In the run-up to war in Iraq, The Weekly Standard was the voice of the “cakewalk” crowd clamoring for “Action This Day!” Cawing and cawing, in the end they got, and we got, the war they had craved.

No voice in America was more resolute that the war would be an historic blunder than ours. From our first issue in 2002 until the 3rd Division stepped off, we warned this was an unnecessary war. Though Saddam was a monster, we said, he was no threat to us. But a U.S. invasion would radicalize Islam, increase terror, and leave our troops mired down in a nation whose people would come to hate us. We scoffed at the utopian blather about democracy breaking out as propagandistic nonsense.

Enraged, National Review read us out of the movement. In a cover story, “Unpatriotic Conservatives,” NR charged three editors and four of our writers with harboring a treasonous desire for a U.S. defeat. Said NR, all seven of us “hate” President Bush and “hate” America. A year later, William F. Buckley Jr. conceded that, had he known what he later learned, he, too, would have opposed the war.

History has proven us right. But the question on the table now is the one raised in the lead editorial of the Jan. 23 Standard, “And Now Iran.” The Standard calls on President Bush “to prepare for various forms of military action” to smash Iran’s nuclear program. For the Standard believes that containment and deterrence will not work with Iran.

Hearkening back to that most terrifying moment of the Cold War, the Standard raises the specter of 1962. “A Cuban missile crisis with Khrushchev’s Soviet Union was bad enough. Are we willing to risk it with Ahmadinejad’s Iran?”

But this is absurd. America has thousands of nuclear warheads we could put on Iran and hundreds of rockets and bombers to deliver them. There is no evidence Iran even has the ability to build a bomb. To equate our situation with a missile crisis where Soviet rockets with atomic warheads were within hours of going operational is neocon scare-mongering.

“Advocates of containment and deterrence should step forward to make their case openly and honestly,” says the Standard, “We look forward to engaging them in a real debate.”

Fine, we accept.

Is the Iranian nuclear program “near the point of no return,” as the Standard implies? Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA has told Newsweek: “There is no clear and present danger.” And while the seals have been broken at the 164-centrifuge pilot plant at Natanz, Iran’s foreign ministry has said “fuel production” has not even begun.

Do we know different? Con Coughlin, the defense expert at the Daily Telegraph, writes that even if Iran begins to enrich, it will be three years before they have enough fissile material for a single bomb. Israel has hundreds, we have thousands of bombs.

But if the “military option” is a preventive war on Iran, let us, at least this time, consider beforehand the costs and consequences. With its cruise-missile and smart-bomb bins refilled, the U.S. could effect the nuclear castration of the mullahs in 48 hours. The Iranian air force and navy would be an afternoon’s work. But all of Iran’s Shahab missiles would likely be fired at U.S. bases and Israel, to the delight of the Arab and Islamic street, widening the war.

And how might Tehran respond? Iranian volunteers pouring into Iraq inciting the Shia to attack U.S. troops. The Green Zone turned into Fort Apache. A debacle, unless we send in more troops. Iranian oil exports halted. Terror attacks on U.S. installations and Gulf allies. Silkworm missiles fired at tankers. Oil at $100-$200 a barrel. A worldwide depression. That’s for openers.

In an all-out war, Iran could break apart. If so, we will multiply the ranks of terrorists hell-bent on getting their hands on a nuclear weapon, perhaps from Pakistan, and using it on us.

With our Army tied down and taking losses in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistanis demanding we be thrown out of their country, do we really need another war against a nation four times the size of Iraq? One bullet fired at Musharraf, another at Karzai, and the U.S. position in the Pakistani-Afghan region could collapse overnight.

Conservatives must raise the ever-relevant question: Cui bono? Who would benefit from a U.S. war with Iran? Who is prodding us into it? Are they looking out for America first?

Conservatives will demand that Congress, this time, debate, and, if we are going to war, declare war. That would force us to focus on what the real threat is and whether we cannot find some accommodation with these people, as we did with Stalin, Mao, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev.

We never fought Russia and we need not fight Iran, unless they start the fight.

—Patrick J. Buchanan for the Editors