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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Military Affairs’

Israel and Palestine: Critical Intersections of Law and Strategy (Part II)

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Generally, the Israeli is despised in the Islamic world because he or she is a Jew, a condition of presumed infirmity that can never be “remedied.” Consider the following facts:

A current Egyptian textbook of “Arab Islamic History,” used widely in teacher training colleges, expresses utterly hideous sentiments:

The Jews are always the same, every time and everywhere. They will not live save in darkness. They contrive their evils clandestinely. They fight only when they are hidden; because they are cowards .The Prophet enlightened us about the right way to treat them, and succeeded finally in crushing the plots they had planned. We today must follow this way, and purify Palestine from their filth.

In an earlier article in Al-Ahram, by Dr. Lufti Abd al-Azim, the famous commentator urges, with complete seriousness:

The first thing that we have to make clear is that no distinction must be made between the Jew and the Israeli .The Jew is a Jew, through the millennia .in spurning all moral values, devouring the living, and drinking his blood for the sake of a few coins. The Jew, the Merchant of Venice, does not differ from the killer of Deir Yasin or the killer of the camps. They are equal examples of human degradation. Let us therefore put aside such distinctions, and talk only about Jews.

Writing also on the “Zionist Problem,” Dr. Yaha al-Rakhawi remarked openly in Al-Ahram:

We are all once again face to face with the Jewish Problem, not just the Zionist Problem; and we must reassess all those studies which make a distinction between “The Jew” and “The Israeli.” And we must redefine the meaning of the word “Jew” so that we do not imagine that we are speaking of a divinely revealed religion, or a minority persecuted by mankind .we cannot help but see before us the figure of the great man Hitler, may God have mercy on him, who was the wisest of those who confronted this problem .and who out of compassion for humanity tried to exterminate every Jew, but despaired of curing this cancerous growth on the body of mankind.

Finally, we may consider what Israel’s first Oslo peace partner, Yasir Arafat, had to say on January 30, 1996, while addressing forty Arab diplomats at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. Speaking with the title, “The Impending Total Collapse of Israel,” Arafat remarked unhesitatingly:

We Palestinians will take over everything; including all of Jerusalem . All the rich Jews who will get compensation will travel to America . We of the PLO will now concentrate all our efforts on splitting Israel psychologically into two camps. Within five years, we will have six to seven million Arabs living in the West Bank, and in Jerusalem . You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel, and establish a purely Palestinian state .I have no use for Jews; they are and remain, Jews.

Notwithstanding these plainly intolerant Arab views of Israel’s physical existence, international law still need not expect Palestinian compliance with any pre-state agreements concerning armed force. This is true, moreover, even if these agreements were to include certain explicit U.S. security guarantees to Israel. Also, because authentic treaties can be binding only upon states, a non-treaty agreement between the Palestinians and Israel could quickly prove to be of little or no real authority, or effectiveness. This is to say nothing of the still utterly byzantine connections between Fatah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Islamic Resistance Movement and the (Egyptian) Muslim Brotherhood.

What if the government of a new Palestinian statewere somehow willing to consider itself bound by the pre-state, non-treaty agreement? Even in these very improbable circumstances, the new Arab government could still have ample pretext, and opportunity, to identify relevant grounds for lawfultreaty termination.

Palestine could withdraw from the treaty because of what it regarded as a “material breach,” a purported violation by Israel that had allegedly undermined the object or purpose of the agreement. Or it could point toward what international law calls Rebus sic stantibus, in English, the doctrine known as a “fundamental change of circumstances.” Here, for example, if Palestine should declare itself vulnerable to previously unforeseen dangers, perhaps even from the interventionary or prospectively occupying forces of certain other Arab armies, it could lawfully end its codified commitment to remain demilitarized.

After declaring independence, a new Palestinian state government, one likely sharing the prospectively genocidal sentiments of some of the writers quoted herein, could point to particular pre-independence errors of fact,or to duress, as appropriate grounds for agreement termination. The usual grounds that may be invoked under domestic law to invalidate contracts can also apply under international law, both to actual treaties, and to treaty-like agreements.

Any treaty is void if, at the time of entry, it is in conflict with a peremptory rule of international law, a rule accepted by the community of states as one from which “no derogation is permitted.” Because the right of sovereign states to maintain military forces for self-defense is always such a rule, Palestine could be fully within its lawful right to abrogate any agreement that had, before independence, compelled its demilitarization.

Mr. Netanyahu should take no comfort from anylegal promises of Palestinian demilitarization. Should the government of any future Palestinian state choose to invite foreign armies or terrorists on to its territory, possibly after the original government had been overthrown by more militantly Jihadist/Islamic forces, it could do so not only without practical difficulties, but also without necessarily violating international law.

In the final analysis, the core danger to Israel of any presumed Palestinian demilitarization is more practical than legal. The Washington-driven road map, always a one-sided plan of land for nothing, stems from a persistent misunderstanding of Palestinian history and goals, and of the long legal history of Jewish life and title to disputed areas in Judea/Samaria (West Bank) and Jerusalem. For a start, President Obama should finally recognize that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1964; three years before there were any occupied territories.

Exactly what, the president should answer, did the PLO plan to “liberate?”

In earlier years, Shimon Peres was correct. A Palestinian state, any Palestinian state, would represent an utterly mortal danger to Israel. This danger could not be relieved, inter alia, by any legal Palestinian pre-independence commitments to demilitarize.

For Israel, whether the particular security issue is Egypt, or Palestine, or both, it will now be critical to identify, wherever pertinent, the potentially perilous intersections of jurisprudence and national strategy. For the beleaguered Jewish state, any promised protective benefits offered by treaties and treaty-like agreements under international law will necessarily remain starkly limited.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D. Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and several hundred scholarly articles dealing with Israel and international law. Chair of Project Daniel (Israel, 2003), he is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Obama, Netanyahu And Palestine: A Partnership In Futility And Dishonor

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

All people, Jews or gentiles, who dare not defend themselves when they know they are in the right, who submit to punishment not because of what they have done but because of who they are, are already dead by their own decision; and whether or not they survive physically depends on chance. If circumstances are not favorable, they end up in gas chambers.

Bruno Bettelheim, “Freud’s Vienna and Other Essays”

Bettelheim, like the Greek poet Homer, understands that the force that does not kill, that does not kill just yet, can turn a human being into stone, into a thing, even while it is still alive. Merely hanging ominously over the head of the vulnerable creature it can choose to kill at any moment, poised lasciviously to destroy breath in what it has somehow “graciously” allowed, if only for a few more moments, to breathe; this force indelicately mocks the fragile life it intends to consume.

As for the pitiable human being who stands helplessly before this force, he or she has effectively already become a corpse.

Israel, in some respects, is this “pitiable human being” in macrocosm, now at the threshold of becoming a thing. Still called upon by U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to negotiate with unrepentant terrorists, Prime Minister Netanyahu has agreed to accept certain forms of Palestinian statehood, at least in principle. Strongly hoping not to be identified as an “obstruction to peace,” Mr. Netanyahu has somehow managed to discover reassurance in his openly-stated expectations for Palestinian demilitarization.

There is no chance, of course, that any Palestinian state would ever consent to its own demilitarization. Any such refusal to demilitarize would be entirely consistent with authoritative international law. This is the case even if the Palestinian negotiators, in their pre-independence form, had formally agreed to such a limiting condition.

Several years ago, in a burst of presumed strategic ingenuity, Israel decided to arm Hamas against Fatah. Islamic fundamentalists, they reasoned in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, must surely be “better” than Yassir Arafat and his likely successors. Now, in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu operates on the very opposite understanding. In both cases, Israel’s leaders, pressured by an American president, have missed an overriding point: Both Hamasand Fatah, even as they intermittently fail to achieve any true reconciliation with each other, still remain fully committed to Israel’s annihilation.

Neither terror organization should ever be expected to serve Israel’s security interests.

Neither Hamas nor Fatah could ever become a willing subcontractor for Jewish national survival.

Oddly enough, until very recently the United States, similarly confused, in a program begun under President George W. Bush, and continued under President Obama, spent several hundred million dollars giving advanced military training to Fatahforces in Jordan.

Now, Hamas terrorists in Gaza, aided by Iran, are able to fire substantially upgraded military-issue rockets into southern Israel. When Israel retaliates, as it must, not only Hamas, but also Fatah, cheerfully and systematically exploit the indispensable reprisal for specifically propagandistic benefit. Ironically, the more Arabs who die as a consequence of the Israeli counter-terrorism operation, the (presumed) better for both Hamas, and for Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah/Palestinian Authority. After all, if only there were a Palestinian state, Israel could be prevented, in the future, from inflicting such further harms upon innocent Gaza populations.

From the standpoint of international law, the Abbas plan is a textbook case of perfidy. The Arab side is committing multiple violations of the law of war, or the law of armed conflict, for the express purpose of eliciting deliberate harm to its own civilians. Moreover, in addition to deliberately placing Gaza civilians in harm’s way, Hamas steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that the obligatory IDF self-defense actions are always scrupulously discriminate, conforming not only to the law of war, but also to its own even-stricter national code concerning “Purity of Arms.”

Arguably, the Arab world ought to at least be grateful to Netanyahu for neglecting to emphasize the core contrast between its own purposefully provocative criminal excursions into terror, and Israel’s reciprocal and carefully-measured efforts at counter-terror. Similarly, both Hamas and Fatah should be very pleased that Mr. Netanyahu has not flatly ruled out a Palestinian state under all circumstances. Significantly, such a broad-based exclusion could be altogether correct, morally and jurisprudentially. It would also certainly be in Israel’s overall survival interests.

International law is not a suicide pact. Nonetheless, the Arab world does not willingly play the gentleman. In this respect, at least, it is an honest world.

Even today, even while Netanyahu still agrees to follow the road map, the Palestinian Authority map of Palestine remains undisguised. On this unhidden bit of cartography, Palestine still includes all of Israel. There are no two-states on the maps of “moderate” leader Mahmoud Abbas, the ungrateful beneficiary of huge amounts of money “donated” by unsuspecting American taxpayers. There is only one.

However unintentionally, and under all of its prime ministers since Begin, Israel has more-or-less come to accept a deformed image of itself, an image spawned not in Jerusalem or Hebron, but in Washington, Ramallah and Gaza. Degraded and debased, this is the view not of a strong and righteous people, determined to stand upright in its own land, forever, but of an already-deceased victim, resigned, a conspicuously-lacquered corpse-in-waiting. To be sure, large majorities of Israelis have always fought courageously against precisely such an intolerable view, against the endlessly hapless visions of disengagements, realignments, and peace processes,” but this demeaning image is still very much alive. In certain quarters in Israel, it is plainly fashionable; in these circles, it is even de rigeur.

The moral confusion of so many Jewish intellectuals emboldens Israel’s enemies. Writing several years ago about Israel’s Oslo Agreements, precursor of the road map, Israeli novelist Aharon Megged had observed: “We have witnessed a phenomenon which probably has no parallel in history; an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel’s intelligentsia with people openly committed to our annihilation.” Bewilderingly, this unique identification has taken poisonous root in a succession of Israeli governments, and shows no real signs of abating.

For nation-states, as for individual human beings, there can be no hope for survival in the absence of true and unapologetic conviction. Bruno Bettelheim would have understood.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue. He is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security issues. In Israel, he was Chair of Project Daniel. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Acknowledging National Mortality: Israel’s Ironic Imperative

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
            Jorge Luis Borges, the very special Argentine writer and philosopher, sometimes quite happily identified himself as a sort of Jew. Although lacking any apparent basis in halacha, he nonetheless felt himself to be a deeply kindred spirit: “Many a time I think of myself as a Jew,” he is quoted in Willis Barnstone’s Borges at Eighty: Conversations (1982), “but I wonder whether I have the right to think so. It may be wishful thinking.”
            How marvelous to hear such pleasing words. After all, any such explicit philo-Semitic sentiment is assuredly rare, especially when it is uttered in sincerity by one of the modern world’s greatest authors. It follows, in my judgment, that Jews and Israelis ought to pay especially close attention to certain hidden implications of Borges’ ecumenical wisdom.
            Consider this: In one of his very best stories, a condemned man, having noticed that human expectations rarely coincide with reality, consciously imagines the circumstances of his own death.  Because they have become expectations, he reasons, they can never actually happen. 
            So it should now be with the State of Israel.  Recognizing that fear and reality go together naturally, the people of Israel should begin to consciously imagine themselves (even as the ingathered Jewish community which has been scripturally promised a distinct permanence or eternity), to be living within the contingentspace of individual and collective mortality.  Only then, it seems could Israel effectively undertake the specific political and military policies that are now needed to secure it from forcible extinction.
            After all, to conclude that G-d’s promise should allow Israel to simply sit back and automatically assume a Higher sphere of protection, irrespective of prudent strategic preparations, would be to fundamentally misunderstand both Torah and Talmud.
            On another level, however, the advice to encourage national existential apprehensions may still appear foolish.  Isn’t fear of death starkly debilitating? Most people, we already know, try to diminish this fear as best they can.
            Anxiety, it should seem plain, is an obvious expression of weakness. What possible advantages could there possibly be to deliberately nurturing any thoughts of national fear and trembling; indeed, of existential dread and disappearance?
             Here is a response. Truth sometimes emerges only through paradox, and imaginations of a collective immortality, imaginations generally encouraged by a panoply of false hopes and false dawns, willdiscourage needed Israeli steps toward collective self-preservation.   Even in those expanding circles of enlightenment, where there is no longer any faith in an always-delusional peace process, many Israelis will instinctually resist any intimations of national annihilation.  Unable to understand that what is true for individuals is also true for states, these Jewish citizens will stubbornly choose to imagine an Israel that is automaticallyforever.  The predictable result of any such corrosively wrongheaded imagination would be an even greater level of Jewish national transience.
 
           There are multiple ironies here.  In the fashion of many of its Arab/Islamic enemies, Israel insistently still imagines for itself, either scripturally or strategically (or both), only life everlasting.  But, unlike these enemies, Israel does not see itself achieving immortality, individually or collectively by the ritual murder of its enemies.  Rather, it sees its collective survival as the permanentproduct of divine protection, reasoned diplomatic settlements, and/or prudent military planning.
            Singly or collectively, and in any conceivable configuration or permutation, there is nothing inherently wrong with these particular expectations; still, they should never be allowed to displace a pragmatic prior awareness of an always-possiblenational impermanence.
             Any asymmetry of purpose and expectation between Israel and its implacable Islamic foes will place the Jewish state at a notable and foreseeable disadvantage.  While Israel’s enemies, most notably Iran, now manifest their positive hopes for immortality by the always-intended slaughter of Jews, Israel’s leaders display their country’s own expectations for collective immortality by agreeing to steadily incremental surrenders of vital territories. Most recently, Prime Minister Netanyahu expressly added the caveat of Palestinian demilitarization, but, as everyone already understands, this remains an utterly implausible and disingenuous expectation.
             In the end, the protracted clash in the Middle East between Arab/Islamic believers in violence, and Israeli believers in Reason, will likely favor the former.  In the end,unless the prevailing asymmetry is replaced by new and far-reaching Israeli imaginations of existential disaster,the Jewish believers in mutual understanding will have to depart once again from the Promised Land. 
            It is difficult, of course, to ask Israelis to resist American-style positive thinking, and, instead, to think the worst.  Yet as Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt says, “The worst does sometimes happen,” and it would now be far better for Israel to err on the side of excessive pessimism.  Only then, spurred on by the most conspicuously dreadful imaginations of disaster, could the people of Israel begin to contemplate the irremediably brutal connections between Palestinian statehood, Iranian nuclearization, and apocalyptic war. 
      
      The alternative, to blindly accept the dreadfully twisted cartography of President Obama’s road map, and/or to resignedly accept the interpenetrating inevitability of nuclear weapons in Iran, could precipitate Israel’s final defeat.

     

       Exeunt Omnes?

 

            LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters. He was born in Zürich, Switzerland, and served as Chair of Project Daniel. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

History, Crowds, And The Slow Death Of America

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

“The crowd is untruth.”

Soren Kierkegaaard

Sometimes, as I have asserted from time to time in this column, seeing requires distance. Now, suffocating daily in political and economic rants from both the Right and the Left, we Americans must promptly confront a critical need to look beyond the historical moment, to seek both meaning and truth behind the news. There, suitably distant from the endlessly adrenalized jumble of current fears and concerns, we could finally understand the timeless struggle of individual against mass, of the singular person against the “crowd.”

The crowd, recognized the great Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, any crowd, is “untruth.” Whatever side one takes in the current American culture wars, there is assuredly never any palpable reward for rugged individualism. Rather, contrary to the stock reassurances of our high school and university history textbooks, this nation routinely smiles upon visceral conformance and cliché, while disapproving and even crushing any dint of critical questioning, or any hint of independent thought.

Our most insidious enemy is an unphilosophical spirit that knows nothing, and seeks to know nothing, of truth. Now facing an unprecedented and staggering economic crisis, we Americans still feel most comfortable when we can chant inchorus. “We’re number one; we’re number one, we shout reflexively, even as our capacity to project global power withers visibly, and even as the stark national separation of rich and poor has come to mimic the most depressed and downtrodden nations on earth.

Always uncomfortable with intellect or real learning (in contrast to vocational or “practical” training), America is utterly bored or annoyed with difficult concepts and complex ideas. After all, it is much easier to fashion our personal judgments and opinions on the basis of a pre-formed political discourse.

Now, Americans are sharply polarized not only by race, ethnicity and class, but also by inclination to consider serious thought. For most of this broken country, shallow entertainments remain the only expected (and affordable) compensation for a shallow life of tedious obligation and meaningless work. This huge portion of the populace, kept distant from any true personal growth by every imaginable social and economic obstacle, desperately seeks some residual compensations in silly slogans, status-bearing affiliations, and, of course, the manifestly empty witticisms of politics.

As Americans, we must soon understand that no nation can ever be “first” that does not hold the individual sacred. At one time in our collective history, after Emerson and Thoreau, a spirit of personal accomplishment did earn high marks in this land. Young people, especially, strove to rise, not as the embarrassingly obedient servants of crude power and raw commerce, but as distinctly proud owners of a unique and personal Self.

Alas, today, this Self “lives” in lines of traffic, and on the cell phone. Whether we Americans would prefer to become more secular, or more reverent, to grant government more authority over our lives, or less, a willing submission to multitudes has become our unifying national “religion.”

Such crowd-like sentiments have a long and diversified planetary history. We are, to be fair, hardly the first people to surrender to crowds.

The contemporary crowd-man or woman is, in fact, a primitive and universal being, one who has “slipped back,” in the words of the great Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset, “through the wings, on to the age-old stage of civilization.”

This grotesque stage is littered with the corpses of dead civilizations. Left-wing or Right-wing, tea-party or no-party, college educated or high-school graduates, the crowd indiscriminately defiles all that is most gracious and still-promising in American society. Charles Dickens, during his first visit to America, had already observed in 1842: “I do fear that the heaviest blow ever dealt at liberty will be dealt by this country in the failure of its example to the earth.”

To our credit, we Americans havesuccessfully maintained our political freedom from traditional political tyranny and oppression, but we have also cravenly surrendered our corollary liberty to become authentic persons. Openly deploring a life of meaning and sincerity, we stubbornly confuse wealth with success, and blurt out rhythmic chants of patriotic celebration even as our cheerless democracy vanishes into meaninglessness and wide suffering.

Whatever its origin, there is an identifiable reason behind this carefully synchronized delirium. Such babble seeks to protect us all from a terrifying and unbearable loneliness. In the end, however, it is a contrived and inevitably lethal solution.

The courageous American who still seeks escape from the crowd, who opts heroically for disciplined individual thought over effortless conformance, must feel deeply alone. “The most radical division,” asserted José Ortega y Gasset in 1930, “is that which splits humanity . those who make great demands on themselves and those who demand nothing special of themselves ” In 1965, the Jewish philosopher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, offered an almost identical argument. Lamenting, “The emancipated man is yet to emerge,” Heschel then asked each one to inquire: “What is expected of me? What is demanded of me?”

It is time for camouflage and concealment in the pitiful American crowd to yield to what Heschel had called “being-challenged-in-the-world.” Individuals who dare to read books for more than transient entertainment, and who are willing to risk social and material disapproval in exchange for exiting the crowd, offer America its only real and lasting hope. To be sure, these rare souls can seldom be found in politics, in universities, in corporate boardrooms, or anywhere on radio, television or in the movies. Always, their critical inner strength lies not in elegant oratory, in catchy phrases, or in large accumulations of personal wealth, but in the considerably more ample powers of genuineness, reason and thought.

Not even the flimsiest ghost of intellectual originality still haunts our public discussions of politics and economics. Now that our self-deceiving citizenry has lost all sense of awe in the world, this American public not only avoids authenticity, it positively loathes it. Indeed, in a nation that has lost all regard for even the Western literary canon, our American crowdsshamelessly seek comfort and fraternity in a common and conveniently shared illiteracy.

The division of American society into Few and Mass represents a useful separation of those who are imitators from those who would initiate real understanding. “The mass,” said Jose Ortega y Gasset, “crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select.” Today, in deference to this Mass, the intellectually un-ambitious American not only wallows lazily in nonsensical political and cultural phrases, he or she also dutifully applauds a manifestly shallow ethos of personal surrender and social mediocrity.

By definition, the Mass, or crowd, can never become Few. Yet, someindividual members of the Mass can make the difficult transformation. Those who are already part of the Few must announce and maintain their determined stance.

Aware that they comprise a core barrier to America’s spiritual, cultural, intellectual and political disintegration, these resolute opponents of the crowdwill knowingly refuse to chant in chorus. Ultimately, they will remind us of something very important: Individually and collectively, staying the lonely course of self-actualization and self-renewal – a course of consciousness rather than delusion – is the only honest and purposeful option for our imperiled country.

Today, unhindered in their misguided work, our national cheerleaders in all walks of life draw feverishly upon the sovereignty of the unqualified crowd. This Mass depends for its very breath of life on the relentless withering of personal dignity, and on the continued servitude of any independent consciousness. Oddly, still unaware of this parasitism, we the people are passively converted into fuel to feed the omnivorous machine of “democracy,” a system of governance in which the American citizenry is certainly permitted to speak and interact freely, but which is now also an undisguised and anti-human plutocracy.

The crowd is untruth.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

War, Terror And Revolution: Israel’s Special Vulnerability to Chaos (Part II)

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
              For Israel, the prime inheritor of Genesis, an expanding global chaos portends a very unusual, and also ironic, kind of fragility. A relentlessly beleaguered microstate, and always the individual Jew writ large, Israel could become the principal victim of international disorder. In view of the exceptionally far-reaching interrelatedness of all world politics, this could be true even if the actual precipitating events of war and terror would occur elsewhere.
            In a strange and paradoxical symmetry, global chaos may reveal both sense and form.  Generated by explosions of mega-war and mega-terror, disintegrations of world authority could still have a discernible shape.
             How, precisely, should this shape, this particular “geometry” of chaos, be deciphered and understood by Israel? As a corollary and utterly vital question, Israel’s leaders must also inquire: “How, exactly, shall we deal with potentially irrational nuclear adversaries, both state and terrorist groups?”
            The world, like the individual nation-states that comprise it, is best understood as a system.  What happens in any one part of this system, therefore, always affects what happens in some or all of the other parts.  When global deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one country to another, the effects can undermine international stability in general.  When deterioration is sudden and catastrophic, as it would be following the onset of unconventional war and/or unconventional terrorism, the unraveling effects could also be immediate and overwhelming.
            The State of Israel, a system of interdependent and interpenetrating parts like every other state, exists precariously in a larger world system.  Aware that an incremental collapse of world authority structures will, in one way or another, impact its (few) friends as well as its (many) enemies, leaders of the Jewish state must now advance informed expectations of collapse (social scientists would call these expectations “plausible scenarios”)  in order to prepare suitable forms of response.  Finally, recognizing that rapid and far-reaching global collapse could even spawn a more or less complete return to “everyone for himself” in world politics, what the philosopher Thomas Hobbes called a “war of all against all,” Israel’s leaders must now consider even how they should respond to possible life in a global “state of nature.”
             Such consideration will be all the more critical to the extent that the triggering mechanism of collapse would originate within the Middle East, from massive chemical, biological and, in the future, even nuclear attacks, against Israel.
            Chaotic disintegration of the world system, whether slow and incremental, or sudden and catastrophic, will dramatically impact the Israeli system.  In the clearest manifestation of this impact, Israel will have to orient its military planning and doctrine to a variety of worst-case possibilities, focusing much more on the whole range of self-help security options than on traditional forms of cooperative alliance guarantees. Within the imperiled country, any diplomatic processes still premised on outdated assumptions of reason and rationality would have to be curtailed in recognition of now fully apparent regional limits to civilization.
            Israel’s judgments about a “Two-State Solution” will soon need to be made in consequence of anticipated world-system changes.  From the standpoint of Israel’s overall security, such a reorientation of planning, from anticipations of largely separate and unrelated threats to presumptions of interrelated dangers, could provide an essential framework for facing the increasingly uncertain future.  The conceptual or philosophic origin of this framework would be a prior Israeli government willingness to extract pertinent policy implications from the emerging geometry of chaos.
             There is also an important “feedback loop” here. Israel’s particular reactions, as a system within a system, to growing expressions of worldwide chaos, will themselves impact these expressions.  Should Israel’s leaders react to unstoppable disorder by hardening their commitment to all relevant forms of self-reliance, including appropriate and lawful resorts to preemptive military force, Israel’s enemies would surely respond, individually or collectively, in similarly self-reliant ways.
            What are these ways?  How, exactly, should Israel respond to such responses?  These are primary dialectical questions that should now be raised by Israel’s most capable strategic planners. It is, therefore, now time for these planners to consider the crucial feedback implications of creation in reverse.
            By likening both the world as a whole, and their own mini-state in particular, to the biological concept of system, Israel’s leadership could learn, before it is too late, that states die not only because of a direct, mortal blow, but also in reaction to a series of distinctly less than mortal blows.  This is because, after a time, even multiple “minor” insults to an organism can produce a breakdown of “immunities” that pave the way for life-endangering “pathogens.”  Taken by itself, any one such insult; e.g., a local infection, an injury, an impediment to vision or hearing or memory, will not cause death.  But, cumulatively, over time, these attacks can be fatal, either by affecting the organism’s overall will to live, and/or by making it possible for a “major insult” to take place without any adequate defense.
            Taken by themselves, Israel’s intermittent and still-planned surrenders of land for nothing, its probable and continuing reluctance to accept certain indispensable preemption options, and its misdirected adherence to always-asymmetrical peace agreements may not bring about national disappearance. Taken together, however, these insults, occurring, as they do, within a far broader worldwide pattern of escalating chaos, could have a decisively weakening effect on the whole Israeli organism.  Whether the principal injurious effect here would be one that impairs the Jewish State’s commitment to endure, or one that would actually open Israel to a devastating missile attack, or to a calamitous act of terror, is presently still unclear.

            What is already clear is that Israel’s leaders must now ask forthrightly: What are the true sense and form of chaos in the world system, and exactly how should this discoverable geometry of chaos affect the Jewish state’s comprehensive national survival strategy?

 

              LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law. In Israel, he has been involved with national security, military and intelligence matters for almost forty years. Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

After Bin Laden What Do Jihadi Terrorists Still Seek?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
            Even with Osama bin Laden gone, al Qaeda operatives, some actively collaborating with more-or-less kindred groups, are planning terror attacks against the United States. These attacks could conceivably involve chemical and/or biological weapons. 
            What about a nuclear “dirty-bomb”? We know that such a weapon, perhaps less likely, is nonetheless already on various “drawing-boards.”  We also understand that if it should be made operational, any such fusion of selected nuclear materials with conventional high-explosive would probably produce instances of mass disruption, rather than mass-destruction.
             But we should begin at the beginning. What, exactly, do Jihadi terrorists still seek? This core question may at first appear silly, frivolous or even contrived. Yet, the usual answers are almost always superficial. Never, it seems, are we genuinely willing to probe this complex query seriously, with applied intellect, and with utterly non-partisan analytic resolve.
            All Islamist terrorists want to transform pain into power.  This transformation is not always easy, because the correlation is not always proportionate.
           Some truths are counter intuitive. It is even possible that inflicting the most excruciating pain upon victims would diminish terrorist power, while causing less overwhelming pain would enhance terrorist power.
             Jihadi terrorist groups have learned from the torturer.  They understand that pain, to be purposeful, must point toward death, but that it must not always kill right away. This is not to suggest that terrorists do not seek to produce large numbers of dead Americans, but rather that leaving alive many American witnesses who will then themselves fear consequent annihilation is an integral part of this particular enemy’s “choreography.”
            Imitating the torturer, the Jihadi terrorist plans to take what is private and incommunicable, the pain contained within the boundaries of the sufferer’s own body, and manipulate it to further shape the behavior of  “others.”  A defiled form of theater that extracts public influence from the most intimate depths of privacy, Jihadi terrorism twists and amplifies pain within the individual human body to influence many others who live outside that body. Thus violating the inviolable, it shouts with an unspeakable cruelty, not only that “You are not immune!  but also, “Your most personal horror can be made public!”
            We still hear from various educated quarters that those “martyrs” who plan to slay Americans have a recognizably political motive.  Surely, we are instructed, 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 and vocalized grievances are legion, but they are also effectively beside the point.
           In the end, what really matters is to attain Paradise, and thereby to avoid the “torments of the grave.” Jihadi martyrs, alone, are “guaranteed” to honorably bypass all such incomparable torment. It is, as we in the West seem never truly to understand, an utterly sacred promise of unimaginable seriousness. For the Jihadis, violence (against unbelievers) and the sacred are inextricably and perpetually linked.
            Where do we go from here?
            Even after bin Laden, Washington confronts a masquerade.  The declared motive of the Jihadi perpetrator is always only a fiction.  The torturer tortures because he enjoys torturing. The terrorist terrorizes with a primal and visceral, not political, delight.
            The torturer typically cannot be stopped by answering his questions.  The martyrdom-seeking terrorist, lascivious with a privileged ecstasy that fuses sex, violence and immortality, cannot be slowed by surrender to his demands. This is because the means of terror-violence are not only justified by the ends; they are themselves a palpable source of personal satisfaction.  
            The Jihadi terrorist and his victims experience pain and power as opposites.  As the victims’ suffering grows, so does the power of the terrorist.  As the power of the terrorist grows, so does the pain of his victims. 
            For the bystanders, each blast of pain is a mock execution, a stunning reminder of continuing vulnerability, and a tangible denial of ultimate power, which is always power over death.
            So long as the enemy is rational, every terrorist escalation in the magnitude of terror will follow from meticulously calculated correlations of pain and power.  The oft-heard observation that “terrorists have no reason to escalate” is simply the facile product of very 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 Jihadi terrorist understands that it is not enough that his victims feel pain.  This pain must also be felt, vicariously but meaningfully, by all those who might still themselves become victims. 

           For President Obama, after successfully eliminating  Osama bin laden, this should now become a conceptual understanding of immediate concern. In the final analysis, it will prove far more important than the success of any particular operational calculations.

                                                               

 

Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971), Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is the author of many major books and articles on terrorism, nuclear strategy and nuclear war. These include 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). Dr. Louis René Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.

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.

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