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War with Iran? Consult history.

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And consider the Soviets’ shock at seeing their entire country collapse three years after they pulled out of Afghanistan – a costly humiliation that greatly contributed to the demise of the USSR.

Opportunities for miscalculation in an Iranian conflict are huge, including the risk that the US or Israel might fail to erase a nuclear program because it’s so well hidden. Sabotage, cyber war, and conflict could easily spread from Iran to the region and to US and Israeli installations around the world.

Tehran has the least room to maneuver, which may explain its audacity, with bluster substituting for action. Its anxiety after a steep fall in its currency value only makes Iran’s situation more desperate and perhaps dangerous.

Iranian threats to close the strait are probably disingenuous, certainly illegal, and most likely counter-productive. Their consequence may turn potential allies like China – which relies on Iranian oil – against them.

Iran’s warnings to a US Navy nuclear aircraft carrier not to return to the Gulf are foolish. The US is not cowed, and for a period of time – extendable if desired – the US will have three aircraft carriers in the Fifth Fleet area near Iran. Surely the Iranians know this is an election year and, were they to provoke the president to military action, that might do much to assure President Obama’s reelection.

Iranians are neither crazy nor stupid, although they often have a grossly inflated view of their place in the world, seeing themselves as heirs of the once proud Persian Empire. There is method in what Israelis like to portray as the mullah’s madness.

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