What Went Wrong

When two U.S. Navy attack planes were downed during last week's raid on Syrian missile positions, Pentagon officials quickly ran into some heavy flak at home about what had gone wrong. In Washington and elsewhere critics demanded to know why the U.S. had suffered such humiliating losses in a single mission, especially when the Israelis have for years conducted similar sorties in the region virtually unscathed.

Navy officials who sought to deflect the criticism had plausible answers to many of the questions. True, the A-6E and A-7E fighter-bombers used in the attack were...

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