It’s become fashionable in conservative Washington circles -- among commentators with extraordinary access to the Bush administration -- to suggest that people concerned about the threat of war with Iran are howling at phantoms. As the New York Times
’ David Brooks wrote in a Nov. 6 column, “The Bush administration is not about to bomb Iran (trust me). It’s using diplomacy to build a coalition to balance it, and reverse an ugly tide.”Washington Post
columnist George Will struck a slightly less friendly tone with those who would actually support strikes, but drew the same conclusion, writing on Nov. 11 that “some Washington voices, many of them familiar, are reprising a familiar theme • Iran’s nuclear program is near a fruition that justifies preventive military action. Whether or not these voices should be heeded … they will not be.”
It’s certainly clear that the White House has far less latitude to launch a unilateral, pre-emptive strike than it did in 2003. To put it mildly, few here or abroad are still willing to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt. But even if Brooks and Will are correct about the administration’s strategy, they’re ignoring, purposefully or otherwise, a much larger risk than a planed U.S. attack. There remains the very real threat of a war that erupts even when neither side wants it.
The relevant term of art here is “proximity of forces” -- an inflamed constellation of hostile actors that includes the regionally loathed United States military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite Quds force, Shiite and Sunni militias in Iraq, al-Qaeda, the PKK in Kurdistan and the Israeli Defense Forces. With such a volatile maelstrom, there are countless opportunities for something to go amiss.Steve Clemons
, who directs the [American Strategy Program] at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, recently wrote an article fleshing out the point. We should worry less about a preplanned attack, he argues, and more about “the kind of scenario David Wurmser [who sits on the vice president’s national security staff] floated, meaning an engineered provocation. An ‘accidental war’ would escalate quickly and ‘end run,’ as Wurmser put it, the president’s diplomatic, intelligence and military decision-making apparatus. It would most likely be triggered by one or both of the two people who would see their political fortunes rise through a new conflict -- Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
Sabotage, for instance, is a real concern, Clemons argues. “Al-Qaeda-like interests could stage an attack made to look as if Israel was involved, or as if the Iranians did something to U.S. forces. … People talk about Gulf of Tonkin, but it doesn’t actually have to be that dramatic.” ...
For the complete article, please follow this link