It appears that Martin Dempsey is my new favorite Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He accepted the job amid a time of discontent for the neocons, who see the US performing the unforgivable strategy of shutting down wars without replacing them with shiny, new wars. So they have mounted an offensive in recent weeks to start an air war with Iran and arm the Syrian rebels. The recent legislation introduced by Joe Lieberman on the Iran question, which mandates military action if the Iranians merely secure the capability to create a nuclear weapon, a subjective notion to be sure, is an example of this.

But Dempsey appeared on CNN yesterday and refused to give in to the hot passions of the moment. On Iran, he not only demurred at the idea of the US going to war, but he shook his head at the notion of an Israeli strike, saying that it’s “not prudent” and “wouldn’t achieve [Israel's] long-term objectives.”:

MARTIN DEMPSEY: We also know, or believe we know, that the Iranian regime has not decided that they will embark on the [...] effort to weaponize their nuclear capability.

FAREED ZAKARIA: You think that is still unclear? [...]

DEMPSEY: It is. I believe it is unclear and on that basis I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us.

I love Fareed Zakaria’s shock and horror at Dempsey’s clear statement that we don’t know whether the Iranian regime has determined to build a weapon. This has been the consensus view of the US and global intelligence community for many years, as the Director of National Intelligence told a Senate committee just last week.

On Syria, Dempsey was just as clear:

The United States is not interested in providing weapons to opposition forces in Syria until it has a better picture of what those forces are, the top U.S. military officer said in an interview aired Sunday.

“I think it’s premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria, because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” [...]

“There’s a number of players, all of whom are trying to reinforce their particular side of this issue. And until we’re a lot clearer about, you know, who they are and what they are, I think it would be premature to talk about arming them,” Dempsey said.

It must have been a tough Sunday for Joe Lieberman and John McCain, what with the highest-ranking military officer in the country not on board with their life-affirming vision of having other people fight their wars. The question, of course, is whether they can rouse enough passion to get their wars anyway.