The probable chemical weapons use by the Assad regime in Syria and the Obama administration’s handling of this matter have many negative repercussions.
It is certainly wise to look closely at the evidence, for intelligence can be and often has proved to be wrong. But the refusal of the intelligence community (IC) to state a conclusion with absolute certainty cannot always be the best guide to action–or inaction. In the case of the Syrian nuclear reactor discovered by Israel in 2007, the IC told the president that it had “low confidence” that reactor was part of a nuclear weapons program. Why? The reactor was not connected to Syria’s electric grid, so it was obviously not meant to produce electricity. What else could it be? The IC said they could not find, yet anyway, the rest of the program: efforts to build a warhead, for example. Thus the “low confidence” judgment. When asked what they thought the reactor was, they would say “part of a nuclear weapons program.” That was the only logical conclusion. But they could not say it as an official assessment. Once burnt in Iraq, twice shy. That was one reason President Bush did not act against that reactor, leaving any action to the Israelis–who fortunately destroyed it. Read more »