The Art of Deterrence
The summer between 8th and 9th grade I lived at the municipal swimming pool.
One day, some friends and I sat outside the pool on picnic tables. The pool just opened so there were adults outside waiting in line with their kids. A red Camaro, music blasting, loaded with soon-to-be seniors crawled by.
Once, twice, three times.
It wasn’t until all the adults were inside that the Camaro screeched to a stop.
Four boys, men really, approached our group.
More specifically, the boy-men approached Kip; a boy in my group.
Kip, my secret crush and all of 14 was very big for his age. I remember wondering how he was able to get so many beautiful muscles at our age when most of the boys weren’t any bigger than me.
Thicker, taller than the rest of us, he looked older than a soon-to-be freshman.
The boy-men, unencumbered by potential adult involvement, surrounded him. Tried to start an argument with “What did you say?”
Kip, always mild mannered and easy going, didn’t bite.
You know what?
It didn’t matter.
Those boy-men were determined to fight someone that day…so they picked the biggest guy they could find and went after him.
I wanted to help Kip. To throw down, stand with him. But I was afraid, impotent. Those boys were the size of my dad, and well, he could put a hurting on me all by himself. I didn’t even want to contemplate what 4 men his size might do to me.
The biggest guy threw the first punch to Kip’s jaw.
We all surrounded to watch. I couldn’t help; it didn’t keep me from cheering for Kip though. Loudly.
Sweet, quiet, Kip, was in a serious battle. Dust and leaves flew. The crowd went silent, only the weighty smack of meat on meat.
It seemed to last hours.
All the sudden, one of the seniors yelled about cops.
The fight paused.
Kip was damaged, but not half as much as the bloody senior gasping for breath, holding his side.
The boy-men, on the pretense of cops arriving (never happened), took off in the Camaro.
In a daze, shocked he still breathed, we all gathered around Kip. Instead of going back inside the pool, we walked around the block. I don’t remember why. But I think Kip needed to cool off. He shook with adrenaline.
A few minutes into that walk, the red Camaro pulled up beside us.
The biggest guy, the pugilist, got out and stood in front of Kip.
Oh no. Not again.
He extended his scratched and bloody knuckles, palm up, to Kip.
They shook hands.
The boy-man made amends.
Why did he do it?
Kip, hands down, beat his ass. Beat it bad.
This guy didn’t want anyone to find out a soon-to-be 9th grader kicked his butt. And he most certainly didn’t want it to happen again. Fear of “cops” ended the fight. Fear of Kip ensured no one ever messed with him again.
Right now, terrorists all over the world attack US sovereignty.
Not a headline any American should ignore.
As I sat and watched another day of lawlessness, of unabashed American hatred... anger, bitter and acidic, built inside my own breast.
I asked myself the question. Why are you not just angry, but spitting venom over this?
Having lived and vacationed overseas, I saw up close and personal how much the rest of the world reviles us. Doubt it? Google “why the world hates America” and watch major newspapers from around the globe, even in allied countries like England, espouse the evil that is America. (It was always such a dichotomy to see such hatred of America while passing Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Apple stores on the sidewalk. Guess they hate US but not our stuff.)
Even experiencing the hatred first hand, my anger never boiled as it does now.
So, why the difference?
After all, history shows everyone hates a super power. Backbiting, even from allies is over-looked because it is expected. Like the prettiest girl at school, America is both desired and despised. Desired for the benefits we provide our friends; despised for the power to deny.
It is what it is. We are THE world’s super power. We shouldn’t make apologies for it. Sure, we don’t always make the best decisions, but this is OUR time. If history shows us anything it is that this fact will not always be so.
My anger stems from America’s perceived weakness. It’s not real. We’re not weak. So why do these people think they can invade American territory (Embassies)? Why aren’t they afraid?
We’ve worked as a nation, spent billions of dollars, to set up a system of deterrence. Deterrence, as a theory, operates on the assumption states are greedy. (Hence the love/hate relationship with the rest of the world.)
Direct deterrence prevents attacks against our territory; extended deterrence prevents attacks on our friends; immediate deterrence protects against imminent threat.
The first failed.
One embassy. One day. That is the nature of doing business. It doesn’t insinuate a failure of deterrence to more than the people involved in that moment. A time when emotion over-shadows better judgment.
Multiple embassies, multiple days?
So why now? What is so different today?
Strength and power are useless if you refuse to use them. I don’t think it’s wise to bully the rest of the world. Not saying that. But when someone sucker punches us in the face, the time for diplomacy is over.
It’s time to stand.
The world has changed. Some believe it is difficult to hold a nation responsible for mobs.
I don’t buy it.
If we have low expectations, then we will get corresponding results.
I’ve seen for instance Egypt crack down on “protesters” when it didn’t involve us. It’s brutal. It’s violent. It’s unequivocal.
And yet that nation’s government did not feel the need to utilize those same measures on our behalf.
Why is that?
Sure they hate us. That is not news. They’ve always hated us. What’s different now?
Lack of fear.
If they believed for even an instant the US would hammer down, shock and awe their terrorists, they’d have stopped the mob before escalation. Just to minimize collateral damage, as well as save face to the rest of the world.
But they didn’t.
Because they know right now in this country, Obama is not going to fight. He’s not going to play the mini-violin with his fingers while saying, “Too bad, so sad. You let it happen. You reap the whirlwind.”
He’s a talker.
And while I may find that the scariest thing on the planet from a CAC. Terrorists?
Not so much.
These people came onto our soil and picked a fight.
Imagine if Kip wouldn’t have fought back. The fight wouldn’t have been over. The boy-man would have beat him to death, or very close to it.
There is no reasoning with someone determined to pick a fight.
There is only winning.