Noah: If I understood you correctly, your argument there is that Iran wants to be the hegemon in the ME — as we are in the Americas, as China hopes to be in the Far East — and that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is meant to, and actually will, bolster that ambition.
I agree that something of the kind is in the minds of the Iranian leadership. Whether they can achieve their ambition against big local rivals (Egypt, S.A., Turkey) will be interesting to see. A lot of old-fashioned history is going to be played out there.
But suppose Iran were to attain her hegemonic ambition. This will hurt the U.S.A. … how? You say it would be putting “the economic health of the nation in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hands.” How would it do that? Because Iran would control ME oil and refuse to sell it to us? Oil markets don’t, and in fact couldn’t, work like that. World oil production will anyway soon begin to decline. Cheap oil is a thing of the past. “Let’s declare war against Iran so we can prolong the cheap-oil fantasy for a few more years” — not, in my opinion, a very inspiring slogan.
As for “the security architecture in the Middle East that America has enforced, however shakily, for decades,” well, I think “shakily” is putting it very kindly. The ten-year Iran-Iraq war? The replacing of Soviet puppet rule in Afghanistan by jihadists? Three Arab-Israeli wars? Two gulf wars? “Shakily”? I would say.
If, as seems to be the case, Muslim Middle Easterners are addicted to mayhem, it seems to me we should stay out of their countries, except for monitory attacks on them — ferocious but brief — in retaliation for anything they do to us or our interests.
Given the rivalries and hatreds of the ME, I doubt a stable Iranian hegemony is possible. If it is possible, it’s something we’ll learn to live with, and no direct threat to the U.S.A. that I can see.
If all that is wrong — if Iranian ME hegemony is probable, and a threat to our country — how shall we prevent it? From all I have read and heard, the only way to permanently scotch Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be to invade the country, overthrow the government, nullify their armed forces, and maintain an army of occupation there for decades.
Your chances of selling that program to the American people are … what? Compared to, oh, say, the chances of Ron Paul being the Republican presidential candidate next fall?