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Monday, February 04, 2013

What we can learn from Israel's bombing of Syria's nuclear reactor

Elliott Abrams, who was in charge of the Middle East at the National Security Council when it happened, has an insider's look at how Israel destroyed Syria's al-Kibar nuclear reactor. It's a long piece and I urge you to read the whole thing.

Here are  his lessons from the incident, and afterward I will give you mine:
First, good “process” and good policy are related but distinct. In the end what counts is output, not input: the foreign policy we adopt, not the proposals that are advanced. And that output depends, when it comes to foreign policy, mostly on one man: the president. That’s the second lesson. Advisers advise; the president decides. All the books about how rival bureaucracies or powerful lobbies determine policy are off the mark; the simpler and truer conclusion is that at any given moment our foreign policy reflects the views of the president.
Finally, this incident is a reminder that there is no substitute for military strength and the will to use it. Think of how much more dangerous to the entire region the Syrian civil war would be today if Assad had a nuclear reactor, and even perhaps nuclear weapons, in hand. Israel was right to bomb that reactor before construction was completed, and President Bush was right to support its decision to do so. Israel was also right in rejecting fears that the incident would lead to a larger war and in believing that it, and the United States, would be better off after this assertion of leadership and determination. That lesson must be on the minds of Israeli, and American, leaders in 2013.
If only Ariel Sharon had the guts to do the same to Iran in 2003 before its program got quite so far off the ground....

Every argument made in this piece about Syria could be made about Iran - indeed has been made about Iran. We would have been better off not going to the UN or the IAEA, but rather taking care of Iran's nuclear capability a long time ago when the cost would not have been so potentially high.

The way that Condi Clueless (in particular) and Bob Gates were able to influence President Bush to put the 'Palestinians' ahead of dealing with Syria, shows how much influence people in those positions can have and why it's so important that Chuck Hagel be defeated  (even if John FN Kerry is already in).

And as much as I don't like him, in this case, Olmert definitely did the right thing. There's a lesson there for Netanyahu: Have courage and do what needs to be done.

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