I have never been present for any discussion of any measures that could even thinkably be taken against Tehran that does not focus obsessively and exclusively on the possibly calamitous outcomes. Israel hits Iran and—well, you fill in the rest. The target sites are, anyway, too much dispersed and too deeply buried. You know how it goes. Apparently, nothing can be done that does not make a bad situation worse. It is as if there could be a worse outcome than the nuclear armament of a lawless messianic state that tore up every agreement it signed even as it bought further time while signing it.

In that case, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and many others should never have said that such an eventuality was unacceptable. They should have said that there were some conditions under which it was acceptable, and also clearly specified what those conditions were. If there’s no saber in the scabbard, then at least don’t make the vulgar mistake of rattling it.

Against this, we are at least entitled to consider the idea that a decaying regime that is bluffing and buying (or rather stealing) time on weapons of mass destruction is in a condition that makes this the best moment to do at least something to raise the cost of the lawlessness and to slow down and sabotage the preparations. Or might it be better to wait and to fight later on more equal terms? Just asking.