Would an American Attack on Iran Be a Good Thing?

A Goldblog reader writes:

I read your column today and I'm somewhat confused. You're saying now that an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites would be a bad idea, and you say this because you think it's not necessary, because President Obama is ready to handle the nuclear question himself, by force if necessary. You write that an American military strike isn't "desirable," but do you think it's worth doing?

There are no good options here. I think an American (or American + Britain + a broader coalition) strike on Iran could be disastrous, or it could neutralize the obvious threat Iran poses to its neighbors. In order to make a judgment about this issue, you have to ask yourself the following question: Do you think the world will be worse-off if Iran has the Bomb, or if it is suffering through the potential consequences of a preemptive missile strike on Iranian nuclear targets? Sometimes I think the former is worse, sometimes the latter.

What I believe is that an Israeli strike would be a bad idea, and that an American strike right now would be a bad idea as well. The best option at the moment is for the West to intensify the various subterfuge programs currently operating against the Iranian program, and for President Obama to reiterate in a credible way to the Iranians that all options are on the table. If the Iranians believe him, an attack could be avoided, and avoiding such an attack would be in America's best interest. But it's important to remember, again, that there are no pristine options here.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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