It’s been almost impossible for any issue other than the economy to penetrate America’s political consciousness. This year, “it's the economy, imbecile,” not just “stupid.” That singular focus may soon broaden.
The International Atomic Energy Agency will issue a report that Iran has “mastered the critical steps necessary to build a nuclear weapon.”
One imagines that all the Republican candidates will issue denunciations of this development and that it should be a topic for Wednesday's CNBC debate. Denouncing Iran is easy; taking action is much more difficult.
The standard political dodge is that “we've got to listen to our commanders in the region” is less useful when applied to Iran. Our military's point of view is that Iran has a modern, well-trained and well-equipped military, and that its leader is insane enough to welcome confrontation and even war to improve his somewhat tenuous hold on the country.
Given Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems likely that even the most trigger-happy Republicans will be somewhat circumspect about calling for armed intervention. This is a moment where there is conflict between looking tough and acting presidential.
Then, of course, there is Israel. Will— can— it allow a nuclear-armed Iran? Would the United States green-light an Israeli military action against Iran? These would be interesting questions to ask the Republicans Wednesday night. Glad I don’t have to answer them.