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Changes Ahead? American Nuclear Policy And Israeli Strategic Doctrine (Part II)


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Fourth, the Obama anti-nuclear vision does not provide any useful guidance on how to deal with those refractory states and sub-states that may not be subject to ordinary deterrent threats. This brings to mind the perplexing security problem of prospective enemy irrationality.

How, then, should Israel’s own developing plans for dealing with non-rational adversaries be affected by the Obama anti-nuclear vision, especially where these adversaries (e.g., Iran) may soon become irreversibly nuclear?

Fifth, long-term, Israeli leaders and strategists must learn to consider seemingly irrelevant literature, real literature, not the narrowly technical or tactical materials normally generated by professional military thinkers, but the genuinely creative and artistic product of writers, poets and playwrights. The invaluable intellectual insights that can be gleaned from this literature may sometimes provide a far better source of authentic strategic understanding than the visually impressive, but very often misleading, matrixes, mathematics, metaphors and scenarios of the “experts.” Regarding limitations of the experts, it would be good for planners to consider the work of the great Spanish existentialist, José Ortega y Gasset, especially The Revolt of the Masses and History as a System.

Sixth, Israeli leaders and strategists should acknowledge and also act upon the occasional and significant advantages of private as opposed to collective strategic thought. Here, they should be reminded of Aristotle’s prescient view: “Deception occurs to a greater extent when we are investigating with others than by ourselves, for an investigation with someone else is carried on quite as much by means of the thing itself.”

There is a correct time for collaborative or “team” investigations, but in certain matters concerning Israeli security, as in science generally, one may sometimes discover optimal reasoning and greater value in the private musings of single individuals. This observation refers with particular relevance to strategic doctrine.

Seventh, Israeli leaders and strategists now need to open up, again, and with even greater diligence and formal insight, the policy question of nuclear ambiguity. Possibly under growing urgings from Obama’s will to denuclearize, perhaps even under very specific pressure to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), they will have to understand that any doctrinal re-examination of the “bomb in the basement” is not just another academic exercise. Rather, such re-examination could come at a time that new American strategic guidance would openly condemn any indispensable Israeli nuclear disclosure.

How, then, should Israel balance its almost ritual obeisance to Washington with its more obvious and indisputably more primary need for survival?

Eighth, again with a very clear view to changing nuclear doctrine in the United States, Israeli leaders and strategists will need to expand their consideration of much wider questions of nuclear weapons and national strategy. Ideally, this would be done in concert with all of the other above-listed strategic requirements. Key issues here would be nuclear targeting doctrine (counter value versus counterforce); preemption, and ballistic missile defense.

Depending upon Israel’s willingness to risk Washington’s displeasure, these strategic postures will be more-or-less impacted by President Obama’s naive and dangerous nuclear vision.

Nuclear weapons are neither good nor evil in themselves. In the case of Israel, such weapons incontestably represent an important instrument of peace. They are, in fact, an utterly critical impediment to regional nuclear war.

With its nuclear arsenal unimpaired, Israel – assuming rational adversaries – could effectively deter enemy unconventional attacks, and also most large conventional ones. While still in possession of such an arsenal, Israel could also launch assorted non-nuclear preemptive strikes against an enemy state’s hard targets. Without its secure nuclear arsenal, ambiguous or disclosed, any such expressions of anticipatory self-defense could trigger the onset of a much wider and more catastrophic war. This is because there would no longer be any compelling threat of an Israeli counter-retaliation.

Israel’s secure nuclear arsenal is required to fulfill essential deterrence options, preemption options, war-fighting options and even the so-called (last resort) “Samson Option.” This arsenal should never be negotiated away in any formal international agreements, especially in the midst of an American-brokered “peace process” and its attendant creation of “Palestine.” This Israeli existential obligation obtains no matter how appealing might be the idealized vision of “a world without nuclear weapons,” and no matter how high the authority of this deceptively attractive vision’s most enthusiastic and visible advocate.

In the final analysis, regrettable as it may seem, the structure of long-term Israeli security must be built upon the recognizable foundations of secure nuclear forces and strategic doctrine, and not on the thoroughly idealized world constructed by an American president.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971), Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is the author of ten books and several hundred scholarly articles dealing with international relations and international law. Born in Zürich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II, he lectures and publishes widely on nuclear matters in the United States, Europe and Israel. Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue, Dr. Beres was the Chair of Project Daniel (Israel).

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


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