Let's pretend for the moment that these statements are anything more than electoral expediency. Very few political pros believe this, by the way. Most journalists, even liberal ones, simply assume that whatever the Democrats happen to say on foreign policy is an effort to "position" themselves in a electorally advantageous way. But let's take their statements at face value for the moment. The efficacy of deterrence requires our enemies to believe that we possess, not only the means to destroy them, but the will as well. This puts us already behind the curve. The Democrat proposition, put forward in the context of the debate on what to do about Iran and NK, is done so as an alternative to the call for military action. As such, it represents a failure of will. Democrats (and, according to their calculations, the American voting public) simply lack the resolve to undertake a raid on Iranian nuclear facilities, given our mess in Iraq. On the question of our resolve, the Democrats make the same calculation as the Iranians. So it becomes very difficult to have full confidence in our resolve to do a big thing (nuke somebody) if we can't demonstrate resolve to do a small thing (an F-117 raid on a reactor). But the Democrats assert that, after a nuclear attack on American soil, this resolve will materialize, and Iran and NK know it. Maybe. But two quick points. One, it may not be an attack on our soil. It may be an attack on, or blackmail of, an ally. This question will present a very different calculus to our decision makers: we might then be the ones being deterred.
The second point is that we may have great difficulty convincing the Iranians. After all, the invasion of Iraq didn't convince them. But I have a more profound question directed at the Democrats who give these assurances: when, in the last generation, have you ever demonstrated resolve in the face of America's enemies? Not in the hostage crisis. Not in Central America in the 80s. Not in Panama or Grenada. Not concerning missile defense. Not in Gulf War I. Not in response to the terror attacks of the 90s. Not in our domestic anti-terror intelligence, interrogation, and law enforcement actions since 9/11. Not once have you made a convincing display of the intestinal fortitude to defend our country in more than a generation. Sure, Senator Biden talks a good game, as you can read from the transcript linked in the title, but when the time for action comes, you and your party have always found a reason to do nothing.
I hereby propose a two-part test of the Democrats' resolve to make deterrence work:
Do these two things, and maybe we can believe you when you promise to annihilate Iran or North Korea.