Colonel's Corner: The Hammer and Anvil

July 26, 2006

Any good military man knows that when attacking an enemy, the "hammer and anvil" is a great battlefield maneuver. It's one in which the enemy is backed up against the "anvil" with essentially no place to go while the "hammer" falls on him. I used it many times in Vietnam, assaulting enemy units and pushing them up against a river or canal, forcing them to either fight, surrender, or risk getting strafed by helicopter gunships while trying to cross the water. Some stood and fought. Others simply surrendered. Still others died trying to get away.

A great tactic when conditions are right, the "hammer and anvil" is not reserved for the small unit level. It also works at the strategic level, backing an enemy into a corner from which he has few viable options. And with U.S. help, that's what the Israelis could have. Clearly, Israel is the "hammer" right now — pushing the fight against Hezbollah. In my judgement, America could be, and indeed should be, the "anvil."

As all Americans know, this is not just Israel's fight. It's ours, too. Hezbollah has killed hundreds of Americans, and the Syrians and Iranians were complicit in virtually all of those deaths. Israel deserves our help, but much more than just moral and material support. The total destruction of Israel is not only the oft-stated objective of Hezbollah, but other terrorist regimes and organizations as well. Americans should understand that if that happens, we're next. Yes, we're next.

Clearly, Hezbollah is suffering on the battlefield as the Israelis push their offensive. And equally clearly, they are empowered because of the flow of money, material, and supplies from their patron partners. To be certain, the Israelis have cut major routes from Lebanon to Syria. But Hezbollah knows, as does everyone else, that when a cease-fire comes about, which it will, resupply will begin in earnest. That is, unless other factors prevent it.

How, then, can the U.S. “anvil” help the Israeli “hammer” — even after the ongoing fighting has stopped? At this point, it doesn't mean putting U.S. forces on the ground in Lebanon, Syria, or Iran. Instead, it means putting such extreme pressure on Iran and Syria through other means — so much so, that they are distracted and unable to provide significant support to Hezbollah when it needs it most. And the best means to do that is by actively, aggressively, and openly supporting regime change from within. It's a tactic that the international community, which complains about our actions in Iraq and elsewhere, would have difficulty faulting. And if done right, it would force both Syria and Iran to divert attention from Hezbollah, and start worrying about their own backyards.

Both Syria and, to a much larger degree, Iran, have viable political opposition elements working outside the country, yet supported by elements of the population inside the country. In Iran it is particularly so, with the Mullahs arresting, torturing, and executing hundreds of opposition members each year. The Mullahs are mindful that Khomeini came to power when the people turned on the Shah, and because of that, they brutalize any opposition within the country and work diligently to minimize the opposition groups headquartered outside the country. Even assassination is a tool they've not been reluctant to use. And all because they know they are vulnerable to the desires of their own population. Over half of Iran's 70 million people are under 30 years of age. And from that group, the opposition draws much of its support.

What, then, can the U.S. do? We could put Syria and Iran on notice that we are going to threaten their regimes in the worst way possible — from within. We could tell them that we will be providing money, assistance, advice and whatever other support required to empower the resistance movements. We could begin massive information operations campaigns to inform and educate the public inside those countries about the support they have from the outside. We could mount diplomatic efforts, panels, and forums, which highlight the atrocities both regimes carry out on their citizens. We could force economic sanctions. And we could do any number of other things to let those regimes know that we have put them in our sights — not for military action, but rather for turmoil from within.

If we took these actions as a minimum right now, the Israeli "hammer" would be dealing with a weakened enemy, and the U.S. "anvil" would be serving the self-stated interests of itself and the world community — bringing democracy to nations where tyranny prevails. Israel deserves our help. At this moment in time, they are our first line of defense.

Lt. Col. Bill Cowan is a FOX News Channel contributor and internationally-acknowledged expert in the areas of terrorism, homeland security, intelligence and military special operations. He spent 11 years doing undercover operations in Lebanon against Hezbollah and Syria. Read his full bio here.