POKER FACE OR EGG FACE? Either way, with wily Bush sitting at the table, the results seem likely to be the same – bombs, death, and mayhem. But maybe, just maybe, he’s smarter than we think. Maybe these last few months have been part of a brilliant and daring tactical strategy (“It’s dangerous, sir — but, by golly, it just might work!”) that only makes him appear like a war-mongering nutbag. Massive military build-up, ignoring public outcry, constant evil eyes – all part of a plan to bluff Saddam into thinking, “This crazy bastard just might do it. Holy crap.” He’s got everyone fooled. (After all, aren’t you pretty much convinced that Bush wants nothing but war?)

What if war is somehow averted and Saddam miraculously gives up? Or what if he simply makes wider concessions to the inspection team than he would have otherwise (an inspection team that, by the way, wouldn’t even be there if it hadn’t been for Bush’s rabidity for Saddam)? At the end of the day, Bush might miraculously emerge as the gutsy, get-the-job-done American hero who we celebrate in our myths and movies. But even so, is it worth compromising the U.N., not to mention the overall loss of value in Brand America? Or, perhaps, the U.N. is simply playing the role of the admonishing police chief who has to protect the interests and appearance of the department, but who ultimately relies on his renegade cowboy cop to get the job done. Good U.N., bad Bush. You need both parts to be well-played for the drama to be believable.

Alternatively, Saddam may think the same thing of Bush as we do — nothing will stop this man from pressing on with war — so I might as well give him war. (Saddam, after all, no matter what, is still clearly the crazier of the two. But then again, who’s to say who’s the crazier one here? The man who doesn’t turn away during a game of chicken, or the man who starts a game of chicken with a known lunatic in the first place?) The worst of these scenarios, however, is that after all the blustering, Bush simply can’t stand down, regardless of what progress the inspectors make or what concessions are given, and he turns out to be the crazy mofo we all thought he was to begin with, bringing the world to war for no good reason except for wounded pride or to fulfill a personal agenda.