Will we attack Iran?

Matt Yglesias links to some who see an imminent attack.  Daniel Drezner offers commentary as well.  Here is Seymour Hersh.

The core economic issue is this: in the midst of a "chicken" game, which verbal cues should lead you to conclude that things are going well (poorly) for your side?  Alas, I don’t know a good treatment of this problem, whether theoretical or experimental.

Under one view, there is no correlation between rumors and real plans.  Disregard the rumors.

Alternatively, you may view current rumors as orchestrated.  But you might infer the probability of an attack as less likely.  The rumors could be an attempt to scare Iran and thus they are a substitute for attacking.  A true intent to attack might do better as a (relative) surprise.  Of course Iran knows this reasoning also, so why should orchestrated rumors succeed?

Another scenario: perhaps our government is anti-rational, perhaps by the nature of bureaucracy.  In this view, the rumors are orchestrated, we usually do what makes no sense, so that means an attack is coming. 

How about this?  We make lots of noise, hoping to scare Iran.  If the noise doesn’t work (which it won’t) then we might feel we must attack, having put our credibility on the line.  Fred Kaplan argues that a tough public stance locks us in; we should instead be letting Teheran receive secret signals that we mean business.  The lock-in effect is a danger.  But don’t assume a (supposedly) secret signal is better; it costs little to send and it might be regarded by the Iranians as a trick, again to be ignored.

What do the betting markets say?:  Over at www.tradesports.com, the implied probability of a U.S. or Israeli attack before December is running about 20 percent (look under "Current Events").  For before March 07 it is running about 25 percent.  These numbers are up from a few weeks ago. 

The bottom line: We will not win this game.


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