Kudos to Marc Lynch for posting his lecture notes on the panel discussion on “The Future of Preventive War.” Marc does a great job of being open and transparent in his academic work. If only all other Williams professors were the same! I’ll leave it to Marc’s former student, Mike Needham ’04, to provide a thorough critique.

Iran and North Korea are the two obvious candidates for an American preventive war, as Bush has defined it, but neither looks likely. No good military option exists against either. North Korea could devastate South Korea, possibly even Japan, has accelerated its nuclear program and possibly has workable nukes. China and its other neighbors are more worried about its collapse than about its going nuclear.

And Iran? the Iraq war has left Iran stronger than it has ever been: in a dominant position in Iraq, the Hezbollah success and its own nuclear defiance have won it support across the Sunni-Shia divide. It’s bigger than Iraq, has learned from Iraq, and doesn’t seem likely to be an easy win no matter how it’s cut. Unlike Saddam, its rulers are shrewd and preparing for war – and don’t seem unduly concerned by American threats.

I’ll take the other side of that bet. In other words, war with Iran or North Korea may be wise or it may be foolish but, knowing how my friends in the vast right wing conspiracy think, I do not think that it is unlikely. Perhaps I can interest Marc in a friendly wager . . .

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