Iran and Israel - Indeterminate Posturing
Ready to Launch
During the Cold War, the US regarded all the Soviet leaders as mongrels, hell-bent on spreading the disease of communism across the globe at any cost. How many in seats of power actually believed this is open for debate. The parallel here is that once an enemy has been defined and targeted, it's difficult (for either side) not to give the green light and plunge an entire nation into incalculable destruction.
If Iran can project an element of insanity into its worldwide image, this can have the calculated effect of psychological warfare -- since, for the present, they've got nothing but hot, crazy talk to keep their adversaries in a state of confusion and anxiety.
If this theory is valid, the tactic is extremely risky because the hot, crazy talk can be taken on face value. Broadcasting irrational zealotry (if over-used) could end up back-firing.
China will spend billions to be the next country to land men on the moon, which will serve no useful purpose other than to display their prowess on the world stage.
Iran's probable quest for the atomic bomb is somewhat similar -- only in the case with Iran, they are really playing with fire, and, yeah, it doesn't seem completely sane or rational.
At least once a week now, there is a news article about the advancement Iran has made in the development of the atomic bomb. It's difficult to ascertain whether this media blitz is driven by new events or planted by some governmental apparatus that is purposely getting us prepared for a possible Israeli/US strike.
If this were to happen it would be bad news for all concerned. Iran (and possibly its supporters) would have to strike back, and this would result in incalculable damage to Israel as well as US bases in Iraq/Afghanistan. Such a conflict would certainly disrupt the flow of oil out of the Mideast, so there would not be any economic advantage in such a course of action.
If Israel's itchiness to go cannot be curtailed, the US could be dragged into another war with a country that poses little immediate threat to our continent. Russia and China would oppose such a preliminary strike (as they may oppose tougher sanctions), so our relations with these countries (and certainly others) would not benefit.
The American public is not in the mood for another costly war where there is no clear benefit to the US. The focus now is all about home economic issues. Another costly war in the Mideast would be political suicide for either party. For the administration, the question of what to do may boil down to our allegiance to Israel vs. our domestic cost-cutting.
In the short term the US will seek a middle-ground by hoping to apply stricter sanctions against Iran, which will not satisfy Israel, and will probably be blunted by Russia/China at the UN level. This is a political quagmire that has no easy solutions.