“For By Wise Counsel, Thou Shalt Make Thy War”
Proverbs 24, 6
Pretended irrationality can be a double-edged sword. Brandished too irrationally, Israeli preparations for a Samson Option could encourage enemy preemptions. Here, again, the specter of a nuclear Iran should emerge front and center. After all, sanctions against Iran have represented little more than a fly on the elephant’s back.
Left to themselves, neither deterred nor preempted, certain Arab and/or other Islamic enemies of Israel, especially after the U.S.-assisted creation of a Palestinian state, could bring the Jewish state face-to-face with the palpable torments of Dante’s Inferno, “Into the eternal darkness, into fire, into ice.” Israeli strategic planners and political leaders, therefore, should soon begin to acknowledge an absolutely primary obligation to: (a) strengthen their country’s nuclear security posture; and (b) ensure that any failure of nuclear deterrence would not spark nuclear war or nuclear terror.
One way for Israel to partially meet this obligation, particularly after President Obama’s undimmed support for Palestine, and his equally-misguided support for “a world free of nuclear weapons” – support now manifested formally in the New START Treaty with Russia – would be to focus more openly and precisely on the Samson Option. In so doing, considerable attention will need to be directed to the presumed rationality of enemy leaderships, both state and sub-state. How can the capable IDF strategist recognize the crucial difference between real and pretended irrationality?
This will become an urgent question; indeed, the urgent question. In those rare cases where an enemy state or terror group might not value its own physical survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences, the standard logic of deterrence would be rendered inoperable. In such cases, all bets would be off regarding probable enemy reactions to Israeli threats of retaliation. The probability of any such case arising may be very low, but the attendant disutility of any single case could still be intolerably high.
IDF planners and other interested strategists should now also consider the cumulative capabilities and intentions of Israel’s non-state enemies; that is, the entire configuration of anti-Israel terrorist groups. Such assessments should now offer more than a simple group-by-group inventory of enemy assets and intentions. These groups should also now be considered in their entirety, collectively, as they may interrelate with one another vis-à-vis Israel.
These several hostile non-state organizations will also need to be examined in their interactive relationships with core enemy states. Recalling, for example, the discussion of Palestine (above), it is important to recognize and understand all possible synergies with Iran and Syria in particular.
In the matter of synergies, interested strategists will also need to consider so-called “force multipliers.” A force multiplier is a collection of related characteristics, other than weapons and size of force that may make any military organization more effective in combat. A force multiplier may be generalship; tactical surprise; tactical mobility or particular command/control system enhancements.
Seeking improved force multipliers for Israel, strategic thinkers should now assess well-integrated elements of cyber-warfare, and a reciprocal capacity to prevent and blunt any incoming cyber-attacks. Today, this particular force multiplier could even prove to be decisive.
In a world of growing international anarchy, IDF planners should investigate all pertinent enemy force multipliers; challenging and undermining enemy force multipliers; and developing/ refining its own force multipliers. More specifically, this means an appropriately heavy IDF emphasis on air superiority; communications; intelligence and surprise. Again, recalling Moshe Dayan’s counter-intuitive injunction, it may also mean a heightened awareness of the possible benefits of pretended irrationality (Samson Option).
The state system of international statecraft came into being in the 17th century, after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. For the most part, our “Westphalian” system remains almost entirely anarchic. Several emerging hazards to Israeli national security could be shaped by this primary condition.
Nonetheless, to observant strategists, there will also be a discernible geometry of chaos, and calculating the implications of this particular “geometry” will prove to be an important and cost-effective task. Before this can happen, interested strategists must take informed steps to ensure that their analyses and recommendations are detached from any false hopes. Recalling Thucydides, writing prophetically (416 BCE) on the ultimatum of the Athenians to the Melians during the Peloponnesian War: “Hope is by nature an expensive commodity, and those who are risking their all on one cast find out what it means only when they are already ruined .”
Strategic nuclear policy is a net. Only those who cast can catch.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security matters. Born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945, he was Chair of Project Daniel, and, in Fall 2009, published “Facing Iran’s Ongoing Nuclearization: A Retrospective on Project Daniel,”International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 22, No. 3., pp. 491-514. Recent related publications include: “Understanding the `Correlation of Forces` in the Middle East: Israel’s Urgent Strategic Imperative,” TheIsrael Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. 4., No. 1, 2009, pp. 77 – 88; “Israel, Iran and Project Daniel,” a Working Paper for the Ninth Annual Herzliya Conference on the Balance of Israel’s National Security and Resilience, Israel, February 2-4, 2009; “Israel’s Uncertain Strategic Future,” Parameters: U.S. Army War College Quarterly, Spring 2007, pp. 37-54; and “Israel and the Bomb,” InternationalSecurity (Harvard), Summer 2004, pp. 175 – 180. Professor Beres is also the author of occasional opinion columns in such newspapers as The New York Times; The Washington Post; The Washington Times; Los Angeles Times; The Christian Science Monitor; USA Today; The Boston Globe; Chicago Tribune; Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. He is also Strategic and Military Affairs analyst for The Jewish Press.