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The folly of war with Iran

It's instructive to recall a comment President Lincoln once made: "One war at a time...."

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Never is wisdom more requisite in a president than in time of war. Abraham Lincoln was perhaps America's wisest war president and should remain a beacon to his successors.

Late in 1861, there was a public clamor for war with England when the Republic was already bogged down in a horrible fratricidal war, the outcome of which was by no means certain.

Incensed that a United States Navy ship party boarded a British packet and illegally removed two Confederate diplomats bound for Europe, Lord Palmerston sent 8,000 additional troops to Canada preparing for war with the US. More than a few Americans, including Secretary of State William Seward, wanted to give the British a thumping at a time when the bulk of the US military was tied down in a continental civil war.

Now, as the White House and Pentagon reportedly contemplate war with Iran, it is instructive to recall President Lincoln's response to his secretary of State, "One war at a time, Mr. Seward."

In 2001, the US launched a justifiable war against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Two years later, the Bush administration launched a far more dubious war in Iraq. Neither conflict has ended in victory. Both are ongoing. With those two wars on the front burner, why is anyone considering three wars at a time?

Bombing Iran now seems no more likely to produce positive results in Southwest Asia than the Nixon-Kissinger massive bombing of Hanoi produced an American victory in Vietnam. Surgical bombing of Iraq after the first Gulf War didn't topple Saddam Hussein. That required a brilliantly executed full-scale US military invasion in 2003. (It's the occupation that ran amok.)

While it seems clear that an American war with Iran might be in Israel's interest, it is not necessarily so. Some in Saudi Arabia might like to see rival Iran pummeled by the US military. But the US should not fight proxy wars for Saudi Arabia or Israel, and it's debatable if either would ultimately be safer in the long run after a US attack on Iran.

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