For the men and women stationed at Tower 22 in the Middle East, it probably feels like they’re serving at the end of the world. Surrounded by miles of desert near the borders of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, the word “isolated” doesn’t begin to describe the tiny outpost. With just 350 Army and Air Force members rotating in and out of the base, no one would have expected the base to be a target — until now.
On Sunday, tragedy rocked the small detachment when, in a fatal mix-up, U.S. soldiers confused an incoming drone as one of our own. By the time they realized their mistake, the enemy vehicle started unleashing lethal force on the troops’ living quarters, killing three Georgians and wounding dozens of others in a horrifying escalation of the conflict across the region.
The losses are especially difficult to swallow on the heels of the news that two Navy SEALs had been lost at sea off the coast of Yemen trying to intercept Iranian weapons. Still, the Tower 22 casualties are believed to be the first from hostile fire in the region since Hamas’s October 7 massacre. That’s a minor miracle considering that at least 164 strikes have been carried out against American troops in the Middle East since the war in Gaza began. Troops have also been dodging missiles in the Red Sea, where Houthi rebels lob explosives at Americans at Iran’s direction.
While the Tower 22 attack was launched from Iraq, President Biden believes it was “carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups” operating in the region. Iranian officials deny the claim, calling it “baseless.” Regardless, top White House officials vow to act. “The president and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “and we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our troops and our interests.”
The president will respond “in a time and manner of his own choosing,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told the press Monday. And that’s exactly what Republicans are worried about. It’s the president’s timing and manner that have gotten our military into this mess, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) argued.
Yes, Iran may be responsible, leaders say, but the real culprit is this president’s weakness. “Joe Biden emboldened Iran for years by tolerating attacks on our troops, bribing the ayatollahs with billions of dollars, and appeasing them to no end,” a frustrated Cotton railed on social media. “He left our troops as sitting ducks and now three are dead and dozens [are] wounded, sadly as I’ve predicted would happen for months.”
“The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East,” Cotton insists. “Anything less will confirm Joe Biden as a coward unworthy of being commander-in-chief.”
That seems to be the prevailing sentiment from conservatives in both chambers, whose collective “we told you so” response demands better. This administration’s “policy of deterrence against Iran has failed miserably,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) fumed. “[They] can take out all the Iranian proxies they like, but it will not deter Iranian aggression. I am calling on the Biden Administration to strike targets of significance inside Iran, not only as reprisal for the killing of our forces, but as deterrence against future aggression,” he said. “The only thing the Iranian regime understands is force. Until they pay a price with their infrastructure and their personnel, the attacks on U.S. troops will continue.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demanded “serious, crippling costs” to Iran on “not only [their] front-line terrorist proxies, but on their Iranian sponsors who wear American blood as a badge of honor.”
Others lined up to pile on, including Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), who said simply, “Target Tehran.” As McConnell said. “The entire world now watches for signs that the president is finally prepared to exercise American strength…” The “appeasement of Iran must end,” Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) agreed. “It’s time for clear and decisive action.”
“We are not looking for war with Iran,” Kirby reiterated on NBC’s “Today.”
But war may already be on our doorstep. “News to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Colonel (Ret.) Robert Maginnis told The Washington Stand, “the conflict is already sparking across the entire Mideast from the Red Sea, to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden. … How many more U.S. servicemembers must die before the Biden administration finds the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the tyrants in Iran?” Family Research Council’s senior fellow for National Defense asked. “Are we waiting until Iran pops a nuclear weapon over Tel Aviv? Are we waiting for another bombing of U.S. personnel like the one in Beirut in 1983 that killed 241 U.S. servicemembers?”
Former President Trump also weighed in, offering his sympathy to the families. He called it a “horrible day for America” and another “tragic consequence of Joe Biden’s weakness and surrender.” After calling for prayer for the wounded — whose injuries span from bruises to brain trauma — he pointed out that three years ago, “Iran was weak, broke, and totally under control. Then Joe Biden came in and gave Iran billions of dollars which,” he lamented, “the Regime has used to spread bloodshed and carnage throughout the Middle East.”
Military experts agree. Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin told TWS that this “is more confirmation that the administration’s policy regarding the Gaza Strip is an abject failure. The fact that America has yet to deliver a decisive blow and seems more interested in rhetoric than any real action is proof. If the Biden administration doesn’t get a grip on how Hamas sees it,” he warned, “we will continue to be on the losing side. It’s time,” Boykin urged, “to take a lesson from Donald Trump and stop with the nonsense. It is my opinion that we will have a better chance of stopping this conflict if America would stand up, fight back, and do so in such a way that sends a clear signal as to how far we’re willing to go to bring this war to a halt.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.