As with the bombing of the Golden Mosque, so with the Hezbollah attack on Israel, the United States took time to respond -- more time, I suspect, than future historians will decide was appropriate. But after the policy review that followed the Republican defeat in the November elections, we have responded. The rules of engagement have been changed in Iraq: U.S. forces captured and held Iranian "consular" officials in Erbil, and there is reason to believe we're stepping up interdiction of Iranian weapon supplies to various hostile forces in Iraq.
Bush appointed an admiral to be the head of CentCom, the regional command in the area, and ordered a second aircraft carrier group sent to the Persian Gulf. This is a hugely significant move, signaling that if necessary we can bring overwhelming military force to bear against Iran, as we did in 1986-88. We can stop the Iranians from blocking the Straits of Hormuz and we can, if we choose, conduct the air strikes against Iranian oil refineries and military facilities recommended by historian Arthur Herman.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded by demanding that the administration not take action against Iran, and The New York Times condemned Bush for "bullying" poor, sweet little Iran. These responses are typical of the fundamentally unserious criticism being lobbed against Bush these days. The correct criticism is not that we're doing too much to hurt the mullahs, but that we're doing too little.
The critics ignore the fact that Iran has been making war against us for 27 years, since they violated the most fundamental law of diplomacy by taking our diplomats hostage. The critics seem more interested in seeing Bush lose than in seeing the United States win. Fortunately Bush still wants to prevail.