In evaluating the danger that non-state terrorists represent, and in assessing the danger that a potentially nuclear Iran might constitute, commentators often utilize the “rational actor” concept as a means of analysis. They usually argue that non-state terrorists are especially dangerous because they are not constrained by the same “rational” factors that tend to inhibit state actors. And many commentators now use the same kind of argument about the allegedly “unacceptable” threat represented by a nuclear Iran: Iran’s leader is crazy, they say. It’s impossible to predict what he’ll do. The kinds of restraints that affect “normal” people are inoperative in his case.
So I have a question. In view of everything we know about what the Bush administration was told about Iraq, and considering the endless warnings they received about every aspect of an invasion and its aftermath — all of which they entirely disregarded and completely failed to plan for in advance — and noting that all of this is confirmed by new evidence almost daily, with this WaPo story being only the latest example, who exactly is it who’s not behaving like a “rational actor”?
This is why the standard objections to the likelihood of U.S. military action against Iran are of highly questionable persuasiveness: they assume that this administration is behaving rationally. Is it? Consider the evidence, and reach your own conclusion.