For starters, the reactor wasn't anywhere near ready to produce nuclear material. I can see the point of letting Syria and North Korea continue to pour resources into the reactor, then destroy in when it is a bigger loss.
The U.S. position, according to the Times, was that Israel had hit a missile facility or a nuclear facility that Syria was maintaining with North Korean help.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Israel blew up an "unused military building." That brings Syrian claims about what happened up to four:
- An unused military building blew up.
- The Jews destroyed an agricultural research station.
- Israel dropped bombs on sand
- There was no raid.
However, I'm inclined to go with the Washington version on the reactor.
Israel's blown up a nuclear reactor before, in 1981. That time it was an Iraqi reactor, run by Saddam Hussein's rule.
In each case, I think Israel had the right idea. Hussein's Iraq was was unlikely to let nuclear weapons go unused, and could have earned a great deal of 'street cred' in the Middle East by obliterating at least part of Israel. Syria was in the same position. Israel can't afford to rely on endless rounds of diplomacy, and on the presumed good will of other nations in the region.
American officials, from the huge "Anonymous" family, said that September's strike might have been a signal to Iran, showing Israel's resolve. Maybe, but I think Israel may have been protecting itself from Syria, too.
Tomorrow, I expect politicos to provide a sort of grim comic relief, with more-or-less nonsensical pronouncements about how badly the administration handled the matter, how much better they would have done, and so forth.
Even at this late date, I think it's possible that someone with a recognizable name will say that the Israeli raid was a terrible mistake, and a threat to the delicate Mid East peace process.
I've posted on the Israeli raid before:
- "Radioactive Kimchi, or Nuclear Bomb Material?"
(September 23, 2007)
- "Nuclear Materials from North Korea, Sand, or Radioactive Kimchi?"
(September 18, 2007)