When I was a teenager, our president used to bomb Vietnam. The theory was that bombing would make the Vietnamese more amenable to negotiation — more ready to accept American negotiating positions. We escalated the bombing, getting nearer and nearer to giving Hanoi the full Tokyo-Dresden treatment, though recognizing that going that far would simply make the rest of the world think we were certifiably insane.

The escalation theory made a certain kind of sense–if you twist someone’s arm, they are more likely to agree to do what you want  as the pain becomes  more difficult to endure. It seems to be the same theory we’re using with Teheran–escalating economic sanctions until their economy collapses unless Iran agrees to give up its existing right (under the relevant international treaties) to enrich uranium. But for  reasons we never quite understood the Vietnamese never did cry uncle. Perhaps the Persians will behave differently. So far, no dice: by all the accounts of the recent negotiations, Iran has remained adamant that it has the right to enrich uranium, while forswearing any intent to build nuclear weapons. We are, sad to say, on a track towards war.

There really isn’t much mystery about why this war will start, if it does. Israel enjoys  monopoly of nuclear weapons in Mideast, and wants not only  to maintain it, but also  to retain  a monopoly on the right to enrich uranium. Israel has enough clout–exercised mainly if not exclusively through AIPAC–that U.S. Senators scramble into action at AIPAC’s call. Most recently, 44 members of that august body rushed  to produce a letter to Obama demanding that he remain tough in negotiations, and not float any proposals which Iran has any chance of accepting. Whether they realize it or are simply doing what they are told, the senators are trying to ensure that the negotiations fail. The Senate letter closed by casting doubt on the utility of talks and urged Obama to make “clear that a credible military option exists.” Obama is being boxed in by the Israel lobby, and doesn’t seem to have the political  skill to avoid its traps.

Meanwhile Daniel Larison reports that John Bolton is on Romney’s short list for secretary of state. Bolton is a true-blue warmonger (I’ve seen him talk on Capitol Hill). I’m pretty sure he goes to bed every night praying for war. I’d like to point to positive countervailing currents. Mostly I’m stunned by the country’s short memory. The same group, or a slightly younger version of the same group, that led America into war with Iraq (it cost a couple of trillion, not to mention what it did to Iraq) is working for a war against Iran, and there seems to be no political force strong enough to stop them. At the end of a strong  post on these topics, Steve Walt points to an online antiwar petition to sign. I’m going to sign it, but somehow I don’t think that it will do the trick.