An option for dealing with Iran—the one President Obama would certainly prefer if Israel was led by a liberal politician and the Republicans were not so bat-shit crazy—is containment: let the Iranians develop their nuclear bomb(s) and live, as best we can, with the consequences (as we do with Pakistan and North Korea).
But President Obama is literally being held hostage to conservative dynamics right now: conservative mullahs in Iran, conservatives in Israel, conservatives in the United States.
Right-wing authoritarian posturing is being passed around like a global joint. Just this past week, Senator Joseph Lieberman tried to box President Obama in further by getting a sense of the Senate resolution—supported by a number of Democrats, not just Republicans—that a nuclear Iran is intolerable.
So here’s what the second half of 2012 is likely to look like:
- Facebook will enjoy its (inflated) initial public offering day. Everyone will speak of a new economic dawn (for about a week).
- The stock market will reach levels it hasn’t seen in years—perhaps hit a historic high.
Then, sometime probably in the late summer or early fall, the following shit will hit the fan: diplomacy and sanctions having failed, it will be announced that Israel or the United States (or both of them in tandem) have done some sort of strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons development sites, and Iran has, in retaliation, managed to disrupt tanker traffic through the Straits of Hormuz.
In a matter of days the price of oil will double ($200 a barrel), which means:
- $6 to $8 gas in the U.S.;
- bye-bye rickety global economy;
- Greece landing in bankruptcy; and
- the crack-up of the European Union.
President Obama, meanwhile, will propose putting the war on the U.S. credit card—war is the ultimate Keynesian aphrodisiac—but Republicans will say no. The price for military funding and raising the U.S. debt limit will be dramatic cuts in domestic spending.
Liberals will cry foul and speak of Republicans holding the country hostage, but President Obama will cave and the Republicans will get their cuts.
But that won’t keep the deficit from ballooning even worse than usual, for the sheer stagnation in global economic growth will assure that the U.S. doesn’t grow either.
Thus will the peaceful hopes of the 21st century sweep down the drain. Similar hopes for the 20th century did the same thing in the teens of that decade. Recall that WWI was started by nations imagining they could efficiently manage a quick and limited war.