Our Only Defense

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The Vulnerability Exploitation Committee, which was so successful in the Reagan years, should be re-established immediately, under the National Security Council. This committee can range through the bureaucracy, pulling out creative ideas, of which there are many, on how to attack the terrorist system where it is most vulnerable. The President should rescind the Executive Order that prohibits the targeting of heads of government. Our Special Forces, our strike aircraft, and our precision missiles should be targeted at the terrorists themselves as well as at the leaders of organizations and states that sponsor them. While their families and innocent civilians should never be targeted, it may sometimes be necessary to accept such casualties to kill the perpetrators. Terror must be used to counter terror. The guilty parties should not know another moment’s peace or security.

Each of the services has unique capabilities that can be brought to bear in this broad campaign. The resources of the Navy and the woefully underfunded Coast Guard should be harnessed, not only in securing our borders but in carrying out the broadest possible range of naval operations against the sponsoring states. As a strong—and cost-free—signal, the Coast Guard should be transferred to the Navy Department, as it was in previous wars. The Army has unique intelligence capabilities, and of course operations in Afghanistan could possibly require the fullest range of Army capabilities. The Air Force can provide precision strikes against point targets and massive saturation bombing of others. The capacity of the Marine Corps to forcibly enter any coastal area and vertically assault any area inland should be used to strike fear into all the terrorist bases in Yemen, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.

None of this is to suggest that diplomacy, coalition building, and the United Nations should not be employed to the fullest, as they were in Desert Storm; but they will succeed only to the extent that they are backed by usable force.

We have today the military capability to carry out the full spectrum of operations needed to destroy the terrorist underworld. The only defense against future attack is offense.