I have a history of panicking about a Persian war. It is because, short of invading Russia in winter, such a war seems to me the ultimate madness. Sundry Americans who consider themselves citizens of the 'arbiter of Eurasia', like the old realpolitiker Zbigniew Brzezinski, are now contemplating trying to stop one by contemplating shooting down Israeli aircraft that launched any attack. Henry Kissinger did a similar raindance during the '73 war, when he and Richard Nixon made a virtue of holding back from Israel, or at least appearing to, until the Israelis thought they needed the Americans (though the reality may have been a little different).
Kissnger, Macnamara before his redemption, the Rostows, Dean Acheson, Paul Wolfowitz and Brzezinski are all, essentially, all formed, essentially, an liberal Imperial party in the mid-twentieth century. They devolved, as the century wore on and turned, into the neoconservative's window dressing, since that particular psychopathology needed some respectability.
Yet I cannot imagine any of them, preening themselves on social science retreads of Metternich and Talleyrand and Palmerston, the histories stripped of wisdom and inflated with meaningless numbers, encouraging a Persian war.
What is going on? In the past three weeks, the Israelis seem to have stopped a 'hijacked' ship in the Atlantic, and then warned the Russians about some cargo it was carrying. The Russians and Americans have cooled the 'Star Wars' missile nonsense in eastern Europe (those things don't work). People like Brzezinski are threatening Israel...and Bibi Netanyahu has gone very quiet.
Here's a study of what it would take to take down the Iranian nuclear programme. Twenty Three targets, the better part of a dozen major ones. Fifty to Eighty aircraft, maneuvering around at least twenty-five anti missile posts, with God knows how many more Chinese and Russian weapons there too.
The Straits of Hormuz shut down, and the west starved of oil. Russia massively strengthened in Georgia, and, frankly, one risky shot per plane at targets almost certainly in hardened bunkers underground.
Or, of course, the Israelis could use missiles. To be certain, they'd have to use near-nuclear ordnance.
What's coming? A bond crisis, a cold winter, a bankrupt eastern Europe, a further recessionary dip, a monetary inflation? These things are highly probable but not certain. But to add a Persian war to them--I mean, my God. Small ships and Iranian cells in Europe could strangle and burn and starve us at the drop of a hat. Are we ready for that? Remotely?
Yet, reading the noises, it seems to me as though there are still people around who want their war. The same people who ignored Operation Millennium Challenge, the same people who seem to have no qualms about handing the world to the Indian Ocean as surely, and in nominal terms of human lives perhaps as destructively, as those who handed America Europe's preeminence in 1914.
There are times when I hope people are as cynical and as duplicitous as they think they are and want to be in the national security world. Because, if anyone remotely means what they are saying about an Iran war, or an American attempt to officially interpose against the Israelis whilst some unofficially encourage some of their madmen and women, you can kiss the west's future good-bye. We face an invidious choice between a long, sapping attempt to divert the Iranian meteor by short and amoral pushes and constraints, or one great detonation that will lose us time and opportunity in the future.
I worry that Mr Obama's great test is nearly here, and that the past year, which frankly has not been reassuring--but which beats the crude and destructive vaudeville thuggery of recent years--has just been a prelude.
God help us.
HAT TIP: Conservative Cabbie