02.12.2012 _____________________

I have a copy of “The Last American,” a novel published in 1889. It is based on a fictional journal of a Persian admiral who rediscovers America 1,100 years in the future after it has been devastated and virtually wiped out by climate change.

The American economy is beginning to recover and is learning how to cope with the historical reversals and upheaval that resulted from centuries of neglect and hubris. The Persian expedition travels through the ruins of New York City and Washington, D.C., where they encounter and kill the three last Americans.

Not a pretty story. An Iranian friend, a fellow collector, gave me my copy and spoke elliptically of its prophetic nature. Remember, he said, Persians have long memories.

I remembered “The Last American” when I started to hear new drumbeats of war. Instead of a Persian ship sailing up the Hudson, images of aircraft carriers passing through the Straits of Hormuz, bunker-busting bombs and regime-change advocates writing fairy-tales about war lifting an existential threat from Israel while liberating the Iranian people, filled my days.

Such tales remind me of a cold winter night in 2003 spent with students and guests gathered in a church basement. Talk about war was everywhere. Imminent, everyone said, especially after a chilling U.N. Security Council performance by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Feb. 5, 2003. Over-the-top rhetoric was everywhere; preparations for war were being made. Young men and women, some recently returned from Afghanistan, prepared to invade Iraq.

Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, they said. Iraq was linked to Al-Qaeda, they said. Iraq had a madman dictator who gassed and killed his own people; he had to go, everyone said. Two students got into a heated exchange.

“Where’s the proof? What have Iraqis done to America? Iraq didn’t attack the World Trade Center,” one said.

“The government has proof,” a student replied. “If you’re not prepared to support them then you should return your full scholarship and go home. You don’t deserve to be here.”

Hmmmmm. Achievement and scholarship based on loyalty and obeisance to authority. Listen to the pundits and politicians, not to your heart, common sense and reason. Not what I expected to hear in church.

“Where’s the proof?” We grow up being taught to ask questions. A proof for a Pythagorean triangle? a2 +b2 = c2. That’s proof.

Where’s the proof? Do you have a proof for God? Proof of weapons of mass destruction? Proof Iran is building a bomb? Show me.

Yes, Iran has nuclear ambitions. It claims it has a legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and says it “has constantly complied with its obligations under the NPT and the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” Iran claims that its enrichment program is part of a civilian nuclear energy program. I think Iran has a right to nuclear energy. I think it has a right to assess its strategic needs based on changes in its region.

The Middle East is not Mr. Rogers’s neighborhood. China, Russia, Pakistan, India and Israel all have nuclear weapons. Some Arab states are thinking about it. Iran has enemies, both real and imagined. It won’t surprise me if Iran proves to have nuclear weapons ambitions. I don’t like it, but I get it. And I don’t think it’s the end of anyone’s world. The world survived the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Iran may embrace vile beliefs and rhetoric but they are not suicidal.

If you don’t like it, talk to them. The United States demands that Iran renounce its ambitions before negotiations. Ambitions we can’t prove they have. Start with small things. Build trust. Going to war is stupid, short-lived and counterproductive.

If you have proof, show me.

War with Iran would be a catastrophe. Perhaps we can adjust to $15-a-gallon gasoline. How many countries in the Global South could make that adjustment?

America, with all its global exposure, would be very vulnerable. A destabilized world is safe for no one. Any attack will happen using American aircraft and American weaponry — “Made in America.” Only the military-industrial complex would thrive.

An attack would only set Iran’s nuclear program back for a few years, solidify the ayatollah regime’s domestic support and remove any Iranian questions over the necessity of obtaining a nuclear capacity.

Surgical strikes won’t get it done. During hearings, Sen. Jack Reed asked whether the only way to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear capability was “to physically occupy their country and disestablish their nuclear facilities,” Answer: “Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, that’s a fair conclusion.”

Not deterred, war advocates, many of them recycled from 2003, continue their drumbeats. “War is an evil. But sometimes a preventive war can be a lesser evil than a policy of appeasement,” wrote Niall Ferguson. “It feels like the eve of some creative destruction.”

Brett Stephens in the WSJ wrote, “Destroying Iran’s nuclear sites will be a short-lived victory if it isn’t matched to the broader goal of ending the regime.” More bluntly, Richard Cohen wrote in the Washington Post, “The ultimate remedy is Iranian regime change.”

Regime change in another country? How delusional can people get?

Don’t forget regime change in Washington. Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t trust Obama and doesn’t want him to get re-elected. Israel’s supporters, including Super PAC funder Sheldon Adelson, worry a second term will lead to more pressure to cease colonizing the West Bank and dividing Jerusalem. Worse, they fear a two-state solution along pre-1967 borders. Except for Ron Paul, all the Republican candidates favor using military force against Iran. Supported by Christian evangelicals and “Greater Israel” advocates, a strike on Iran by Israel would put President Obama in a difficult spot.

If he is puts pressure on Israel not to attack Iran then he is an “appeaser” and not worthy of being president. If he supports preemptive war he will be blamed for the resultant economic upheaval, global chaos and a more destabilized Middle East, thus becoming non re-electable. Before supporting another “war of choice,” ask the question the students ask:

Show me the proof.

NB: Please read my online Valentine’s Day column Tuesday.