If Iran is between five and ten years from building an atomic bomb, why the hysteria today?
As I see it two basic things are happening. First, Bush likes war. Recall this quote from Hersh:
A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”
As Iraq trends towards disaster you can hardly blame the president for nervously eyeing that top-shelf space that he set aside in his Presidential Legacy cabinet. If the president hadn’t ordered such a big cabinet he might shuffle around liberating Afghanistan or delivering massive, budget consuming tax cuts to fill the space, but as it is they would just make the gap look bigger.
If I had three years to make a lasting impact I can think of any number of worthwhile things to do. Universal healthcare comes to mind because aside from the obvious benefits you would save the business community from a a wave of insurance-related bankruptcies, splitting off reasonable Republicans from the hardcore John Birchers who oppose the idea for ideological reasons. Or if splitting the GOP sounds like a dumb idea (just ask LBJ), how about energy independence by 2050? That would spark the national imagination like the US-Soviet space race did and a Mars mission never will.
Nope, when the president thinks legacy he means war. That fits with what we know of his character – he threw the dice once and (very likely) lost big so the only thing he can think to do is throw the dice again. If he holds on to power long enough I have no doubt that he would throw the dice a third time in Syria. Assad is a mortal threat as long as he holds on to Saddam’s WMD stockpile, dontchaknow.
Helping Bush along, the GOP needs an issue. Their ad campaign warning Democrats might impeach the president! takes for granted that Americans won’t want the president impeached by November ’06. If his poll numbers sink as fast as gas prices go up I could see those ads starting to backfire. The story behind this mendacious ad is beyond funny – the Republican bill to make illegal immigration a felony proved so unpopular that the GOP ran ads (in Spanish, of course) blaming Democrats for it. If I understand their logic, Democrats also caused the Iraq war by not resisting it strongly enough. Or something like that. More tax cuts won’t pass the laugh test when the famous U.S. debt clock is about to run out of digits.
To get its mojo back the GOP needs war. That does not mean that we will necessarily invade Iran or even drop a single bomb, but it does mean that, pace Kevin Drum, the Democrats might as well suit up for a half-assed retread of the 2002 Iraq midterms.
Of course you can count on Joe Lieberman to jump the starting gun.
Inevitably someone will get flibbertigibbet about whether or not I have a plan to personally solve the Iran crisis. Relax. Iran is not a crisis, at least not yet. The massive stockpile of enriched bomb material that Ahmadinejad recently announced amounts to barely one thousandth of what you need to reach critical mass and that assumes that Iran was even telling the truth. We Americans should not have a hard time imagining a politically ailing leadership (the Mullahs stand at 15% approval) drumming up international conflict to rally support at home.
Russian Federal Nuclear Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko said the enrichment facility in the Iranian city of Natanz, equipped with 164 gas centrifuges, could not produce any significant amount of enriched uranium, which can be used to fuel power plants or produce atomic weapons.
“These centrifuges allow Iran to conduct laboratory uranium enrichment to a low level in insignificant amounts,” Kiriyenko was quoted as saying. “The acquisition of highly enriched uranium is unfeasible today using this method.”
Iran will need to increase its centrifuge supply ten to a hundredfold before it can threaten anybody. In the worst case Iran could theoretically find enriched Uranium on the international black market, but in that case you can add Luxembourg, Swaziland and Paris Hilton to the list of credible nuclear threats. Further it seems ridiculous to claim that we have any lack of Iran solutions floating around, rather the main problems are that A) none of the realistic solutions smell very good, and B) “solutions” involving bombs come from an alternate universe where a bombing campaign will have nothing but happy consequences for us the bombers. We would do ourselves a favor if the only thing we do in the next year is separate the merely unpalatable ideas from the dangerously unrealistic.