President Trump and those of us in his national security team are re-establishing deterrence – real deterrence ‒ against the Islamic Republic. In strategic terms, deterrence simply means persuading the other party that the costs of a specific behavior exceed its benefits. It requires credibility; indeed, it depends on it. Your adversary must understand not only do you have the capacity to impose costs but that you are, in fact, willing to do so.
I was a young soldier back during the Cold War. You can have the greatest army in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you are not prepared to use it to achieve your strategic objectives.
As one of your scholars here, Victor Davis Hanson, said, “Deterrence is hard to establish and easy to lose.”
And let’s be honest. For decades, U.S. administrations of both political parties never did enough against Iran to get the deterrence that is necessary to keep us all safe. The JCPOA itself – the nuclear deal – made things worse. It enabled that regime to create wealth, it opened up revenue streams for the ayatollahs to build up the Shiite militia networks, the very networks – the very networks – that killed an American and imposed enormous risk at our – to our embassy in Baghdad. Rather than blocking those efforts, the deal put Iran on a clear pathway to a nuclear weapon as well, something President Trump began his remarks by saying would never happen on our watch.
So what did we do? We put together a campaign of diplomatic isolation, economic pressure, and military deterrence.