Should the United States launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran to prevent that country from developing nuclear arms?
My unscientific poll of friends and neighbors in Oakton finds no one who wants an attack. But I found no one who agrees with me, either.
My opinion is it doesn't matter if Tehran gets The Bomb. Even if it does, we should seek friendly relations, not confrontation.
Others are obviously more worried about an Iranian nuke than I am. That includes bigwigs inside the Beltway.
Thanks to a series of planned leaks, we know the United States and Israel collaborated in unleashing the "Stuxnet" computer virus on Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility as long ago as 2009.
This was an extraordinary intrusion. It required a "human asset" — an agent — to carry a USB thumb drive into the isolated Natanz facility and plug it in. The "Stuxnet" malware fouled Natanz's computer systems and damaged centrifuges but it also made an unplanned escape into the outside world and infected tens of thousands of computers without regard for borders or politics.
My view is the United States and Israel shouldn't work together on military matters. When I worked in the State Department in the 1970s, a wonderful supervisor cautioned me we could use the word "ally" only to refer to a government with which we have a mutual defense agreement, meaning the NATO and ANZUS countries (today, minus New Zealand) and South Korea. We don't have a mutual defense pact with Israel precisely because our interests do not coincide.
So what about those who want the United States to send B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and F-15E Strike Eagle fighter-bombers swarming over Natanz with satellite-guided, bunker-busting bombs?
Even if the idea had merit, it won't work.
According to Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, an attack on Iran would delay that country's ability to develop a nuclear weapon by two years at most while worldwide repercussions would be "detrimental to our interests."
A July analysis of U.S. and global opinion on nuclear proliferation, produced by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), indicates Americans are "deeply concerned" about Iran developing an atomic bomb but only 13 percent see military action as a solution.
In 2003, we invaded Iraq based on faulty intelligence and a perceived threat that did not exist. Neither the Iraq of 2003 nor the Iran of 2012 has ever posed a threat to the United States.
Iran is far from blameless. Officials in Tehran owe us their explanation of the June 25, 1996, truck bombing at the Khobar Towers living quarters in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen. Some experts say this was an al-Qaeda attack but the evidence points unmistakably to Iranian revolutionary forces.
But we should not take any action that will unify those forces. Iran has a diverse population with a high level of education and literacy — by some standards of measure, higher than our own — and many people with moderate views who would welcome improved relations. We'll lose any chance of improving ties if we bomb their country.
The talk of bombing Iran is dangerous talk. We should look for other solutions.
About me: My book "Mission to Berlin" is a history of American B-17 Flying Fortress bomber crews in World War II. I write books, magazine articles and newspaper columns in my home office in Oakton, assisted by my 65-pound talking Labrador retriever, Autumn.