If U.S. military unpreparedness wasn’t reason enough to reconsider an attack on Iraq, reports in the British press last week that Baghdad has a secret alliance with Iran should send chills down the spine of every American – especially those in Congress cheerleading President Clinton’s effort to divert attention from, shall we say, “domestic affairs.”

Why has Russia been so adamant – so bellicose — in its threats about the imminent U.S. assault? It may be because Moscow has knowledge of what’s at stake. Russia is very close with Iran. It has supplied it with weapons – including some that horrify intelligence experts at the Pentagon.

Suppose, just suppose, that an Iranian-Iraqi military axis actually exists. Is it possible Iran is lying in wait for U.S. forces? Could we be headed for an ambush? Is this why Russia is so concerned? Does Moscow see the threat of a much wider war – one in which it, too, will inevitably be swept up?

“So what?” Clinton, Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott might say. “If Iran chooses to get involved, we’ll lick them, too.” Of course, the combined military experience of Clinton, Gingrich and Lott consists primarily of having watched the last Gulf War on CNN. Our elected leaders are planning a sequel – a re-enactment of the 72-hour war waged so successfully earlier this decade. But much has changed in the Middle East since then.

This time, the U.S. will have only a fraction of the force it had in the Gulf in 1991. And there’s the question of whom, exactly, we’ll be fighting. Should Iran decide the time is right for a showdown with “the Great Satan,” we could be in for a very unpleasant surprise.

Remember, this war is going to be an air war. Since the U.S. will not be permitted to fly missions from Saudi Arabia, it will be primarily a carrier war. And that’s why Defense Department analysts are biting their nails right now over the possibility of involvement by Iran. You see, the Iranian navy not only boasts several Russian Kilo-class nuclear submarines, it also has in its arsenal high-speed patrol boats equipped with nuclear-tipped Harpoon missiles with a range of 60 miles. You can imagine what one of those missiles, which carry warheads in the 2- to 25-megaton range, is capable of doing to an aircraft carrier.

Should Iran attack the U.S., passions here will run high. The temptation will be turn the country into a parking lot. And that’s when we’ll have to consider the fact that Russia has a mutual-defense pact with Tehran. Are we ready for World War III?

All this at risk for another murky, undefined military mission, mind you. We’re not setting out to topple Saddam Hussein. We’re just going to drop a bunch of bombs. Remember, we dropped more bomb tonnage on Iraq during the first Gulf War than we dropped on all of our enemies during World War II. Will our devastation be any more effective this time?

Let’s face it, the only real clear objective of this war is to take our minds off Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, et al.

Do you doubt that statement? Allow me to prove it. On Jan. 18, 1998, less than a month ago, Secretary of State Madeline Albright was asked on “Meet the Press”: “Will the U.S. use military action to force Saddam to comply?” She said: “The international community must deal with Saddam and while the threat of military force is there, I think it’s very important for us to pursue the course that we are on.” Then she was asked, “How long will we be patient?” And how did she respond? “There is not a time frame. We are determined and patient to make sure Saddam carries out what he must in order to abide by the resolutions.”

Notice that there was no urgency for military action one month ago. Tell me, what changed since then?

Never mind, I’ll tell you. Monica Lewinsky happened. If this isn’t a perfect illustration of why presidents should not be boinking 21-year-old interns, White House volunteers and federal government employees, I don’t what is. For all those who say Clinton’s “private life” is not our business, I say, it is when it leads our country into war.

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