Attacking Iran

Salon publishes Steve Clemons' "Why Bush Won't Attack Iran". It's an interesting piece, but as Brian Beutler points out the conclusion is actually that we should . . . worry about a war with Iran! Specifically, "an engineered provocation" that "would most likely be triggered by one or both of the two people who would see their political fortunes rise through a new conflict -- Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

That said, I've become a bit of a skeptic about the short-term prospects for war. I see very little political interest in such a war from anyone. At the same time, the Iran hawks have succeeded in getting every major political figure to agree that all options, including war, must be "on the table" and that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. And they've also succeeded in preventing everyone in practical politics from talking about the sort of things that would go into a serious diplomatic settlement. Under the circumstances, the medium-term prospects for war seem to me to remain decent, and from an Iran hawks' point of view it'd probably be better to have any military strikes happen under a less discredited future president than under the unpopular incumbent.

Along those lines, Moira Whelan observes:

Bushies know Democrats want to look tough on terrorism—so if Iran is helping the Taliban, why are they being allowed to get away with supporting it? They know the progressive commitment to non-proliferation, so why is Iran escaping scrutiny? Then, of course, there’s their drum beat on Iran’s involvement in Iraq.

All of these arguments will be part of the neocons attempt to tie the hands of the next President. This benefits them in two ways. First, they use it as a domestic political issue to attempt to make Democrats look weak on critical national security issues if there is no action. Second, they attempt to get what they want--an attack on Iran—without the resulting mess on their hands. Either way, they spend some time driving the debate and acting as “deciders” of handling Iran being right or wrong (newsflash: it will be wrong). In the meantime, the Democratic administration will say things like “its complicated” and “we’re working it diplomatically”—a position that may be right, but is always a tough sell.

And, of course, there are some fairly committed Iran hawks on the merits inside the broad Democratic coalition.