Perhaps the storm metaphor is inapt, however: It calls to mind too many trite expressions such as “batten down the hatches” and “run to higher ground.” It is a recommendation for isolationism and protectionism. It is the opposite of what the world needs today, which is the unequivocal reassertion of U.S. determination and power—evidence that Americans, at least, do not consider themselves a nation in retreat.

The crucible is Iran.

It may take a decade or more before Europe sorts itself out. In the Arab world, the process is likely to last at least a generation. China’s internal politics will mostly operate at their own pace, though the United States can do more to encourage Chinese economic development—not least by refusing to pick needless trade fights—while forcefully obstructing Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea and elsewhere. As for the United States, the prospective Europeanization of the economy through Obama-
Care, which is a recipe for 1.5 percent trend growth and skyrocketing debt for as long as the eye can see, must be reversed.

Iran, however, is a clear and present danger to the stability of the Middle East and the security of the United States. It presents Western policymakers with a clear, binary choice: Avoid a confrontation now because it will likely entail unforeseen and unpleasant consequences, or accept a nuclear Iran soon, which will entail easily foreseeable and utterly disastrous consequences. It says something about the quality of statesmanship and public discourse in the West today that the choice should be presented as a difficult one and that the decision—at least as of this writing—should be so much in doubt.