What Is Our Policy Towards Iran?

Not surprisingly, the one thing lacking in all discussions of the recent increase in tension between Iran and the United States is a public critique of U.S. policy towards Iran. This is a consequence of both a Democratic Party without a cogent foreign policy agenda, and a more general, apolitical post-9/11 mentality that discourages criticism of Bush's foreign policy. It's an extremely dangerous position to be in, particularly at a time when foreign policy decisions carry as many consequences as they have in recent years. Lately, not a day seems to go by where the Bush Administration does not mention Iran, and specifically, the likelihood of a military confrontation in some form. Anybody that has paid even a passing attention to Bush's rhetoric over the last five years would recognize this gem from an interview he gave to German television today:
"First of all you never want a president to say never, but military action is certainly not, is never the president's first choice," Bush said, when asked if he could rule out military action against Iran. "Diplomacy is always the president's, or at least always my first choice and we've got a common goal, and that is that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon," he said in the interview taped in Washington and broadcast before his arrival in Brussels Sunday for summits with NATO and the EU.
If I looked hard enough, I could probably find an almost verbatim quote from exactly two years ago that instead referenced Iraq. In other words, we seem to be following the same path that led us to invade Iraq as we are now with Iran. And yet, it might just be me, but I haven't heard any serious public debate about whether this is a good idea, or what possible alternative responses might look like. I do know that we need to put pressure on Iran, but we need to do so in a way that does not exclusively rely on the threat of military action. Military action, including a surgical strike, will do nothing but embolden the mullah's grasp on power. First of all, with the way that their nuclear program is spread around the country, it is highly unlikely that a strike will take out the entire program. Moreover, even though it is true that Iran has a fledging pro-democracy/anti-mullah faction, such a strike might alienate their support, since given the choice, they will likely side with the mullahs--no matter how much they despise them--if it means fighting off foreign invasion. This puts us in a very difficult spot, and it's where you end up when you have a dearth of opinions that are open to consideration while formulating foreign policy. We're basically left in the position where we have to decide whether a nuclear Iran creates a more stable situation than invading/attacking Iran to prevent them from becoming nuclear. Unfortunately, it didn't have to be that way, but it's where our policy (or lack thereof) has taken us.