If Pakistan is the most immediate threat, U.S., Israeli, and Iranian hostilities over Iranian bomb-making may be the most likely to go global. That may have been what the "very senior" British official was talking about when he said the Israeli raid on Syria brought us "close ... to a third world war." Iranian radar could easily have interpreted the Israeli planes as having its nuclear facilities as their target. On Nov. 21, Aviation Week reported online that the United States participated in some way in the Israeli raid by providing Israel information about Syrian air defenses. And Yossi Melman, the intelligence correspondent with Haaretz, reported a few days later that—according to an Israeli defense specialist—the raid wasn't about a nuclear reactor but something more "nasty and vicious," a plutonium assembly plant where plutonium, presumably from North Korea, was being processed into Syrian bombs.
Hans Kristensen, a highly knowledgeable and low-key observer of these matters, told me the whole thing still seems "murky" to him, which is not a good sign.
I don't want to spoil your day, but all of this has spoiled mine, so I want to share, if you know what I mean. Since the "holiday from history," we have never been in greater danger of a nuclear breakout.
Which brings me to the folk singer at the Atlantic's anniversary party. The party has become somewhat famous or infamous, but the high point for me was not the attractive contortionist writhing around at the lip of the stage; for me, it was hearing—in the midst of all my World War III maunderings—the folk singer they hired bust out with a World War III ballad.
Only, he didn't call it "World War III." He called it "World War Ay Ay Ay" (as in I I I, get it?). It lacked the black humor of Dylan's Cuban Missile Crisis-era ode, "Talkin' World War III Blues," but it was pretty dead-on: perhaps a bit maudlin, but sadly all too appropriate.
Ay, ay, ay, indeed.