One has to wonder at the seemliness of a U.S. ambassador announcing to a foreign audience that the U.S. is prepared to attack a third country with which it is not at war, but that is precisely what Dan Shapiro told a gathering of Israeli lawyers last Tuesday. He said the U.S. would try to negotiate but that an option to attack Iran is “Not just available, but it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.”

The irony of Shapiro’s remarks is that Israel has a secret nuclear arsenal and delivery systems for the weapons, and Tel Aviv has initiated wars against all of its neighbors in the past 45 years while the U.S. intelligence community agrees that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. The Persians last started a war in the 17th century, against the Ottoman Turks.

One has to assume that Shapiro’s remarks were cleared with the State Department, which means the White House approved them. As the Iranians are fully aware that the sentiment in Congress, in the American media, and within the Israeli government is to attack them preemptively, another warning from Shapiro to say “we’re serious about this” would appear to be superfluous unless it was somehow actually intended for the Israeli audience that he was speaking to. Indeed, spokesman for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta took a step backward from the threat on Friday, when he said, “a military option is not being weighed at this point.”

For me, one of the astonishing things about the Obama presidency has been the casual willingness to talk about going to war, even when the United States is not even remotely threatened. War has become the preferred mode of conflict resolution for Washington even though the nation can no longer afford the costs and is unwilling to bear the collateral damage in the form of global terrorism, a direct consequence of the policies promulgated by the White House.