As I'm sure you've heard by now, Iran doesn't have any nukes. Not one. Couldn't find any. They're simply not there, at least not anywhere where we could see 'em.
But President Bush says nothing has changed in regards to Iran. Iran is as dangerous today as it was yesterday; we still may need to take preemptive military action at any time. Iran may not have a nuke, but they know how to make one, and we're certain they still hate us. Terror may rear its ugly head at any moment, and Iran might be standing there behind the curtain, helping the terrorists. We need to keep our options open, if we don't want another 9/11.
Which means one of four things.
A. We think Iran has a nuke, but we can't find it.
B. We know Iran doesn't have a nuke, but we have good reason to think they're an imminent danger.
C. Iran doesn't have a nuke and isn't imminently dangerous, but with Ahmadinejad in charge we can't afford to ease up on the rhetoric.
D. Iran doesn't have a nuke, isn't imminently dangerous, and we can take Ahmadinejad with one hand tied behind our back, but if the American people quit believing in the War on Terror our next president will be a Democrat.
Why do I have a sinking feeling that option "D" is the correct one?
The American people will only put up for so long with the notion that we should strike preemptively, or pre-preemptively, or even pre-pre-preemptively, those nations that might at some future distant date and time become a threat to our security. Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post, tongue firmly in cheek, put it this way:
"But I still think we ought to take dramatic pre-emptive action against Iran on the off chance that it decides someday to start thinking again about reconstituting its plans to refer to America negatively (that whole business about "the Great Satan" really hurt my feelings). Also we should take out France for the same reason. And Cambridge, Mass. This list could get long."
Yes, it could. If America had the obligation to go to war with any nation that might theoretically become a threat to us, or that might presently harbor terrorists, we'd pretty much have to declare war on the whole world, including ourselves.
I'm not saying that nations like Iran shouldn't be watched carefully. But it used to be that we went to war slowly, reluctantly, only after all other options had been tried and had failed. The very notion of preemptive war has proved to be a dangerous one, just like the habit doctors have acquired recently of prescribing drugs to treat "preconditions." It's one thing to tell a patient, for instance, that his cholesterol numbers are rising toward a territory that might require treatment, and another to begin treating the patient with cholesterol-lowering drugs at the first sign of a rise; similarly, it's one thing to think that Iran requires us to remain watchful and vigilant lest they acquire the power to wreak nuclear havoc on the Middle East, but it's another thing altogether to attack them before they can become dangerous.
No nation has the right to violate another nation's sovereignty simply because we fear that someday that nation could have the power to do us harm. Our patriotic duty to our country does not permit us to act in a manner that violates this principle of sovereignty, not even if we're pretty sure that the nation we're concerned about is moving along a road of scientific exploration and discovery that may one day allow them to possess a dangerous weapon which we also believe they might choose to use against us either directly or indirectly. We can't go to war in the present to prevent a war in the future; as we've learned in Iraq, the war that we begin today doesn't permit us to destroy the enemy of tomorrow; it may, in fact, have the opposite effect, and create a more dangerous future enemy who will be harder to fight, harder even to identify.
In the unlikely event that Iran does actually have a nuclear weapon, and successfully hid it from us, we might find ourselves at some point in the future needing to address that situation: first politically, and only last, and reluctantly, with force. But unless somebody forgot to look under the bed (so to speak) Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon today--which means that we can't create out of thin air a compelling case for war against Iran today, or tomorrow, or sometime next week. To try to do so is to decide that our greatest enemy really isn't Iran, or terrorism, or even Islamic fundamentalism; to continue the strategy of declaring and fighting preemptive wars is to decide that our greatest enemy of all is fear.