On the one hand, Iran is cooking up dreams of regional domination, which a bomb would be necessary to secure. On the other hand, with so many enemies alerted and pressing, Iran's regime has got to fear for its survival. A bomb is also a solution to that problem (from Iran's point of view). Given the stakes, no strictly economic carrots or sticks will work. (Well, a total oil/economic boycott might work, but that will never be imposed.) So either we destroy Iran's nuclear program by force, or Iran is going to get the bomb, likely provoking nuclear proliferation throughout the region.
That means a whole lot of Islamic bombs floating around the Middle East for the indefinite future. It would probably take another terrorist strike to move the American public in the direction of a more hawkish approach.
Over the long term, in the absence of greater national unity and more decisive American military action, you'd have to say the odds of nuclear terror within the next decade have risen substantially. Should we blame the president for this? I don't think so. To a degree, I blame the dovish Dems. Without a national consensus, the country can't take decisive action.
Leaving aside Stanley's not-so-vaguely fascist assertion that the country is being weakened and left vulnerable by the disunity caused by "dovish Dems," let's make this pure and sparkling clear: George W. Bush has never shown the least bit of concern for "consensus." As he's told us many, many times, he knows what's right, he goes from his gut, he's the decider, he's already had his accountability moment, etc., so the idea that he would be constrained from taking decisive action by something as morally un-clarifying as " the lack of consensus" (which is, after all, just another way of saying "the New York times doesn't like it," right?) is ridiculous on its face. Indeed, wouldn't the sort of leader that conservatives imagine Bush to be take whatever action he deemed necessary, regardless of the political consequences, to defend Amurca? I mean, this is Churchill, Jr., we're talking about, yes?
Now, if Stanley thinks very hard, he may remember that Congress passed a resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein with little to no substantive opposition by so-called dovish Dems. Bush wanted a War on Terra, he got it. He wanted a Patriot Act, he got it. Really, other than the Bolton nomination, which the president got anyway through recess appointment (a mechanism which Republicans whined about endlessly when President Clinton used them), and which was only held up because of a Republican Senator's misgivings about Bolton, which of the president's foreign policy initiatives have the Democrats really tried, let alone been able, to block? While it is true that those initiatives have, almost to a one, proven absolutely disastrous, arrogantly conceived and incompetently executed, and it is true that more and more conservatives are edging away from the Bush Doctrine like guys in wigs and hastily-applied makeup trying to slip into lifeboats on the Titanic, pinning the blame for this on "dovish Dems" is tranparent nonsense. Blame Congress as a whole? Sure. They have oversight authority which, by any measure, they have abdicated, so they share some of the responsibility for the tragic mess that's been created, and which is getting worse. But the man most responsible is the man at the top: George W. Dick Cheney.
But wait, here's where the wheels really fly off Stanley's argument.
There is one great hope, however. And this is something that, for all the problems, our ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have already won us. The other side knows that direct strikes on America unite the country and produce tough military action. For all our success at breaking up terrorist plots, I've got to think the terrorists have been intentionally holding back out of worry that strikes on American soil would lead to radical American action. Why haven't Hezbollah's sleeper cells hit us yet? Because they know the U.S. would then green light an Israeli attack of indefinite duration. Why hasn't al-Qaeda released to sort of cheap, easy suicide terror in the U.S. that the Palestinians use in Israel? Because they fear it would provoke a U.S. takeover of their sanctuaries in Pakistan.
I'd say it's more likely that al-Qaeda has learned that if they attack the U.S., the U.S. will respond by invading random Muslim countries with whom al-Qaeda has no meaningful relationship, thereby transforming that country into a militant jihadist jamboree, increasing al-Qaeda recruitment and training opportunities significantly. States like Iran, on the other hand, have probably concluded that not having WMD and not having ties to al-Qaeda simply cannot provide the sort of insurance against U.S. invasion that a shiny new nuke can.
Stanley undermines his entire "toughness" argument with his reference to Israel. He claims that tough U.S. action has deterred the sort of attacks that Palestinians use in Israel, that is, the sort of attacks that Israel hasn't been able to deter with the most powerful military in the region and a nearly 40-years-long military occupation. God help Stanley if he doesn't think Israel has been "tough" with the Palestinians.
Finally, in regards to Iran's status as a regional power, which is, after all, what Kurtz is on about in the first place, let me put it this way: At this point Iran is pretty much done "cooking up" dreams for regional domination. Those dreams are fully cooked, out of the oven, and cooling on the window sill. Let me put it another way: Had Iran somehow won its war with Iraq in the 1980s, it could not, in its wildest, wettest, regional hegemonic dreams have hoped for nearly as complete and sweeping a victory over its foe as the United States provided for it, gratis, in 2003. The idea that we can solve this problem with just more "decisive action," i.e. more things that go boom, strikes me as the definition of insanity.