BOMBING IRAN….I think a number of people are missing the point about the latest spate of articles suggesting that George Bush has plans for an air strike against Iran. The United States military has contingency plans for everything, they say, so it’s hardly a surprise that the military has contingency plans for Iran. William Arkin even tells us their names: CONPLAN 8022 and CONPLAN 1025.

But what’s important isn’t the existence of the contingency plans. Rather, it’s the fairly obvious fact that the Bush administration is publicizing them as part of a very public PR campaign in favor of a strike against Iran. The problem is that even if this is a bluff, it’s one that has a profound effect on both Iran and the American public. As James Fallows says:

By giving public warnings, the United States and Israel ?create ?excess demand? for military action,? as our war-game leader Sam Gardiner recently put it, and constrain their own negotiating choices.

In other words, if the PR campaign is too successful, then Bush will have boxed himself in. Eventually he’ll feel obligated to bomb Iran solely because he’s now under pressure to make good on his threats and doesn’t want to look like he’s backing down. World Wars have started over less.

Who knows? A subtle and well orchestrated game of chicken might be appropriate here. But please raise your hands if you trust this crew to play a subtle and well orchestrated game of anything.