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The War Both Candidates Ignore

Tuesday, 05 Aug 2008 09:15 AM

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Wars result when those who don’t want war believe they can ignore war away. Those who cause wars know better. Such a time has arrived.

Israel and Iran understand this. The United States doesn’t seem to get it.

Two inexorable forces of collision in the Middle East are overshadowing two inexorable forces of distraction in the United States.

Israel and Iran are on collision courses that no amount of diplomacy, soft or hard, no array of sanctions, collective or unilateral, will reverse or even divert.

The United States is preoccupied with the distractions of a presidential election no one is enjoying and an economic scare everyone is feeling.

What’s happening in the United States, regardless of the outcomes of its election and its economy, will certainly have serious effect on the Middle East. That effect will be as nothing, however, compared with what the events in the Middle East will impose upon the United States.

What is teetering in the balance in the Middle East is not war or peace. It is war or war. Peace isn’t even in the equation.

The choice still open to the United States is this: A more-immediate, lesser, non-nuclear but still terribly brutal and costly war that just possibly may be confined to the Middle East. Or a less-immediate, far-greater and unspeakably devastating nuclear war that almost certainly will spread to America’s heartland.

No choice is open to either Israel or Iran. For each of them, it’s all inevitability.

Israel cannot choose to roll the dice by waiting until Iran actually possesses nuclear weapons. Iran has already told Israel, and the rest of the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, precisely what will happen: It is sworn to destroy Israel and all its people. That’s what “wiping Israel off the map” means, nothing less.

That is absolutely unthinkable for Israel. If Israel wishes to survive it cannot allow it to happen. Nor will it, whoever is in charge politically in Jerusalem.

Iran also faces inevitability, of its own making. The ruling mullahs, through their puppet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have painted themselves into a corner.

At its peril, the civilized world can treat the threats from Tehran as bravado to intimidate Israel. But, that’s not where Iran has boxed itself in. Instead, it is with the only constituency it really wants to impress — the Muslim world.

Iran’s objective is to establish itself as the recognized Muslim heavyweight champion. It covets to become the long-awaited caliphate of all of Islam. To back down now in the face of Western resistance or disbelief would be to crawl back into a tent of utter defeat and humiliation.

Iran has left itself only one door — war on Israel. It believes that opens onto a world dominated eternally by Islam, a nuclear hell for the civilized world.

As United Nations Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany, keep discovering, to their perpetual astonishment, piling more sanctions on Iran for failing to abandon its nuclear-weapons program doesn’t deter the mullahs. It only plays their game.

If the rulers of the Iranian theocracy ever had a sense of humor, they must be laughing in their beards. Every time the U.N. barks, the mullahs chalk up extra time to build those bombs. Iran isn’t buying time; it’s receiving time for free.

Neither candidate for the American presidency seems interested in letting such realities intrude on his campaign. If the current American president intends to “do something” about Iran before it’s too late, he’s keeping his counsel.

The remaining issue is not if but when Israel will launch a preemptive-strike. It cannot procrastinate. No matter how successful or unsuccessful, that strike will ignite a regional war. The U.S. will be drawn in, to defend Israel and its own interests — and that well could thwart or delay a nuclear two-hemisphere war.

That is the unuttered issue that haunts this preposterous presidential campaign and can blow it into a cocked hat any moment.

John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com.

Read John Perry's columns here.

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