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Eight Years Of Unheeded ‘Daniel’ Warnings About Iran: What Happens Next? (Part VIII)


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            The views expressed in this series on Project Daniel are solely those of Professor Louis René Beres.

            Looking back, The Group had concerned itself with many complex and interpenetrating points, including the need for an expanded policy of preemption; an ongoing re-evaluation of “nuclear ambiguity;” recognizable preparations for appropriate counter-value reprisals in the case of certain WMD aggressions; adaptations to a “paradigm shift” away from classical patterns of warfare; expanded cooperation with the United States in the War Against Terror and in future inter-state conflicts in the Middle East; deployment of suitable active defense systems; avoidance of nuclear war-fighting wherever possible; and various ways to improve Israel’s nuclear deterrence.
            We had also explored vital differences between rational and non-rational adversaries; changing definitions of existential harms; legal elements of anticipatory self-defense; possibilities for peaceful dispute settlements in the region; budgetary constraints and opportunities; maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge; preparations for “regime targeting;” and implications for Israel of the growing anarchy in world affairs.

            Originally, we wrote that Israel’s Strategic Future must be understood as “a work in progress.” In this regard, nothing has changed. The geo-strategic context within which Israel must still fashion its future is continually evolving, and so, accordingly, must Israel’s strategic doctrine. Ultimately it must be from precisely such doctrine that the Jewish state’s particular policies will have to be abstracted, derived, adjusted and implemented.
            Regarding terrorist groups, new alignments are already being fashioned between various Palestinian factions and al-Qaeda. The precise configurations of these alignments are complex and multifaceted; the net effect for Israel is clearly negative.
            Israel’s Strategic Future was founded on the presumption that current threats of war, terrorism and genocide derive from a very clear “clash of civilizations,” and not merely from narrow geo-strategic differences. Today, eight years after completion of our report, both Israel and the United States remain in the cross hairs of a worldwide Jihadthat is basically cultural/theological in nature. This Jihad will not concede an inch to Obama-era norms of “multilateralism,” “coexistence” or “peaceful settlement.” 
            Israel’s strategic future is still fraught with existential peril. It is essential, therefore, that Israel approach this uncertain and problematic future with utter realism and candor. Any nuclear war against the Jewish state would likely be undertaken as a distinct form of genocide, and there can be no greater obligation for Israel than to ensure protection from such new and unforgivable crimes against humanity.

             It is with the very sober understanding that Holocaust can take new forms at the beginning of the 21st century that Project Daniel first completed its critical work eight years ago. Our task is still far from complete. Today, Israel’s long-term physical continuance as a viable state is more doubtful than ever before in its short history.

            Eight years after the presentation of Project Daniel’s final report to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, U.S. President Obama continues to express his preference for a “world free of nuclear weapons.” The core problem with this preference is that nuclear weapons are neither good nor evil in themselves. Although it is certainly true that any further nuclear proliferation must be controlled, it is also probable that the Cold War nuclear standoff between two hostile superpowers prevented a third world war. This often counter-intuitive understanding is very important to Israel.
            Today, should it be pressured to accept its denuclearization at a time when Iranian compliance with Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and IAEA expectations still remains very doubtful, Israel might as well consent to incremental dismemberment or national suicide. Deprived of its existing nuclear deterrent, however “ambiguous” and undisclosed, Prime Minister Netanyahu would then place a country smaller than Lake Michigan at the mercy of several sworn and increasingly capable existential enemies. Even if these enemy states, Arab as well as Iran, were to remain non-nuclear themselves, they would still be in a greatly improved position to fully defeat Israel.  Clausewitz had understood, long before the Atomic Age, that there can come a time in any military correlation of forces when “Mass counts.”        
            In the Middle East, only Israel’s enemies have mass. Over the years, therefore, a number of Arab states and Iran, themselves still non-nuclear, have called for a “nuclear weapons free zone” in the area. Even if these states were somehow to comply with the formal legal expectations of such a proposal, a remarkably optimistic presumption, their combined conventional, chemical and biological capabilities could still overwhelm Israel. In principle, perhaps, such an expanded existential vulnerability might be countered by instituting parallel forms of non-nuclear disarmament among the Arab states and Iran, but, in reality, such coinciding steps would never be taken.
            President Obama fails to realize that nuclear weapons are not the problem per se. This failure is especially apparent in the Middle East, where the main issue remains a far-reaching and still-unreconstructed Arab/Iranian commitment to excise Israel from the regional map. The true problem here is one of an extinctive cartography. No matter what is done about regional nuclear weapons, this enduring commitment to eliminate Israel will ensure regular aggressions, and protracted war.
            With its nuclear weapons, Israel can still deter enemy unconventional attacks, and most large conventional assaults. While in possession of such weapons, Israel can also launch non-nuclear preemptive strikes against any enemy state’s hard military targets that threaten Israel’s annihilation. Without nuclear weapons, any such expressions of “anticipatory self-defense” would likely represent the onset of a much wider war. This is because there would no longer be any compelling threat of an Israeli counter-retaliation.
            It follows that Israel’s nuclear weapons actually represent an important instrument of peace, and an essential impediment to the onset of regional nuclear war.
             In the matter of nuclear weapons, not all nations are created equal. For Israel, these weapons are the ultimate barrier to violent extinction. They are, for Israel, a blessing, not a curse.
            Under international law, war and genocide need not be mutually exclusive. Living in a world without nuclear weapons, the openly preferred world of U.S. President Obama, Israel’s principal enemies could drive the Jewish state into the eternal darkness, into fire, into ice. 
            President Obama will not save Israel.

            Israel must save itself.

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


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