THE BLOG
05/20/2008 10:40 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Is War vs. Iran Still Politically Possible?

I must say that I find a "yes" answer to the question in the headline impossible to believe. But apparently the real chance of that new war is still very much alive.
For months, of course, some people have been warning that Bush plans to attack Iran. Seymour Hersh said it repeatedly in the New Yorker, based on intelligence sources. More recent warnings have come from Scott Ritter, who was right about Iraq's non-existent WMD. Not to mention a lot of saber-rattling from the Bush-Cheney crowd and their allies in the Pentagon.
But I'd thought that the National Intelligence Estimate saying that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program five years ago had finally put a stop to the prospect of war. Since then, however, Bush has discounted the NIE, continued the naval buildup in the Persian Gulf, increased the U.S. troop presence along the Iranian border, and forced Adm. William Fallon to resign as Centcom commander after he openly opposed an attack on Iran.
Now comes the latest sign that Bush wants to go to war again. It's in today's Jerusalem Post which cites Israeli Army Radio as quoting a top Israeli official. That unnamed official reportedly claims that a senior member of the Bush entourage, also unnamed, said at a closed meeting during Bush's just-ended visit that Bush and Cheney both believe that military action against Iran is called for. The official reportedly went on to say that "the hesitancy" of both Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Rice was preventing a decision to attack Iran for the time being.
The White House has denied the report. It said that while the military option is still on the table the U.S. prefers to resolve its differences over Iran's nuclear program "through peaceful, diplomatic means." However, that can easily be dismissed as the same kind of non-stop lying the White House has practiced for eight years, especially during the runup to the Iraq war.
What I don't think can be dismissed as easily are the political implications of a war with Iran during this election year. With Bush's and his party's popularity already in the toilet, is it possible that Bush can be contemplating still another action that could further devastate his party's chances in Congress and, above all, the White House?
Could John McCain's candidacy possibly be helped--or at least not hurt-- by still another war before Bush leaves office? A very few might argue that a brief, successful series of surgical airstrikes against Iranian targets might let Bush claim to have curtailed Iran's nuclear program and bring Republicans more votes.
But I can't possibly imagine that result. Iran's determination to do damage, in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, among other places, would be increased by a hundredfold after an American attack. I fear right now that McCain has a real chance of winning the presidency, given the divisions among Democrats and problems in their candidates' appeal.
But I think another war would absolutely insure a Democratic presidential landslide of Rooseveltian proportions, and even produce the sixty or more Democratic votes in the Senate that would doom Republican filibusters. So why is Bush still contemplating war with Iran? Or doesn't he care about McCain and the rest of his party? Or does he want to cement a cowboy legacy? Or is this a green light for Israel to do what Bush would like to do but won't? Or is it just meaningless saber-rattling? Or what? I'd like to know what other people think.