With the Republican presidential race in disarray and something of a lull in the post-"inevitable Romney" phase, there is one ongoing constant: All the conceivable nominees, at least in the current set of prospects, is pushing for war with Iran.
I'm referring, of course, to Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich. Not the neo-isolationist Ron Paul, who is about as likely to be the Republican nominee for president as I am. He is so far off the reservation that Santorum and Gingrich passed on the opportunity to guarantee a fourth straight Romney defeat, in the little-attended Maine caucuses, by tossing some support to Paul. The idea of him succeeding, even in this minor way, is simply anathema to them.
Not that these warhawks have anything like a plan as to how an Iran war would, you know, work.
Iranian patrol boats and aircraft shadow the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group in the Arabian Gulf.
It might be nice to imagine that an attack could work. If one believes that Iran is developing nuclear weapons -- as most experts who've looked at this, including the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, do -- then this is serious business. Notwithstanding the futile protest of iPod-wielding students a few years back, whose fate may be shared by the initial revolutionaries of Egypt (when will we stop imagining that the people most like us represent the mainstream of another society?), Iran is a worrisome, hostile, radical fundamentalist power. One which was held neatly in check by Saddam Hussein. Who of course was removed from power at the insistence of the very people now flipping out over Iran and pushing war there.
The reality is that the US invasion of Iraq ended up empowering Iran, leading to government in Baghdad which is dominated by politicians friendly with Iran.
If we can't control what happens in Iraq, a nation which we conquered for a time, we're not very well going to control what happens in Iran, a more formidable opponent which, unlike Saddam's Iraq, really does have international terrorist assets.
Pushing such a war is an obviously very dangerous idea. But it's treated rather blithely in a stenographic US media, with little attention to its substance or peril. Even in the record number of Republican debates, in which media moderators have allowed candidates to mouth their shallow talking points without any substantive discussion.
While Iran's growing role in the region is alarming to many Arab states and beyond, the underlying dynamic is principally Iran vs. Israel, two governments presently controlled by religionists. One which may well have a Mahdi complex, another which may well have a Masada complex.
Iran is shadowing US Navy forces operating in the Arabian Gulf, which Iran calls the Persian Gulf, with missile boats and aircraft. We're sending a third aircraft carrier to the region in March. Which further backstops Israel's hand, not that the right-wing critics of Barack Obama, including the GOP presidential candidates, whose caricature of Obama on defense policy is so extreme that even George Will can't believe it.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced this week that Iran has brought a new generation of centrifuge online and has begun enriching its uranium stores on its own. Not to weapons grade. Not yet. Iran also threatened to cut off oil supplies immediately to European nations which have agreed to embargo Iranian oil by the end of June.
Not only are there the ongoing threats by Iran to block the critical oil choke point in the Strait of Hormuz and by Israel to launch air strikes on Iran's nuclear program, there is a further ratcheting up of the intelligence war between Iran and Israel. Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated and missile centers bombed.
As international pressure on Iran's nuclear program mounts, Russia's military says it sees the probability of an Israeli or Israeli/US strike against the Islamic Republic as being high. Concerns of pending military action grew after Israel blamed Tehran for bomb attacks on its diplomatic staff.
Now there are claimed Iranian attacks on Israeli personnel in Delhi, Tblisi, and Bangkok, the respective capitals of India, Georgia, and Thailand. The balloon is not yet up. But it's getting inflated.
The situation is perilous and complicated enough without all the hot air filling that balloon from the Republican presidential candidates.
Neither Romney, Santorum, nor Gingrich were ever in the military, and Romney sat out the Vietnam War as a Mormon missionary in France. (Which gets more amusing the more you think about it.)
Romney, who boasts of his partnership with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, with whom he worked at Boston Consulting Group, is joined at the hip to the most right-wing government in Israel's history.
Santorum is a fundamentalist Christian motivated by religious affinity.
Gingrich, well, Gingrich has a military scifi sensibility, as I wrote here on the Huffington Post a few months ago in this piece on his alternate history novels.
In my opinion, because of the Holocaust, we have a civilizational responsibility to protect the Jewish people. This is especially dicey, since Israel is a nation founded in a fundamentally precarious spot, like a bird's nest in a rain spout. But we don't have the obligation to do whatever any government of Israel -- including the most right-wing government in its history, led by a party, the Likud, which finished second in the elections -- says to do.
Israel has fewer people than Los Angeles County, about as many as the San Francisco Bay Area. Sometimes these populations produce extraordinary political leaders. More often, they produce mediocrities.
Amazingly, the drumbeat for war with Iran, pushed by the leading Republican presidential candidates, is very short on scenarios, even though it would likely set the region alight, crash the nascent global economic recovery, and quite likely deeply offend Iran's great power allies of a sort in China, India, and Russia. But I have found this Bipartisan Policy Center report pushing war with Iran, with a few name Democrats like former Senator Chuck Robb and New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman joining neoconservatives on the core task force.
They aren't officially saying they want Israel to attack Iran, or the US to join in. But just in case Israel does attack Iran, we should help them in advance and send them 200 bunker buster bombs and three special aircraft to refuel the Israeli squadrons coming and going to Iran! Which obviously drives us ever closer to war.
Not that the plan, whatever it is, would actually work, or the inevitable backlash be mitigated. In fact, there is little discussion of how things might play out, but a lengthy exhortation against Iran.
However, this is a time for thoughtful consideration, not exhortation. After all, we've been through this with Iraq. Which went so well that US diplomats can't travel freely in Baghdad less than two months after our pull-out.
You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.