In 2012 the world stands on the brink of another war. As with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a potential attack on Iran is rationalized as preserving peace: a dangerous rogue regime reaching for weapons of mass destruction must be stopped. But Iran is no replay of Iraq. Despite Republican hawks, there will be no "coalition of the willing" Iran to effect regime change. None of the principals in the Iraq fiasco seems interested in repeating that script.
Notoriously, the casus belli in Iraq--Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction--proved to be mythical. This time the casus belli is an alleged Iranian nuclear weapon that no one claims actually exists but that must be stopped before it exists. Stranger yet, the country that is threatening to precipitate war with Iran is the only country in the region that already possesses nuclear weapons, Israel.
Israel is not seeking regime change, but seeks instead to prevent the existing Iranian regime from acquiring a nuclear option. Military experts question the capacity of Israeli air strikes on alleged weapons facilities to do any more than delay progress toward production of weapons-grade enriched uranium. Worse, if Iran actually has no such goal, an attack would almost certainly precipitate an emergency Iranian program to achieve a nuclear capacity as the only way to deter further attacks from a nuclear-armed Israeli The case of North Korea, the third member of George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil." is no doubt an instructive model for the Iranians. North Korea has not been invaded precisely because it does have nukes, unlike Iraq which could be invaded because it lacked WMDs.
Moreover. far from producing regime change, an Israeli strike would quite certainly strengthen the Islamic regime among ordinary Iranians who would rally immediately behind their government when faced with an Israeli (and, at least by implication, American) assault on their sovereignty and security.
If Israel should strike Iran, the United States and much of the Western world would almost certainly be drawn into the conflict on the Israeli side, with unpredictable but likely devastating economic, security and diplomatic consequences. Oil prices could skyrocket. The stuttering global economic recovery could be driven into a tailspin.
A wider regional conflict might well spiral out of control: to reach Iran, the Israelis must violate the air space of countries unfriendly to them: Iraq (now under a Shiite-dominated regime friendly to...