The eve of the State of the Union speech, where, five years ago Dubya debuted his "axis of evil" theory, is a time for reflection. I just spent an hour or so on the phone with a friend considering the unpleasant specter of an invasion of Iran. His assumptions were two, and they aren't particular long-shots, and after that, things get pretty hairy pretty fast.
Assumption one: Iran is building nukes. This seems not only likely, but logical. The current White House has demonstrated that if it thinks you're weak, it may invade, but if it thinks you have nukes, it does not. Assumption two: Given the choice of a nuclear Iran or an invaded Iran, Bush will take option B. Neither of these assumptions is unreasonable, so where does it leave us?
We can't invade Iran conventionally; there's no time left in the current administration to prep drafted troops, which would surely be necessary to manage a country far more capable of repelling us than Iraq. We would therefore opt for "tactical nukes," hoping that the world wouldn't object too strenuously.
If Bush launched a tactical nuclear strike at Iran, here's what I think would follow. The EU would at the very least lead the world in condemning the US; it might actually conduct trade embargoes or take other economic measures. Russia and China would certainly condemn the US, and both would probably lead or join EU efforts to punish the US. The Middle East would go crazy, and I shudder to even think what regional acts might follow.
At home, protesters would take to the street. In Portland in 2003, protesters shut down bridges and even I-5. There would be riots and massive upheaval. States and towns would condemn Washington. In less blue towns, there might be citizen riots between pro-Washington hawks and anti-war peaceniks. And on and on.
I told my friend, and I believe it, that other people in Washington and the White House recognize these things and Bush could never get a nuclear strike off the ground. And yet the murmurs are there. I would love to see Bush strike a diplomatic note tomorrow and reassure us--let's hope he does.