Another Reason Not to Bomb Iran

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The threat of homegrown terrorism is dropping, according to a report released today by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. The report, says the New York Times, "found that 20 Muslim Americans were charged in violent plots or attacks in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 and a spike of 47 in 2009."

I take this with a small grain of salt. A number of terrorism prosecutions have been borderline entrapment cases -- terrorist "plots" that took shape with the active involvement of undercover agents. So changes in these numbers could conceivably reflect changes in the zealousness of law enforcement. And in any event we're not out of the woods; a sufficiently big attack could spook Americans into the sort of hypervigilance (prolific mosque surveillance, ethnic profiling) that alienates young Muslims and so makes them more susceptible to the call of radicalism.

Still, these numbers seem encouraging, and there is reason to hope for continued progress. Some of the most high-profile cases -- the Fort Hood shooting, the botched Times Square bombing -- were, by the perpetrators' own accounts, inspired in part by either the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, or drone strikes in Pakistan. With the withdrawal from Iraq complete, and withdrawal from Afghanistan now accelerated, maybe this kind of fuel for homegrown terrorism will decline for some time to come.

And surely, having made this progress, we wouldn't threaten it by doing something as stupid as supporting or even participating in the bombing of a Muslim country, would we?

It's kind of amazing, when you think about it: This whole "debate" over bombing Iran has included essentially no discussion of whether America's involvement in another war might revive the threat of homegrown terrorism, which was demonstrably exacerbated by past wars with Muslim countries. I'm getting that Twilight-Zoney feeling I got before the invasion of Iraq, when it slowly became apparent that the drive to war was impervious to reason.

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Robert Wright is the author of, most recently, the New York Times bestseller The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic. More

Wright is also a fellow at the New America Foundation and editor in chief of Bloggingheads.tv. His other books include Nonzero, which was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book in 2000 and included on Fortune magazine's list of the top 75 business books of all-time. Wright's best-selling book The Moral Animal was selected as one of the ten best books of 1994 by The New York Times Book Review.Wright has contributed to The Atlantic for more than 20 years. He has also contributed to a number of the country's other leading magazines and newspapers, including: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Time, and Slate, and the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism and his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

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