The One-Shot Gulf War

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Pentagon sources have told CNN that the missile a U.S. F-16 fired on Iraq on Tuesday did indeed miss the radar station by some 11 miles and land in a civilian reservoir, as the Iraqis have claimed. How did a sophisticated radar-tracking missile hit water and not its target? TIME National Security correspondent Douglas Waller says that the Iraqi operator would have merely sent "a squirt" of radar: enough to set off the British planes' alarms but not enough for the F-16's missile to draw a good bead on the source.

For the U.S., all that's just as well. "Everyone's still waiting to see if another shoe will drop, if Iraq will kick out an inspection team or something," Waller says, "But so far it seems to be what the U.S. thinks and hopes it is -- just a random incident." This has happened several times in the five years that the U.S. has been patrolling the no-fly zone, and it will probably happen again. Waller points out that aside from some low-wattage grumbling this week, Iraq's recent behavior suggests a desire to cooperate with the U.N. With no casualties in the exchange but a few freshwater fish, it seems that both sides of this uneasy cease-fire would prefer to forget this exchange of jabs ever happened.