As George Bush reflects on his legacy, an urgent question must be pressing in upon him each day.
Will I leave here as the man who launched failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cost thousands of U.S. dead, to no avail? Or can I yet enter history as the Churchillian statesman who used U.S. power to save America and Israel from the mortal threat of atomic weapons in the hands of the Iranian mullahs?
Which legacy would Bush prefer? Or Cheney?
As Americans await Bush's address announcing a "surge" of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq, we may be missing the larger picture. The War Party is turning its attention from Iraq -- to Iran.
Nor is it simply an analysis of the character of George Bush that causes one to so conclude.
Tehran is now two weeks into a 60-day deadline to answer a Security Council resolution directing it to cease enriching uranium. While the sanctions are mild, the resolution passed unanimously and gives Bush the U.N. cover he used to wage war on Iraq. If Iran defies the United Nations, Bush will demand further sanctions. Up the escalator we go.
Moreover, a second U.S. carrier battle group is heading for the Gulf. More interesting, the new CentCom commander, replacing Gen. John Abizaid, is no soldier, but Adm. William J. Fallon, commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific. What Fallon does not know about securing streets, he does know about taking out targets from the air and keeping sea lanes open in a time of war.
Bush may be sending signals, but the Israelis are preparing for war. The London Sunday Times reports that Israeli pilots have been making the 2,000-mile run to Gibraltar to train for strikes with bunker-busting nuclear bombs on Iran's heavy water plant at Arak, the uranium hexaflouride facility at Isfahan and the centrifuge cascade at Natanz.
Israel angrily denies the report. But, on Dec. 30, retired Gen. Oded Tira, who headed up all Israeli artillery units, burst into print with this admonition:
"As an American air strike in Iran is essential for our existence, we must help (Bush) pave the way by lobbying the Democratic Party (which is conducting itself foolishly) and U.S. newspaper editors. We need to do this in order to turn the Iranian issue to a bipartisan one and unrelated to the Iraq failure."
"Bush lacks the political power to attack Iran," writes Tira. Thus, Israel and its U.S. lobbying arm "must turn to Hillary Clinton and other potential presidential candidates in the Democratic Party so that they publicly support immediate action by Bush against Iran."
"The Americans must act," Tira concludes. "If they don't, we'll do it ourselves ... (and) we must immediately start preparing for an Iranian response to an attack."