In a desperate effort to revive his floundering presidential campaign, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo has returned to his unhinged and wildly irresponsible discussion of punitive bombing of Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.
On “This Week” on ABC, he suggested that such threats against Mecca and Medina could serve to deter Islamic terrorists from staging nuclear attacks on the United States. In the Republican debate of August 5th, Representative Tancredo portentously intoned: “I read the national intelligence estimate. I see what they are planning. And I’m telling you right now that anybody that would suggest that we should take anything like this off the table in order to deter that kind of event in the Untied States isn’t fit to be president of the United States.”
His declaration drew warm applause from the Iowa audience, and many conservatives across the country (including numerous callers to my radio show) feel instinctively sympathetic to any pledge to use decisive force against our Islamist adversaries.
Rational consideration of Tancredo’s proposal, however, leads inevitably, inescapably to one of two conclusions:
1) He wants the United States to make empty threats that no Commander-in-Chief would ever dare to implement, or
2) He honestly expects our government to respond to a devastating terrorist attack with a course of action guaranteed to increase, rather than reduce, the chance of future assaults, while pushing our economy into ruinous chaos.
In the case of the first alternative, all students of history and statecraft understand the terrible danger when a nation makes promises it can’t fulfill, or pledges retaliation that it has no real intention of delivering.
Osama bin Laden has already derided the United States as a “paper tiger” based on our shameful retreats from Vietnam, Beirut, Somalia and, potentially, Iraq. In the event that our government declared its intention to respond to terrorist devastation by bombing Mecca, he and his colleagues might well feel tempted to subject the West to the ultimate humiliation by calling our bluff. Indeed, any calculating terrorist leader would rightly dismiss the possibility that America would actually conduct a devastating bombing raid against our most powerful Arab ally, thereby severely disrupting the flow of oil on which all Western economies depend. After sustaining the incalculable economic damage of a terrorist nuclear attack on American soil, no sane President would want to insure further commercial devastation by dispatching a fleet of bombers against symbolic targets in the nation with the planet’s richest known oil reserves.
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