The Three-Options Theory. Another possibility is that Bush is going to launch some sort of raid on Iran, and if people think he might drop nuclear bombs, they'll be relieved—they'll consider it a relatively moderate gesture—if he confines the attack to conventional bombs. It's a variation on the game that national-security advisers sometimes use in laying out options to their bosses. Option 1: Declare all-out war. Option 2: Surrender. Option 3 is the course of action that the adviser wants to pursue. Hersh's story might be serving the same purpose. Option 1: Nuke 'em. Option 2: Shut your eyes and do nothing, like the Europeans would prefer. Option 3: Attack Iran's facilities, but with 2,000-pound smart bombs, not 5-kiloton nuclear bombs.
Or … Or maybe there's no gamesmanship going on here, maybe Hersh is simply reporting on a nuclear war plan that President Bush is really, seriously considering, a "juggernaut" that might not be stopped. If it's as straightforward as that, we're in deeper trouble than most of us have imagined.