So I ran into a friend who knows a lot about U.S. policy and Iran. We sat down on a park bench and this is what he told me:
The worst possible thing to do is go to war with Iran. The key is the people -- and they are sick of the mullahs. Right now the pressure is working to separate the people from the regime. A limited strike would undercut all that.
Also, any attack would cause us to maintain a heightened, more expensive defense posture, and give them moral standing to retaliate.
So an attack is counter to all our long-term objectives. We are having more effect right now through economic pressure than ever before.
There is no doubt [that there is a huge divergence between U.S. interests and those of Israel]. We want to stop Israel from attacking so the issue is how to persuade Israel that we are serious about stopping Iran from having a weapon -- like a congressional finding that we will take all steps necessary to stop Iran. It means we will define red lines that can't be crossed.
But the bottom line is, I don't know a single person in government, civilian or in uniform, who thinks it is in our national interest to go to war with Iran now.
If we do go to war, it will not be small. Iran could reconstitute its nuclear program in maybe five years, but if we go after its abilities to project military power, we'd open a 15-year window."
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.