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Posts Tagged ‘Professor Beres’

Justifying Israeli Preemption Against Iran Under International Law

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The following article by Professor Beres and Colonel (Israel Defense Forces) Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto was originally published in the April 18, 2007 issue of The Jewish Press. Its warnings and predictions concerning a nuclear Iran have been proven unassailable.

Israel now faces the distinctly plausible prospect of a nuclear Iran. Fearing just such a development, the Project Daniel group had already advised then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, back in January 2003, that Israel do everything legally and operationally possible to prevent it. Our then still-confidential recommendations included, if necessary, the preemptive destruction of key Iranian nuclear assets and infrastructures. Such an essential action, we understood, could readily and indispensably fulfill the authoritative criteria of “anticipatory self-defense.”

There is both a legal and strategic precedent for preemptive action against Iran. More than a quarter-century has now passed since Israeli fighter-bombers destroyed Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor shortly before it was ready to go “on line.” At the time, the general global community reaction was hostile. Even the UN Security Council, in Resolution 487 of June 19, 1981, indicated that it “strongly condemns” the attack, and that “Iraq is entitled to appropriate redress for the destruction it has suffered.”

But Israel’s unilaterally defensive action of June 7, 1981 now looks very different. We know now that Saddam Hussein’s plans to build a French-supplied reactor at his nuclear research center at Tuwaitha were designed to produce militarily usable plutonium. American and allied forces did not face a nuclear adversary in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm largely because of Israel’s earlier resort to anticipatory self-defense. Israel’s “Operation Opera” at Osiraq is therefore also largely the reason United States forces did not find nuclear weapons in Iraq at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

International law is not a suicide pact. Under longstanding international law, every state is entitled to strike first when the danger posed is “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.” With respect to the openly genocidal regime currently ruling in Tehran, this right for Israel is now clear and incontestable. Well within the range of Iranian missiles, Israel could be obliterated by only one or two nuclear warheads. As to the western democracies, they are always quick to condemn Iran’s nuclearization, but are once again loath to actually do anything meaningful.

Israel did not commit aggression at Osiraq. Iraq had always insisted that a state of war existed with “the Zionist entity.” As aggression cannot be committed against a state with which a country is already at war, Jerusalem could not possibly have been guilty of a “crime against peace” on June 7, 1981.

Israel did not violate the international laws of war at Osiraq. Fourteen Israeli aircraft took part in the raid–eight F-16 Falcons, each carrying two 1,000-kilogram bombs, and six F-15 Eagles serving as escort planes. The reactor was completely destroyed, without civilian casualties and before any radiation danger existed. Unlike Iraq’s thirty-nine SCUD attacks on Israel during the Gulf War, which were designed to harm civilians, Israel’s raid on Osiraq was executed for the protection of civilians.

Israel’s defensive strike against an outlaw enemy state preparing for extermination warfare was distinctly law enforcing. International law must often rely upon individual states to act on behalf of the entire global community. This is exactly what took place at Osiraq, when Israel’s fighter-bombers precluded an Iraqi nuclear option.

Today, when waiting to absorb a “first shot” from Iran could sentence a New Jersey-sized state like Israel to literal disappearance, the right of anticipatory self-defense should be widely acknowledged. Of course, it remains easy for both Israel’s allies and critics to deny the Jewish state its legal and moral right to protect itself by citing incorrectly to “aggression,” but such denials will ultimately come to impair their own security as well.

It is surely time for the world community to acknowledge the obvious: Israeli preemptive action in 1981 was an indispensable act of international law enforcement. Regarding future essential resorts to anticipatory self-defense, whether by Israel or by any other state facing unconventional aggression, such an acknowledgment could provide an important incentive to do what is needed to save human lives.

Although the tactical requirements to prevent or delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms are substantially more complex than what was needed at Osiraq (Iranian nuclear-related assets and infrastructures are multiplied, hardened and dispersed), a failure to attempt preemption altogether could ultimately threaten the lives of millions of Israelis, Americans, and Europeans. Even a too-long delay could be intolerably consequential, as the already intimidating operational task will only become vastly more difficult over time.

Any preemption must conform to the settled rules of international law. It is not permissible for a state to invoke “anticipatory self-defense” merely because it feels threatened. Rather, the danger posed must be imminent and substantial. In its original nineteenth-century expression, anticipatory self-defense required a situation that was actually “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.” Today, however, in a nuclear age, reasonableness dictates a loosening of this requirement in particular circumstances. After all, waiting too long to satisfy the requirement of “imminence” could easily be suicidal.

Any country that resorts to anticipatory self-defense must also satisfy the Law of Armed Conflict. This means the force used in such strikes must fall within the bounds of “discrimination,” “proportionality” and “military necessity.” Under Humanitarian International Law, every use of force must be judged twice, once with regard to the justness of the cause and once with regard to the justness of the means. Concerning just means, the extensive Iranian practice of “human shields” — termed “perfidy” under international law — makes it likely that any defensive first strike by Israel would unwittingly injure or kill Iranian civilians. Significantly, the full legal responsibility for all such harms would fall upon Tehran, not Jerusalem.

Regional and world security are now imperiled by still-ongoing military commerce with Iran These transfers from certain major states to Iran of dangerous materials, unconventional weapons know-how and infrastructure are rapidly advancing and ensuring Teheran’s determined efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. In the continuing absence of essential collective security for Israel, the time has now arrived for a greatly strengthened commitment to self-defense rights in world affairs.

Israel acted in unmistakable support of these basic rights back in June 1981. Today, many years later, we must ask ourselves immediately whether the critical lessons of Osiraq shall finally be taken seriously, and whether they shall also be learned in time. If they haven’t, Iran will become a full member of the Nuclear Club within three to five years (2010 – 2012), a development that would be fraught with special and possibly irremediable peril for the entire global community.

Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of political science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.

Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto, a member of Project Daniel, served in the 12th Knesset. A colonel (res.) in the Israel Defense Forces, he was Chief of Air Force R & D and Planning in the Israel Air Force. Tsiddon-Chatto is a graduate of the Ecole Superieure de Guerre Aerienne, Paris, and was a member of the first Israeli peace mission to Madrid in 1991.

Empathy, Suffering, And Human Survival: A Jewish Perspective

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

According to ancient Jewish tradition, one that certain Talmudists trace back to the time of Isaiah, the world rests upon thirty-six just men, the Lamed-Vav tzaddikim. For those who remain unknown to themselves, the spectacle of the world is insufferable beyond description. Inconsolable at the extent of human pain and woe, for them, so goes the chassidic tale, there is never a moment of tranquility. From time to time, therefore, God himself, in an effort to open their souls to Paradise, sets forward the clock of the Last Judgment by one minute.

There are several meanings to this extraordinary tradition. One offers special hope in our incontestably growing nearness to vast global catastrophe. We shall soon require a whole world of just men and women. We shall, it seems, soon have to create the conditions whereby each and every inhabitant of our imperiled planet can feel the full anguish and portent of the Lamed-Vavniks. Only then will we be able to take the necessary steps back from defilement to sanctification. Faced with a choice between life and death, between “the blessing and the curse,” we shall “therefore choose life.”

The problem, of course, is not only that such creation would be a monumental task, one requiring a uniquely high level of creative intellectual understanding, but also that the remedy itself would be insufferable. How, indeed, could we endure, as individuals and as nations, if we were to feel with the same palpable pain and sorrow the distress of all others? Imagine, if we can, that the all-consuming empathy we now generally display toward our closest relatives and friends in distress would be extended, generally, to the broadest possible radius of human affinities. Truly, without the Lamed-Vav as intermediaries, we could not begin to survive such a torment.

There is, then, a dilemma. To survive as a species we must also survive as individuals, but the evident requirement of species survival – deeper and wider expressions of human empathy – would also render life unendurable for each and every person. To remediate a distinctly threatened planetary civilization, so it would appear, we now need a blessing that would simultaneously be a curse.

Shall we experience the dizziness of the existentially irremediable? How shall we respond? What shall we do?

To redeem the world, it seems, we must call forth certain indispensable metamorphoses, but the “success” of these transformations would simply place us within a new and equally destructive trajectory of harms. In any event, it is unlikely that we must ever even face up to this dilemma. Evidence abounds that the human capacity for empathy seems limited, and that for all practical purposes we will need to construct our best global survival ideologies with no more ambitious assumptions in mind.

There are important elements in our Jewish tradition that appear to warn against taking on too much of the suffering of others. Although we are certainly obligated to feel such suffering (we can learn from and be elevated by such suffering – Toras Avraham), we must also guard against too much empathy; that is, too-strong feelings that could cause our own personal destruction. At times, said the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, we must heed the following warning: “He who wants to live should act as if he were dead.”

Truth may sometimes emerge through paradox. It is hard for us to understand that an imagined death can sustain life, yet all things move in the midst of death and all individual life is part of a far greater whole. We learn from the legend of the Lamed-Vav not only that empathy is essential but that too much empathy is beyond human endurance. Indeed, implicit in the construction of the thirty-six just men is God’s direct affirmation of the Brisker Rav’s warning.

Truth emerges through paradox. It may also emerge from an awareness that, sometimes, reason alone is incapable of revealing what is most important. Such an awareness was deeply embedded in the thought of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who, in the matter presently before us, would surely urge us to seek not “concepts of truth” but truth itself.

The mystery of eternity hovers above and beyond the temporal world, and the deepest reality of human love and empathy, as manifestations of God’s primary love, cannot be elucidated meaningfully only through rigorous analysis or systematic thought. Rather, it may be discovered in every element of our day-to-day reality, including even that which is manifestly impure: “It is,” says Rabbi Kook, “just from those thoughts which are mixed with evil and impurity that great light emerges, which renews the vigor of life.”

In itself, existence is good, and from all existence we can learn many things, including the vital mysteries of empathy and human survival. Apocalypse, let us remember, was pretty much a Jewish invention, and , according to Rabbi Kook, a Divine redemption must finally be undertaken by and through the Jewish People. A part of such redemption must certainly be a greater awareness of human unity, a dialectical oneness; this will ultimately give rise to the light of loving kindness and forgiveness. In turn, a “lofty” soul is needed to first generate the greater awareness of human unity: “The loftier the soul, the more it feels the unity that there is in all.”

Political Scandal, Public Emptiness And America’s Soul

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

We have seen this movie before. Already, Herman Cain is off the front pages, but there will remain readily accessible political scandals to enjoy in the wings. Ironically, whatever the particulars of these chronic humiliations, all of them will commonly disclose far more serious shortcomings about their “audience” than about their subjects.

In essence, eager public reaction to each new episode of alleged wrongdoing reveal just how little an incorrigibly voyeuristic American citizenry is able to care for itself.

As Jews, we should understand that every democratic society is ultimately the sum total of individual souls seeking redemption. In our increasingly fragmented American republic, “We the people” – always desperate for a chance to “fit in” – cheerlessly inhabit a land of incessant imitativeness, crass consumption, dreary profanity, and utterly shallow pleasures. Bored by the stunning banality of daily life, and beaten down by the grinding struggle to stay optimistic in a starkly polarized nation of great wealth and demeaning poverty, we Americans anxiously grasp for almost any available lifeline of distraction.

Unsurprisingly, “reality shows” remain the rage. Revealing, too, are the top Internet search terms of 2011. These include Casey Anthony, Kim Kardashian, and Katy Perry. Nothing having to do with Iraq, Afghanistan, revolution, assassination, terrorism, genocide, climate change or poverty made the list.

Where shall we discover any productive public concern for planetary survival and national improvement? Where can we still turn to witness any mutually reinforcing visions of social cooperation and personal growth? Where, for that matter, in these United States, is there any discernible evidence of a purposeful Jewish soul?

We the people are no longer shaped by any generalized feelings of reverence or compassion, or even by the tiniest nuances of complex thought. Instead, our preferred preoccupation is with an orchestrated hysteria of tantalizing indulgence in other people’s joys (envy) and sufferings (what the Germans call schadenfreude, or pleasure in the misfortune of others).

This frenzy of inauthenticity is artfully juxtaposed against the comforting and still enduring myth of American superiority. It is sustained by a gaudy national immersion in brutally raw commerce, vast social mimicry, and the unceasing barrage of versified drivel that is euphemistically called advertising or marketing.

What must we Americans endure amid this breathless rhythm of circus-like conformance and self-imposed littleness? More than anything else, We the people have learned to embrace a thoroughly corrupted and directionless national society, one that usually offers very little in the way of meaningful or reverential fulfillment. True, there currently exists an “Occupy Wall Street” movement that has substantially different ideas and ideals, and is even rooted (in part) in certain pleasing traditions of democratic protest. But the movement’s realistic chances of defying the iron law of oligarchy, or unavoidable government by the few, are nonexistent.

We continue to think against history. In the end, we have failed to notice; even the most democratic societies are easily transformed into fixed and immutable plutocracies. As we Americans are dutifully taught from elementary school onward, there will always be some tangible opportunity for wealth and advancement in the free market. Still, there may also be little hope of any corollary happiness.

Often, even the most affluent Americans now inhabit the loneliest of crowds. Small wonder, too, that so many millions cling desperately to their cell phones. Filled with a deepening horror of actually having to be alone with themselves (always a presumptively worst case scenario), these virtually connected millions are frantic to claim membership in the amorphous, but indispensable, public mass.

“I belong, therefore I am.” This is surely not what Descartes had in mind when, in the 17th century, he urged thought and doubt. This is also, inherently, a very sad credo. Unhesitatingly, it screams a plainly pathetic cry that social acceptance is equivalent to physical survival, and that even the ostentatiously pretended pleasures of inclusion are desperately worth pursuing.

Now a push-button metaphysics of “apps” reigns supreme in America. The immense attraction of cell phones and corresponding social networks stems in part from our society’s machine-like existence. Within this robotic universe, every hint of human passion must inevitably be directed along a distinctly uniform and pitifully vicarious pathway.

To be sure, we may still argue, correctly, that human beings are the creators of their machines, not their servants. Yet there is today an implicit and simultaneously grotesque reciprocity between creator and creation, an elaborate and potentially lethal pantomime between users and used.

Our adrenalized American society is now making a machine out of Man and Woman. Arguably, in an unforgivable inversion of Genesis, it even seems plausible that we have somehow been created in the image of the machine. We must then ask, as thinkers and doubters, and also as Jews: “What sort of redemption is this?”

For the moment at least, we Americans remain grinning but hapless captives in a deliriously noisy and suffocating crowd. Proudly disclaiming any interior life, we proceed very tentatively, and in almost every existential sphere, at the lowest possible intellectual level. Expressed in more palpable terms, our financial burdens are generally unfair and indecent in their distribution. Our air, rail and land travel is insufferable. Our universities are generally bereft of absolutely anything that might hint at serious learning.

A State Won’t Turn Terrorists Into Statesmen

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Even if the Palestinian Authority were to succeed with its strategy for incremental statehood at the United Nations, persisting expressions of violence against the innocent would still be terrorism. From the standpoint of international law, even a fully constituted “Palestine” would be unable to justify linguistic transformations of murder. In fact, no matter how hard they might try in any post-independence milieu, those Palestinians who would continue to identify the willful maiming and execution of Israeli noncombatants in the name of a now-expanded goal of “national liberation” (all of Israel proper is “occupied Palestine”) would still be criminals.

Terrorism is a crime under international law. To date, whenever Palestinian insurgents claim the right to use “any means necessary” because they are victims of an alleged “occupation,” they are flat out mistaken. Even if their relentlessly disingenuous claims for “national self-determination” should soon become supportable at the UN, there will remain utterly firm jurisprudential limits on permissible (1) targets of insurgent violence and (2) levels of insurgent violence.

The limited rights of insurgency under international law do not include the use of nail-filled bombs, dipped in rat poison. Under their most generous definition in jurisprudence, these rights can never supplant the settled rules of humanitarian international law, rules also known as the law of armed conflict. Nowhere is it written that there are certain political goals so overwhelmingly worthy of implementation that they can therefore allow the deliberate incineration of infants in their cribs, or of children at play. One doesn’t need to be a professor of international law to understand such an elementary proposition.

From the beginning, supporters of Palestinian terror violence against Israelis have argued passionately that the ends of their insurgency (Palestinian “independence”) justify the means (willful attacks upon Jewish civilians). Leaving aside everyday and ordinary ethical standards by which this argument is already manifestly indecent, the ends can never justify the means under conventional or customary international law. For more than two thousand years, the binding legal principles of world politics have clearly stipulated that intentional forms of violence against the innocent are always repugnant, and hence always prohibited.

Although fashionable to repeat at cocktail parties, the phrase “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is a shallow witticism entirely devoid of any serious legal meaning. While it is true that certain insurgencies can be judged per se lawful (after all, the idea of “just cause” can be found in the Declaration of Independence of the United States), these residually permissible resorts to force must always conform to the laws of war.

Whenever an insurgent group resorts to openly unjust means, its actions are unambiguously terroristic. It follows that even if the ritualistic Palestinian claims of a hostile Israeli “occupation” were reasonable rather than invented, their corresponding claim of entitlement to oppose Israel “by any means necessary” would still remain false.

International law has determinable form and content. It principles and practices cannot be fashioned and re-fashioned by individual terror groups only to satisfy their own presumed geo-political interests. This is especially the case, of course, wherever terror violence purposely targets fragile and vulnerable civilian populations.

National liberation movements that fail to meet the test of just means can never be protected as lawful or legitimate. Even if we could somehow accept the intrinsically spurious argument that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah fulfill the codified criteria of “national liberation,” it is plain that they do not meet the recognizable standards of discrimination, proportionality, and military necessity. These authoritative standards are applicable to insurgent organizations by the common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and by the two 1977 Protocols to these Conventions.

They are also binding upon all combatants by virtue of broader customary and conventional international law, including Article 1 of the Preamble to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907. This rule, called the “Martens Clause,” makes all persons responsible for the “laws of humanity,” and for the “dictates of public conscience.”

Under international law, the ends can never justify the means. As in the case of war between states, every use of force by insurgents must be judged twice, once with regard to the justness of the objective (in this case, a Palestinian state to be built upon the charred ruins of a dismembered Israel), and once with regard to the justness of the means used toward achieving that objective.

Murderers of young children who take undisguised delight in the blood of their victims are never “freedom fighters.” If they were ever entitled to such a designation, we would have to concede that international law itself was nothing more than a mannerly-veneered authorization for consummate evil in world affairs.

American and European supporters of a Palestinian state in the United Nations continue to presume that “Palestine” will be part of a “two-state solution.” For these naive believers in “peace,” a new and 23rd Arab state will cheerfully exist side-by-side with the extant Jewish state. Yet, significantly, this kindly presumption is dismissed everywhere in the Arab/Islamic world.

Now That Iran Has Not Been Stopped…

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

“La commedia ė finita!” (“The comedy is finished!”) – Pagliacci After so many unpardonable years of deception and self-delusion concerning Iranian nuclear intentions, the IAEA has confirmed the worst.

Iran’s nuclear efforts have been vastly more ambitious and successful than was previously believed. According to David Albright, a former IAEA official who reviewed the agency’s findings, underlying IAEA intelligence also concludes that Iran can now “design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” using highly enriched uranium as its fissile core.

When selective preemptions against certain Iranian nuclear assets and infrastructures might still have been practicable, neither Israel nor the United States chose to exercise its lawful right of anticipatory self-defense. Now, barring a wildly unlikely eleventh-hour defensive first-strike by Israel, Iran’s entry into the Nuclear Club is a fait accompli. For Israel, the state most obviously threatened by these developments, all remaining self-defense options will necessarily be limited to plans for improved nuclear deterrence and expanded active defense.

Almost certainly, these inherently fallible programs will include an end to the country’s longstanding policy of “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” and substantial additional deployments of both Arrow and Iron Dome missile interceptors.

Significantly, unlike the no-longer-viable preemption option, these inter-penetrating programs could come into play only after an Iranian nuclear force had already been deployed, or even after an Iranian nuclear attack had already been suffered.

There remains a vital antecedent question. Can anyone reasonably expect a newly-nuclear leadership in Tehran to be reliably rational? Exactly what could happen to Israel if pertinent Iranian leaders, endowed with offensive nuclear weapons, should, even on a single occasion, proceed to value certain presumed religious obligations more highly than their state’s physical survival?

This core question must be raised in reference to all possible Iranian regimes, not only to the present Ahmadinejad government. Although counter-intuitive, regime change in Tehran could conceivably yield an increased likelihood of irrational decision-making.

Irrationality is not the same as madness. Even an irrational Iranian leadership could maintain a consistent and “transitive” hierarchy of preferences.

Enemy irrationality would likely be less dangerous for Israel than having to face a genuinely mad adversary. Still, it will not be Israel’s option to decide which type of adversary it would prefer to face in Tehran,

Any Iranian leadership that slouches toward military conflict with Israel could, sooner than had long been expected, initiate regional nuclear war. Deliberately or inadvertently – as a “bolt from the blue” or a fully unintended result of escalation, whether out of an inexorable religious commitment to jihad against “unbelievers” or, for much more mundane reasons of miscalculation, accident, coup d’état, or command-control failure – a nuclear Tehran could ignite a real-world “Armageddon.”

Thirty-two years ago I published the first of ten books that contained authoritative descriptions of the physical and medical consequences of nuclear war – any nuclear war. These descriptions were drawn largely from a still-valid 1975 report by the National Academy of Sciences and included the following very tangible outcomes: large temperature changes; contamination of food and water; disease epidemics in crops, domesticated animals, and humans due to ionizing radiation; shortening of growing seasons; irreversible injuries to aquatic species; widespread and long-term cancers due to inhalation of plutonium particles; radiation-induced abnormalities in persons in utero at the time of detonations; a vast growth in the number of skin cancers, and increasing genetic disease. Overwhelming health problems would afflict the survivors of any Iranian nuclear attack upon Israel. These difficulties would extend beyond prompt burn injuries. Retinal burns would even occur in the eyes of persons very far from the actual explosions.

Tens of thousands of Israelis would be crushed by collapsing buildings and torn to shreds by flying glass. Others would fall victim to raging firestorms. Fallout injuries would include whole-body radiation injury, produced by penetrating, hard gamma radiations; superficial radiation burns produced by soft radiations; and injuries produced by deposits of radioactive substances within the body.

After an Iranian nuclear attack, even a “small” one, those few medical facilities that might still exist in Israel would be taxed beyond capacity. Water supplies would become unusable. Housing and shelter could be unavailable for hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of survivors. Transportation would break down to rudimentary levels. Food shortages would be critical and long-term.

Israel’s normally complex network of exchange systems would be shattered. Virtually everyone would be deprived of the most basic means of livelihood. Emergency police and fire services would be decimated. All systems dependent on electrical power could stop functioning. Severe trauma would occasion widespread disorientation and psychiatric disorders for which there would be no therapeutic services.

Normal human society would cease. The pestilence of unrestrained murder and banditry could soon augment plague and epidemics. Many of the survivors would expect an increase in serious degenerative diseases. They would also expect premature death, impaired vision, and sterility. An increased incidence of leukemia and cancers of the lung, stomach, breast, ovary and uterine cervix would be unavoidable. Extensive fallout would upset many delicately balanced relationships in nature. Israelis who survive a nuclear attack would still have to deal with enlarged insect populations. Like the locusts of biblical times, mushrooming insect hordes would spread from the radiation-damaged areas in which they arose.

Pain And Martyrdom After The Arab Spring

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Soon, at least meteorologically, the Arab Spring will become an “Arab Winter. It will also be an apt change of metaphor. After all, from the standpoint of civilizational vulnerabilities to jihadist terror, nothing will have been improved. To the contrary, the still-developing relationship between regional democratization and Islamist terror-violence will most likely be inverse, and hence unwelcome.  Significantly, this injurious turn of events could include both the probability, and intensity, of substantial terror-harms.

Almost certainly, and in more-or-less ascertainable increments, Islamist forces will soon surface and multiply with a renewed dedication to theocratic purity. The grotesquely explosive results of this largely unexpected rededication will be felt in the immediately affected countries, and also in Israel, Europe, and the United States.

In Gaza,  Hamas, empowered by newly-emergent, post-Mubarak elements of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – not to mention its plainly gainful repatriation of more than one thousand terrorists in the recent asymmetrical prisoner exchange with Netanyahu  – will likely enlarge its plans for “war” against Israel. For all jihadist terrorists, of course, operational terror-violence will remain inseparable from their utterly immutable ideals of the sacred.

As I have been pointing out in these pages for many years, jihadist terrorism has little to do with war, politics or resistance to oppression. Instead, the essential meanings of these unceasing barbarisms can be found within distinctly personal spheres of fear, dissatisfaction, cowardice and loathing. These include: (1) a consuming, though unrecognized, horror of death; (2) an unfulfilled wish for ecstasy, or intense pleasure; (3) a palpable joy drawn from the targeting of those who “lack sacredness;” and (4) perhaps even more acutely after the fall of Mubarak and Ghadaffi, an unrelenting loathing of “apostates” and “infidels.”

In searching for current meanings of revolutionary fervor in the Middle East and North Africa, the implications for jihadist terrorism will not be discoverable in official declarations, charters, or covenants. Nor will they be made readily understandable in less formal Islamist diatribes. Obliquely but profoundly, these deeper meanings will remain hidden and embedded in the intense sufferings joyously inflicted by jihadists upon their defenseless victims.

Throughout this volatile region, jihadist terror and “sacred” vengeance will soon re-emerge. Indeed, it is already re-emerging. Seeking to express shahada, or Death for Allah, this Islamist violence will increasingly challenge secular military forces, perhaps doing even more to fatally undermine democracy than the original authoritarian regimes.

Human language cannot describe human agony. The defiling horror of jihadist terror-violence, therefore, can never really be understood or felt by others. Armies of scholars notwithstanding, this horror simply can’t be reduced to any tangible or measurable inventory of casualties.

Agony is always incommunicable. In matters of jihadist terror, efforts at quantification always miss the point.   

            Following  the Arab Spring, the  anguish of  new terror victims will not only defile language; this anguish will also be language defiling. The sheer inexpressibility of pain, though never determinable by politics, revolution or society, can still have expressible political, revolutionary and societal outcomes. In the case of still-impending jihadist terrorism, it may even stand in the way of recognizing the new Islamist violence as criminal and unacceptable.

Immediately, we need to look beyond the agitated but ultimately futile and stillborn regional cries for “democracy.” We must understand, firstly, that jihadist terrorists are animated and encouraged by the palpably voluptuous and purifying satisfactions of planned violence. Islamist suicide-bombers prepare carefully for their cathartic missions of pain and extinction because of the anticipated ecstasy. Drawn from a presumed religious obligation, this ecstasy, which rewards doubly because it is “cleansing,” represents an almost exact reciprocal of the suffering to be borne by the unfortunate victims.

For jihadist suicide terrorists, both past and future, the death that is meted out to enemies remains only an abstraction. These victims lack sacredness. In the Koranic concept of war, terrorizing the profane unbeliever who refuses to be dhimmi (to accept Shari’a domination) is doctrinally a source of deep satisfaction.

Physical pain within the human body can do more than destroy ordinary language. It can also bring about a visceral reversion to pre-language human sounds – that is, to those primal moans, cries and whispers that are anterior to learned speech. While the soon-to-be expanding number of victims of jihadist terror will writhe agonizingly from the burns and the nails and the screws, neither the “civilized” world publics who bear silent witness, nor the “martyrs” themselves, will truly experience what is being suffered.

Physical pain, even after the Arab Spring, can have no consequential “voice.” When, at last, it may discover some potentially decipherable sound, the listener will no longer want to listen. The audience, after all, undeniably mortal and fragile, will strenuously seek to deny its own existential vulnerabilities. Such denial, as Freud recognized, lies at the very heart of what it means to be human.

The UN, Palestinian Statehood And Jihadist Terror

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Before the end of the year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, though weakened by Hamas’s control of the recent Gilad Shalit deal with Israel, may still seek UN recognition of Palestinian statehood. Any plan for a Two-State Solution in the Middle East will quickly degrade both U.S. and Israeli security. This is because the “road map” to a Palestinian state conveniently bypasses the plainly non-territorial origins of jihadist terror.

It is a point I have made here before. In essence, jihadist terror has little to do with land or politics or strategy or tactics. Rather, it is a predictable, repetitive, and ritualistic expression of deeply serious religious sacrifice.

Even if Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah receives credit for an eventual UN declaration of Palestinian sovereignty, Hamas would likely dominate any resultant Arab state. In keeping with its utterly immutable commitment to raw terror, the Islamic Resistance Movement, now strengthened by the striking disproportionality of its recent Shalit exchange, would promptly launch expanded forms of “freedom fighting.” Significantly, because such violence would express shahada, or Death for Allah, there would be no room for any further negotiations. There would also be no diplomatic or strategic advantage to any further American or Israeli concessions.

The primal nexus between sacrifice and political violence has a long and pertinent history, including links in ancient Greece. There, Plutarch’s Sayings of Spartan Mothers revealed the model female parent as one who reared her sons expressly for civic sacrifice. This exemplary mother was always relieved to learn that a son had died “in a manner worthy of his self, his country and his ancestors.” Indeed, those unlucky Spartan sons who had failed to live up to this standard were conspicuously reviled.

One woman, whose son had been the sole survivor of a recent military engagement, killed him with a tile. Culturally, it was the only correct punishment for his apparent cowardice. Later, the eighteenth-century Swiss (Genevan) philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, citing Plutarch, described another citizen-mother’s tale: “A Spartan woman had five sons in the army and was awaiting news of the battle. A Helot (slave) arrives trembling; she asks him for the news. ‘Your five sons were killed.’ ‘Base slave, did I ask you that?’ The slave responds: ‘We won the victory.’ The mother runs to the temple and gives thanks to the gods.”

The roots of still-impending jihadist terror from “Palestine” originate, in part, from contemporary cultures that embrace similar views of sacrifice. In these “sacred violence” cultures, the purpose of sacrifice extends far beyond civic necessity. Here, sacrificial practice becomes a genuinely expression of religious fervor. More precisely, such sacrifice derives largely from a hoped-for conquest of personal death; in other words, hope for immortality.

Although seldom acknowledged, there can be no greater power in world politics than power over death. Oddly, this point is not really difficult to understand. After all, compelling promises of immortality underlie virtually all major human religious belief. Still, this central point is not understood in either Washington or Jerusalem.

The jihadist terrorist claims to love death, but this necrophilious claim is a lie. Paradoxically, this self-proclaimed “freedom fighter” kills himself (or herself) and innocent others, to ensure that he or she will not die. The so-called “death” that he or she expects to suffer in such a suicide is anything but final. It is, instead, a momentary inconvenience on one more glorious “martyr’s” fiery trajectory toward life everlasting.

Martyrdom operations have always been associated with jihad.  These operations are based on long-codified Muslim scripture. Unequivocal and celebratory, enthusiastic invocations for this particular species of warfare can be found in the Koran, and also in the canonical hadith.

For the U.S. and Israel, the security implications of any doctrinal fusion involving religion and violence now warrant very careful consideration. Convinced that shahada violence against the U.S. or Israel will lead to martyrdom, the Hamas terrorist will never be deterred by any ordinary threats of military reprisal or determined retaliation. Reciprocally, however, this criminal will be strongly encouraged by Israel’s repeatedly one-sided territorial surrenders and prisoner agreements. This was especially evident in the ecstatic Palestinian welcomes recently extended to the hundreds of Hamas killers traded for Gilad Shalit.

What does this mean for the United States? Above all, it means our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least as large-scale military expressions of counter-terrorism, are now utterly beside the point. These wars will not make the slightest dent in jihadist thinking or consequent jihadist threats.

All good strategy begins at the conceptual or “molecular” level. It is the individual jihadists’ terror of death that leads them, “logically,” to “suicide.” Precisely because any short-term dying in the act of killing infidels and apostates is presumed to buy freedom from the penalty of real death, these Islamist terrorists pointedly aim to conquer mortality by killing themselves.

Israel And Its Enemies: Future Wars And Forceful Options (Third of Three Parts)

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

The following originally appeared in The Jewish Press in March 1992. Today, nearly twenty years later, its arguments remain timely and valid.

Even if Iran and the Arab enemies of Israel were not in a declared condition of belligerence with the Jewish state, Israel’s preemptive action could still be entirely law-enforcing. The customary right of anticipatory self-defense has its modern origins in the Caroline incident, which concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule (a rebellion that aroused sympathy and support in the American Border States). Following this case, the serious threat of armed attack has generally been taken to justify militarily defensive action.

In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then-U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that did not require an actual attack. Here, military response to a threat was judged permissible so long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.”

Today, some scholars argue that the customary right of anticipatory self-defense articulated by the Caroline has been overridden by the specific language of Article 51 of the UN Charter. In this view, Article 51 fashions a new, and far more restrictive, statement of self-defense, one that relies on the literal qualification contained at Article 51 “if an armed attack occurs.” This interpretation ignores that international law cannot compel a state to wait until it absorbs a lethal or even a devastating first strike before acting to protect itself.

The argument against the restrictive view of self-defense is reinforced by the apparent weaknesses of the Security Council in offering collective security against an aggressor. Moreover, both the Security Council and the General Assembly refused to censure Israel for its 1967 preemptive attack against certain Arab states, signifying implicit approval by the United Nations of Israel’s particular resort to anticipatory self-defense.

Before Israel could persuasively argue any future instances of anticipatory self-defense under international law, a strong case would have to be made that it had first sought to exhaust peaceful means of settlement. Even a broad view of the doctrine of anticipatory self-defense does not relieve a state of the obligations codified at Article 1, and at Article 2(3) of the UN Charter.

Strictly speaking, of course, these obligations should not be binding upon Israel because of the condition of belligerency declared by its Arab enemies, but, as a practical matter, the global community seems generally to have ignored this condition. It follows that Israel, should it decide upon future instances of “preemption,” would be well advised to demonstrate its prior efforts at peaceful settlement.

Looking over the more than [sixty] years of conflict between Israel and certain Arab states, Israel itself has generally defended its resorts to military force as measures of self-help short of war. For the most part, such defense has had the effect of shifting the burden of jurisprudential responsibility for lawful behavior from the Arab states to Israel, an unfortunate shift because it focuses blame unfairly upon the Jewish state. Furthermore, Israel has often identified its uses of military force as “reprisals,” thereby choosing a problematic concept under international law that compounds one legal mistake with another.

Because under the current Charter system of international law the right of reprisal is essentially contingent upon self-defense, it would be wise for Israel – so long as it chooses to ignore or downplay the declared condition of war announced by its enemies as grounds for different legal justifications for resort to armed force – to confine its rationale of military operations to the continuing right of self-defense. This would be especially reasonable in view of the fact that Israel now faces the threat not only of war, but of genocide.

Genocide is a word with precise jurisprudential meaning. Codified at the Genocide Convention, a treaty that entered into force on January 12, 1951, it means any of a series of stipulated acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such….” The key to understanding and identifying genocide lies in the “intent to destroy.” Genocide can take different forms. Its victims can be transported to the gas or the gas can be brought to the victims. Either way, the effect is the same: intentional mass murder of defenseless civilian populations.

Ideally, the United States will soon recognize Israel’s precarious position and take decisive steps to reduce Iranian and other preparations for renewed aggression. Failing such steps, Israel may conclude that prompt non-nuclear preemption, as an expression of “anticipatory self-defense” in international law, is the only way to protect itself. Preemption may in fact be the best available means of reducing the risk of regional nuclear war.

There is a lesson in all this for Israel’s enemies and her friends. The real danger to peace in the Middle East is not intercommunal conflict with the Palestinians, but war, and it is in Tehran especially, not Jerusalem, that war is being prepared. Should these preparations continue at a rate that remains ominous for essential Israeli security, Israel will almost certainly have to strike first itself. Should the United States seek genuine stability for the region, it will have to avoid treating Iran as a non-risk factor. Assuredly, Jerusalem cannot base its survival upon the ways of Washington geopolitics.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/israel-and-its-enemies-future-wars-and-forceful-options-third-of-three-parts-2/2011/11/23/

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