have been to destroy as much of the RAF on the ground as possible -- in the air the odds were close to even.

    Jack: could the Germans have won aerial superiority in the South of England? I think the evidence is that it's possible. Would the Brits have wagered their navy to prevent a cross-channel invasion? Perhaps. What a mess the resulting battle could have been! The subsequent history of WWII naval battles suggests that even capital ships were highly vulnerable to aerial assault. The Brits' chances in such a battle, therefore, would depend on what percentage of their air support survived, and how much of it they would be willing to risk... Remember, a tie would go to the Brits, since a partial German invasion force would almost certainly have been mauled on shore.

  7. Dr. Waddy and Linda: In my opinion (which I ever express only to say I do not consider my views unassailable; they are simply, mine and creditable only by sufficient evidence and reason).

    The Congressional limitation of President Trump's war powers is simply a product of airy San Francisco Madame Pelosi and her minions.I share your concern about his restraint following the missile attacks but it is completely free of any regard of their opinions(as, I would guess, are your's)

  8. Dr. Waddy and Linda: I think the RAF was very close to defeat at least in the South. In one September battle Churchill asked the Commander of the RAF "where is the reserve?" and was told "Prime Minister, there is none". About that time, according to many historians, German bombers carried out an accidental and unintended attack on London which prompted a massive British attack on Berlin which incensed Hitler and motivated his order to Goering to concentrate henceforeward on British cities. And Goering, a corpulant and voluptuary drug addict, perhaps also fearful of Hitler's monstrous and all encompassing evil, said "Oh well, let it be". Perhaps we do not know how well he perceived the near success of his onslaught on RAF bases. For sure Goering was no coward; he had proved that as a fighter pilot in WWI but he also knew the tortuous methods enacted by the Gestapo, which he had founded. "Yah. mein Fuhrer" was probably his reply to this ill advised change of tactics.

  9. Dr. Waddy and Linda; And so , the British fleet may have been able to sortie in great strength - pay no attention to a Uboat's lucky penetration of Scapa Flow and its sinking of the Royal Oak,a largely inconsequential and outdated Dreadnought - against a channel invasion in which they would have have played havoc with its flimsy boats. Perhaps the Uboats and Eboats (sometimes torpedo armed German patrol boats) might have claimed some Brit capital ships and cruisers but not nearly enough!.Yes, the Uboats might have scored but not nearly enough in the narrow confines of the North Sea and the Channel.
    . The Brit survivors would have carved up the invasion fleet and the Brit ground forces would have done for the rest(provided sufficient forces would have survived Dunkirk but maybe even without them).
    p o

  10. Dr. Waddy: Though the Japanese and the British and Americans successfully attacked both battleships and carriers in port and at sea, the Luftwaffe never accomplished the feat. And that may have been a decisive fault in combating those Brits.

  11. Jack -- oh yes, I would regard the Dems' protestations about Trump's attack on Soleimani as mere whining and carping. It certainly has no constitutional or legal force.

    Jack, my understanding of the turning point in the Battle of Britain is the same: the British attack on Berlin prompted Hitler to become apoplectic and begin the terror bombing of British cities. The Germans thus grasped defeat from the jaws of victory. One wonders whether Churchill, who was a canny fellow, knew what he was doing. His actions were arguably a war crime -- but they were undoubtedly successful.

    Jack, you may well be right that the Royal Navy would have guaranteed the failure of any German amphibious invasion of Britain. We'll never know for sure. I'd say the bigger problem the Germans had is that they had made virtually no preparations for an amphibious attack. Everything about it would have been improvised and over-hasty -- and that's never a good starting point.

  12. Dr. Waddy: Especially when one considers the almost indescribably prolix and elaborate preparations which enabled the near run thing Normandy invasion; one does not see this on the German side in 1940 or 1941. German successes against France and the BEF, though understandably very notable for their contrast with 1914-1918, nonetheless, amounted mainly to the conquest of France, not Britain, not all of Europe, not the Western world. I can understand the elation a WWI German enlisted man felt in May 1940 but he took his conviction in the seizing of the "main chance", which had characterized his startling career, too far for him.

    In Shakespeare's Richard III, the protagonist says "but I am in so far in blood now that....." (it doesn't matter what I do). Was Hitler a true sociopath, one who is not moved to conscientious torture by that evil which he has enabled or committed? We cannot be sure. He was almost certainly possessed of tremendous will power exacerbated by widely shared resentment at a German defeat very extensively perceived as having been worked only by treachery and betrayal from within Germany itself. Could he have perceived the defeat of France to be proof of his just invincibility, both in vision and execution? And could a canny player like Churchill, a man who had killed with his own hand but had also directed the fates of hundreds of thousands, have seen him for what he was; after all, a Corporal and maybe not even that, recent research suggests.In my opinion, the deciding factor was the fleet, Britain's pride and savior ever.

  13. Dt. Waddy and Linda: But in saying that I mean no diminution of "the few". In the event, THEY made the engagement of the entire fleet unnecessary.

  14. Good points, Jack. There are so many ways to look at it, of course. Britain's navy and air force were the crucial variables that prevented a German amphibious invasion, yes. In my view, Germany's failure to prepare for total war before, oh, 1943-44, is what prevented them from winning WWII. But as you point out, maybe WWII was essentially played out in Hitler's head before the war even started. He had some key character flaws, including a tendency to rage and bloody-mindedness, that made it hard for Germany to prevail. Another way to look at it is to view "hubris" as Germany's fatal flaw.