Slow down there, eager journalists, hacks, politicians, Zionist lobby and think-tankers. An attack on Iran is clearly the war you’ve been dying for (since Iraq and Afghanistan worked out so well for you).
The United States has now endured what by some measures is the longest period of war in its history, with more than 6,300 American troops killed and 46,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate costs estimated at $3 trillion. Both wars lasted far longer than predicted. The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.
So why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air?
Talk of war over Iran’s nuclear program has reached a strident pitch in recent weeks, as Israel has escalated threats of a possible strike, the oratory of American politicians has become more bellicose and Iran has responded for the most part defiantly. With Israel and Iran exchanging accusations of assassination plots, some analysts see a danger of blundering into a war that would inevitably involve the United States.
Echoes of the period leading up to the Iraq war in 2003 are unmistakable, igniting a familiar debate over whether journalists are overstating Iran’s progress toward a bomb. Yet there is one significant difference: by contrast with 2003, when the Bush administration portrayed Iraq as an imminent threat, Obama administration officials and intelligence professionals seem eager to calm the feverish language.
Both the ombudsman of The Washington Post and the public editor of The New York Times in his online blog have scolded their newspapers since December for overstating the current evidence against Iran in particular headlines and stories. Amid the daily drumbeat about a possible war, the hazard of an assassination or a bombing setting off a conflict inadvertently worries some analysts. After a series of killings of Iranian scientists widely believed to be the work of Israel, Israeli diplomats in three countries were the targets last week of bombs suspected to have been planted by Iranians.
Peter Feaver of Duke University, who has long studied public opinion about war and worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, said the Obama administration’s policy was now “in the exact middle of American public opinion on Iran” — taking a hard line against a nuclear-armed Iran, yet opposing military action for now and escalating sanctions. But as the November election approaches, Mr. Feaver said, inflammatory oratory is likely to increase, even if it is unsuited to a problem as complicated as Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“This is the standard danger of talking about foreign policy crises in a campaign,” he said. “If you try to explain a complex position, you sound hopelessly vague.”