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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘deterrence’

Israel, Iran, And The Shiite Apocalypse (Second of Three Parts)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

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.

The multi-fragmented Middle East could likely not sustain the sort of comforting equilibrium that once characterized U.S.-Soviet relations. For example, it would be hard to imagine such an area’s successful and long-term reliance upon MAD, or Mutual Assured Destruction.

Whether for reasons of miscalculation, accident, unauthorized capacity to fire, outright irrationality, or the presumed imperatives of jihad, an enemy state in this fevered neighborhood could sometime opt to launch a nuclear first-strike against Israel, in spite of Israel’s own obvious and forseeably secure nuclear capability. A Cold War “balance of terror” could not readily exist in the Middle East.

After absorbing any enemy nuclear aggression, Israel would certainly respond with a nuclear retaliatory strike. Though nothing is publicly known about Israel’s precise targeting doctrine, such a reprisal would almost certainly be launched against the aggressor’s capital city and/or similarly high-value urban targets. There would be no assurances, in response to this particular kind of authentically genocidal aggression, that Israel might limit itself to striking back against exclusively military targets.

But what if enemy first strikes were to involve “only” chemical, and/or “minor” biological weapons? In that case, Israel might still launch a presumptively proportionate nuclear reprisal, but this would depend largely upon Israel’s calculated expectations of follow-on aggression, and also on its associated determinations of comparative damage-limitation.

Should Israel absorb a massive conventional first strike, a nuclear retaliation could not be automatically ruled out. This argument is plausible if: (1) the aggressor were perceived to hold nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction in reserve; and/or (2) Israel’s leaders were to believe that non-nuclear retaliations could not prevent national annihilation.

Recognizing Israel’s exceptionally small size, its calculated threshold of existential harms could be considerably lower than Israel’s total physical devastation. In 2003, this precise judgment was contained in the Project Daniel final report, “Israel’s Strategic Future” (www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/03-ISSUE/daniel-3.htm).

Facing imminent attacks, Israel, even if it had delayed launching defensive first strikes, could still decide to preempt enemy aggression with pertinent conventional forces. The targeted state’s response would then largely determine Israel’s subsequent moves. If this response were in any way nuclear, Israel would assuredly undertake prompt nuclear counter-retaliation. And if this enemy retaliation were to involve “only” chemical and/or biological weapons, Israel might still plan to undertake a quantum escalatory initiative.

This sort of initiative is known in military parlance as “escalation dominance.” It could be necessary, even indispensable, to Israel’s preservation of intra-war deterrence. Here we need to bear in mind that deterrence would not necessarily cease functioning upon the commencement of hostilities. It could, in fact, continue to play a very different, but still more or less productive role, during any ensuing conflict.

If an enemy state’s response to an Israeli preemption were limited to hard-target, conventional strikes, it is improbable that Israel would ever resort to nuclear counter-retaliation. But if the enemy state’s conventional retaliation were an all-out strike directed toward Israel’s civilian populations, as well as to Israeli military targets, an Israeli nuclear counter-retaliation could not be ruled out.

Such a counter-retaliation could be excluded only if the enemy state’s conventional retaliations were entirely proportionate to Israel’s preemption; confined entirely to Israeli military targets; circumscribed by the legal limits of “military necessity”; and accompanied by explicit and verifiable assurances of no further escalation.

It is almost inconceivable that Israel would ever decide to preempt any enemy state aggression with a defensive nuclear strike. While particular circumstances could arise where such a defensive strike would be completely rational, and also be entirely lawful according to the authoritative 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (which refused to prohibit certain residual resorts to nuclear weapons that are presumed essential to national survival), it is still implausible that Israel would ever permit itself to reach such distinctly all-or-nothing circumstances.

Also worth mentioning is that Israel remains pledged to a military doctrine of “purity of arms” and to incomparably strict compliance with humanitarian international law, especially the imperative minimization of collateral, or non-combatant, harm.

Ashlag Rebbe: Secular Youths Should Be Conscripted into Torah Study

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The Ashlag Rebbe, Rabbi Simcha Avraham Halevy’s weekly talk last Shabbat included some sharp comments on the social wedge issue of equality in shouldering the military burden in Israel and the attempts to conscript Haredi yeshiva students, the website Kikar HaShabbat reported.

The Ashlag Chasidic dynasty was founded by Rabbi Yehuda Leib Halevy Ashlag from Warsaw, Poland. While most Chasidic dynasties are named after their town of origin, this one is known by the surname of its rebbes.

The Ashlag Rebbe said: “Unfortunately we have recently begun to hear about malicious plans of regime leaders here in our Holy Land, to stick their paws in the sacred halls of the yeshivas, with vain claims about equal burden and responsibility, in order to enlist the yeshiva students for military service – this will not be.”

He added: “The stupidity of their hearts keeps them from seeing and understanding that the men of Israel who prefer sitting on yeshiva benches even though there are opportunities open before them to earn a good living and become rich thanks to their intelligence – and yet they prefer to kill themselves in her tent of Torah, sacrificing themselves many hours each day. Those who leave behind them the vanities of this world – they are the real defenders of the nation of Israel in the land of Israel …”

The Ashlag Rebbe addressed the issue of inequality in sharing the burden, and argued that inequality is caused by the secular Jews  who do not study Torah and do not keep the commandments: “Regarding the claim of not shouldering the burden and the problem with equality, we call on our erring brethren who do not labor to learn Torah and do not obey the commandments: Come share the burden of learning Torah with devotion, for the sake of the nation of Israel.”

He also said, “The nation of Israel did not survive our brutal history by the deterrence of the IDF, nor by the might of the State of Israel, but by the merit of the study of Torah.”

Finally, the Ashlag Rebbe suggested penalties for anyone who dares dodge the obligation to study Torah and keep the mitzvot.

 

General Salami Warns Enemies’ Interests “Within Range” of Iran’s Missiles

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Mehr quotes the deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) who said that Iran’s enemies’ strategic interests in the region are within the range of Iranian missiles.

“In our strategic planning, we have defined a radius named the radius of deterrence, which includes all strategic interests of the enemy in the region, so that we can manage the battle at any level in case of the outbreak of war,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami said during a televised interview broadcast live on Iranian television on Saturday.

Salami said that the IRGC is capable of destroying the enemy’s moving military targets using its domestically produced ballistic missiles.

According to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Iran’s newest missile has a range of at least 1,200 miles, which would include Israel, as well as and Iraq and the 134,000 U.S. troops stationed there. The radius also includes U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, all of them Sunni Arab-dominated countries that are rivals of Shiite Iran.

In May, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned of a new regional “arms race.”

“I say with certainty that we are able to hit all moving targets using ballistic missiles which follow a curved path, travel several times faster than sound after entering the atmosphere, and can hardly be tracked and destroyed,” Salami said.

In addition, he said that the Naval Force of the IRGC has been equipped with cruise missiles which are radar-evading and enjoy advanced capabilities in terms of range, precision, and maneuverability.

Rationality, Irrationality, And Madness Core Enemy Differences For Israeli Nuclear Deterrence (First of Three Parts)

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

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.”

For all states in world politics, successful strategies of deterrence require assumptions of enemy rationality. In the absence of rationality – that is, in those relatively rare or residual circumstances where an enemy country would rank certain values or preferences more highly than staying alive as a nation – deterrence could fail. In those potentially more serious situations involving nuclear deterrence, the direct consequences of any such failure could be catastrophic, stark, and even unprecedented.

Significantly, irrationality is not the same as “crazy” or “mad.” An irrational enemy leadership would still have a distinct and identifiable hierarchy of preferences, albeit one in which national survival does not always rank at the top. In more technical terms, analysts would say that these irrational state actors still have an order of preferences that is “consistent” and “transitive.”

A “crazy” or “mad” leadership, however, would have no discernible order of preferences; its actions, for the most part, would be random and unpredictable. It goes without saying that facing a mad adversary in world politics is worse than facing a merely irrational adversary. In different terms, although it might still be possible and purposeful to try to deter an irrational enemy, there would be little point to seeking deterrence against a mad one.

“Do you know what it means to find yourselves face to face with a madman?” asks Luigi Pirandello’s Henry IV. “Madmen, lucky folk, construct without logic, or rather with a logic that flies like a feather.”

What is true for individuals is sometimes also true for states. In the sometimes-unpredictable theater of modern world politics, a drama that often bristles with genuine absurdity, decisions that rest upon ordinary logic can quickly crumble before madness. Dangers may reach the most portentous level when madness and a nuclear weapons capability come together.

Enter Israel and Iran. Soon, because not a single responsible member of the international community has demonstrated a determinable willingness to undertake appropriately preemptive action (“anticipatory self-defense,” in the formal language of law), the Jewish state may have to face an expressly genocidal Iranian nuclear adversary. Although improbable, a potentially suicidal enemy state in Iran, one animated by graphically precise visions of a Shiite apocalypse, cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Iran’s current leadership, and possibly even a successor reformist government in Tehran, could, at some point, choose to value Israel’s physical destruction more highly than even its own physical survival. Should this happen, the play would almost certainly end badly for all actors. In theatrical terms, exeunt omnes.

Nonetheless, Israel’s ultimate source of national security must lie in sustained nuclear deterrence. Although still implicit or ambiguous, and not yet open or disclosed, this Israeli bomb in the basement could crumble before madness.

Though the logic of deterrence has always rested upon an assumption of rationality, history reveals the persistent fragility of any such understanding. We already know all too well that nations can sometimes behave in ways that are consciously, and even conspicuously, self-destructive.

Sometimes, mirroring the infrequent but decisively unpredictable behavior of individual human beings, national leaders can choose to assign the very highest value to certain preferences other than collective self-preservation – a Gotterdammerung scenario.

For the moment, no single Arab or Iranian adversary of Israel would appear to be authentically irrational or mad. Harsh enemy rhetoric notwithstanding, no current adversary appears ready to launch a major first strike against Israel using weapons of mass destruction, due to the expectation that it would thereby elicit a devastating reprisal.

Of course, miscalculations and errors in information could still lead a perfectly rational enemy state to strike first, but this decision, by definition, would not be the outcome of irrationality or madness. In strategic thinking, judgments of rationality and irrationality are always based upon prior intent.

Certain enemy states, most likely Iran, could one day decide that excising the “Jewish cancer” or the “enemies of Allah” from the Middle East would be worth the most staggering costs. In principle, at least, this genocidal prospect could still be avoided by Israel using pertinent “hard target” preemptions. Increasingly, however, any such once-reasonable expressions of anticipatory self-defense are now difficult or impossible to imagine. Operationally, a successful preemption is now almost certainly too late.

All pertinent Iranian nuclear assets have likely been deeply hardened, widely dispersed, and substantially multiplied. For Israel, there would also be considerable political costs to any preemption. A preemptive attack, even one that becomes an operational failure, would elicit overwhelming public and diplomatic condemnation.

Alan Dershowitz: Why Deterrence Won’t Work Against Iran

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Following President Obama’s strong renunciation of “containment” and his expression of willingness to use military force as a last resort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, some on the left continue to oppose any threat to use the military option. Leading this approach is Fareed Zakaria, who recently on his CNN program, characterized the Obama policy as “a serious error,” and called instead for a “robust policy of containment and deterrence.”

But the policy that Zakaria is proposing is anything but robust. To the contrary, it is a call for inaction. It presumed that Iran will be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, but that they will be deterred from actually using them by the threat of nuclear retaliation. Zakaria points to the fact that deterrence succeeded in preventing war between the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as between India and Pakistan. He claims that each side was effectively deterred by the threat of mutually assured destruction. He says it will work equally well with Iran.

Let us pause for a moment to understand precisely what a policy of deterrence entails. Any such policy is based on the promise that if one side launches a nuclear attack, the other side will retaliate with an equally devastating nuclear attack, thus assuring the destruction of both societies and the deaths of millions of innocent civilians. The first question therefore is whether the United States would actually be willing to retaliate against a nuclear attack on Israel by dropping nuclear bombs on Tehran, killing millions of its civilian inhabitants. The second question is whether any civilized country—the United States or Israel—should be willing to kill millions of Iranian civilians because their leaders made a decision to use nuclear weapons against Israel or the United States. The third question—and the one never asked by advocates of deterrence—is whether it would be legal, under the laws of war, to target millions of civilians in a retaliatory nuclear attack. These are the kinds of questions that Fareed Zakaria and his dovish colleagues refuse to ask. And the reason they refuse to ask these hard questions is precisely because we know the answers they would give: They would be categorically opposed to any retaliatory attack that targeted civilians in a tit-for-tat implementation of a mutually assured destruction policy of deterrence. If you don’t believe me, ask him!

As to the legality of nuclear deterrence, the International Court of Justice issued a decision in 1996, in a case challenging the lawfulness of using, or threatening to use, nuclear weapons. The majority decision declined “to pronounce…on the practice known as ‘the policy of deterrence’.” It did rule unanimously, however, that any “threat or use of nuclear weapons” must “be compatible with the requirements of the international law applicable in armed conflict, particularly those of the principles and rules of international humanitarian law…” These rules, of course, generally forbid the targeting of civilian population centers and require proportionality even in the bombing of military targets. Since nuclear weapons are, by their nature, virtually incapable of destroying military targets without also inflicting countless civilian casualties, it would seem to follow that they could not be used except against remote military targets, such as ships and submarines on the high seas, or armies in isolated deserts or mountains. In a divided vote, the court ruled that:

“the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict…”

“However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”

In other words, it would be unlawful for the United States to threaten or use nuclear weapons as a deterrent, since its “very survival” would not be at stake, but it might be lawful for Israel to do so because it is a small state whose very survival would, in fact, be at stake were it to be attacked by nuclear weapons.

Menachem Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister who ordered the preventive attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981, expressly renounced mutually assured destruction as a policy. He said that Israeli “morality” would never permit a retaliatory attack against an Iraqi city: “The children of Baghdad are not our enemy.”

A preventive attack, on the other hand, is always directed against a military target. Only one person—a nuclear technician—was killed in the attack Begin authorized.

It would appear to be ironic that Zakaria, and others who purport to be “doves”, would favor a mutually assured destruction policy that threatens the deaths of millions, over a preventive policy that targets military nuclear facilities. But it is not at all ironic, since such doves would be against actually carrying out the threat that is central to any credible policy of deterrence. For them, deterrence is a bluff—a hollow threat and the Iranians would see right through it.

That’s why President Obama is correct in renouncing containment and insisting that he isn’t bluffing when he says Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, even if it takes a surgical military strike to stop them. I am not here arguing in favor of a preventive attack on Iran at this time. I am arguing against reliance on a policy of deterrence and containment, because I don’t believe it will work in relation to Iran, Israel and the United States.

What if deterrence and containment didn’t work, and Iran were to fire nuclear rockets at Israeli cities? Those who now advocate robust deterrence—instead of surgical prevention—would simply say to the remaining Israelis: “Woops. We were wrong. Sorry. We’ll build you a new Holocaust Museum.”

Originally published by Stonegate Institute www.stonegateinstitute.org

Facing A ‘New Middle East’: Core Recommendation For Israel’s Strategic Future (Conclusion)

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
            IDF planners working on an improved strategic paradigm will need to understand the following: Removing the bomb from Israel’s “basement” could enhance Israel’s nuclear deterrent to the extent that it would enlarge enemy perceptions of secure and capable Israeli nuclear forces. Such a calculated end to deliberate ambiguity could also underscore Israel’s willingness to use these nuclear forces in reprisal for certain enemy first-strike and retaliatory attacks. From the standpoint of successful Israeli nuclear deterrence, IDF planners must proceed on the assumption that perceived willingness is always just as important as perceived capability. This, again, may bring to mind the counter intuitively presumed advantages for Israel of sometimes appearing less than fully rational.   
            There are certain circumstances in which a correlation of forces paradigm will necessarily lead IDF planners to consider certain preemption options. This is because there will surely be circumstances in which the existential risks to Israel of continuing to rely upon some combination of nuclear deterrence and active defenses (that is, primarily the “Arrow” system of ballistic missile defense) will simply be too great. In these circumstances, Israeli decision-makers will need to determine whether such essential defensive strikes, known jurisprudentially as expressions of “anticipatory self-defense, would be cost-effective.  Here, their judgments would depend upon a number of very critical factors, including:  (a) expected probability of enemy first-strikes; (b) expected cost (disutility) of enemy first-strikes; (c) expected schedule of enemy unconventional weapons deployments; (d) expected efficiency of enemy active defenses over time; (e) expected efficiency of Israeli active defenses over time; (f) expected efficiency of Israeli hard-target counterforce operations over time; (g) expected reactions of unaffected regional enemies; and (h) expected United States and world community reactions to Israeli preemptions.
            IDF planners will no doubt note that Israel’s rational inclinations to strike preemptively in certain circumstances will be affected by the particular steps taken by prospective target states (e.g., Iran) to guard against any Israeli preemption. Should Israel refrain too long (for any reason) from striking first defensively, certain enemy states could begin to implement protective measures that would pose substantial additional obstacles and hazards for Israel. These measures could include the attachment of certain automated launch mechanisms to certain nuclear weapons, and/or the adoption of “launch-on-warning” policies.
            IDF planners must presume that such policies might call for the retaliatory launch of bombers and/or missiles upon receipt of warning that an Israeli attack is underway. By requiring launch before the attacking Israeli warheads actually reached their intended targets, any enemy reliance of launch-on-warning could carry very grave risks of error.
            The single most important factor in IDF correlation of forces planning judgments on the preemption option will be the expected rationality of certain enemy decision-makers. If, after all, these leaders could be expected to strike at Israel with unconventional forces irrespective of anticipated Israeli counterstrikes, deterrence would cease to work. This means that certain enemy strikes could be expected even if enemy leaders fully understood that Israel had “successfully” deployed its own nuclear weapons in completely survivable modes; that Israel’s nuclear weapons were believed to be entirely capable of penetrating the enemy’s active defenses; and that Israel’s leaders were altogether willing to retaliate.
              Now, facing new forms of regional chaotic disintegration, it is time for Israel to go beyond its already-expanded paradigm of numerical military assessments to certain additional and “softer” considerations. Within this wider and more self-consciously qualitative strategic paradigm, IDF planners should focus, among other areas, upon the cumulative and interpenetrating importance of unconventional weapons and low-intensity warfare in the region.
             In certain circumstances, critical strategies and tactics will be both indispensable and infeasible. For the Jewish state, this will have the apparent makings of an unbearable and irremediable dilemma. Yet, truth can sometimes emerge through paradox, and a suitably improved “correlation of forces” focus could soon uncover unforeseen, but fully purposeful, strategic options.
            In the end, Israel, as the Jewish state, must always bear in mind the overriding difference between collective life and collective death, between the “blessing and the curse.” Here, IDF strategists and planners can learn both from Cicero and Machiavelli. “For what can be done against force, without force,” inquired Cicero, the ancient Roman thinker and statesman. In the best of all possible worlds, perhaps, such a rhetorical question would not need even to be raised. But, recalling Voltaire, this is not yet “the best of all possible worlds.”
            Cicero understood. Failure to use force against a murderous evil imprints an indelible stain upon all that is good. Machiavelli, too, offers a meaningful lesson for present-day Israel. Writing during the early sixteenth century in The Discourses, less well-known, of course, than The Prince, the industrious Florentine statesman and scholar examined how the Romans had proceeded, doctrinally, in the waging of war. In the first place, he observed significantly, the Romans were absolutely determined “to make war short and crushing.”
            Making war “short and crushing,” long an integral part of successful Roman strategy, has been an IDF imperative also. Indeed, from the very first days of Jewish statehood, in May 1948, IDF doctrine has correctly made the avoidance of any protracted warfare explicit and urgent. Today, particularly when the demographic components of the Middle East region’s correlation of forces still weigh heavily and immutably on the side of its enemies, an asymmetry actually far more unfavorable than what had faced ancient Roman armies, Israel must aim conspicuously at using its military might solely for deterrence and dissuasion whenever possible, and then only for prompt victory and cessation of hostilities whenever war is simply unavoidable.
            The more things change, the more they remain the same.” The “New” Middle East is characterized by very specific and consequential changes in power and threat-dynamics, but the underlying forces of anarchy and chaos still retain a discernible and instructive form. It follows that Israel’s strategic thinkers and planners should now stay focused on identifying critical recurrent core patterns within this ascertainable “geometry.” Then, they will be able to deduce appropriately precise and promising policy recommendations from this geometry’s always-unchanging axioms and postulates.

 

             LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton  (Ph.D., 1971), and has lectured and published widely on Israeli security issues for forty years. Born in Zürich, Switzerland on August 31, 1945, he is the author of ten books and several hundred journal articles and monographs in the field. Dr. Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Facing A ‘New Middle East’: Core Recommendation For Israel’s Strategic Future (Part IV)

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
            The presence of any force multiplier may create synergy.  Again, in the matter of Israel, we must acknowledge the antecedent “geometry of chaos.” Understanding this more fully, IDF fighting units could conceivably become more effective than the mere sum of their respective parts.
            Before this can happen, however, senior planners must ensure that their analyses and consequent recommendations are detached from any sort of false hopes. Here, the ancient advice of Thucydides (416 BCE), writing on the ultimatum of the Athenians to the Melians during the Peloponnesian War, will be instructive: “But 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 .”
            The overriding objective of IDF correlation of forces war planning must be to inform leadership decisions about two always complementary matters: (1) perceived vulnerabilities of Israel; and (2) perceived vulnerabilities of enemy states and non-states. For the IDF Intelligence Branch (Aman) in particular, this means gathering and assessing crucial information; for example, information concerning the expected persuasiveness of the country’s still-undisclosed nuclear deterrence posture. To endure well into the uncertain future, such information, and not a series of n founded hopes, must be at the core of its structured orientation to a regional correlation of forces.
            All this information, especially whatever concerns Israel’s “opaque” or undeclared nuclear deterrent, must flow reliably and quickly to key “consumers” within the broader IDF sphere, and then to the country’s political leadership in Jerusalem. Once it is received and digested by this leadership, including, of course, the other security services, and the General Staff, selected information must also flow as needed to the national warning centers; to operating force commanders; to contingency operations planners; to research directors; to combat/training developers; and to national resource allocators. Above all, IDF planners doing this sensitive work must firmly resist all pressures that might be imposed by divergent political interests in order to support certain preconceived hopes.
             Conceptually, in a world of growing international anarchy, this means that IDF correlation of forces planning responsibility should include (1) recognizing enemy force multipliers;  (2) challenging and undermining enemy force multipliers; and (3) developing and refining its own force multipliers.  Regarding number (3), this means a particularly heavy IDF emphasis on air superiority; communications; intelligence; and surprise.  Once again, recalling Moshe Dayan, it may also mean a heightened and calculated awareness of the possible benefits of sometimes appearing less than completely rational to one’s enemies.
            It is routinely assumed that Israel’s security from an enemy missile attack is ensured by nuclear deterrence, however opaque or “ambiguous.” But such a strategy of dissuasion depends upon many complex and interpenetrating conditions and perceptions. Taken by itself, Israel’s mere possession of nuclear weapons, even if it should be fully or partially disclosed, can never bestow real safety.
            By definition, a rational state enemy of Israel will always accept or reject a first-strike option by comparing the costs and benefits of each available alternative. Where the expected costs of striking first are taken to exceed expected gains, this enemy will be deterred. But where these expected costs are believed to be exceeded by expected gains, deterrence will fail. Here, Israel would be faced with an enemy attack, whether as a “bolt from the blue,” or as an outcome of anticipated or unanticipated crisis-escalation.
            In thinking about strategy, therefore, an immediate task for Israel will be to so strengthen its nuclear deterrent such that any enemy state will always calculate that a first-strike would be irrational. This means taking all proper steps to convince these enemy states that the costs of such a strike will always exceed the benefits. To accomplish this objective, Israel must convince prospective attackers that it maintains both the willingness and the capacity to retaliate with its nuclear weapons.
            Should an enemy state considering an attack upon Israel be unconvinced about either one or both of these essential components of nuclear deterrence, it might choose to strike first, depending upon the particular value or “utility” that it places on the expected consequences of such an attack. In part, it is precisely to prevent just such an “unconvincing” nuclear deterrence posture that Israel must now consider the expected benefits of ending deliberate ambiguity.
            A major focus of IDF strategic planning will have to be the nuclear posture of deliberate ambiguity or the so-called bomb in the basement. Prime Minister Netanyahu surely understands that adequate nuclear deterrence of increasingly formidable enemies could soon require less nuclear secrecy. What will soon need to be determined by IDF planners concerned with an improved correlation of forces will be the precise extent and subtlety with which Israel should begin to communicate tangible elements of its nuclear positions, intentions and capabilities to these enemies.
            The geo-strategic rationale for such carefully constructed forms of nuclear disclosure would not lie in exposing the obvious – that is, that Israel simply “has” the bomb. Rather, among other things, it would be to persuade prospective attackers that Israel’s nuclear weapons are both usable and penetration-capable.
            To protect itself against certain enemy strikes, particularly those attacks that could carry intolerable costs, IDF defense planners will need to prepare to exploit every relevant aspect and function of Israel’s own nuclear arsenal. The success of Israel’s effort here will depend not only upon its particular choice of targeting doctrine (“counterforce” or “counter value”), but also upon the extent to which this choice is made known in advance to certain enemy states, and to their sub-state surrogates. Before such enemies can be suitably deterred from launching first strikes against Israel, and before they can be deterred from launching retaliatory attacks following any Israeli preemption, it may not be enough for them to know only that Israel has the bomb. These enemies may also need to recognize that Israeli nuclear weapons are sufficiently invulnerable to such attacks, and that they are pointed directly at high-value population targets.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton  (Ph.D., 1971), and has lectured and published widely on Israeli security issues for forty years. Born in Zürich, Switzerland on August 31, 1945, he is the author of ten books and several hundred journal articles and monographs in the field. Dr. Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Eight Years Of Unheeded ‘Daniel’ Warnings About Iran: What Happens Next? (Part VII)

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

          The views expressed in this eight-column series on Project Daniel are solely those of Professor Louis René Beres.               

           

Nuclear deterrence, ambiguous or partially disclosed, is essential to Israel’s physical survival. If, for whatever reason, Israel should fail to prevent enemy state nuclearization, it will have to refashion its nuclear deterrent to conform to vastly more dangerous regional and world conditions. But even if this should require purposeful disclosure of its nuclear assets and doctrine, such revelation would have to be limited solely to what would be needed to convince Israel’s enemies of both its capacity and its resolve. More particularly, this would mean revealing only those specific aspects needed to identify the survivability and penetration-capability of Israel’s nuclear forces, and the political will to launch these massive forces in retaliation for certain forms of enemy state aggression.

 

            The Group advised the then-Prime Minister that Israel must always do whatever it can to ensure a secure and recognizable second-strike nuclear capability. Once nuclear ambiguity was brought to an end, nuclear disclosure could play a crucial communications role. The essence of deterrence here would lie in the communication of capacity and will to those who would do Israel existential harm.

 

            Significantly, the actual retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by Israel would signify the failure of its deterrent. Recalling the ancient Chinese military thinker Sun-Tzu, who was mentioned here earlier, the very highest form of military success is achieved when one’s strategic objectives can be met without any actual use of military force.

 

            To meet its “ultimate” deterrence objectives – that is, to deter the most overwhelmingly destructive enemy first-strikes – Israel must still seek and achieve a visible second-strike capability to target approximately fifteen enemy cities. Ranges would be to cities in Libya and Iran, and nuclear bomb yields would still be at a level “sufficient to fully compromise the aggressor’s viability as a functioning state.”  By choosing counter-value-targeted warheads in this range of maximum-destructiveness, Israel could achieve optimal deterrent effect, thereby neutralizing the overall asymmetry between the Arab states/Iran and the State of Israel. All enemy targets, The Group reasoned, would be selected with the view that their destruction would promptly force the enemy aggressor to cease all nuclear/biological/chemical exchanges with Israel. Nothing has transpired to change this reasoning.

 

            As a professor of international law, I was able to assure The Group that all of our recommendations to the prime minister regarding Israeli nuclear deterrence were fully consistent with authoritative international law. On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice at The Hague (not known for any specifically pro-Israel sympathies by any means) handed down its Advisory Opinion on The Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. The final paragraph concludes, inter alia.

                                    The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.

 

            Eight years ago, The Group advised the then-Prime Minister that Israel must display flexibility in its nuclear deterrence posture in order to contend with future enemy expansions of nuclear weapon assets. It could even become necessary under certain improbable circumstances, we recognized, that Israel should deploy a full “triad” of strategic nuclear forces. For the present, however, we recommended that Israel continue to manage without nuclear missile-bearing submarines. This recommendation still holds only as long as it remains highly unlikely that any enemy or combination of enemies could destroy Israel’s land-based and airborne-launched nuclear missiles on a first-strike attack. Presently, it seems absolutely clear that Israel’s strategic retaliatory forces remain fully secure and penetration-capable.

 

            Israel’s nuclear deterrent must be backed up by far-reaching active defenses. With this in mind, The Group emphasized that Israel take immediate steps to operationalize an efficient, multi-layered antiballistic missile system to intercept and destroy a finite number of enemy warheads. Such interception would have to take place with the very highest possible probability of success and with a fully reliable capacity to distinguish between incoming warheads and decoys. To the extent possible, Israel has already been successful in meeting this requirement.

 

            Israel’s “Arrow” missile defense system involves various arrangements with US Boeing Corporation. The Israel Air Force (IAF), which operates the Arrow, will likely continue to meet its desired goal of deploying interceptors in inventory on schedule. Arrow managers may also sell their product to certain other carefully selected states. This could help Israel to reinforce its qualitative edge over all adversaries. Israeli engineers are continually taking appropriate steps to ensure that Arrow will function well alongside American “Patriot” systems. The Group advised that IAF continue working energetically on all external and internal interoperability issues. This advice has surely been taken.
           
In its effort to create a multi-layered defense system, Israel may already be working on and finalizing an unmanned aircraft capable of hunting-down and killing any enemy’s mobile ballistic missile launchers. In 2003, Israeli military officials had begun to interest the Pentagon in joining the launcher-attack project, known formally as “boost-phase launcher intercept” or BPLI. The Group advised the then Prime Minister that Israel undertake BPLI with or without American support, but recognized that gaining such support would allow the project to move forward more expeditiously and with greater cost-effectiveness. Also, enlisting American support for BPLI would represent another important step toward maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge.

 

            Project Daniel underscored the importance of multi-layered active defenses for Israel, but affirmed most strongly that Israel must always prepare to act preemptively before there is any destabilizing deployment of enemy nuclear and/or certain biological weapons. No active defense system can ever be “leak proof,” yet protection of civilian populations in a very small country such as Israel calls for nothing less.


 

Louis René Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

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