It’s interesting that then-vice president Dick Cheney urged George Bush to bomb the stealthy Syrian nuclear reactor in the summer of 2007. As it turned out, Cheney was a voice crying in the wilderness and the administration’s course of action turned out to be more diplomacy.
Why was the diplomatic course of action pursued? It’s because of the loss of credibility the Bush administration, prior administration, Congress, world-in-general, and especially the U.S. intelligence community suffered following the invasion of Iraq. You remember: the thought-to-be-there WMDs that were a foundational part of the case for action against Iraq turned out to be not George Tenet’s slam dunk, but rather his missed lay-up.
The lack of an accurate intelligence assessment regarding Iraq limited the ‘kinetic decisions’ regarding Syria, but the reality is Cheney had a brilliant idea regarding the use of airpower; that is, get in, kill people and break their stuff as required, and leave. Boots on ground? Fuggetaboudit.
In fact, Cheney’s ideas was so brilliant, it was later perfectly executed by the Israelis, who have a tradition of pulling off this sort of bold and decisive action in the face of developing existential threats. Could Israel pull it off today? With greater difficulty, I’d speculate. And against Iran? With greater difficulty still.
But the idea (bold and destructive airpower missions designed to destroy the Syria’s emerging nuclear program) was just what the security doctor ordered. The IAEA, while blocked in most of their efforts to access the bombed site, still has plenty of suggestive forensic evidence (analogous to the DNA of the OJ Simpson criminal case) regarding the illegal Syrian nuclear program (by the way, the Syrians were signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. I think the NPT has “the full weight of the law” behind it). Given the revealed nature of Syrian leadership, bombing the site now appears to have been a superior choice.
In the meantime, remember the lesson of Great White: