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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Project Daniel’

What If Israel’s ‘Peace Partners’ Actually Prefer War?

Friday, September 21st, 2012

At this point in Israel’s problematic diplomatic agenda, there is really only one overriding policy question: Can any form of negotiation with the Palestinians, Fatah and/or Hamas, ever prove reasonable and productive?

From the very beginning, even before formal statehood in 1948, Israel has sought courageously and reasonably to negotiate with its many unreasonable enemies. Always, Jerusalem has preferred peace to war. Nonetheless, challenged by relentless and interminable Arab aggressions, diplomacy has usually failed Israel. Even the most visible example of an alleged diplomatic success, the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979, is apt to fail calamitously sometime in the post-Mubarak era.

It follows that Prime Minister Netanyahu is obligated to ask: What real chance exists that, somehow, this time, and also for the future, diplomacy might be purposeful?

From Oslo to the present Road Map, diplomacy over Israel’s rights and obligations has always been an unambiguously asymmetrical process.

Israel’s principal enemies remain candid. On some things, significantly, they do not lie. On their irremediable intention to annihilate the “Zionist entity,” they are seemingly sworn to truth.

The key disputing Palestinian factions (Fatah or Hamas, it makes little difference) and Iran will never accept anything less than Israel’s removal. This is already obvious to anyone who cares to pay attention to what is said. Moreover, in a clearly corroborating bit of cartography, every PA or Hamas or Iranian map already incorporates all of Israel within “Palestine.”

Toward the end of his tenure, prior Prime Minister Ehud Olmert released several hundred Palestinian terrorists as a “goodwill gesture.” Together with then-President George W. Bush, he had decided to aid Fatah against Hamas with outright transfers of weapons and information. Soon after, those American and Israeli guns were turned against Israel. As for Olmert’s graciously extended “goodwill,” it had only served to elicit the next round of rocket fire. Matters were not helped at all by Washington’s corollary support for a Palestinian state, a thoroughly misconceived support now being extended by President Obama.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Rooted deeply in jihadist interpretations of Islam, there is an obvious and enduring inequality of objectives between Israel and its principal enemies. For both Palestinian insurgents and Iran’s president, conflict with Israel is always “zero-sum,” routinely an all or nothing proposition. In this starkly polarizing view of incessant strife between “the world of war” and “the world of Islam,” there can never be any proper place for authentic treaties or settlements with the Jewish state, save of course as a temporary tactical expedient.

For Israel, on the other hand, a negotiated peace with its Arab neighbors and/or Iran persists as an elusive but presumably plausible hope. This is true even when any prospect of Islamic reciprocity is evidently preposterous and historically unimaginable.

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

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

Incomprehensibly, Israel may still believe that certain of its Arab enemies and Iran reject zero-sum assumptions about the strategy of conflict. Israel’s enemies, however, do not make any such erroneous judgments about conformance with Israeli calculations. Further, these enemies know Israel is wrong in its belief that certain Arab states, Iran, and the Palestinians also reject the zero-sum assumption, but they pretend otherwise. There has remained, therefore, a dramatic and consequential strategic disparity between Israel and certain of its frontline Islamic enemies.

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

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

For Israel, and also its cross-pressured U.S. ally, there would be very difficult problems to solve if an enemy state such as Iran were permitted to go fully nuclear. These problems could lethally undermine the conceptually neat, but probably unrealistic, notion of balanced nuclear deterrence in the region.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Slaughter The Jews’: Israel, Anti-Semitism, And International Law (Third of Three Parts)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The Genocide Convention criminalizes not only various acts of genocide, but also (Article III) conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Articles II, III and IV of the Genocide Convention are fully applicable in all cases of direct and public incitement to commit genocide. For the Convention to be invoked, it is sufficient that any one of the state parties call for a meeting, through the United Nations, of all the state parties (Article VIII).

Though this has never been done, the United States, especially following the upcoming presidential election, should consider very seriously taking this particular step. Israel, too, should be an obvious co-participant in this call, but it is unlikely that any government in Jerusalem, historically aware of always-expanding global indifference to Jewish life, will seek formal redress under any multilateral conventions.

An alternative remedy/strategy could involve the issuance of specific criminal indictments for crimes against humanity, by Israel’s Justice Ministry, to the key Palestinian broadcasters and journalists now engaged in daily anti-Semitic harangues. In the words of Israeli attorney, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, back in February 2004: “Those who operate Palestinian television and radio stations and the printing presses engaged in hate speech should be arrested along with the other suspected killers.”

Any public trial before an Israeli tribunal could carry very grave geopolitical risks. For one, as no Arab or Iranian authority could ever be expected to extradite alleged wrongdoers to Israel for trial, it would inevitably be up to Israeli military and police authorities to acquire physical custody over defendants. This is the case though such an expected Arab/Iranian disregard for Israeli extradition requests would represent a manifestly serious violation of peremptory international criminal law.

Even if an Israeli trial could afford opportunity for a direct evidentiary connection between Palestinian media incitement and Palestinian terrorism, much of the world would be focused instead on the extraordinary means by which Israel took custody of the inciters. After all, when Israel captured major Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann in 1960, more states chose to condemn the abduction than to recall the prisoner’s role as murderer of one million Jewish children.

The Genocide Convention, the London Charter, and the December 2003 International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda are not the only authoritative codifications that could now be invoked against relentless media and leadership calls for the mass killing of Jews. The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination should also be brought productively into play. This treaty condemns “all propaganda and all organizations which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form,” obliging, in Article 4(a), state parties to declare as “an offense punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons.” Article 4(b) affirms that state parties “Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offense punishable by law.”

Further authority for curtailing and punishing Palestinian calls for genocidal destruction of Jews can be found in Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

The overriding point of the judgments at Nuremberg was to ensure that all future crimes against humanity be identified, prosecuted, and punished. Fully aware of these judgments, the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda ruled, in December 2003, that “mere words” can contain substantial criminal liability, and may warrant very severe punishments. Understood in terms of ongoing homicidal and genocidal Arab and Iranian calls for violence against Israel, it is essential that every state in the United Nations now be reminded of its binding obligation not to encourage another Holocaust. This is a fully legal obligation, and certainly must not be taken lightly.

Now, especially in anticipation of November’s presidential election, there may be new opportunities in Washington to finally make things right regarding Israel’s fundamental security needs. It is imperative that any such opportunities be identified, and taken quickly, while there is still time, and certainly before a Palestinian state is declared unilaterally.

Israeli Security, Enemy Rationality, And Coming Global Chaos (First of Two Parts)

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

In the past few years, on these pages of The Jewish Press, I have written several times about critical strategic implications of “chaos” and also of “irrationality” and “madness.” Still, I have never written about the fusion or juxtaposition of these seemingly distinct issues. However, because there are increasingly obvious and important potential interactions between them (military strategists would call such interactions “synergies,” or sometimes “force-multipliers”), I shall now examine these utterly core security matters with a view toward acknowledging their possible ways of coming together.

In particular, the results could be very important to a better understanding of what is now happening between Israel and Iran. This will be, therefore, a helpful and consciously purposeful look behind the current news.

In defense planning there exist critically important differences between rationality, irrationality, and madness. An irrational leadership may not value national survival more highly than anything else, but it may still have a consistent and therefore predictable hierarchy of preferences. For example, it may always value certain presumed religious obligations more than any other preference, or combination of preferences. This unsettling prospect, as we all already know, is a distinct possibility in present-day Iran.

A rational leadership elite, on the other hand, in the usual parlance of security studies, will always value national survival more highly than all other preferences, and it will always respect this same rank order in its hierarchy of preferences. Significantly, just as with an irrational national leadership, this set of rational decision-makers will also have a consistent hierarchy.

Madness is a different condition altogether; in world politics it means not having any established rank-ordering of preferences. Hence, a mad national leadership, with no consistent ordering of preferred choices, will be more-or-less wholly unpredictable. For Israel and the United States, having to face a mad adversary must always represent the very worst case scenario. But, at least for now, perhaps somewhat reassuringly, it is the most improbable case.

Enter Israel and Iran. According to recent statements by former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, “The regime in Iran is a very rational one.” However, considering Dagan’s corollary explanations of “rationality,” he is saying only that the Iranian regime is not mad; that it will prudently consider all decisional consequences. Dagan’s notion of Iranian rationality may actually resemble our above-referenced meaning of irrationality – that this regime carefully weighs all expected costs and benefits, and that its preferences will always fall within a consistent hierarchy, or rank-ordering. The bottom line is this: Dagan’s statements notwithstanding, the current Iranian leadership cannot be reliably counted upon to value national survival above all else. Yes, its authority patterns may be entirely reasonable, well-ordered, and even predictable (certainly not “mad”), but there still can be no adequate assurances of ultimate and certain decisional priority for national self-preservation.

It follows from all this that successful “containment” or deterrence of an already-nuclear Iranian regime should not be taken for granted. The resulting balance-of-terror might still not closely replicate the circumstances of mutual assured destruction (MAD) that had once existed between the Soviet Union and the United States. This might not be your father’s Cold War.

This brings us, quite naturally, to chaos.

Chaotic disintegration is an evident fact of life in several parts of the world. Today, substantial and even sudden extensions of this condition to other sectors of our planet are plausible. Even with assorted arms control and disarmament visions, including President Obama’s continuing fantasy of “a world free of nuclear weapons,” it is credible to expect, somewhere, an eventual fusion of mass destruction weapons with irrationality and/or madness. Our current fears, of course, center on Iran, Syria, Pakistan and North Korea, but there are certainly other, as yet unforeseen, areas of peril.

From Israel’s particular standpoint, the dangers may be starkly unique. Confronting not only a growing threat from existing enemy states but also the more or less simultaneous appearance of a new enemy state of Palestine, Israel could find itself engulfed in mass-casualty terrorism, and/or in unconventional war. As to any long-promised security assistance from the United States, President Obama or his successor could offer little more than compassionate American help in burying the dead.

The probability of any genuine Middle East chaos would be enlarged by any future instances of enemy irrationality or madness. If Israel should begin to face an irrational Jihadi adversary that values certain presumed religious expectations more highly than its own physical survival, Israel’s deterrent could, by definition, be immobilized. This could mean a heightened threat of nuclear and/or biological war.

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

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

What, then, might be most important to Israel’s prospectively irrational enemies, potentially even more important than their own physical survival as a state? One possible answer is the avoidance of certain forms of shame and humiliation. Another would be avoidance of the potentially unendurable charge that they had somehow defiled their most sacred religious obligations. Still another would be leaders’ preferred avoidance of their own violent deaths, deaths that could be attributable to Israeli strategies of targeted killing and/or regime-targeting.

Oddly enough, this last suggestion may be problematic to the extent that, theologically, dying at the hands of Jews for the sake of Allah could be regarded as a distinct positive. In this connection, Israel must recall that there is no greater form of power in world politics than power over death. Dying for the sake of Allah could be regarded in certain contexts as a clerically-blessed passport to immortality.

These tentative answers are only a beginning. Strategic problems are fundamentally intellectual problems. What is needed now is a sustained and conspicuously competent intellectual effort to answer such questions in much greater depth, and breadth.

In the future, Israel will need to deal with both rational and irrational adversaries. These enemies, in turn, will be both state and sub-state actors. On occasion, Israel’s leaders will also have to deal with various complex and subtle combinations of rational and irrational enemies, sometimes even simultaneously.

Ultimately, Israel must also prepare to deal with nuclear madmen, both as terrorists and as national leaders, but first it must fashion a suitable plan for dealing with nuclear adversaries who are neither mad nor irrational. With such an imperative, Israel must now do everything possible to enhance its deterrence, preemption, defense, and war-fighting capabilities. This means, inter alia, enhanced and explicit preparations for certain “last resort” or “Samson” operations.

Concerning any prospective contributions to Israeli nuclear deterrence, recognizable preparations for a Samson Option could serve to convince certain would-be attackers that their anticipated aggression would not be gainful. This is especially true if such Israeli preparations were combined with certain levels of disclosure, that is, if Israel’s Samson weapons were made to appear sufficiently invulnerable to enemy first-strikes, and if these weapons were identifiably countervalue (counter-city) in mission function.

The Samson Option, by definition, would be executed with countervalue-targeted nuclear weapons. It is likely that any such last-resort operations would come into play only after all Israeli counterforce options had been exhausted.

Concerning the previously mentioned “rationality of pretended irrationality,” Samson could enhance Israeli nuclear deterrence by demonstrating a national willingness to take existential risks, but this would hold true only if Israeli last-resort options were directed toward rational adversaries.

Concerning prospective contributions to preemption options, preparations for a Samson Option could convince Israeli leaders that their own defensive first strikes would be undertaken with diminished expectations of unacceptably destructive enemy retaliations. This sort of convincing would depend, at least in part, upon antecedent Israeli government decisions on disclosure (that is, an end to “nuclear ambiguity”); on Israeli perceptions of the effects of disclosure on enemy retaliatory prospects; on Israeli judgments about enemy perceptions of Samson weapons’ vulnerability; and on an enemy awareness of Samson’s countervalue force posture.

In almost any event, the optimal time to end Israel’s bomb in the basement policy, and thereby replace “deliberate ambiguity” with appropriate forms of disclosure, will soon be at hand.

Similar to Samson’s plausible impact on Israeli nuclear deterrence, recognizable last-resort preparations could enhance Israeli preemption options by displaying a clear and verifiable willingness to accept certain existential risks. In this scenario, however, Israeli leaders must always bear in mind that pretended irrationality could become a double-edged sword. Brandished too flagrantly, and without sufficient nuance, any Israeli preparations for a Samson Option could impair rather than reinforce Israel’s nuclear war-fighting options.

Concerning prospective contributions to Israel’s nuclear war fighting options, preparations for a Samson Option could convince enemy states that any clear victory over Israel would be impossible. With such reasoning, it would be important for Israel to communicate to potential aggressors the following very precise understanding: Israel’s countervalue-targeted Samson weapons are additional to its counterforce-targeted war fighting weapons.

Without such a communication, any preparations for a Samson Option could impair rather than reinforce Israel’s nuclear warfighting options.

Undoubtedly, as was concluded by Project Daniel more than nine years ago, nuclear war fighting should, wherever possible, be scrupulously avoided by Israel. But, just as undeniably, there are some readily identifiable circumstances in which such exchanges could be unavoidable. Here, some form of nuclear warfighting could ensue, so long as: (a) enemy state first-strikes launched against Israel would not destroy Israel’s second-strike nuclear capability; (b) enemy state retaliations for an Israeli conventional preemption would not destroy Israel’s nuclear counter-retaliatory capability; (c) conventional Israeli preemptive strikes would not destroy enemy state second-strike nuclear capability; and (d) Israeli retaliations for enemy state conventional first strikes would not destroy enemy state nuclear counter-retaliatory capability.

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

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

A “bolt-from-the-blue” CBN (chemical, biological or even nuclear) attack on Israel launched with the expectation of city-busting reprisals might not necessarily exhibit irrationality or madness. Within such an attacking state’s particular ordering of preferences, any presumed religious obligation to annihilate the “Zionist Entity” could represent the overriding value.

Here, from the standpoint of the prospective attacker’s decisional calculus, the expected benefits of producing such a “blessed” annihilation would exceed the expected costs of any expected Israeli reprisal. Judged from this critical analytic standpoint, a seemingly “mad” attack decision could actually “make sense.”

Any enemy state with such explicitly exterminatory orientations could represent the individual suicide bomber in macrocosm. It is a meaningful and powerful image. Just as individual jihadists are now plainly willing to achieve personal “martyrdom,” so might certain jihadist states become willing to “sacrifice themselves” collectively. From a purely strategic standpoint, the fact that any such suicidal willingness would lack democratic origins would be irrelevant.

Any Iranian or Arab leaders making the decision to strike at Israel would be willing to make martyrs of their own people but probably not of themselves. In this not inconceivable decisional scenario, it would be judged acceptable by these particular leaders to sacrifice more or less huge portions of their respective populations, but only while they, and presumably their families, were themselves able to flee expeditiously to a predetermined, albeit still earth-bound, safe haven.

What is Israel to do? It can’t rely, forever, on even the most creative forms of preemption/anticipatory self-defense. It can’t very well choose to live, indefinitely, with enemies who might not always be reliably deterred by more usual threats of retaliation, and who are themselves already armed with assorted weapons of mass destruction.

Effectively, Israel cannot still decide to preempt against selected Iranian and/or other threatening military targets, because the operational prospects of success would now be very remote, and because the global outcry would be deafening. It cannot place more than partial faith in any anti-tactical ballistic missile defenses, because, after all, Israel’s Arrow would require a near-100 percent reliability of intercept to be purposeful in any soft-point protection of cities. Not even the oft-tested and brilliantly engineered Arrow, together with its corollary elements of active defense, can do this. The same “leakage” problems, for example, would apply to the shorter-range protections of Iron Dome.

The strategic options still available to Israel seem very limited; the associated consequences of failure could include national extinction.

If Israel’s enemies were all presumed to be rational, in the ordinary sense of valuing physical survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences, Jerusalem could begin, among other things, to exploit the strategic benefits of pretended irrationality. Recognizing that, in certain strategic situations, it can be rational to feign irrationality, Israel could then work to create more cautionary behavior among its relevant adversaries.

In such cases, the threat of an Israeli resort to a “Samson Option” might be enough to dissuade an enemy first-strike. Recalling Sun-Tzu, any more explicit Israeli hints of “Samson” could indicate a very useful grasp of the ancient Chinese strategist’s advice to diminish reliance on defense, and, instead, to “seize the unorthodox.”

If, however, Israel’s relevant adversaries were presumably irrational in this ordinary sense, there would likely be no real benefit to postures of pretended irrationality. This is the case because the more probable threat of any massive Israeli nuclear counterstrike linked in enemy calculations with irrationality would be no more compelling to Iran, or to any other enemy state, than if it were confronted by a presumably rational State of Israel.

In strategic nuance, Israel could benefit from a greater understanding of the “rationality of pretended irrationality,” but only in particular reference to expectedly rational enemy states. In those circumstances where such enemy states were presumed to be irrational, something else would be needed, something other than nuclear deterrence, preemption, and/or ballistic missile defense.

Although many commentators and scholars still believe the answer to this quandary lies in certain far-reaching political settlements, this time-dishonored belief is born largely of frustration, and utterly naïve self-delusion. Recalling regional histories, it is not the documented product of any deliberate or informed strategic calculation. No meaningful political settlements can ever be worked out with enemies who openly seek Israel’s “liquidation,” a word still used commonly in many Arab and Iranian newspapers, web sites, and texts.

Israel must fully understand that irrationality need not mean madness. Even an irrational state leadership may have an identifiable, consistent, and transitive hierarchy of wants. The first task for Israel, therefore, must always be to identify this hierarchy among its several state enemies.

Although these states might not be deterred from aggression by even the plausibly persuasive threat of massive Israeli retaliations, they might still be deterred by certain threats aimed at what they do hold to be most important.

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

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Over the years, in several of my columns in The Jewish Press, I have examined the critical bases of Israeli nuclear deterrence. Recently, in consequence of the growing threat of Iranian nuclearization, increasing attention has been directed toward pertinent issues of enemy rationality. With this in mind, the following three-part column will seek to explain the impact of “irrationality” on Israel’s deterrence posture, and also the vital differences between prospective Iranian irrationality and “madness.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pianist And ‘Palestine’ (Second of Two Parts)

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

In strategy and law, war, terrorism and genocide are not mutually exclusive. Now, following the “Arab Spring,” even as the usual suspects maintain their explicitly genocidal threats against Israel, certain “progressive” Jews proudly lead various rallies and publications for “peace” and “democracy” in the Middle East. Such “progress,” we might learn from Roman Polanski’s film “The Pianist,” could only be fashioned upon yet another generation of Jewish corpses.

In the United States, and also in Israel, Jewish university professors are typically leaders in organizing campus protests (1) against an alleged Israeli occupation, and (2) for expanded Arab rights in “Palestine.”

Significantly, few if any of these Jewish professors would murmur an audible objection to Arab murders of their fellow Jews in Israel. This is the case whether the murderers prefer lynching, shooting, or suicide bombing.

Nor would any of these Jewish humanitarians suggest any Palestinian wrongdoing when Hamas’s next round of rockets is fired at cities and towns in Israel, or, soon enough, when Palestinian Authority “security forces,” assiduously trained by the United States, begin to initiate massive Fatah terrorist outrages against Israeli civilians. About these American-trained Fatah fighters, we can be assured that they will also use their newly-honed homicidal talents against their American benefactors.

Credo quia absurdum. “I believe because it is absurd.” Offered a choice to act on behalf of their own imperiled and abused state, or to combine their own self-destruction with even broader patterns of injustice, certain segments of Israel’s Jewish commonwealth will fail even to recognize the underlying and overwhelming ironies. Always, it seems, these smug archaeologists of ruins-in-the-making overlook something primal, that is, that any complicity with evil is destined, deservedly, to fail. We still have much to learn from “The Pianist.”

The Jewish police in Warsaw, we know now, were decidedly foolish and arguably indecent. Today’s “Jewish police,” mainly American and Israeli academic supporters of Israel’s enemies, don’t wear a uniform or carry a truncheon, but they are similarly indecent and equally foolish. In some respects, they are vastly more odious than their Warsaw antecedents, as this current generation of Jewish collaborators does so willingly and boastfully, and plainly without any defensible need for personal or familial self-preservation.

Too often, sometimes hiding behind their academic robes, and behind sanctimonious calls for “academic freedom,” the consuming cowardice of contemporary Jewish police is not merely stifling, it is also very dangerous. Intermittently reinforced by well-intentioned but similarly-uninformed Jews outside the academy, Jews who believe that marching ceremoniously for Palestinian statehood is the moral equivalent of marching for civil rights with Martin Luther King, these pitiable minions unwittingly represent the advance guard of Israel’s physical destruction. Left unchallenged by those who should know better but who nonetheless remain silent, they will soon sit by bewilderedly, but likely without any remorse, as rockets rain down upon Israel.

In Los Angeles, always a Mecca for Jews who live unknowingly in intellectual darkness, there will be feelings of betrayal. Perhaps these Jews will go so far as to write angry letters to their Congressional representatives or to the Los Angeles Times. Surely, however, they will not be sufficiently upset to interfere with their local Temple’s busy oneg schedule, or with the Sisterhood’s annual deli lunch.

Another thought dawns. In Warsaw, the great majority of Jews did not feel any personal responsibility to speak and act on behalf of Jewish survival. Rather, they believed, communal safety was exclusively the codified responsibility of specified community leaders; ultimately, that is, of the Jewish Councils, who both sanctioned and sustained the Jewish police.

Today, an even larger majority of American Jews remain silent in the face of hideously distorted depictions of Israel, sometimes by their fellow Jews. Many of this “silent majority” is professional and well educated: doctors and lawyers, business people and social workers, teachers and accountants, entertainers, and (of course) professors. They are silent, they claim, only because they are not sure what is “true.” They are, after all, not “experts.”

But the truest reason for their desperate silence is something very different. This reason is their infinitely irrepressible inclination to confront unwelcome and annoying news with capitulations, fear, and an unceremonious trembling.

What are they afraid of, these gentle and caring Jewish Temple members, who can routinely be counted upon for regular and generous donations to help the homeless in Sudan and Somalia? How can these good people fail to see that the jihadist anti-Jewish world is once again mustering for an organized genocide, this time for a more thoroughly modernized mass killing, one in which the technology of annihilation will more efficiently bring exterminatory gas directly to the target populations? Don’t they see that they have a sacred responsibility, as Jews, and also as human beings, not to sit idly by as readily identifiable portions of the Arab/Islamic world prepare openly to blot out the despised Jewish state?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/the-pianist-and-palestine-second-of-two-parts/2012/04/12/

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