As the situation in Iraq either deteriorates, improves or remains constant depending on whom you listen to for your news, one thing is abundantly clear; the remaining "Axis of Evil" states are making a mad-dash for the nuclear finish line while we are tied up in Baghdad. Which only makes sense - up until the Iraq situation, America's military was considered so vastly superior to any other force on the planet that no nation would have thought about risking open conflict with the US. But now, our military superiority, while still unmatched in actual war-fighting, has shown its soft underbelly in post conflict management and counterinsurgency. A point aptly made in this month's Atlantic Monthly in an article by James Fallows (subscription required for the online article - I read it last week at Border's) who points out that the threat of our military was more effective than actual combat in some ways.
So now we have Iran and North Korea moving towards uranium enrichment for "peaceful" reasons while the US is hamstrung in Iraq. Yes, we can destroy those nuclear facilities with longrange missiles or a direct air strike, but the consequences in both cases could be disastrous. North Korea could respond with a conventional attack on South Korea, and considering it has several thousand artillery pieces and rocket launchers within striking distance of Seoul, a conventional response could be as equally devastating to the South Korean capital as an actual nuclear weapon. And this before a single troop crosses the DMZ. With Iran, a strike would likely result in thousands of Iranian fighters moving into Iraq causing even more destabilization in the Middle East - extending this conflict considerably and likely causing a huge increase in US casualties, not to mention Iraqi deaths. The reality is that a strike against these nuclear facilities is not a good option and the UN is being only slightly less ineffective than it normally is, so what real options are open to us? Not many. We may have to face the reality of a nuclear Iran, which is clearly going to destabilize the region more than a democratic Iraq (still little more than a dream at this point) can hope to counter. Iraq may prove to be the single greatest strategic blunder in US history.