On this day 25 years ago, eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets took off from a runway in the Sinai Desert. Their mission: Fly some 600 miles over hostile territory and drop 16 bombs on the Osiraq nuclear reactor in Iraq.In the piece, Mitchell and coauthor William Keller review Dan Reiter's empirically-based conclusions about Osiraq. The raid was an operational success, but ultimately failed to stop Saddam Hussein's nuclear program -- and likely accelerated it.
The op-ed concludes with the obvious contemporary policy implications: strategic targeting of Iran is a bad idea.
The 25th anniversary of the Osiraq attack offers an opportunity to reflect on preventive military force's track record in countering unconventional weapons programs. Before uncritically lining up behind the slogan "all options are on the table" perhaps we should be more selective in choosing the Iran policy instruments to lay out in the first place. History suggests that as a tool for neutralizing suspected nuclear weapons facilities, the preventive war option is a non-starter.
Until hard-line politicians and pundits prove otherwise, oblique threats of preventive attack on Iran have no place in public deliberation.
Finally, Mitchell and Keller provide a tease about their forthcoming edited volume on preventive war: Hitting First: Preventive Force in U.S. Security Strategy (University of Pittsburgh Press, September 2006).
Note: I have a chapter in this collection based on an earlier working paper for Pittsburgh's Ridgway Center for International Security Studies.
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Filed as: Osiraq