‘For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war’
My prior column in this special series dealt with the existential threat to Israel. To best deal with this multifaceted threat, Project Daniel recommended to Prime Minister Sharon that Israel do everything possible to prevent a coalition of enemy states from coming into possession of mass destruction weapons, and that this effort be undertaken while Israel continues with its longstanding policy of nuclear ambiguity. An earlier column in this series, however, pointed out that if Israel should ever fail for any reason, to prevent enemy states from acquiring certain mega-weapons, it would then need – immediately – to end its nuclear ambiguity.
Here, Israel would proceed to enhance its nuclear deterrent with selective “leaks” regarding its relevant strategic forces. This is because a policy of continued ambiguity could cast lethal doubts upon the survivability and penetration-capability of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Regarding preemption, international law has long allowed for states to initiate forceful defensive measures when there exists “imminent danger” of aggression. This rule of “anticipatory self-defense” has been expanded and reinforced by President George W. Bush’s issuance of The National Security Strategy Of The United States Of America. Released on September 20, 2002, this document asserts, inter alia, that traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against an enemy “whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents….” As Israel is substantially less defensible and more vulnerable than the United States, its particular right to resort to anticipatory self-defense under threat of readily identifiable existential harms is beyond legal question.
Following the Bush doctrine expansion of preemption, the Group suggested to Prime Minister Sharon that such policy pertain as well to certain nuclear and/or biological WMD threats against Israel; that this policy be codified as doctrine; and that these actions be conventional in nature. Such preemption may be overt or covert, and range from “decapitation” to full-scale military operations.
Further, the Group advised that decapitation may apply to both enemy leadership elites (state and non- state) and to various categories of technical experts who would be essential to the fashioning of enemy WMD arsenals, e.g., nuclear scientists. In this connection, we may all recall that Israel followed similar policy in the early years of the Jewish state, when German scientists who had worked for Hitler had moved on to help Egypt and Syria. Some of these ex-Nazis who persisted with their work toward a “Final Solution” were made to “disappear.”
The Group reminded Prime Minister Sharon that any forcible prevention of enemy nuclear/ biological deployment would be profoundly different from an Israeli preemption of an existing enemy nuclear/biological force. Attempts at preemption against an enemy that had already been allowed to go nuclear/biological may be too risky and could invite an existential retaliation. It was also recommended that any preemptions be carried out by conventional high-precision weapons, not only because they are likely to be more effective than nuclear weapons, but also because preemption with nuclear weapons could be wrongly interpreted as Israeli nuclear first-strikes. If unsuccessful, these preemptive strikes could elicit an enemy’s “countervalue” second strike; that is, a deadly attack upon Israeli civilian populations.
The Group advised emphatically that Israel should avoid non-conventional exchanges with enemy states wherever possible. It is not in Israel’s interest to engage these states in WMD warfare if other options exist.
Israel’s Strategic Future does not instruct how to “win” a war in a WMD Middle-East environment. Rather, it describes what we, the members of Project Daniel, consider the necessary, realistic and optimal conditions for nonbelligerence toward Israel in the region. These conditions include a coherent and comprehensive Israeli doctrine for preemption, warfighting, deterrence and defense.
The Group advised the Prime Minister that there is no operational need for low-yield nuclear weapons geared to actual battlefield use. Overall, we recommended that the most efficient yield for Israeli deterrence and counterstrike purposes be a “countervalue” targeted warhead at a level sufficient to hit the aggressor’s principal population centers and fully compromise that aggressor’s national viability. We urged that Israel make absolutely every effort to avoid ever using nuclear weapons in support of conventional war operations. These weapons could create a seamless web of conventional and nuclear battlefields that Israel should scrupulously avoid.
The Group considers it gainful for Israel to plan for regime-targeting in certain instances. With direct threats employed against individual enemy leaders and possible others, costs to Israel could be very much lower than alternative forms of warfare. At the same time, threats of regime targeting could be even more persuasive than threats to destroy enemy weapons and infrastructures, but only if the prospective victims were first made to feel sufficiently at risk.
The Group advanced a final set of suggestions concerning anticipatory self-defense. Israel must be empowered with a “Long Arm” to meet its preemption objectives. This means long-range fighter aircraft with capability to penetrate deep, heavily defended areas, and to survive. It also means air- refueling tankers; communications satellites; and long-range unmanned aerial vehicles. More generally, it means survivable precision weapons with high lethality; and also considerably refined electronic warfare and stealth capacities.
My next column will deal with Project Daniel’s more precise recommendations regarding deterrence and defense. Following that column, the tenth and final article in this special series will discuss our various conclusions.
Readers can access the full report of “Project Daniel” online by going to the website of the Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel) – www.acpr.org.il – or by requesting the printed monograph from the Ariel Center. It is ACPR Policy Paper No. 155 (May 2004) and can be ordered by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law. He is Chair of Project Daniel as well as Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at: Beres@polsci.purdue.edu.