With regards to Iran, "accidental escalation" is exactly what Bush/Cheney want. They'll first try very hard for the accidental -- raising rhetoric, inciting unrest, etc. -- all the while taking small, gradual steps towards war. It's all in the same direction -- no diplomacy, just threats, and then war.
In a recent LA Times editorial, the "madman theory" was discussed:
There is speculation that the Bush administration could be trying out its version of the madman gambit by advertising Vice President Dick Cheney's alleged desire to bomb Iranian nuclear sites and Revolutionary Guard targets, in hopes of scaring Tehran into submission. The problem with the madman act, however, is that it presumes that the Iranians will react sensibly. But who wants to stake U.S. foreign policy on the wisdom of Iran's mullahs and its titular head, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a paranoid who can beat us at the madman game any day of his choosing?Just wonderful, we're now pitting madness vs. madness (Cheney vs. Mahmoud). Our geopolitical policy has now reached the point where we're playing a game of chicken as opposed to employing a tad more sophisticated methods or tacts, such as talks, summits, brokering deals, etc.
Dr. Strangelove anyone?