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Five Years After Project Daniel… Our Strategic Recommendations to Israel Remain Valid (Part VI)


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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.

Final Observations

Looking back over the original recommendations of Project Daniel, The Group concerned itself with, inter alia, 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.

Along the way, 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, absolutely 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.

Since the presentation of our original document to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on January 16, 2003, there have been a few minor “victories” in the effort to control WMD proliferation among Israel’s enemies. A case in point may be Libya. At the same time, the circumstances in North Korea (which has manifest ties to some of Israel’s regional enemies), Iran and Pakistan remain highly volatile and dangerous. There is also still evidence of expanding WMD ambitions in Egypt and (less so, after Israel’s September 2007 raid) Syria.

At the level of terrorist groups, which are sustained by several Arab/Islamic states, new alignments are being fashioned between various Palestinian factions and al-Qaeda. The precise configurations of these alignments are complex and multifaceted, but the net effect for Israel – and therefore also for the United States – is unmistakably 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, five years after completion of our report, both Israel and the United States remain in the cross hairs of a worldwide Arab/Islamist “Jihad” that is basically cultural/theological in nature, and that will not concede an inch to conventional norms of “coexistence” or “peaceful settlement.” This situation of ongoing danger to “unbelievers” is hardly a pleasing one for Jerusalem and Washington, but it is one that must now be acknowledged forthrightly and dealt with intelligently. This means that it must be embedded in any serious theories of strategic survival.

In constructing workable strategies, Israel’s thinkers and planners must keep in mind that nothing will be more practical than good theory. In all complex strategy matters, theory is a net. Only those who cast will catch.

The ongoing war in Iraq has demonstrated the evident weaknesses of US strategic theory, and also of US national intelligence agencies. Israel, too, is not without a history of serious intelligence failure (to wit, Israeli problems in the 2006 Lebanon war), and Israel’s strategic future will require a substantially enhanced intelligence infrastructure together with certain highly refined “backup systems.” Facing still-growing isolation in the “international community,” it will also have to fend for itself more than ever before. In the end, Israel’s survival will depend largely upon plans and postures of its own making.

As my readers in The Jewish Press are well aware, Israel’s strategic future is still fraught with existential risk and danger. It is essential, therefore, that Israel still approach this uncertain future with utter realism and candor. A nuclear war against the Jewish State would likely be undertaken as a distinct form of genocide. There can, therefore, still be no greater obligation for Israel than avert any such new crimes against humanity.

Copyright © The Jewish Press, September 26, 2008. All rights reserved

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LOUIS RENÉ BERES, chair of Project Daniel, 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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