October 9, 2007


Understanding the Israeli Attack on Syria: We now know a little about what happened, but it'll be a long time before we know what it means (Shmuel Rosner, Oct. 9, 2007, Slate)

The achievement of the Sept. 6 operation should not be taken lightly: Someone detected a North Korean delivery of nuclear-related material to Syria. The storage site was mapped. The required number of hits and bombs was carefully calculated. The anti-aircraft-missile batteries were smartly circumvented. This is all quite remarkable. But it also underscores the fact that while we can detect the movements and the physical actions of North Korea and Syria, there are still a lot of things we don't understand about the intentions and the plans of these regimes.

We know what we know about the target and the attack. But, as Jim Hoagland asked in Sunday's Washington Post, was the delivery of materiel and knowledge from North Korea to Syria "[a] last gasp of North Korean international banditry before going straight on nuclear nonproliferation? A continuing confidence by Pyongyang that it can say one thing in public and do another covertly? Or simply the serendipity of one branch of a secretive government going about its skullduggery while others go a different way?"

These are all questions the United States should be asking before it completes a deal with Pyongyang. And similar questions can be asked about Syria: Was acquiring this component of the so-called "Syrian nuclear program" a bold move to build up Syrian force and use it for nefarious purposes or a cry for attention and a plea for negotiations? Is it Assad's way of showing that he will use whatever means are in his power to preserve Syria's influence in Lebanon and pressure Israel into returning the Golan Heights? Or was it a desperate last-ditch effort to preserve his declining regime?

There are only two ways to make peace where there's such an intelligence gap: Take the best possible guess, or wait for time to pass and the chips to fall.

Given that we want the NorKs--and the Israelis the Syrians--to sign and observe the terms of imminent agreements, using missiles to let them know how little they can get away with seems like a sensible tactic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 9, 2007 7:51 AM

We have to be lucky every time. They only need to be lucky once.

Posted by: Gideon at October 9, 2007 9:35 AM

Vice versa. Once is useless to them.

Posted by: oj at October 9, 2007 11:33 AM