According to some of the more excitable political commentators World War Three should have broken out by now, sparked by Donald Trump’s decision to kill one of the world’s most deadly terrorists.
Thank heavens that hasn’t happened – at least so far – although the situation in the Middle East would make a large keg of gunpowder look relatively stable.
To delicate Western sensibilities the US president’s tactics – do as I say or I’ll bomb you to smithereens – may seem terribly crude.
But in an Iran ruled by a bunch of ruthless, blood-soaked bigots, such displays of sheer brute power gain you at least a grudging respect.
According to the 16th century Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli it is “much safer to be feared than loved”, and fear certainly seems to be the driving force in Iran’s response to America’s new found assertiveness.
I can imagine the ruling mullahs gathering over sweet tea and saying: “You know, this Trump guy is just crazy enough to carry out his threats!”
How else to explain Iran’s curiously muted response to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the main instigator of that country’s terror operations, in a US missile strike?
Iran has demonstrated dozens of times in the past that it is perfectly capable of unleashing large-scale bloodshed against both civilians and Western officials and armed forces.
But Iran’s face-saving retaliation when it came this week – a few missile attacks against US bases in Iraq – was apparently carefully calculated so as to not cause any casualties at all.
So we have gone from a situation where Iran was doing all it could to kill Westerners, to a situation where Iran is doing all it can to avoid killing Westerners.
That has to be progress of a sort. In other words Trump’s tactics appear to be working.
But what should the UK’s response be to heightened tensions in the region? Quite simply we should give our full backing to the USA, for two reasons – one practical and the other moral.
In terms of practical realpolitik we should back the winner, and there is little doubt that the US is going to win. Its military is immeasurably more powerful than Iran’s and if the mullahs are foolish enough to keep poking Trump with a stick it is going to end very, very badly for them.
More importantly, the US is in the right here. The idea that there is some kind of moral equivalence between Iran and the US is one of the barmiest ideas to come out of the modern left.
If you are gay in Iran you can be hanged from the neck from a crane until you are dead. If you are a woman you can be jailed for more than 10 years for removing your headscarf. If you demonstrate against the government you face being massacred by the security forces – as 1,500 protesters have been in recent months.
Iran – and in particular Soleimani – has been responsible for much of the sectarian slaughter in Syria, the violence in Yemen and for terrorist attacks on civilians around the world.
America is far from perfect, but you would have to be suffering from a terminal case of Trump Derangement Syndrome to seriously think “the US is just as bad as Iran”.
But many do, including of course the leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who turned this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions into a lament for a dead terrorist. Has Corbyn ever met an enemy of Britain that he couldn’t support?
Like Corbyn many on the left now believe that everything the West does, or ever has done, is irredeemably evil, and everything enemies of the West do, is a force for good – even if that means backing racists, misogynists and terrorist killers.
It is a cartoonish view of the world that has more in common with Tom and Jerry than Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin. There is no subtlety or nuance – everything is black and white: West is bad; non-West is good. It is an intellectual cul-de-sac that leads nowhere.
Luckily voters rejected this anti-British worldview in last month’s General Election, and unless Labour can begin to understand why that happened, they will be out of power for a long time.