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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Preparing for a Primal Struggle

Within Israel's decisional boundaries, diplomatic processes that are premised on assumptions of reason and rationality may soon need to be reconsidered.
Louis Rene Beres

Louis Rene Beres

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How can this be? Because after a time, even multiple “minor” insults to an organism can occasion a significantly wider breakdown of “immunities,” one that could pave the way for more obviously recalcitrant, ultimately life-endangering pathogens.

Taken by itself, any one such minor insult; e.g., a local infection, an injury, an impediment to vision or hearing or memory, will not produce death. Yet cumulatively, incrementally, over time, these “minor” insults could prove fatal, either (recalling the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer) by affecting the organism’s overall will to live or simply by making it possible for a more corrosively major insult to take effect.

Taken individually, Israel’s past and future surrenders of land, its reluctance to accept certain life-saving preemption options, and its still-misdirected negotiation of so-called peace agreements may not bring about the end. Taken together, however, these insults, occurring, as they would, within a substantially wider pattern of chaos and anarchy, could have a weakening effect on the Israeli organism.

Plainly, it remains unclear whether the principal effect here would be one that impairs the Jewish state’s will to endure, or one that could actually open Israel up to a devastating missile attack or calamitous act of terror.

What is clear, however, is that Israeli leaders must ask themselves the following basic question: What is the true form and meaning of chaos in world politics, and how should this shifting geometry of disintegration affect our national survival strategy? The answers will come from imaginative efforts at fashioning a deeper understanding of small-state power obligations, especially under any worsening “natural” conditions.

In the final analysis, such existential obligations will be reducible to various improved methods of national self-reliance, including assorted preparations for deterrence, preemption, and every identifiable form of warfare. For Israel this will mean, among other things, steady enhancements of ballistic missile defense and recognizable movements away from the country’s increasingly antiquated posture of deliberate nuclear ambiguity.

For Israel in particular any further chaotic disintegration in world politics could soon offer a profoundly serious challenge. If this challenge is correctly accepted in Jerusalem as a preeminently intellectual rather than political effort, the beleaguered Jewish state’s strategies of national survival will stand a much better chance of achieving success.

Whatever is ultimately done (or not done) about Syria’s chemical weapons and Iran’s still-impending nuclear ones, the more critically ongoing challenge for Israel will doubtlessly coalesce around this question:

How, in a still-splintering world of unrelieved anarchy, can we best figure out, and also apply, viable long-term security policies?

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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.


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