From an existential standpoint, Israel must quickly change its strategic and diplomatic course, or prepare to disappear in increments. More specifically, with a new prime minister in place, Israel will soon need to reassess its presumed faith in the so-called Road Map to Peace in the Middle East. For his part, Mr. Obama, the new American president – counseled by the same general collection of foreign policy “experts” – will continue to support this same blighted cartography. It follows that if Israel’s new leader should decide to retreat from the Road Map, as indeed Prime Minister Netanyahu should, there would be an immediate and consequential breach with Mr. Obama.
One underlying issue of any such required Israeli reassessment must be the nuanced question of enemy rationality. If Israel should begin to face a Jihadi adversary that values certain presumed religious expectations more highly than its own physical survival, deterrence could be immobilized. This would mean, at least in the future, a heightened probability of nuclear and/or biological war. As my regular readers already know, it could also place Israel in the precise cross hairs of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) terrorism.
We Jews can learn from the great Irish poet. “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” says W.B. Yeats, “and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” Assembled in assorted armed camps euphemistically called nation-states, all peoples coexist uneasily and insecurely in an increasingly anarchic world. In time, there will be no safety in arms, no rescue from political authority, no answers from science. New wars may rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and till all things human are leveled in a vast chaos.
For Israel, especially, there are vital lessons. These lessons, which should now be learned by the new prime minister, must be drawn from a subtle awareness that strategic truth may sometimes emerge only through paradox, and that approaching national destruction may actually contain within itself certain core elements of genuine remediation and countervailing power.
Significantly, the whole world is basically a system. What happens in any one part affects what happens in all the other parts. When a particular deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one nation to another, the effects can rapidly undermine international stability. When deterioration is sudden and catastrophic, as it would be following the start of unconventional war and/or unconventional terrorism, the corollary effects would also be sudden and catastrophic.
The State of Israel exists precariously amid growing chaos. Aware that an incremental collapse of world authority structures will impact its friends as well as its enemies, new leaders of the Jewish State will need to advance certain plausible premonitions of collapse in order to chart durable roads to survival.
Let us be frank. Frightening as it may sound, Israel’s new leaders will need to consider exactly how they would respond to international life in a state of nature.The triggering mechanism of collapse could originate from a variety of possible mass-casualty attacks against Israel, or from similar attacks against other western democracies. Here, even the United States would not be immune.
Chaotic disintegration of the world system will transform the Israeli system. Such transformation could involve total or near-total destruction. In anticipation, Israel will soon have to orient its strategic planning to an assortment of worst-case prospects, focusing more deliberately on a wide range of primarily self-help security options. Certain diplomatic processes that are conveniently but erroneously premised on assumptions of reason and rationality will have to be renounced in favor of greater realism. This means that President Barack Obama, together with Israel’s new prime minister, will have to replace the long-dishonored and inherently flawed Road Map with a more promising set of directions.
As readers of The Jewish Press are already well aware, Israel’s always one-sided surrender of territories, its mistaken reluctance to accept certain indispensable preemption options, and its multiple releases of live terrorists in exchange for slain Jews may not bring about direct defeat. Taken together, however, these policy errors will have a cumulatively weakening effect on Israel. Whether the principal effect here will be one that “merely” impairs the Jewish State’s commitment to endure, or one that also opens it to a devastating missile attack and/or to major acts of terror, is still not clear.
The Road Map remains a horribly twisted expression of cartography. To create regional peace, President Obama, together with Prime Minister Netanyahu, will need much better maps. Replacing “roadblocks” and “detours” with a more navigable (for Israel) “itinerary,” these leaders will quickly need to uncover the vanishing opportunities for diplomatic order in the midst of emerging chaos. Here, their fundamental task will be far more intellectual than political, and will require genuine wisdom as well as real courage.
This task must be accomplished very quickly. Israel is running out of time.
Copyright © The Jewish Press, May 1, 2009. All rights reserved.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on terrorism and nuclear security matters. Born in Switzerland, and Chair of Project Daniel, he is the author of ten books on international relations and international law, including some of the earliest major works on Israel’s nuclear strategy. Dr. Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The JewishPress.