Mitt Romney’s heated rhetoric on Iran is not helpful.

While in Israel, he vowed to use “any and all measures” to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear capability. But an attack on Iran, by Israel or the United States, could have catastrophic consequences for all sides involved.

President Obama’s rhetoric has alternated between calm and belligerent. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the United States in March, Obama stressed the need to let diplomacy work. And he responded to his political opponents by saying, “If some of these folks think we should launch a war, let them say so, and explain to the American people.” But a week later, he said, “The window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.”

Chillingly, Israeli senior officials have claimed that an attack on Iran would be a simple operation. Former national security adviser Giora Eiland has stated, “The apocalyptic predictions of what will happen if Israel attacks Iran should be moderated,” while Defense Minister Ehud Barak has predicted that “maybe not even 500 civilians” would be killed.

This argument is deplorable and misleading. Israel’s shelling of Lebanon in 2006 led to the deaths of nearly 1,200 civilians, while its air strikes in the Gaza Strip killed more than 1,400 Palestinians in 2009. And Israel carried out these strikes from very close range — nothing like the strategic predicament Israel would face in bombing Iranian targets hundreds of miles away.

The risks of bombing Iran are great, and not just for Iranian civilians. Israel would face certain retaliation. And any bombing, and the reactions to it, could greatly disrupt the world’s oil trade, sending the price of gasoline way up and the advanced economies way down.

Foreign policy experts in the United States have been assessing these risks. But there is one more risk that hasn’t received the attention it deserves: the serious risk of undermining the democracy movement in Iran. Human rights activists and civil society actors in Iran have suffered long to bring about democratic change through nonviolent means. It would be an absolute tragedy to undo their hard work for reforms with a single senseless action.

Already, the drumbeats of war are beginning to silence reformist voices. Romney should stop banging on that drum if he cares about democracy in Iran.

Ramin Jahanbegloo is a professor of political science and a research fellow in the Centre for Ethics at University of Toronto and a board member of PEN Canada. He was arrested in Tehran in April 2006, charged with preparing a velvet revolution in Iran and placed in solitary confinement for four months. R.N. Khatami is a writer and political commentator based in Toronto. They can be reached at

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It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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