Wishing for Ponies
If only we had an administration guided by prudence and wisdom, hopes such as these for a rational solution with Iran could be fulfilled. But it is a faint hope at best.
Josh Marshall pointed me to this piece in the Times of London, which reported that there is a serious disagreement inside the Bush Administration about attacking Iran. On the one side apparently, against an attack, are Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condi Rice, along with NSA Stephen Hadley. And all alone on the other side is, well, you guessed it. According to this account, Cheney is maintaining that all options need to stay on the table and the administration needs to continue support for covert action. Being charitable to Cheney, keeping all options on the table and maintaining support for covert action are plausible positions as part of a broadly balanced hard power/soft power approach to solve a problem. However, given the mendacity and trigger-happy policy of this VP and president, we are well past giving this team the benefit of the doubt.
My personal feeling at this point is that Bush will not order a military strike against Iran and that the rhetoric and positioning of the fleet are simply chess moves he can make without firing a shot. Unlike 2002, Bush has no support in Great Britain or Europe for an attack against Iran, and he definitely will not have the support of China or Russia. He does not have a pliant Secretary of State burdened by a "duty to obey" mentality like he did in 2002, and he doesn't have a Dr. Strangelove Defense Secretary this time to side with the Darth Vader VP. As such, any move by Bush to attack Iran would be a move he does on his own, without cover from anyone else or without support from any other country except Israel and perhaps Saudi Arabia, and I'm not sure the Saudis would support it either. As much as I loathe Bush, I'm not sure he would go into Iran in those circumstances and see his whole presidency crash around him in abject failure and an impeachment move.