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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘International Law’

The Iranian Nuclear Peril After Cairo; Soon Time To Take Israel’s Bomb Out Of The “Basement”

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Following his early June speech delivered in Cairo, U.S. President Obama pretty much gave the final green light to Tehran. More precisely, with regard to ongoing Iranian nuclearization, the president signaled plainly that further economic sanctions, and not any defensive military action, were the only remaining option. In Jerusalem, one must presume, Prime Minister Netanyahu understood immediately the substantially changing drift of American foreign policy toward the Middle East. For Israel, therefore, a new plan for dealing with an unprecedented strategic menace would now be necessary. This plan would somehow have to be based on “living with Iran.”

To be sure, Mr. Netanyahu also understands that any such coexistence will require certain suitable and far-reaching refinements in Israel’s nuclear doctrine. In this connection, little if anything has ever been codified or even publicly considered. After all, even now, everything about Israel’s nuclear posture remains ambiguous. Israel’s bomb is still deeply buried in the country’s “basement.”

How has this posture of deliberate ambiguity or opacity worked thus far? It obviously has done very little to deter “ordinary” conventional enemy aggressions or acts of terror. But it has likely succeeded in keeping the country’s principal enemies from mounting consequential mega-attacks. This is no minor accomplishment.

None of Israel’s foes presently has “the bomb,” but together – in any determined collaboration – they could already have acquired the capacity to mount attacks of genuinely existential magnitude. Acting collectively and purposefully, these states and their assorted insurgent proxies, even without nuclear weapons, could still have inflicted enormous harm upon the Jewish State.

Now, stubbornly oblivious to both the hollow threats from Washington, and to the equally feeble calls for meaningful sanctions by the so-called “international community,” Tehran continues to vigorously “go nuclear.” In a few years, Israel will almost certainly face an openly genocidal nuclear Iran. To protect itself, Israel will have to prepare to defend against a determined and possibly even irrational nuclear adversary with both ballistic missile defense (Arrow) and improved nuclear deterrence.

There are other related issues. Iran is a state that might share some of its nuclear components and materials with Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations.This means that continued nuclear ambiguity might not remain sufficiently persuasive to ensure Israel’s nuclear deterrence posture in various critical circumstances.

Prime Minister Netanyahu surely understands that adequate deterrence of Iran could soon require some release of pertinent Israeli nuclear details. Concerning these details, less rather than more Israeli nuclear secrecy could be required. Ironically, perhaps, what will now need to be determined by the prime minister is the precise extent and subtlety with which Israel should communicate its nuclear positions, intentions and capabilities to Iran, and to certain other selected states and state surrogates in world politics.

The strategic rationale for such carefully constructed forms of nuclear disclosure would rest on the understanding that nuclear weapons can best serve Israel’s security in a number of different ways, and that all of these ways could benefit the Jewish State to the extent that certain aspects of nuclear weapons and strategies were actually disclosed. The form and extent of such strategic disclosure could be more critical than ever before, because the new president of the United States is altogether determined to proceed with a still one-sided “peace process.” In its potentially destructive synergies with a nuclearizing Iran, Barack Obama’s “Two-State Solution” could quickly overwhelm Israel with an effective Final Solution.

For the foreseeable future, Israel’s state enemies – especially Iran, Egypt (peace treaty notwithstanding) and Syria – will continue to enlarge and refine their conventional and unconventional military capabilities. Even if certain enemy-state capabilities do not yet fully parallel their intentions, this could change very quickly. As indicated above, Mr. Ahmadinejad or his successor could even cast aside all of the usual considerations of rational behavior. Were this to happen, the Islamic Republic of Iran could become a nuclear suicide-bomber in macrocosm. Such a destabilizing prospect is improbable, but it is not inconceivable.

To protect itself against enemy strikes, particularly those attacks that could carry intolerable costs, Israel will need to prepare to exploit every relevant aspect and function of its own nuclear arsenal and doctrine. The success of Israel’s efforts here will depend not only on its particular choice of targeting doctrine (“counterforce” or “counter city”), but also upon the extent to which this critical choice is made known in advance to both enemy states (primarily Iran) and to their non-state surrogates. Before such enemies can be 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 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.

Removing the bomb from Israel’s “basement” could enhance Israel’s nuclear deterrence to the extent that it would heighten 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 nuclear deterrence, perceived willingness is always just as important as perceived capability.

For now, as Mr. Netanyahu surely understands, Israel’s bomb should remain ambiguous. But soon, at the very moment that Iran is discovered to be close to completing its own nuclear weapons capability, the Jewish State should put a prompt end to deliberate nuclear ambiguity.

Prime Minister Netanyahu recognizes the stark shortcomings of President Obama’s plan for peace in the Middle East. He understands that there could never be any durable and reliable peace with a nuclear Iran. But as it is now inconceivable that the United States will undertake preemptive destruction of Iran’s nearly completed nuclear program (what would be a permissible act of “anticipatory self-defense” under customary international law), Israel will – inter alia – have to take its own bomb out of the “basement.” Whatever its specific details and nuances, such an essential end to deliberate nuclear ambiguity may still not be sufficient to save Israel from eventual nuclear war with Iran. Nonetheless, in the changing world emerging after Mr. Obama’s unfortunate Cairo speech, it would surely be better for Israel than continuing with a no longer viable nuclear policy of calculated uncertainty.

Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) was Chair of Project Daniel. Born in Switzerland (1945), he is Professor of International Law at Purdue, and is the author of many major books and articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Understanding Our Global Misfortunes

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
            In some important respects, Iran is only a microcosm. Whatever happens next within that particularly troubled and troubling country, many of the deepest underlying problems and divisions will remain genuinely global.This is because revolution, despotism, war and terrorism are always generic issues in world politics. In the end – that is, civilizationally – they will need to be understood and confronted on a broadly international level.

 

            “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” observed the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and “everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”  Today’s simmering Iranian instability and belligerence are more a symptom of generic civilizational fragility than merely an isolated (albeit catastrophic) disease. Beneath the surface, all world politics readily reveal a distinctly common and malignant disorder. This is the seemingly irremediable incapacity of many human beings to find both meaning and identity within themselves, as individuals. 

 

            Iran is only a microcosm. From the beginning, all world affairs have been driven by some form or another of “tribal” conflict, by incessant and deadly struggles between more-or-less warring groups. Without a clear and persisting sense of an outsider, of an enemy, of an “other,” whole societies routinely feel lost in the world. Drawing self-worth from their membership in the state or the faith or the race – from what Freud had insightfully called the “primal horde” – these humans often cannot satisfy even the most minimal requirements of interpersonal coexistence.

 

            Every sham may have a patina. Our very obvious progress in the technical and scientific realms still has no real counterpart in basic human relations. Yes, of course, we can manufacture jet aircraft and send astronauts into space and even communicate by “twitter” (whatever that means; I’m not really sure), but before we are allowed to board commercial airline flights we must first take off our shoes. The point of such removal is certainly not to enhance our personal comfort, but rather to ensure that we won’t blow up the plane.

 

            What kind of world is this? Iran is only a microcosm. We humans surely want to be upbeat about the whole world. We are turned off by anyone who speaks candidly about life’s day-to-day vagaries, or about its simultaneously absent ecstasies. Whenever a friend or colleague is asked, “How are you?” the visceral answer must always be the same: “I’m great.” 

 

             What nonsense! In fact, there remains very great pain and loneliness throughout the world.  Further, in certain matters, nothing important ever really changes:plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. In the truly critical issues of mega-survival, we humans may now be living far more precariously than ever before. Of course, this is especially apparent to the always-imperiled people of Israel – imperiled because millions of mortal Arab/Islamist enemies are still guided by the thoroughly atavistic primal tribal dynamics of “the herd.”

 

             What a world! Iran is only a microcosm. The veneer of human civilization is still razor thin, particularly in large portions of the Arab/Islamist world.  However conversant with statistics and science, certain nations in our world can still glance smugly over mountains of fresh corpses, and announce without apology or embarrassment that “God Is Great!” Assorted mass societies greedily suck out the very marrow of human wisdom, reverence and compassion in a deeply misguided dash to “power.”  In the Middle East, among Israel’s existential foes, the ultimate form of sought-after power has absolutely nothing to do with land or territory. It has to do with something that can never be understood in Washington. It has to do with power over death.

 

            Globally, hope exists, to be sure, but it must now sing softly, in an undertone.  The “blood-dimmed tide” creates a deafening noise, but it is still possible to listen for transient sounds of grace and harmony.  We must all quickly learn to pay very close attention to our most intimate human feelings of empathy, anxiety, restlessness and desperation. These feelings are always determinative, and always – ultimately – universal.

 

             As Jews, we already understand that life on earth must ultimately be about the individual. In essence, therefore, we see that the time for “modernization,” “globalization,” “artificial intelligence” and “new information methodologies” is already over.  To survive together, all residents of this endangered planet must first rediscover an authentic human life that is detached from meaningless and corrosive distinctions (“us” and “them”), banal conformance, shallow optimism and contrived happiness. Only in this vital expression of an awakened human spirit may we finally learn that agony is more important than astronomy, that cries of despair are more serious than the disembodied powers of technology, and that our tears have a much greater significance than robotic smiles. “The man who laughs,” commented the poet Bertolt Brecht, “has simply not yet heard the horrible news.”

 

             Iran is only microcosm. The true and persisting instabilities and barbarisms of life on earth can never be undone by improving global economics, by building larger missiles, by fashioning new international treaties, by spreading democracy or even by periodic revolutions.  We inevitably interrelated humans still lack a tolerable future not because we have been too slow to learn, but because too many among us have stubbornly failed to learn what is truly important.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton  (Ph.D., 1971) and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University.  Born in Switzerland at the end of World War II, he is the author of many books and articles dealing with world politics, law, literature and philosophy. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Déjà Vu All Over Again – It’s Time To Understand What Jihadist Terrorists Really Want

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
            To be sure, it’s a theme that I have already pursued in this column on several occasions, but nonetheless one that still seems to warrant further emphasis and elucidation. We all seem to know what Jihadist terrorists are after, yet our pertinent U.S. foreign policies remain founded upon altogether contrary assumptions. The most obvious example of such confusion, perhaps, is this country’s continuing support of Palestinian statehood, an outcome that would, prima facie, undermine America’s war on terror.

 

            Consider this: Al-Qaeda operatives, some acting together with certain allied Palestinian terror-groups, are actively planning future attacks against the United States. More than likely, these attacks would involve chemical and/or biological weapons. At a time of “ordinary” disease pandemic (i.e., swine flu), the latter could even hold a special attraction.

 

            Beyond any reasonable doubt, a nuclear dirty-bomb event is also on the drawing board. Some Jihadist terrorists are already working diligently in this weaponization direction. Here, however, near-term enemy success is marginally less plausible.

 

 

             Again, what exactly, do these terrorists really seek? Are they all really after some identifiable form of political or social reform? This question may first appear silly, obvious or even contrived. Yet, the usual answers are almost always superficial and unhelpful. Almost never, it seems, are we willing to probe this hideously complex question seriously, with applied intellect, analytic deliberation and courageously non-partisan resolve.

 

            At the most basic level, these terrorists “simply” want to transform pain into power.  But this transformation is not always easy, because the correlation is not always proportionate.  It is even possible, at least on occasion, that inflicting the most excruciating pain upon us would diminish terrorist power, while causing less overwhelming pain would enhance terrorist power.

 

            Ironically, in view of current American debates over torture, the terrorist groups that now prepare mega-attacks on this country have always learned from the torturer.  They fully understand that pain, to be purposeful, must point toward death, but that – still – it must not necessarily kill.  This is not to suggest that Islamist terrorists do not seek to produce large numbers of dead Americans, but rather, that leaving alive many American witnesses who will then themselves fear annihilation is an integral part of the macabre “choreography.”

 

            Imitating the torturer, the Jihadist terrorist plans to take what is private and incommunicable, the pain contained within the boundaries of the sufferer’s own body, and then manipulate it to shape the behavior of others.  A manifestly defiled form of theater that draws public influence from the innermost depths of human privacy, terrorism twists and amplifies pain within the individual human body to influence others who live outside that body.  Violating the inviolable, it declares with unspeakable cruelty that not only is no one immune, but that everyone’s most personal horror can also be made public.

 

            Now led by a new president, America still hears from certain Jihadist quarters of the Islamic world that “martyrs” who plan to slay more of our countrymen have a recognizably political motive. Surely, we are soberly informed, these killers do not kill gratuitously.  Rather, they kill to “recover the land,” to “reclaim our rights,” to “prevent foreign intervention,” to “acquire self-determination,” to “rid us of tyrants, apostates, blasphemers,” etc. Their alleged grievances are legion, but – operationally and ideologically – they are utterly beside the point.

 

            There is, perhaps, a tiny light at the end of the long tunnel.  Once these “sacred” objectives are realized, Washington is assured all will be well.  The killers will “return” to a life of peace.  There will be no more pain, no more unspeakable public intrusions into the very depths of individual privacy. Their attempted violent deconstruction of our civilization, their gleeful uncreation of what has been assembled for literally thousands of years, will quietly announce its own end.

 

            Yet, what America and its president hear, they do not always understand.  Like the victim of torture, who is told again and again that his pain is somehow related to his too – reluctant disclosure of information, Washington still confronts a masquerade.  With the entire United States, as with the individual torture victim, the declared motive of the perpetrator is only a fiction.  In the end, the torturer tortures because he enjoys torturing. The terrorist, for his part, terrorizes with visceral delight. He does this even with a grotesque voluptuousness, not merely for “the cause,” but because that is what heor she truly wants to do.  On the very day that I write these words, Fatah has broadcast very graphic images of Hamas torture.

 

            The delighted torturer cannot be stopped by answering his questions.  The inflamed terrorist cannot be stopped by yielding to his terror. The Jihadist-driven Islamic terrorist will cease his terror only when Washington agrees to accept a complete surrender to “Holy War.” It is probably true, as Osama Bin Laden himself has repeatedly advised us, that America may still escape its terrible fate through mass conversion to Islam. Till then, however, the authoritative Islamist view is that our “infidel blood lacks sanctity.”  

 

            The Jihadist terrorist and his victims experience pain and power as opposites.  As the victims’ suffering grows, so does the power of the terrorist.  And as the power of the terrorist grows, so does the pain of his victims.  For the bystanders, and this includes all of our country that is not directly involved in a particular terrorist attack, each blast of pain is a mock execution, a stunning reminder of American vulnerability, and a palpable denial of American power.

 

            The terrorist, like the torturer, can alter human language.  With each act of terrorism, America will lose more and more of its “voice.”  After a time, if nothing more is done about the terrorist exploitation of American pain as power, Washington will be left dumb.  In response, the terrorist, confronted with an American victim that has now become conspicuously supine and pitiable, will close in with even greater destructiveness and an altogether foreseeable ferocity.

 

             Any terrorist escalation in the magnitude of terror would follow directly from correlations of pain and power.  All terrorism intends to change an intended victim’s general awareness that “all persons must die” to the far more specific awareness,  I  must die – and maybe soon.”  As any resort to more destructive forms of terror could hasten this change, such resort should not be dismissed too quickly.  The facile observation that “terrorists have no reason to escalate” is now an evident product of the most fragile syllogisms.

 

            The pain caused by terrorism, a pain that confers power upon the terrorist, begins within the victim’s private body, and then spills out more widely into the general body politic.  Wanting the two realms to become indistinguishable, the terrorist already understands that it is not enough that his victims feel pain.  Pain must also be felt, vicariously but palpably, by all those who might still themselves become victims.  For President Obama, this should be a conceptual understanding of immediate operational importance. It is far more important than the number of troops on the ground in either theatre of current conflict (Iraq or Afghanistan) or than any other standard military calculations of probable U.S. victory or defeat.

 

                                                               

Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press. He isthe author of many major books and articles on terrorism, nuclear strategy and nuclear war, including publications in International Security(Harvard); World Politics (Princeton); The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Nativ (Israel); The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs; Parameters: The Professional Journal of the US Army War College; Special Warfare (DoD); Studies in Conflict and Terrorism; Strategic Review; Contemporary Security Policy; Armed Forces and Society; Israel Affairs; Comparative Strategy; Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law; and The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Professor Beres’ monographs on security issues have been published by The Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel); The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (University of Notre Dame); The Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva); and the Monograph Series on World Affairs (University of Denver).

Bibi And The Iranian Bomb: Reconsidering Israel’s Policy Of Nuclear Ambiguity

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Until now, the strategic issue of Israel’s nuclear ambiguity – the so-called “bomb in the basement” – has been kept squarely on the back burner. Today, however, time is quickly running out for the Jewish State, and Israel’s new/old prime minister absolutely must reconsider this burning issue. From the standpoint of urgency, of course, the immediate problem is Iran.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has correctly indicated that Iranian nuclearization is issue number one. To manage this critical problem, Mr. Netanyahu also understands that Israel’s own nuclear doctrine will have to adapt. In this connection, a core element of strategic adaptation should concern purposeful patterns of Israeli nuclear disclosure.

From the start, Jerusalem’s nuclear policy has always been to keep Israel’s bomb quietly in the basement. Now, however, it is increasingly likely that a deliberately ambiguous nuclear deterrent may simply not work much longer. Mr. Netanyahu should recall that nuclear strategy is always a work in progress. In the absence of adaptation, it will inevitably fail to achieve its indispensable goals. This is true generically; it is not true exclusively for Israel.

To date, Israel’s nuclear ambiguity has done little to deter “ordinary” conventional enemy aggressions or acts of terror. To be sure, it has succeeded in keeping the country’s enemies from mounting genuinely existential attacks. But certain changes in strategic doctrine could still be necessary.

None of Israel’s foes presently has “the bomb,” but together – in any determined collaboration – they could already have acquired the capacity to mount attacks of genuinely existential magnitude. Acting collectively and purposefully, these states and their assorted insurgent proxies, even without nuclear weapons, could still have inflicted enormous harms upon the Jewish State.

Now, oblivious to the feeble call for meaningful sanctions by a plainly impotent “international community,” Tehran continues to “go nuclear.” Unless there is a prompt, comprehensive and sustained preemptive strike against Iran’s developing nuclear assets and infrastructures, an act of “anticipatory self-defense” under international law, Israel will face an openly genocidal nuclear Iran. Yet, the prospect of such legally permissible defensive strikes is now already very low, and Israel will likely have to prepare to defend against a nuclear Iran with both ballistic missile defense (Arrow) and improved nuclear deterrence.

As my faithful readers in The Jewish Press already know, Iran is a state that might share some of its nuclear components and materials with Hizbullah or certain other terrorist proxy organizations. This means, among other things, that continued nuclear ambiguity might not remain sufficiently persuasive to ensure Israel’s nuclear deterrence posture.

Let me be more precise here. Prime Minister Netanyahu will understand that adequate deterrence of Iran could soon require some release of pertinent Israeli nuclear details. Concerning these details, less rather than more Israeli nuclear secrecy could be required. Ironically, perhaps, what will now need to be determined by the prime minister is the specific extent and subtlety with which Israel should communicate its nuclear positions, intentions and capabilities to Iran, and to certain other selected states and state surrogates in world politics.

The rationale for carefully constructed forms of nuclear disclosure would not lie in expressing the obvious. Instead, it would rest on the understanding that nuclear weapons can serve Israel’s security in a number of different ways, and that all of these ways could benefit the Jewish State to the extent that certain aspects of nuclear weapons and strategies were actually disclosed. The form and extent of such strategic disclosure could be more critical than ever before because the new president of the United States, Barack Obama, seems determined to proceed with a still one-sided “peace process.” For President Obama, as for his cliché-trapped Secretary of State, there is still only a “Two State Solution” on the peace horizon.

For the foreseeable future, Israel’s state enemies – especially Iran, Egypt (peace treaty notwithstanding) and Syria – will continue to enlarge and refine their conventional and unconventional military capabilities. Even if certain enemy state capabilities do not yet fully parallel their intentions, this could change very quickly. Mr. Ahmadinejad could even cast aside all of the usual considerations of rational behavior. Were this to happen, the Islamic Republic of Iran could effectively become a nuclear suicide-bomber in macrocosm. Such a destabilizing prospect is improbable, but it is assuredly not inconceivable.

To protect itself against enemy strikes, particularly those attacks that could carry intolerable costs, Israel should properly exploit every relevant aspect and function of its own nuclear arsenal and doctrine. The success of Israel’s efforts will depend not only on its particular choice of targeting doctrine (“counterforce” or “counter city”), but also upon the extent to which this critical choice is made known in advance to both enemy states (primarily Iran) and their non-state surrogates. Before such enemies can be deterred from launching first strikes against Israel, and before they can be deterred from launching retaliatory attacks following an Israeli preemption, it may not be enough 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.

Removing the bomb from Israel’s basement could enhance Israel’s nuclear deterrence to the extent that it would heighten 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 nuclear deterrence, perceived willingness is always just as important as perceived capability.

For now, as Mr. Netanyahu surely understands, Israel’s bomb should remain ambiguous. But soon – at the very moment that Iran is discovered to be close to completing its own nuclear weapons capability – the Jewish State should put a prompt end to deliberate nuclear ambiguity. This is a recommendation that was made by Project Daniel, and communicated directly to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Prime Minister Netanyahu already understands that there could never be any reliable peace with a nuclear Iran. But if neither Israel nor the United States will undertake preemptive destruction of Iran’s nearly completed nuclear program (a strategic prospect that now seems increasingly plausible), Israel will then have to take its own bomb out of the basement. Such an essential end to deliberate nuclear ambiguity may still not be sufficient to save Israel from an eventual nuclear war with Iran, but it would surely be far better than continuing dangerously on the present course.

Copyright © The Jewish Press, April 17, 2009. All rights reserved

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) was Chair of Project Daniel. Born in Switzerland (1945), he is Professor of International Law at Purdue, and is the author of many major books and articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Some Truly Basic Thoughts for the New Prime Minister – Or, How to Negotiate With Enemies Who May Prefer War to Peace

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Israel has elected a new prime minister. From the start – and even before he begins to consider assorted specific issues for negotiation with other governments and organizations – he will have to determine whether any form of diplomacy is actually indicated. Although, on the surface, such advice may appear distinctly odd or foolish at best, there will be clear benefits to Israel of proceeding diplomatically only after first cultivating genuine understanding.

From the very start, from its imperiled beginnings in May 1948 – and indeed, even before statehood – Israel sought heroically to negotiate with its enemies. Always, always – Jerusalem has preferred peace to war. Nonetheless, challenged by relentless and interminable Arab aggressions, diplomacy has almost always failed Israel. Significantly, this lamentable conclusion is pretty much incontestable. So, the new prime minister is now obligated to ask: What real chance is there that, somehow, things might be different?

Although ultimately settling upon Operation Cast Lead, a manifestly correct policy choice, previous Prime Minister Olmert, of course, had determined to seek Israel’s basic security in diplomacy. Although there was assuredly nothing inherently wrong with such a conciliatory posture, especially as Israel had remained under constant pressure from Washington to negotiate, there was also very good reason for skepticism. From Oslo to the so-called “Road Map,” diplomacy over Israel’s rights and obligations has always been a determinably asymmetrical process. “Land for nothing!” In essence, this unspoken mantra has been Israel’s persistent “marching order” from the “civilized world.”

Ironically, Israel’s principal enemies remain candid. On some things they actually do not lie. On their irremediable intention to annihilate the Jewish state, for example, they are utterly sworn to truth. Israel’s new prime minister should listen to them.

The key disputing Palestinian factions (Fatah or Hamas, it makes little effective difference) and Iran will never accept anything less than Israel’s destruction. This is obvious to anyone who cares to pay attention. They say this every day, either openly or obliquely. Moreover, in a corroborating bit of cartography, every “official” PA or Iranian map of “Palestine” already includes all of Israel.

Toward the end of his corrupted and ill-fated regime, then Prime Minister Olmert had released several hundred Palestinian terrorists as a “goodwill gesture.” Together with then U.S. President George W. Bush, he had aided Fatah against Hamas with outright transfers of weapons and information. Soon after (surprise, surprise) the American and Israeli guns were turned against Israel. As for Mr. Olmert’s graciously extended “goodwill,” it only served to elicit the next round of rocket fire. Matters were not helped at all by Washington’s corollary support for a Palestinian state, thoroughly misconceived support – now extended by new U.S. President Barack Obama.

Let Prime Minister Netanyahu take note. Regarding formal diplomacy, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Rooted deeply in Jihadist interpretations of Islam, there is an obvious and enduring inequality of objectives between Israel and its principal enemies. For both Palestinian insurgents and Iran’s president, conflict with Israel is always an all or nothing proposition. In this starkly polarizing view of incessant strife between “the world of war” and “the world of Islam,” there can be no place for authentic treaties or settlements with the Jewish State, save as a temporary tactical expedient.

For Israel, on the other hand, a negotiated peace with its Arab “neighbors” and Iran persists as an elusive but desperate hope. This is true even when the prospect of Islamic reciprocity is plainly preposterous and historically unimaginable.

A truly fundamental inequality is evident in all expressions of the Middle East Peace Process. On the Palestinian and Iranian side, Oslo and “Road Map” expectations have never been seen as anything more than a cost-effective method of dismantling Israel. On the Israeli side, these expectations have generally been taken, quite differently, as a presumably indispensable way of averting further war and terror.

Israel’s new prime minister should take note: The core problem of Israel’s life or death vulnerability lies in the Jewish State’s ongoing assumptions on war and peace. While certain of Israel’s regional enemies, state and nonstate, believe that any power gains for Israel represent a power loss for them – that is, that they coexist with Israel in a condition of pure conflict – Israel assumes something else. For Mr. Netanyahu’s several immediate predecessors, relations with certain Arab states, the Palestinian Authority/Hamas and Iran were not taken to be pure “zero-sum,” but rather a mutual-dependence connection. In this view, conflict is always mixed with cooperation.

For no identifiable reason, it would seem, Israel may still believe that certain of its Arab enemies and Iran reject zero-sum assumptions about the strategy of conflict. Israel’s enemies, however, do not make such erroneous judgments about conformance with Israeli calculations. These enemies know further, that Israel is wrong in its belief that certain Arab states, Iran and the Palestinians also reject the zero-sum assumption, but they shrewdly pretend otherwise. There has remained, therefore, a dramatic and consequential strategic disparity between Israel and certain of its frontline Islamic enemies.

Israel’s strategy of conflict has, at least in part, been founded upon multiple theoretical miscalculations and upon an indifference to certain primary and flagrant enemy manipulations. The barbarous policies of Israel’s enemies, on the other hand, have been and remain founded (a) upon correct calculations and assumptions; and (b) upon an astute awareness of Israel’s strategic naiveté. This means that Israel’s new prime minister should now make certain far-reaching changes in the way that Israel conceptualizes the continuum of cooperation and conflict. A “new Israel,” ridding itself of injurious wishful thinking, should finally acknowledge the zero-sum calculations of its enemies, and thus begin to acceptthat the constant struggle must still be fought largely at the conflict end of the spectrum. Right now, this means, especially (and somewhat belatedly, in the particular case of Iran) attention to several preemption imperatives.

Left unchallenged by its new prime minister, Israel’s mistaken assumptions, and the combining of these assumptions with correct premises of its enemies, could undermine Israel’s very survival. These still-remediable Israeli errors have had the additional effect of creating an odd “alliance” between Israel and its enemies. This is surely not the sort of coalition that can ever help the Jewish State, but is rather a one-sided and unreciprocated “pact” in which Israel actively and ironically serves its enemies.

To be sure, the new prime minister should not become the best ally that Israel’s Arab enemies and Iran could hope to have. Instead, he should now seek to serve Israel’s long-term survival with real wisdom, supplanting the false assumptions that stem from misguided hopes with correct premises based upon sound reasoning. In the end, it is all about logic.

What does this really mean? In the language of formal logic, invalid forms of argument are fallacies. The basic problem with Israel’s continuous search for “peace” through negotiated surrenders (Land for nothing!) has been its persistent commission of fallacies. Unlike simple instances of falsity, these particular arguments are especially insidious because they could involve a devastating policy outcome. Distinguishable from singular mistakes, these deviations from correct thinking ensure that all subsequent calculations will also result in error. This means that it is in the very process of strategic thinking, and not in the assessment of particular facts and issues, that Israeli policy changes are now most sorely needed.

Mr. Netanyahu, please take heed.

Copyright © March 6, 2009. All rights reserved

LOUIS RENÉ BERES, Professor of International Law at Purdue, was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, he has lectured and published widely in Israel, Europe and the United States on war, terrorism and strategies of conflict.

The Much Deeper Meanings Of Wall Street’s Wild Ride

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

In figuring out the core weaknesses of our troubled financial markets, there is far more than meets the eye. On the surface, Wall Street’s seemingly interminable wild ride is the obvious outcome of purely economic factors. Yet, at a deeper level, the problem of market weakness and volatility is not really fiscal, but human. Sure, the interrelated banking and housing and credit crises have played havoc with securities, but these crises are themselves epiphenomenal. That is, they are a mere reflection of something “underneath” and much more fundamental.

At its heart, the ups and downs of Wall Street are the product of largely engineered and distorted human needs. As Americans, we are what we buy. Our status and self-worth correspond closely with what we own. This palpable celebration of inauthenticity and hyper-consumption is an incessant message received by everyone – again and again, day after day. More than anything else, it has created our broken economy. This economy, like the fragmented society from which it has plainly sprung, lacks any firm foundation. It is built upon sand.

Surely this is not what we hear from the “experts.” It is not their task to go beyond hard economics to soft psychology. But if we should look more closely, it will become absolutely clear that we may have as much to learn about core market crises from Freud and Jung as we do from Adam Smith and Karl Marx. So long as we Americans accept expanding debt and a decidedly negative savings rate as the price of appearing successful to others, all government “stimulus” packages will be utterly beside the point.

Soon we Americans shall have to get a handle on the unceasing public need for more and more things, for tangible goods that can seemingly validate us as individuals. Wall Street’s wild ride will never slow down meaningfully with the arrival of more money to spread around in stores. And even if we could actually fix core market problems by expanding consumption, exactly what sort of society would we be encouraging?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once spoke of “self‑reliance.” He understood that a foolish “reliance upon property” was the result of “a want of self‑reliance.” Today, living amid a humiliating barrage of advertising jingles, delirious collectivism and relentless imitation, the individual American desperately wants to project a “correct” image.

The demeaning consumer message of our American mass society is everywhere, even in the universities. Here, for the most part, mimicry and repetition define “excellence.” Today, almost all higher education is vocational. We generally graduate newly‑minted Ph.D.s, MDs, JDs and MBA’s who know almost nothing but how to progress in their own fields. They may turn out to be perfectly good teachers, doctors, lawyers and accountants, but they are nonetheless trained, not educated.

Do we want a genuinely robust economy and a stable stock market? Then we must first reorient our society from its cheapened ambience of mass taste to a more cultivated environment of thought and feeling. There is great beauty in the world, but it is best not to search for it at the bank, the video store or the shopping mall.

Even in that very large segment of Main Street that still knows little of Wall Street, there is deepening anxiety and considerable unhappiness. Taught that respect and success lie in high salaries and corollary patterns of consumption, the American public dutifully worships the commonplace. Why should it be otherwise? Galvanized by mostly patronizing and vulgar entertainments, this lonely American crowd thoughtlessly follows a flamboyant but impotent ringmaster. However well-intentioned and capable, our newly-elected president can never save us from ourselves.

Wall Street remains a thoroughly corrupted product of mass society. This mutually destructive dependence between Wall Street and Main Street can never bring us any success. Soon we must create conditions whereby each of us can feel important and alive without surrendering to manufactured images of power and status. Without such conditions, millions of Americans will continue to seek comfort in crime, mind-numbing music, mountains of drugs and oceans of alcohol.

Despite all the noise, we are now a largely joyless society that finds little or no authentic meaning within. This plainly human problem of a socially crushed individualism must be understood before we can fix what is actually wrong with Wall Street. It may seem reassuring to count on the next “stimulus package,” but the real benefits will be altogether illusory.

Copyright © The Jewish Press, January 23, 2009. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., Politics, 1971) and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Waiting For Apocalypse: The ‘End Times’ Factor In Nuclear War Between Israel And Iran (Part I)

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

C’est beau, n’est-ce pas, la fin du monde?
(“It is beautiful, isn’t it, the end of the world?”)
Jean Giraudoux, Sodome et Gomorrhe

To be sure, it’s a subject on which I have written here before, but an additional and generally unrecognized observation now deserves important mention. This observation has to do with the simultaneous presence of certain common and discrepant factors in pertinent elements of current apocalyptic thought. More specifically, it has to do with a manifest irony in the deeply troubling and ongoing matter of Iranian nuclearization.

From the standpoint of President Ahmadinejad and his expressly genocidal regime in Tehran, any prospect of hastening the Shiite apocalypse must naturally be openly acknowledged and candidly welcomed. In the United States and Israel, on the other hand, any conscious encouragement of a Final Battle has always been strenuously rejected. Whatever Scriptural expectations of End Times may be found embedded in Judaism and Christianity, and however seriously they may be accepted among particular American and Israeli populations, these apocalyptic visions have always been rejected as distinct policy options.

There exists, among all the major national players in the still-unfolding Iran drama, a more or less acceptable element of eschatology. But this potentially tragic drama is fashioned out of starkly polar opposites. The all-consuming apocalyptic violence that will seem positive and even purifying in Tehran appears plainly negative and defiling in both Washington and Jerusalem.

To avoid further acquiescence in the “fate” planned for them in Tehran (economic sanctions clearly and predictably have had no meaningful effect on President Ahmadinejad’s nuclear decisional calculus), Israel and/or the United States must take prompt and appropriate military action. Yet, as my many faithful Jewish Press readers will surely understand, it is already very late for any effective preemption against relevant Iranian nuclear assets and infrastructures.

It is also unlikely (perhaps even inconceivable) that the intellectually challenged and soon to depart Bush Administration could still display the political will needed to undertake such a problematic and controversial (albeit possibly law-enforcing) operation. And notwithstanding the more or less publicly assertive stance of this country’s two presidential candidates, neither one has truly been willing to speak straightforwardly for anticipatory self-defense. No tough guys here, not when a real policy decision has to be made.

Both candidates do speak of a presumed remedy that would be ex post. Retaliation, however, unlike preemption, can come only after the fact. It cannot prevent nuclear aggression; it can merely promise (more or less persuasively) some extraordinary forms of punishment. Moreover, in the case of Ahmadinejad’s Iran, preemption represents a threat that could be disregarded entirely in deference to far more deeply felt religious obligations. As expressed above by the dramatist Jean Giraudoux, the end of the world, for some, can be quite “beautiful.”

Few have paid any attention to an absolutely critical point: Nuclear deterrence can exist only between fully rational adversaries – that is, between enemies who share an overriding commitment to collective self-preservation. In this regard, for Israel and/or the United States, any standoff with an already nuclear Iran could thus be very different from what once obtained between America and the Soviet Union. This would not be your father’s Cold War.

Who should conduct a preemptive attack against selected Iranian hard targets if all else fails, and if political courage should somehow make an unexpected appearance? Naturally, the political and operational difficulties for Israel would be much greater. Yet, for Israel to do nothing substantial to defend itself from an openly existential assault – to allow an openly apocalyptic Islamic regime to go fully nuclear – could be suicidal.

Echoing the 17th-century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, “No state,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, “ever has the right of national suicide. Rather, every state’s first obligation is always the assurance of protection. Innocent life must be preserved.” When Iranian leaders openly proclaim belief in the Shiite apocalypse, a series of final battles presumed indispensable for transforming the profane “world of war” into the sacred “world of Islam,” very far-reaching and possibly problematic measures of self-defense must be considered.

Might “justice” have another face in this particular strategic matter? Some would argue indignantly against any American and/or Israeli preemption on the grounds of a presumed need for nuclear “equity.” Israel already has nuclear weapons, goes this particular argument. Why, then, should Iran be treated differently? International law speaks repeatedly of “sovereign equality.” So isn’t there an evident lack of “fairness” in denying to Iran what has tacitly been allowed to Israel?

Consider this: Israel’s nuclear forces remain deliberately ambiguous and undeclared. They have never been brandished in a threatening fashion by Israel’s civilian or military leaders. Nor does Israel ever call for wiping any other state “off the map.” Israel’s nuclear weapons exist only to protect the Jewish state from extraordinary forms of aggression. Understandably, this includes the prevention of another Jewish genocide and related crimes against humanity.

Let us be clear. Israel’s nuclear deterrent force would never be used except in defensive reprisal for massive enemy first strikes. In practice, this means primarily Iranian attacks involving nuclear and/or certain biological weapons. For the time being, none of Israel’s enemies is nuclear, but – naturally – this could change. If it should actually have to face nuclear enemies one day, Israel could choose to rely upon its own nuclear weapons to reduce the risks of unconventional war, but only insofar as the newly-nuclear enemy state(s) would (1) remain rational; and (2) remain convinced that Israel would retaliate with nuclear weapons if attacked with nuclear and/or devastating biological weapons.

For Israel and its also imperiled U.S. ally (let’s not forget for a moment that American military power is now extremely stretched and limited) there would be very complex problems to solve if an enemy state such as Iran were permitted to go nuclear. These problems would undermine the conceptually neat but decidedly unrealistic notion of any balanced nuclear deterrence in the region, a notion now gaining increasing popularity in both Washington and Jerusalem. The Middle East could not sustain the comforting equilibrium that had once characterized U.S.-Soviet relations.

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 opt to launch a nuclear first-strike against Israel in spite of Israel’s own obvious and foreseeable secure nuclear capability. A Cold War type of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (a so-called “balance of terror”) could not exist in the present Middle East.

Copyright© The Jewish Press, October 24, 2008. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many major books and articles dealing with nuclear strategy and nuclear war, including recent contributions to International Security (Harvard); NATIV (Israel/Hebrew); Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs (Israel/English); Parameters (The Journal of the US Army War College); The Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, and International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Some of his earlier writings on both strategic and jurisprudential matters appeared in such journals as World Politics (Princeton); Strategic Review; Special Warfare (DoD); Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Israel Affairs; Counterterrorism and Security International; Policy Sciences, and Armed Forces and Society. Professor Beres was Chair of Project Daniel, which submitted its private final report on ISRAEL’S STRATEGIC FUTURE to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on January 16, 2003. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

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