When President Obama disparaged “loose talk about war” against the theocratic regime in Teheran, he wasn’t minimizing the consequences of atomic weapons in the hands of the mullahs. The danger of terrorists acquiring a bomb would be multiplied by a regional arms race. The international nonproliferation regime would be crippled if not destroyed. The prestige of the United States would suffer fresh damage and yes, Israel would be gravely threatened.
Yet it is hard to understand why anyone – in Washington, Jerusalem, or anywhere else – would argue with his view that sanctions, covert action, and diplomatic engagement should be exhausted before anybody resorst to bombs and missiles. Unlike his irresponsible critics on the right, Obama cannot ignore the potential costs of another Mideast war, which could wreck fragile economies both here and abroad, increase the peril to US troops in Afghanistan as well as throughout the region, and perhaps escalate into a global conflict of unpredictable scope. He may have noticed that the same crew of neoconservative pundits and officials who pushed us into invading Iraq and then botched the occupations of that country and Afghanistan are now the most eager proponents of a military confrontation with Iran. These figures dominate the foreign policy team of ultra-hawk Mitt Romney (who, like so many of them, contrived to avoid serving in Vietnam despite his supposed enthusiasm for that misadventure).