TPM Reader AB writes in to say that there's no way President Bush will launch a war against Iran. At most what we're talking about is aerial bombing to eliminate or seriously degrade the Iranian nuclear program.
To this a couple responses.
I don't see the logic of reserving the noun 'war' for full-scale invasion and regime change. A bombing campaign to seriously degrade or eliminate the Iranian nuclear facilities would mean bunker-busting bombs to destroy buried and heavily reinforced facilities. It would hit a lot of places. Something of that caliber amounts to war. And not just by some rhetorical definition. It's something that wouldn't end after a few days or after the last US bombers and fighters return to their bases and ships.
Second, AB suggests that what's going on here is not actually preparations for war, but saber-rattling to keep the Iranians off balance and give them an added incentive to reach a diplomatic compromise.
With any other administration, I'd agree with that. Hinting at a potential military option would actually make sense as a backdrop to serious diplomatic discussions. It would make sense for an administration that wanted a diplomatic solution.
But this isn't any administration. This is an administration that demonstrated in a fairly analogous situation a preference for war over diplomatic solutions. So the 'threats as a way to spur diplomatic flexibility' argument makes perfect sense in the abstract. But there's no reason to assume it applies to this situation.
For myself, I still find it really, really hard to believe that the adminstration is seriously considering military action against Iran. At one level, I don't believe it. But I've thought the same thing with these guys too many times and been wrong. It's a situation where I set logical analysis aside and rely on experience and the administration's track record.
We know these guys. Why get fooled again?