Latest update: January 10th, 2013
The views expressed in this eight-column article on Project Daniel are solely those of Professor Louis René Beres, and may not reflect the opinions of any other members of Project Daniel, or of any government.
It is highly unlikely, The Group reasoned, that any enemy state would ever calculate that the expected benefits of annihilating Israel would be so great as to outweigh the expected costs of its own annihilation. Excluding an irrational enemy state, a prospect that falls by definition outside the logic of nuclear deterrence, all state enemies of Israel would assuredly refrain from nuclear and/or biological attacks upon Israel that would presumptively elicit massive counter-value reprisals. Naturally, this reasoning would obtain only to the extent that these enemy states fully believed Israel would actually make good on its threats.
Examining pertinent possibilities, The Group noted three distinct but interrelated existential threats to Israel:
1. Biological/Nuclear (BN) threats from states;
2. BN threats from terror organizations; and
3. BN threats from combined efforts of states and terror organizations.
To the extent that certain Arab states and Iran are now allowed to develop WMD capabilities, Israel may have to deal someday with an “anonymous attack scenario.” Here, the aggressor enemy state would not identify itself, and Israeli post-attack identification would be exceedingly difficult. What is Israel to do in such a confused and urgent crisis situation?
The Group began its initial deliberations with the following urgent metaphor in mind: Israel could face the hazard of a suicide-bomber in macrocosm. In this scenario, an enemy Arab state or Iran would act against Israel without any ordinary regard for expected retaliatory consequences. Here, in the fashion of an individual suicide bomber who acts without fear of personal consequences, indeed, who actually welcomes the most extreme personal consequence, which is death, an enemy Arab state and/or Iran could launch WMD attacks against Israel with full knowledge and expectation of overwhelming Israeli reprisals. The conclusion to be drawn from this scenario is that Israeli deterrence vis-à-vis “suicide states” would have been immobilized by enemy irrationality, and that Israel’s only recourse in such circumstances would have been appropriate forms of preemption.
Louis René Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.
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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