In the new-ish webzine Pro Libertate, James Bovard thinks a conflict with Iran would bring about the end of American democracy. About time!
Attacking Iran will put American civilians in the terrorist crosshairs, with little or no federal Kevlar to protect them. The key question is not whether terrorists will attack but how the American people will likely respond and how politicians could exploit the situation.
There is no reason to expect the American people to be less docile than they were after 9/11. The percentage of Americans who trusted the government to do the right thing most of the time doubled in the week after 9/11. It became fashionable to accuse critics of Bush administration policies of being traitors or terrorist sympathizers. Each time the feds issued a new warning of a terrorist threat after 9/11, the president's approval rating rose by an average of almost 3 percent, according to a Cornell University study. The craving for a protector dropped an Iron Curtain around many people's minds, preventing them from accepting evidence that would shred his political security blanket.
The Cornell study Bovard is talking about surveyed polls from 2001 to 2004. Since then the U.S. has continued to have occasional terror threats and… the president's approval rating has sunk into the mid-30s and rarely bumps up. There was a sense (among pundits) that lots of national security/terror-related events would help the Bush administration in 2005-2006; the "London airline plot," the execution of Saddam. None of them did. So I'm not sure if that's a useful data point.
Bovard's speculation that terrorist attacks inside the U.S. would lead to a rush of support for the strong executive, but what role would an attack on Iran—which probably couldn't be approved by both Houses of Congress—have at this point? The rules have changed since the Iraq war has turned into such a disaster, and this is now an open question.
Bovard's Reason archive is here.