A scary thought. And, why did they do it?
A former official in the Bush administration confirmed to me yesterday that the US has lunged into Syrian territory several times before: it's just that Damascus chose to keep quiet. In which case, the interesting question is why the Syrians went public this time.
This was a deliberate act, calculated to send a series of messages. First, to the Syrians, reminding them who's boss in the region and strong-arming them to do more to crack down on al-Qaida.
Second, to the Europeans who have been moving towards a rapprochement with Damascus. Nicolas Sarkozy may have invited President Assad to Paris and David Miliband may have been hosting the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Muallem, in London this very Monday, 24 hours after the raid - but no matter. Bush gets to remind both these uppity Europeans who's in charge.Third, the president could have been sending a message to his own administration.
However we are meant to read it, the attack on Syria looks a lot like a parting shot from Bush, an end-of-the-movie reminder of what this long and bloody saga has been about. A small operation, causing eight deaths, it nevertheless captures much of the Bush ethos that has ruled the globe these past eight years. It was unilateral; it trampled on state sovereignty; and it relied on force as a first, not last, resort. As a souvenir of the Bush era, it would be hard to top.
Bush may be thinking of a parting gift more in keeping with the record of the last eight years. He and Cheney might decide, what the hell, we have one last chance to whack Iran - and let the new guy clear up the mess. Not likely, but possible. For in the twilight zone, anything can happen.