web analytics
February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Five Years After Project Daniel… Our Strategic Recommendations To Israel Remain Valid (Part III)


Beres-Louis-Rene

Israel’s Policy Of Nuclear Ambiguity

 

The views expressed in these six columns are those of Professor Louis René Beres, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other members of Project Daniel, or of any government.

 

Project Daniel examined some of the precise ways in which a nuclear war might actually begin between Israel and its enemies. From the standpoint of preventing such a war, it is essential, we reasoned, that Israel must protect itself with suitable policies of preemption, defense and deterrence. This last set of policies will depend substantially upon whether Israel continues to keep its bomb in the “basement,” or whether it decides to change formally from a nuclear posture of “deliberate ambiguity” to one of selected and deliberately partial disclosure.

 

 In one respect, the issue is already somewhat moot. Shortly after coming to power as prime minister, Shimon Peres already took the unprecedented step of openly acknowledging Israel’s nuclear capability. Responding to press questions about the Oslo “peace process” and the probable extent of Israeli concessions, Peres remarked that he would be “delighted” to “give up the Atom” if the entire region would only embrace a comprehensive security plan.  Although this remark was certainly not an intended expression of changed nuclear policy, it did raise the question of a more tangible Israeli shift away from nuclear ambiguity. Certain public remarks by current Prime Minister Olmert – and also certain recent missile tests in Israel – may have had similarly shifting effects.

 

Project Daniel recognized that the nuclear disclosure issue is far more than a simple “yes” or “no.”  Obviously, the basic question had already been answered by Peres’ “offer.”  What still needs to be determined is the exact timing of purposeful disclosure and the extent of subtlety and detail with which Israel should actually communicate its nuclear capabilities and intentions to selected enemy states. This issue was central to the deliberations of Project Daniel, which concluded in 2003 that Israel’s bomb should remain in the basement as long as possible, but also that it should be revealed in particular contours if enemy circumstances should change in an expressly ominous fashion.

 

Because the Project Daniel report stipulated the need for an expanded Israeli doctrine of preemption, this Project Daniel statement on nuclear ambiguity meant that Israel should promptly remove the bomb from its “basement” if − for whatever reason − Israel should have failed to exploit the recommended doctrine of preemption. Today, following a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that makes any preemption against Iran more problematic, deliberate nuclear ambiguity seems even more out-of-date. Nonetheless, this is a very subtle strategic issue that requires immediate and careful attention in capable and authoritative quarters.

 

Project Daniel understood that the rationale for Israeli nuclear disclosure does not lie in expressing the obvious; which is, that Israel has the bomb. Instead, it lies in the critical understanding that nuclear weapons can serve Israel’s security in a number of different ways, and that all of these ways could benefit the Jewish State to the extent that certain aspects of these weapons and associated strategies are appropriately disclosed. The pertinent form and extent of disclosure would be especially vital to Israeli nuclear deterrence. Exactly what this particular form and extent should be has yet to be determined. It should, therefore, now be considered a question of authentically supreme importance to Israel’s strategists.

 

To protect itself against enemy strikes, particularly those attacks that could carry existential costs, Project Daniel recommended that Israel exploit every component function of its nuclear arsenal.  The success of Israel’s efforts, we acknowledged, will depend in large measure not only upon its chosen configuration of “counterforce” (hard-target) and “counter-value” (city-busting) operations, but also upon the extent to which this configuration is made known in advance to enemy states.  Before such an enemy is deterred from launching first-strikes against Israel, or before it is deterred from launching retaliatory attacks following an Israeli preemption, it may not be enough that it simply “knows” that Israel has the Bomb.  It may also need to recognize that these Israeli nuclear weapons are sufficiently invulnerable to such attacks and that they are aimed at very high-value targets.

 

In this connection, and as indicated earlier in this “retrospective,” the Final Report of Project Daniel recommended “a recognizable retaliatory force should be fashioned with the capacity to destroy some 15 high-value targets scattered widely over pertinent enemy states in the Middle East.” This “counter-value” strategy meant that Israel’s second-strike response to enemy aggressions involving certain biological and/or nuclear weapons would be unambiguously directed at enemy populations, not at enemy weapons or infrastructures. Looking over the evolution of pertinent existential threats to Israel over the past five years, it seems that our original recommendation was entirely correct.

 

It may appear, at first glance, that Israeli targeting of enemy military installations and troop concentrations (“counterforce targeting”) could be both more compelling as a deterrent and also more humane. But it is likely, even plausible, that a nuclear-armed enemy of Israel could regard any Israeli retaliatory destruction of its armed forces as “acceptable” in certain circumstances. Such an enemy might conclude, for example, that the expected benefits of annihilating Israel would outweigh any expected retaliatory harms to its military. Here Israel’s nuclear deterrent would fail, possibly with existential consequences.

 

It is highly unlikely, The Project Daniel Group recognized, 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 that Israel would actually make good on its threats.

 

Israel’s nuclear deterrent, once it were made open and appropriately explicit, would need to make clear to all prospective nuclear enemies the following: “Israel’s nuclear weapons, dispersed, multiplied and hardened, are targeted upon your major cities. These weapons will never be used against these targets except in retaliation for certain WMD aggressions. Unless our population centers are struck first by nuclear attack or certain levels of biological attack or by combined nuclear/biological attack, we will not harm your cities.”

 

This reasoning, we knew, will disturb some readers and policy-makers. Yet, the counter-value targeting strategy recommended by Project Daniel still represents Israel’s best hope for avoiding a nuclear or biological war. It remains, therefore, the most humane strategy available. The Israeli alternative, an expressed counterforce targeting doctrine, would produce a markedly higher probability of nuclear or nuclear/biological war. And such a war, even if all weapons remained targeted on the other side’s military forces and structures (a very optimistic assumption) would entail enormously high levels of “collateral damage.”

 

The very best weapons, Clausewitz wrote, are those that achieve their objectives without ever actually being used. This is especially the case with nuclear weapons; Israel’s nuclear weapons can succeed only through non-use. Recognizing this, Project Daniel made very clear in its Final Report to then Prime Minister Sharon that nuclear war fighting must always be avoided by Israel wherever possible. Nothing has happened in the past five years to − in any way − change this judgment.

 

The Project Daniel Group recommended that Israel do whatever it must to prevent enemy nuclearization, up to and including pertinent acts of preemption. Should these measures fail, measures that would be permissible under international law as expressions of “anticipatory self-defense,” the Jewish State should immediately end its posture of nuclear ambiguity with fully open declarations of counter-value targeting. Again, just how this imperative cessation would take operational shape is a question that now needs to be addressed squarely and expertly in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

 

Copyright © The Jewish Press, September 5, 2008. All rights reserved

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES, chair of Project Daniel, is the 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.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Five Years After Project Daniel… Our Strategic Recommendations To Israel Remain Valid (Part III)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The United States condemned Iran for honoring Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh but is not so bothered when Abbas honors PA terrorists.
CIA, Mossad Collaborated on Killing Hezbollah No. 2 Leader in Damascus
Latest Indepth Stories
Eli Weiss

Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.

Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Eller-013015

His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.

IRAN-US-POLITICS-MILITARY

An Israeli strike could theoretically damage Iran’s nuclear program; only US can terminate program

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/five-years-after-project-daniel-our-strategic-recommendations-to-israel-remain-valid-part-iii/2008/09/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: