America’s allies and increasingly the American public are playing a ghoulish guessing game: Will President Bush manage to leave office without starting a war with Iran? Bush is eagerly feeding those anxieties. This month he raised the threat of “World War III” if Iran even figures out how to make a nuclear weapon.

Four years after his pointless invasion of Iraq, Bush still confuses bullying with grand strategy. He refuses to do the hard work of diplomacy — or even acknowledge the disastrous costs of his actions. The world should not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, but there is no easy fix here, no daring surgical strike. Consider Natanz, the underground site where Iran is defying the Security Council by spinning a few thousand centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel. US bombers could take it out, but what about the even more sophisticated centrifuges the administration accuses Iran of hiding? Beyond the disastrous diplomatic and economic costs, a bombing campaign is unlikely to set back Iran’s efforts for more than a few years.

Maybe the country will get lucky and Bush will listen to the exhausted generals. But this isn’t just about surviving the rest of his presidency. Fifteen more months of diplomatic

drift will bring Iran 15 months closer to figuring out how to make a nuclear weapon. — International Herald Tribune