IRAN'S THEOCRATIC leaders are not an attractive group of men. Their behavior and their public statements provide much ammunition for those who are convinced their regime should be toppled. Iran is a dangerous country.
But Iran does not pose an existential threat to the United States analogous to imperial Japan, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. It is not a rising superpower that threatens to dominate the globe-a regional troublemaker, yes. But "confronting Iran" should not become the guiding focus of U.S. foreign policy.
Rhetoric about Iran's malign propensities has received much attention. A worst-case analysis, most vigorously argued by Norman Podhoretz, an advisor to former-presidential-candidate Rudolph Guiliani, would suggest that once Iran gets hold of nuclear weapons, its messianic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may be inclined to use them, especially against Israel. Ahmadinejad and his coterie believe in scenarios that call for a bloody battle between true believers and infidels as the precursor for the return of the Hidden Imam and the establishment of a world government. This is why Iran, unlike other nuclear powers-including the Soviet Union and China during the cold war-may not be susceptible to the logic of deterrence. For this reason they must be stopped from getting the bomb. In the absence of any diplomatic solution this simply calls for a military strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities.1