web analytics
July 24, 2014 / 26 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity: Opportunity Or Liability? (Part I)


Beres-Louis-Rene

“For By Wise Counsel, Thou Shalt Make Thy War”

Proverbs  24,6

 

            Worldwide, it is generally assumed that Israel’s nuclear policy of deliberate ambiguity makes good sense. Everyone already knows that Israel has “the Bomb.”  So, why “stir the pot” by retreating from “opacity?”

 

            Deducible from this conventional argument, removing “the bomb” from Israel’s “basement” would elicit widespread and needless global condemnation. Moreover, such condemnation would include some very sharp and very consequential disapproval from Washington.

 

            Still, as I have made plain in previous columns, the core strategic issues here are not really plain and straightforward.  Rather, in the uniquely arcane world of Israeli nuclear deterrence, it can never be enough that enemy states simply acknowledge the Jewish state’s nuclear status. Among other things, it is important that these states also believe that Israel has usable nuclear weapons, and that Jerusalem would be willing to employ these weapons in certain very precise and readily identifiable situations.

 

            There are, therefore, some very sound reasons to doubt the conventional wisdom that Israel would necessarily benefit from a rigidly determined continuance of nuclear ambiguity.

 

             Israel needs its nuclear weapons. This basic fact is incontestable. Without these weapons, as I have written often, Israel could not survive. 

 

            For Israel, the principal risks are more than merely generic or general. This is because its existing regional adversaries will sometime be joined by: (1) a new enemy Arab state of  Palestine;” and  (2) a newly nuclear enemy Iran. At a minimum, if deprived of its own nuclear weapons, Israel would then be unable to deter major enemy aggressions. Without these special weapons, Israel could not respond convincingly to existential hazards with plausible threats of retaliation and/or counter-retaliation.

 

             At the same time, just having nuclear weapons, even when they are plainly recognized by enemy states, will not ensure successful deterrence. In this connection, although starkly counter-intuitive, an appropriately selective and nuanced end to deliberate ambiguity could substantially improve and sustain Israel’s otherwise-imperiled nuclear deterrent.  More exactly, the probability of assorted enemy attacks in the future could be reduced by making available certain additional information concerning Israel’s nuclear weapons, and its relevant strategic postures. This crucial information would center on distinctly major issues of both nuclear capability, and decisional willingness.

 

             Skeptics will disagree. It is, after all, reasonable to assert that nuclear opacity has  “worked” thus far.  While Israel’s nuclear ambiguity has done little to deter “ordinary” enemy aggressions or multiple acts of terror, it has succeeded in keeping the country’s enemies from mounting authentically existential aggressions.

 

            These larger aggressions could have been mounted without nuclear or biological weapons. As the nineteenth-century Prussian strategic theorist, Karl von Clausewitz, observed in his classic essay, On War, there inevitably does come a military tipping point when “mass counts.”

 

            Israel is half the size of Lake Michigan. Its enemies have always had an undeniable advantage in “mass.”  Excluding non-Arab Pakistan, none of Israel’s Jihadist foes has “The Bomb.”  But together, in a determined collaboration, they could still have acquired the capacity to carry out intolerably lethal assaults. Acting collectively, these states and their insurgent proxies, even without nuclear weapons, could already have inflicted unacceptable harms upon the Jewish state.

 

            An integral part of Israel’s multi-layered security system lies in active or ballistic missile defenses – essentially, the Arrow or “Hetz.” Yet, even the well-regarded and successfully tested Arrow could never achieve a sufficiently high probability of intercept to adequately protect Israeli civilians. No system of ballistic missile defense can ever be entirely “leak proof,” and even a single incoming nuclear missile that managed to penetrate Arrow defenses could kill tens or hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Significantly, however, the inherent “leakage” limitations of Arrow would be correspondingly less consequential if Israel’s continuing reliance on deliberate ambiguity were suitably diminished.

 

To Be Continued

 

Louis René Beres  (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) was Chair of Project Daniel.  Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue, he is the author of many major books and articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war, including publications in International Security (Harvard); World Politics (Princeton); The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Nativ (Israel); The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs; Parameters: The Professional Journal of the US Army War College; Special Warfare (DoD); Studies in Conflict and Terrorism; Strategic Review; Contemporary Security Policy; Armed Forces and Society; Israel Affairs; Comparative Strategy; and The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Professor Beres’ monographs on nuclear strategy and nuclear war have been published by The Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel); The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (University of Notre Dame); The Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva); and the Monograph Series on World Affairs (University of Denver). His frequent opinion columns have appeared in The New York Times; Christian Science Monitor; Chicago Tribune; Washington Post; Washington Times; Boston Globe; USA Today; The Jerusalem Post;  Ha’aretz (Israel); Neue Zuricher Zeitung (Switzerland); and U.S. News & World Report.

 

Dr. Louis René Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

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.


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 “Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity: Opportunity Or Liability? (Part I)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. In 2007. it was repeatedly used as a launch site for mortars. (Archive 2007)
Update: Hamas Misfired Rocket Hit UNRWA School where 17 Killed
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF soldier injured in Gaza is evacuated by helicopter to Soroka hospital.

The residents of Gaza were not occupied by the Hamas; they voted for the terror organization in democratic elections, by a huge majority, by virtue of its uncompromising struggle against Israel. For this reason, the separation between the armed Hamas terrorists and those ‘not involved’ or ‘innocents’ is false. The Gazans are now paying for […]

Shimon Peres meets with the family of fallen IDF soldier Max Steinberg.

As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay is calling for an investigation of Israel's military actions in Gaza. (archive photo)

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.

Rabbi Kahane spoke of transfer, because it was what the Torah spoke of.

There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write. I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza. No […]

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”

The truth is we seldom explore with kids what prayer is supposed to be about.

Almost as one, Jews around the world are acknowledging the day-to-day peril facing ordinary Jews in Israel and the extraordinary service of the IDF in protecting them.

So on the one hand Secretary Kerry makes no bones about who is at fault for the current hostilities: he clearly blames Hamas.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

The anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.

We mourn the dead, wish a speedy recovery to the wounded, and pray that God guides the government.

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

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

Louis Rene Beres

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.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s’s overall security.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/israels-nuclear-ambiguity-opportunity-or-liability/2010/10/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: