For the most part, we Jews have always accepted the obligation to ward off disaster as best we can. For the most part, we generally understand that all humans have free will. Saadia Gaon included freedom of will among the most central teachings of Judaism, and Maimonides affirmed that all human beings must stand alone in the world “to know what is good and what is evil, with none to prevent him from either doing good or evil.”
Israel, with an understandable desperation, still seeks to discover some discernible correctness and reassuring clarity in the theatre of world politics. However, the polite diplomatic meanings with which it is pressed to "make peace" remain squalid and elusive. Ominously, these meanings continue to seethe menacingly.
All things move in the midst of death, even nations and civilizations. From 1948 to the present day, certain of Israel's prime ministers, facing war, terrorism, or even genocide, have been deeply reluctant to admit core national vulnerabilities. Indeed, rather than acknowledge the plainly exterminatory intent and (increasingly) the corollary destructive capacity of determined enemies, these leaders have sometimes opted for (1) so-called terrorist exchanges; 2) utterly inexcusable deals of land for nothing; and (3) endlessly assorted surrenders of power.
Nuclear weapons and nuclear war. This is not a new subject for my column in The Jewish Press. What is new is the urgent need to confront, head on, an expanding international movement to eviscerate Israel's nuclear posture – and at precisely the precarious moment when this critical posture should actually be made more visible, and hence, more compelling.
Whenever an insurgent group resorts to openly unjust means, its actions become incontestably terroristic. Even if the ritualistic Palestinian claim of a hostile Israeli "occupation" were somehow reasonable rather than invented, the corresponding right of entitlement to oppose Israel "by any means necessary" would be false.
President Obama and Governor Romney strongly disagree on many issues but the daylight between them is especially great in the imminent matter of Palestinian statehood. For his part, the president still believes in a two-state solution, and in a corollary willingness of the Palestinian side to negotiate fairly. His opponent is unambiguous in a fully contrary insistence that the Palestinians are not interested in peace.
Today, conventional wisdom maintains that the George W. Bush administration had been a good friend to Israel and, unlike the Obama administration, had fought mightily against the creation of a Palestinian state. With this “wisdom” in mind, I ask readers to consider the following column of mine that originally appeared in The Jewish Press in August 2007.
Historically, viewed against the background of extensive and unapologetic terrorist perfidy in both Gaza and Lebanon, Israel has been innocent of any alleged disproportionality. All combatants, including all insurgents in Gaza and Lebanon, are bound to comply with the law of war of international law.
For the moment, at least, a state of Palestine does not exist. Historically, of course, such a country has never existed. Nonetheless, current supporters of Palestinian statehood (sometimes Jews as well as Arabs) have discovered substantial practical benefit in persistently referring to Israel and "Palestine" as if there were some existing legal equivalence between them. Indeed, repeated again and again, ritualistically, as if it were an incantation, such propagandistic usage is already transforming "Palestine" into a jurisprudential fait accompli.
At this point in Israel’s problematic diplomatic agenda, there is really only one overriding policy question: Can any form of negotiation with the Palestinians,...
We wonder about the endlessly volatile markets and also (not often enough) about plainly unequal distributions of national wealth, but are the nation’s official policy responses based on correct views of classical economic theory? In particular, what about Adam Smith and his oft-quoted arguments for “free market capitalism”? More than any other classical theorist, Smith has been embraced by conservatives.
The primary point of Israel's nuclear forces must be deterrence ex ante, not preemption or reprisal ex post. If, however, nuclear weapons should ever be introduced into a conflict between Israel and one or more of the several states that still wish to destroy it, some form of nuclear war fighting could ensue.
For Israel, and also its cross-pressured U.S. ally, there would be very difficult problems to solve if an enemy state such as Iran were permitted to go fully nuclear. These problems could lethally undermine the conceptually neat, but probably unrealistic, notion of balanced nuclear deterrence in the region.
Finally, after many years of effective disregard, a core irony in the matter of Iranian nuclearization can be acknowledged: For President Ahmadinejad, and also his clerical superiors, any prospect of hastening the Shiite apocalypse – a decidedly “sacred” prospect linked to war with Israel and/or the United States – could be welcomed. Naturally, this religion-driven view of a "terrible beauty" would contrast starkly with senior leadership attitudes in both Jerusalem and Washington. In these plainly more secular circles, of course, any thought of a conscious encouragement for Final Battle must always be rejected.
The Genocide Convention criminalizes not only various acts of genocide, but also (Article III) conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Articles II, III and IV of the Genocide Convention are fully applicable in all cases of direct and public incitement to commit genocide. For the Convention to be invoked, it is sufficient that any one of the state parties call for a meeting, through the United Nations, of all the state parties (Article VIII).
Genocide has always been prohibited by international law. In the words of the Genocide Convention, a binding multilateral treaty that codified post-Nuremberg norms and that entered into force in 1951, the sorts of murderous acts long advocated by Arab/Iranian leaders and jihadist terror groups qualify very precisely as criminal. The “moderate” Fatah organization’s June 2009 congress even called openly for the eradication of Israel.
Over the past several months President Obama has generally focused his attention away from the Middle East “peace process.” It is fair to ask, therefore, whether his core preferences for a settlement – carving a Palestinian state out of the still-living body of Israel and “a world free of nuclear weapons” (a world in which Israel would no longer be able to deter certain existential attacks) – still remain a matter of reasonable concern.
Sculptor Alberto Giacometti's “Man Pointing” gesticulates ominously. Emaciated, skeletal, and tormented, the iconic sculpture is an artistic expression of humankind's stalwart march toward suffering and recurring annihilation. Resembling the Swiss creator’s gaunt and unnaturally elongated figure, each of us has now become both a potential observer and a prospective casualty.
With the ongoing about Syrian regime atrocities, regional and global attention has seemingly shifted from more usual concerns about Palestinian statehood. Nonetheless, the two issues are closely related, especially in their common reflection of irremediable fragmentations in the Arab world and in their resultant propensities for escalating violence and cruelty.
“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” wrote the poet W.B. Yeats, “and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” Now, assembled in almost two hundred armed tribal camps politely called nation-states, all peoples – not only the people of Israel – coexist insecurely on a plainly anarchic planet. The core origins of this anarchy lie in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which put a codified end to the Thirty Years War.
In the past few years, on these pages of The Jewish Press, I have written several times about critical strategic implications of “chaos” and also of “irrationality” and “madness.” Still, I have never written about the fusion or juxtaposition of these seemingly distinct issues. However, because there are increasingly obvious and important potential interactions between them (military strategists would call such interactions “synergies,” or sometimes “force-multipliers”), I shall now examine these utterly core security matters with a view toward acknowledging their possible ways of coming together.
Rationality, Irrationality, And Madness: Core Enemy Differences For Israeli Nuclear Deterrence (Third of Three...
What, then, might be most important to Israel's prospectively irrational enemies, potentially even more important than their own physical survival as a state? One possible answer is the avoidance of certain forms of shame and humiliation. Another would be avoidance of the potentially unendurable charge that they had somehow defiled their most sacred religious obligations. Still another would be leaders' preferred avoidance of their own violent deaths, deaths that could be attributable to Israeli strategies of targeted killing and/or regime-targeting.
Rationality, Irrationality, And Madness: Core Enemy Differences For Israeli Nuclear Deterrence (Second of Three...
A "bolt-from-the-blue" CBN (chemical, biological or even nuclear) attack on Israel launched with the expectation of city-busting reprisals might not necessarily exhibit irrationality or madness. Within such an attacking state's particular ordering of preferences, any presumed religious obligation to annihilate the "Zionist Entity" could represent the overriding value.
Rationality, Irrationality, And Madness Core Enemy Differences For Israeli Nuclear Deterrence (First of Three...
Over the years, in several of my columns in The Jewish Press, I have examined the critical bases of Israeli nuclear deterrence. Recently, in consequence of the growing threat of Iranian nuclearization, increasing attention has been directed toward pertinent issues of enemy rationality. With this in mind, the following three-part column will seek to explain the impact of "irrationality" on Israel's deterrence posture, and also the vital differences between prospective Iranian irrationality and "madness."
It is time to look behind the news. Operation Iraqi Freedom is officially concluded; U.S. operations in Afghanistan are reportedly moving in a similar direction. More generically, however, debate about combat operations, strategy and tactics remains ongoing.