Writing in the British newspaper The Times, highly regarded British journalist and economist Anatole Kaletsky today aptly describes the most pressing political crisis we face, in a column headlined "Why we must break with the American crazies":
I say this with growing despair, because I too have returned from a fact-finding tour, to America. Viewed from across the Atlantic it is clear that the parochial British obsession with WMD and "sexed-up dossiers" bears no relationship to the catastrophes now unfolding in the Middle East and beyond -- not only in Iraq, but also in Gaza, Lebanon and Afghanistan, and soon maybe Syria, Iran and Pakistan.
What people are talking about in America is not whether the invasion of Iraq was legally or morally justified but why it went so disastrously wrong and whether the same blundering fanatics will launch another catastrophic military adventure, most likely a bombing campaign against Iran, to distract attention from failure in Iraq. After all, the neoconservative ideologues who still run the Bush Administration have nothing left to lose politically -- and in their fevered imaginations they still think they could inflict military defeat on the "Islamofascists" in what they now see as an even greater historical confrontation than the Cold War.
While Mr Brown and the British media are still fretting about who said what to whom about WMD intelligence, the talk in American policy circles is about an article, The Case for Bombing Iran, published two weeks ago in Commentary and The Wall Street Journal and cited approvingly to anyone who cares to listen by officials close to Dick Cheney. Its author, Norman Podhoretz, is an intellectual mentor to the people who took America into Iraq. His self-explanatory message is that Iran today is more dangerous than Hitler's Germany, since it could soon have nuclear weapons -- and that Israel's very existence is menaced now as never before.
It is significant that Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, travelled to Washington at about the same time as the article was published to plead with congressmen "not to tie President Bush's hands over Iran".
Also that John McCain, the only unequivocally pro-war presidential candidate, endorsed Podhoretz's argument, stating that "the only thing more dangerous than attacking Iran is allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons" -- and that Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN nuclear inspectorate, came out with a strikingly undiplomatic public statement, giving warning that "crazies in Washington" now seemed to be planning to repeat the Iraq disaster by attacking Iran.
And it is not only McCain who has been overtly endorsing the idea of attacking Iran. Several days ago, Rudy Giuliani told Hugh Hewitt he would support Bush "if the President comes out between now and the next election, and says based on intelligence that we have, and we know the problems with our intel, but based upon what I saw, I have to strike Iran":
We all hope it doesn't, we all wish it doesn't, we all realize that it would be real dangerous if it did, but I think most of us realize it would be even more dangerous if a country like Iran that is so irresponsible was sitting there with nuclear weapons.
And Joe Lieberman has yet another Op-Ed in The Wall St. Journal this morning proclaiming how Great Things are Going in Iraq, but warning that the True Threat comes from our Mortal Persian Enemy:
Facts on the ground also compel us to recognize that Iran is doing everything in its power to drive us out of Iraq, including providing substantive support, training and sophisticated explosive devices to insurgents who are murdering American soldiers. Iran has initiated a deadly military confrontation with us, from bases in Iran, which we ignore at our peril, and at the peril of our allies throughout the Middle East.
I really think that most people believe that a military strike on Iran, let alone an all-out war with that country, is simply unrealistic, that it cannot and will not happen. Certainly our political discussions are virtually devoid of any sense of urgency over the prospect of a military confrontation with Iran.
But we are so clearly on that path. As Kaletsky points out, even "some even inside the Bush Administration" are plotting "how to prevent 'the crazies' from starting another war." But in each of these internal struggles, the easy victors have always been the assorted neoconservatives and warmongers, led by Dick Cheney, surrounding the President. They are clearly pining for a war with Iran. Republican presidential candidates this side of Ron Paul are already lining up in loyal support, because they have to. And it is very difficult to imagine what is going to stop the administration's "crazies" from prompting this new military confrontation (Congressional Democrats? A scrutinizing press? Public outcry?).
UPDATE: A BBC article contains this alarming fact:
By taking such a hardline on Iran, Washington is once again falling in line with Israel's view of its most serious strategic long term threat.
Israeli officials insist that Iran is less than three years from developing a nuclear weapon and is developing long range weapons that could deliver it.
That was from February, 2002. I don't think anyone can reasonably dispute the perception of the Israelis of Iran as a potential threat to its security. But that, of course, is a different question entirely from whether Iran is a threat to the security of the United States.