Elliott Abrams, Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, and John Hannah have an op-ed in the Washington Post that responds to "a curious op-ed this week about the Bush administration’s response to the secret al-Kibar nuclear reactor built by Syria and North Korea," which was written by Bob Woodward. The former Bush administration officials go on to defend Vice President Cheney and call Woodward's account "a revisionist and misleading history."
Woodward’s op-ed purports to demonstrate that then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who advocated a U.S. strike to destroy the Syrian reactor, failed to learn important lessons from intelligence failures in Iraq. In fact, it is Woodward who misunderstands the reality of al-Kibar....
There were legitimate policy arguments for and against destroying the reactor, and the president’s advisers made them. Some were concerned, for example, about sparking a wider war with Syria. Some believed that the threat could be handled diplomatically. Cheney cast valid doubt on the international community’s meager record in preventing rogue states from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Some of us believed the United States should attack the reactor. Some believed Israel should act. Others were sympathetic, in principle, to a U.S.-led diplomatic initiative. Whatever our individual views, Woodward is dead wrong to present the vice president’s arguments as unreasonable. His advice was seriously considered at the time, and his claims look even more prescient in hindsight.
Ultimately, when President Bush decided against military action, the Israelis took it upon themselves to destroy the reactor. Syria then spent months trying to sanitize the site and stonewall the IAEA — confirmation of its non-peaceful intentions. The Israeli attack in September 2007 was flawless, Syria and North Korea did not lash out, and a dire proliferation threat was eliminated for good. America and the world are safer for it.