Suppose that upon entering Iraq, our troops had uncovered a nuclear facility in which Saddam had 1,000 working centrifuges, another 2,000 about to come on line, and manufacturing capacity to produce yet more centrifuges? Would anyone have argued at that point that the invasion had been unnecessary? Do any Democrats deny that Iran does in fact have all of this capacity right now?

In the debate to come over Iran’s nuclear capacity, there will be constant references to our intelligence failure in Iraq. The dispute will be about exactly how close Iran is to a bomb. But let no one forget that Iran is already at a point that would easily have justified the overthrow of Saddam. This fact, by itself, does not decide the issue of what to do about Iran.

No, but it does suggest that we should be taking the problem more seriously. Everyone says that a nuclear-armed Iran is intolerable, but they mostly seem inclined to tolerate it rather than actually do anything, and even mild suggestions about doing anything are treated as beyond the pale. The likely consequence of this squeamishness and sloth, of course, is that when things come to a head more people will die than if we took effective action now. But that’s likely to be beyond the next election cycle, which puts it beyond the time horizon of most politicians.