Only yesterday, it seems, we were urged to pre-emptively strike North Korea. The idea that the mad dictator that ran the country could possess an arsenal of nuclear missiles was too dangerous to contemplate. Kim Jong-un would need to be taken down.
Today, those same commentators are only marginally changing their advice. Kim is a master manipulator whose regime still needs to be destroyed; but don't worry about that today. Instead, look over there! It's Iran, led by the mullahs, and similarly determined to acquire the bomb!
The push is much the same, to launch a strike now; quickly; fast - before things get out of hand. A precise, surgical strike to cut out the malignancy before it grows. It all seems so easy and yet the reality is starkly otherwise.
War is far too dangerous a tool for any politician to even contemplate.
Avid readers will be aware I spent last week at Oxford at a conference on the Changing Character of War.
Each day finished with a scenario, an exercise designed to prod participants into thinking about how force is being used in the modern world, and a very clear theme emerged. Strike, or the use of force to solve a political problem, would fail. The equations that have guided politicians for so long are fundamentally changing. Now the very idea of war - even a limited conflict with a minor enemy - must be ripped out of the political tool-box and stripped from the politicians' armoury of potential weapons. It's just far too dangerous to contemplate.
The reason's attributable to three simple, big trends: lethality, range, and precision. Toady, warheads pack such a punch that their sheer velocity, coupled with precise delivery to a critical point, is more than enough to destroy a target; adding a bomb to the package becomes almost irrelevant. Missiles will by-pass the front line and target vital points or command centres in the rear. The idea that anyone, anywhere could be 'safe' in the early stages of a conflict, before the weapons are used, is a nonsense.
This huge destructive power itself drives a further change to the nature of combat - a push toward pre-emption; using early and massive strikes in an attempt to prevent an enemy retaliating.
This induces further danger, because the force that strikes first will have the advantage creating an imperative to attack early. An ancillary aim becomes the desire to utterly defenestrate the opponent; preventing them from recovering. The push is all towards bigger, rapid strikes early on. And, because infrastructure can't be moved or hardened, the target list quickly expands to those other elements of war-fighting capacity, transport links and communications networks. A war would rapidly spill into the civilian arena, simply because the connections between a country's war-fighting ability and its civil infrastructure are so intimately connected.
And yet by far the most frightening aspect of the modern world is the burgeoning insouciance with which some so-called 'strategists' urge their politicians to consider using the military. If anyone proposes that the use of force is an 'option' it simply demonstrates they don't really understand what they're talking about.
Take a war in the Middle East. A strike against Iran would immediately spill over into other domains, physical (launching attacks against Israel) and cyber (as Tehran attempted to hit back at Washington). Even limited initial strikes would quickly prompt an escalating conflict that would quickly spiral further out of control. The fact that Iran would not be able to manage to destroy a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf wouldn't stop it attempting to attack one elsewhere, where special forces might be able to get in closer to conduct a surprise assault. The country's inability to retaliate conventionally would drive it to use unconventional means of gaining revenge. Fanatics on both sides would demand retaliation until every weapon had been used. This is not the sort of war Australia wants to be involved with.
In the past, America has used us as a useful ally. Australia has been convenient, offering a flag (even if not so many troops) to events such as the invasion of Iraq. And being part of the US alliance has paid off for us too. It's provided the sanguine assurance that we're safe, even if we don't spend millions on the forces because we can shelter under the American umbrella. The problem is that that calculus is no longer true.
Scott Morrison needs to find a way to express both our desire for close co-operation with the US while retaining the moral fibre to keep out of unnecessary, ill-considered wars - surely that can't be too hard for a former advertising man.
It's time to recognise that while our interests are (broadly) completely congruent with those of Washington, when it comes to the specifics there are complexities that can't be addressed by simply remaining in the position of a dependent supplicant.
We can be allies with America without becoming enablers of President Trump. Scott Morrison needs to find a way to express both our desire for close co-operation while retaining the moral fibre to keep out of unnecessary, ill-considered wars - surely that can't be too hard for a former advertising man. Instead, after last weeks meeting, he left all options on the table including sending an Australian ship to the region.
It would have been far easier simply to say that our intention is, quite properly, to focus on our region.
The days of us participating as a junior ally in middle-eastern ventures should be long over.
The prospect of war is simply too dangerous to contemplate.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer.