ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Cheney takes a sabbatical

Pre-emptive caution: the case of Syria

It was President Bush who, a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rewrote America’s national security strategy to warn any nation that might be thinking of trying to develop atomic weapons that it could find itself the target of a pre-emptive military strike.

But that was the fall of 2002, when the world looked very different from how it does in the fall of 2007. Now, the case of Syria, which Israeli and American analysts suspect was trying to build a nuclear reactor, has become a prime example of what can happen when Mr. Bush’s first-term instincts run headlong into second-term realities.

Five years later, dealing with nations that may have nuclear weapons ambitions — but are also staying within the letter of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — looks a lot more complicated than it once did. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — If it depends on journalists like David Sanger, he’s probably right in predicting that, “It may be months or years before all the mysteries surrounding the attack on Syria become clear.” Meanwhile, Sanger seems happy to keep on drinking the White House Kool-Aid. Should we be concerned about the chances for a U.S. attack on Iranian nuclear facilities? Far from it, Sanger reports, since those ubiquitous senior officials he’s been hanging out with assure him that the administration is far too prudent. “Iran, they say, has too many ways to strike back at American interests — in Iraq, in the oil markets and throughout the Middle East.” Does the vice president know that? In Sanger’s analysis, Cheney in conspicuously absent. The administration is now being controlled by pragmatic realists, while the president is focused on his diplomatic achievements.

Getting a deal with North Korea to disgorge its own nuclear fuel and weapons may require looking past whatever North Korea might have sold to another country. And it may mean engaging the Syrians, even before they answer the question of what, exactly, they were building in the desert.

Who could have predicted such a sunny turn of events? The only question now is, how can the Israelis be persuaded to sign up with the diplomatic program. What Sanger implies is that a White House, sobered by experience, may offer Israel wise council but that there’s not much chance they’ll listen.

And as for those readers who still have nagging questions about what happened on September 6, the latest word from Israel is that it is “plausible” and “logical” that a nuclear reactor under construction was hit. The IAEA has put in a request for information.

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