As Think Progress notes, the White House took multiple steps yesterday to elevate dramatically the threat rhetoric against Iran. Bush included what The New York Times described as “some of his sharpest words of warning to Iran” yet. But those words could really be described more accurately not as “threats” but as a declaration of war.
More importantly, a war with Iran can happen in many ways other than by some grand announcement by the President that he wants to start a war, followed by a debate in Congress as to whether such a war should be authorized. That is the least likely way for such a confrontation to occur.
We have 140,000 troops (soon to be 20,000 more) sitting in a country that borders Iran and where Iran is operating, with an announced military build-up in the Persian Gulf imminent, increased war rhetoric from all sides, the beginning of actual skirmishes already, a reduction (if not elimination) on the existing constraints with which our military operates in Iraq, and a declaration by the President that Iran is our enemy in the current war.
That makes unplanned -- or seemingly unplanned -- confrontations highly likely, whether through miscalculation, miscommunication, misperception, or affirmative deceit. Whatever else is true, given the stakes involved -- the unimaginable, impossible-to-overstate stakes -- and the fact that we are unquestionably moving forward on this confrontational path quite deliberately, this issue is receiving nowhere near the attention in our political discussions and media reports that it so urgently demands.
For all the pious talk about the need to be "seriously concerned" and give "thoughtful consideration" to what will happen if we leave Iraq, there is a very compelling -- and neglected -- need to ponder what will happen if we stay and if we escalate. And the need for "serious concern" and "thoughtful consideration" extends to consequences not just in Iraq but beyond.