web analytics
November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



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

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Arab butchers in the Har Nof massacre left Canadian-Israeli Howie Rothman in a coma. Above: Rothman and two of his children.
Canadian-Israeli in Coma from Har Nof Massacre
Latest Indepth Stories
Kfar Kana Riots

Riot started when Muslim students wore the Pal. kaffiyeh and Druze students demanded them removed

Dalia Lemkos, HY"D Is this the image you think of when you hear the word "settler?"

The “Media” didn’t want us to know what a kind, giving, loving young woman Dalia was.

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

Temple_Mount_aerial_from_south_tb_q010703bsr-300x225

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

Having a strong community presence at the polls shows our elected officials we care about the issues

Israel’s Temple Mount policy prefers to blames the Jews-not the attackers-for the crisis.

When Islam conquered the Holy Land, it made its capital in Ramle of all places, not in Jerusalem.

I joined the large crowd but this time it was more personal; my cousin Aryeh was one of the victims.

Terrorists aren’t driven by social, economic, or other grievances, rather by a fanatical worldview.

The phrase that the “Arabs are resorting to violence” is disgraceful and blames the victim.

Tuesday, Yom Shlishi, a doubly good day in the Torah, Esav’s hands tried to silence Yaakov’s voice.

Because of the disparate nature of the perpetrators, who are also relatively young, and given the lack of more traditional targets and the reverence Palestinians have for their homes, one now hears talk of Israel returning to a policy of destroying the houses of terrorists’ families.

In any event, the Constitution gives Congress what is popularly described as the “power of the purse” – that is, the power to raise revenues through taxation and to decide how the money should be sent.

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

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/israels-nuclear-ambiguity-opportunity-or-liability/2010/10/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: