Several prominent pundits have recently identified a newly nuclear-armed Iran as the greatest threat to America. This is pretty obviously ludicrous. A terrorist organization such as Al Qaeda is far more dangerous because we lack the deterrent ability of retaliation in force that we would have to use against a state. The argument that Iran would supply nuclear devices or material to terrorists is as weak as the same argument made previously about Iraq when some of these same schmucks thought it had an active nuclear program. If arming terrorists with nukes is your pet fear (and it's a good one), it's Russia and the former Soviet countries that should be fueling your nightmares. Ideology may loom large in Osama's rhetoric, but it's cash and the mafia that are going to deliver the goods.
If I were asked to identify the greatest threat to America today, I would point a finger at Republicans. More specifically, the long-term Republican plan to use extra-political means to corrupt our two-party democracy into a one-party 'managed democracy'. The Republican Democracy will fast-track corporate control of legislation, use various techniques to ensure success at the ballot-box, and enshrine the triumph of demagoguery over science and reality. To distract from its domestic and international failures, it will pander to the worst elements of our society, identifying scapegoats to redirect public ire. And we all know where that road leads. They will use the instruments of mass media to manipulate public opinion without restriction. Karl Rove personifies this plan, which involves setting half the country against the other half, while ensuring that their 'half' is just slightly larger. The entrenched and enriched will be free to further entrench and enrich themselves. The poor and middle class will slip slowly into abject peonage, like the frog in slowly heated water that doesn't realize it's being boiled to death.
The geniuses who devised this plan probably really believed that America would be best run as a model corporation. They forgot that capitalism leaves no room for ethics. Capitalism knows no bounds of propriety or compassion. The two rules are:
1 - Maximize profit
2 - Don't get caught
How these rules could be the basis of a living government is not clear to me. Yet the corporatization of the American government is trumpeted proudly as an accomplishment. It's more efficient! The grown-ups are in charge again! He's the CEO President! Top-down management! Stay on message! Keep the focus! Guys, capitalism as an economic system has many self-regulating and buffering qualities that contribute to a stable economy. But it is not perfect! [/heresy] The invisible hand IS NOT REALLY GOD'S HAND, folks! It's just another fucking complex natural system, with all the imperfection (from our viewpoint) that implies.
But where is the payoff for our acceptance of the corporate democracy? We get Iraq, Enron, Katrina, bursting bubbles and burst budgets laden with pork fat, Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay. When does the good part start? It must be those darned obstructionist Democrats who, while completely powerless and ineffectual (all part of the plan!), can still hold somehow hold back the Republican Juggernaut of Goodness.
Rove is Marketing. Bush is the figurehead CEO. Rumsfeld is the ruthless ladder-climber. Condi and Colin are the affirmative action hires. A typical corporate power structure, beset by incompetent ass-kissers and yes-men, isolated from the real world, collectively clueless, and sure, by god, that they're right and they know what's best for everyone else, even if they don't yet know it themselves. Unfortunately, this administration is the ideal one for the Republican plan. Even scarier than the Bush administration's incompetence is the notion that most of their actions are actually proceeding according to plan (close enough for government work, anyway). "Iraq? We meant to do that!"
So, when you want to identify the biggest threat to America, remember that most civilizations rot from within. No external enemy has the capacity to destroy America greater than our capacity to destroy ourselves.