Although I am not unalterably opposed to military action against Iran, it is difficult for me to imagine a situation in which such action would be both justified and unlikely to ignite a conflagration that would quickly burn out of control.
I doubt—though not as much as I would like to doubt—that President Obama would initiate a military strike or give tacit approval to Israel for one. I am less sanguine about the self-control of a President Romney or President Gingrich. What I most fear, however, is Israeli military action taken without U.S. consent, explicit or otherwise.
Unfortunately, the U.S. policy of unconditional support for the State of Israel means that, in certain areas, U.S. policy is determined in Tel Aviv and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the ability to draw the U.S. into a Middle East war whose outcome is uncertain and likely to be catastrophic.
What should the U.S. do if we suspect that Israel is about to launch an air strike against the Islamic Republic of Iran? (Even if Israel does not ask permission—I doubt it will—I suspect that the U.S. will know that something is in the works.) The answer is simple: We should put our own planes in the air prepared to shoot down Israeli warplanes. We should, of course, first inform the government of Iran of our—and Israel’s—intentions.
Update, 2/10/2012: The New York Times carried a front-page story yesterday headlined “U.S. and Israel Split on Speed of Iran Threat.” It included this distressing paragraph:
Officials said that for all the friction between the United States and Israel over issues like Jewish settlements in the West Bank, it had not spilled over into the dialogue over Iran, in part because Mr. Obama has ordered it “walled off” from politics.