What of Iran's nuclear program? That was not a pressing concern for the young people I met. None of them raised the issue in conversation with me. When I asked them about it, they fell into two groups... Yet both insisted with equal vehemence that an American or Israeli bombing of nuclear installations, let alone an Iraq-style invasion, would be a wholly unacceptable response to Iran's nuclear ambitions... A perceptive local analyst reinforced the point. Who or what, he asked, could give this regime renewed popular support, especially among the young? "Only the United States!"
...What about a pre-emptive strike of our own, like the Osirak raid? The problem is that Iran's nuclear program is now much more advanced than Iraq's was at the time of the raid. Already the U.S. government has no way of knowing exactly how many sites Iran has, or how many it would be able to destroy, or how much time it would buy in doing so. Worse, it would have no way of predicting the long-term strategic impact of such a strike. A strike might delay by three years Iran's attainment of its goal-but at the cost of further embittering the regime and its people. Iran's intentions when it did get the bomb would be all the more hostile...
One of our panelists thought that a strike would help the United States, simply by buying time. The rest disagreed. Iran would rebuild after a strike, and from that point on it would be much more reluctant to be talked or bargained out of pursuing its goals-and it would have far more reason, once armed, to use nuclear weapons to America's detriment.
Most of our panelists felt that the case against a U.S. strike was all the more powerful against an Israeli strike. With its much smaller air force and much more limited freedom to use airspace, Israel would probably do even less "helpful" damage to Iranian sites. The hostile reaction-against both Israel and the United States-would be potentially more lethal to both Israel and its strongest backer.
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