Everyone from U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to the 2012 GOP presidential candidates now seems to be preparing for war with Iran. Iran, we are told, might be, could be, may be thinking about developing nuclear weapons. Iranian leaders say they are not. Our leaders say they are lying. The number of shady characters on both sides guarantees that someone is lying.

It would be fair to say that Iran possessing nuclear weapons is a concern of mine. Many Americans share this concern. Many people around the world do as well. Such a development carries with it negative ramifications that are certainly worth considering. But what I actually fear most — the kind of stuff that actually makes me fret for the future — is not a nuclear Iran. What I fear most are the people who fear a nuclear Iran.

Consider the last time we went through this. Who, in retrospect, posed a greater threat to the United States circa 2003, Saddam Hussein or the U.S. leaders who feared Hussein? We never found any of the WMDs Bush officials warned might be used to create a “mushroom cloud” over an American city, but we did find ourselves in a nearly decade-long war that cost thousands of American lives, the lives of many more innocent Iraqi civilians, and trillions of dollars that have contributed greatly to our debt problem. When the smoke settled, we discovered that Hussein posed no credible threat to the United States. The tragedy for so many American soldiers and their families was that we had to learn this the hard way.

Today, those who caution against overreacting toward Iran are called isolationists or worse. Meanwhile, most neoconservatives believe the Iraq War was worth all the lives that were lost and that cost/benefit analyses simply do not apply to this war or any other. Which is precisely what scares me about these people. It is one thing to admit that foreign policy mistakes were made in the past and to consider them moving forward. It is quite another to never admit any mistakes. Ever. Some of these neoconservatives are borderline insane in their lust for war. While half the neoconservatives are now saying a nuclear Iran will amount to a second Holocaust — a far-fetched assertion itself — the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka says the greatest fear is that it won’t. Confused? Pletka, in an AEI promotional video in December, said: “The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it. It’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, ‘See! We told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately. We told you Iran wasn’t seeking regional influence or regional hegemony through its acquisition of nuclear weapons. And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.”

Those who argue that war with Iran will not be worth the cost are typically met with assertions that Iran will “blow Israel off the map” if America doesn’t stop them, as if Iran’s actions wouldn’t ultimately lead to it being blown off the map as well. What Pletka is saying is that an Iran that uses nuclear weapons responsibly is an even greater threat precisely because people would accept this, thus preventing any military confrontation. The lack of anyone blowing anyone else off the map will ultimately prevent us from going to war, and this is a problem. This is madness. Sadly, these are our foreign policy “experts.”

The eagerness of some, particularly in the 2012 GOP field, to now go to war with Iran carries with it ramifications for the Republican Party, which pose far more of a threat to America’s health and security than Iran’s nuclear status. As I wrote in a column in June titled “Will Iran Nuke the Tea Party?”: “There is no reason we can’t have the strongest military on earth while still being fiscally responsible. Part of this balance necessarily means favoring foreign-policy sobriety over constant hyperbole. It also means recognizing practical security realities … The reality is that Iran is not a threat to the United States. Not even close. The conservatives who believe that Iran is some great ‘threat’ are taking the Right back to the Bush era, when a zeal for spending cuts took a backseat to war fever.”

America simply cannot afford a redux, in lives or dollars, of what we needlessly spent in Iraq. The greatest threat to America’s long-term security continues to come not from Iran or any other country — but from ourselves.

Jack Hunter is the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul’s The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd on 1250 WTMA.