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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Purdue University’

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.

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

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

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

As the continuing flow of new missiles to Iran reveals, the Bush administration [Editors Note: This refers to first President Bush] remains committed to misconceived policies in the Middle East. Even if Israel were to yield West Bank and Gaza to create a new state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, the government in Tehran would persist in its planned aggressions against the Jewish state. Altogether unconcerned with the fate of the Palestinians, this government can be satisfied only by Israel’s disappearance.

Ironically, by its public declarations and by its deeds, Iran is remarkably open and honest about its objectives. In the words of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, new leader of the pro-Iranian Party of God, “The only way to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East is the return of all the Jewish occupiers to the lands from which they originally came.”

Israel’s “crime,” in the eyes of Iran, is that it exists. Short of ceasing to exist, an option that would be made much more likely by the creation of a state of Palestine, Israel can do absolutely nothing to remove the threat of another major war. To a considerable and growing extent, one that Washington still refuses to acknowledge, the problem is religion. More and more, as Islamic fundamentalists wrest control from secular forces in Iran and the Arab world, the declared enemy is no longer “Zionists,” but “Jewish occupiers.”

Throughout the Islamic world, fundamentalists are now challenging incumbent regimes, competing for power and calling for a new assertiveness. Unlike more moderate Muslims, these fundamentalists are disinterested in political compromise and are willing, in many cases, to place the obligations of “submissions” (Islam in Arabic means submission to the will of God) above all requirements of personal or collective survival.  Moreover, their power grows daily as a number of Arab states are increasingly unable to surmount substantial social, medical, and economic problems.

In Egypt, the palpable reassertion of Muslim piety is directed toward a day when all irreligious leaders are deposed, and the Ummah (total community of Muslims) is united under a universal Caliphate, an allegedly legitimate government ruled by an elected leader of irreproachable integrity.

Whereas Iran’s faith is drawn primarily from the minority Shi’a branch of Islam, Egypt’s fundamentalists look forward to an alliance with over 130 million Sunni Muslims in the rest of the Middle East and North Africa (there are now nearly one billion Muslims in the world). Such an alliance, led by the so-called Jaamat Islamiya (Islamic societies) and including al-Jihad (Holy War) could lead to a position of “no compromise” with infidels, especially if it is heavily informed by the Manichean type dualism of Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), a leading ideologue of the Brotherhood who was hanged by Nasser.

The problem of Islamic fundamentalism is already an internal problem for Israel.  Although fundamentalists ordinarily view Palestinian nationalism as inherently contrary to Islamic universalism, they are increasingly trying to gain control of the Palestinian resistance, both in Israel proper, and in the territories. Calling for an escalation of the uprising, and a denunciation of all compromise with Israel, the groups Hamas and Hizbullahcertain to become more widely known and recognizable in the years ahead  – see only one strategy of confrontation: underground cells serving as military units “to challenge Satan’s schemes and strike at Zionist interest.”

In a recent memorandum offered to the Palestine National Council, Hamas demanded of the PNC:  “The military option should be confirmed, and jihad considered the proper way to liberate Palestine and achieve independence.” Should the West Bank and Gaza become Palestine, groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah would likely wield enormous power, and possibly act as surrogates for hostile (to Israel) Arab states.

Economic Volatility, Hyper Consumption And The ‘Wealth Of Nations’

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Adam Smith published his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. A revolutionary book, Wealth did not aim to support the interests of any one particular class, but rather the overall well being of an entire nation. He sought, as every American high school student learns, “an invisible hand,” whereby “the private interests and passions of men” will lead to “that which is most agreeable to the interest of a whole society.”

Still, this system of “perfect liberty,” as he called it, could never be based upon encouragements of needless consumption. Instead, argued Smith, the laws of the market, driven by competition and a consequent “self-regulation,” actually demanded explicit disdain for any gratuitous or vanity-driven consumption.

What does this all mean for better understanding of the current economic dislocations and volatility? Above all, it suggests that modern commentators and pundits often speak in blithe disregard for Smith’s true beliefs, ignoring that his primary concern for consumption was always tempered and bounded by a genuine hatred for “conspicuous consumption” (a phrase to be used more pointedly by Thorsten Veblen in a later century).

For Adam Smith, it was only proper that the market regulate both the price and quantity of goods according to the final arbiter of public demand, yet, he continued, this market ought never to be manipulated by any avaricious interferers. In fact, Smith plainly excoriated all those who would artificially create or encourage any such contrived demand as mischievously vain meddlers of “mean rapacity.”

Today, of course, where engineered demand and hyper consumption are permanent and allegedly purposeful features of the market, especially here in the United States, we have lost all sight of Smith’s “natural liberty.” As a result, we try, foolishly and interminably, to build our economic recovery and vitality upon sand. Below the surface, we still fail to recognize, lurks a core problem that is not at all economic, fiscal or financial. Rather, as Adam Smith would have understood, it is a starkly psychological and deeply human dilemma.

Wall Street’s persisting fragility is largely a mirror image of Main Street’s insatiable drive toward hyper consumption. This manipulated drive, so utterly execrable to Adam Smith, has already become so overwhelming that many learned economists warn us sternly against saving too much.
If only we could all buy just a little more, they argue, life in America would be better. Retail sales are the authentic barometer of the “good life.”

Collectively, our national economic effort is always oriented, breathlessly, toward buying more. Many of our country’s troubling and troubled economic policies are a more-or-less direct consequence of this sorely misdirected effort. Until we can get an effective reversal of the frenetic public need for more and more things, any recovery will remain transient and partial.

Not from the start has contrived demand been a basic driving force of our economy. Obviously, before television and before our newer surrenders to an avalanche of high-tech gadgets, such demand would not have had any such compelling power. Nonetheless, for the foreseeable future, it will take herculean efforts to detach healthy patterns of consumption from a distressingly ceaseless barrage of advertisement.

At the recently played Super Bowl, millions of viewers watched the proceedings not for the gridiron activity, but for the commercials. In a society that has now come to loathe any genuine hint of intellect or serious thought, even in universities, television commercials are hailed unashamedly as a discrete and clever genre.

What kind of an economy must rely on engineered consumption for both its buoyancy and its survival? Writing during the middle of the nineteenth century, the American Transcendentalist philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, spoke presciently of “self-reliance.” Foolish “reliance upon property,” Emerson had understood, is the unwanted result of “a want of self‑reliance.”

Today, still living apprehensively amid urgings of imitation and a delirious collectivism (“rugged individualism” is a plainly silly myth still dutifully recorded in primary school textbooks), the always-fearful American wants more or less desperately to project a “successful” image. This projection, in turn, remains founded upon material acquisition, upon a cornucopia that is recognizably laden with “all the right things.”

The relentless conformist call of American mass society insidiously undermines our core economy. This deafening cry, one that would have scandalized Adam Smith, is proclaimed throughout the land as gospel truth. Everywhere, it reigns triumphal.

To create a robust economy and a stable stock market, we Americans will first have to reorient our society from its corrupted ambience of mass taste. Surely, there is still great beauty in the world, but it is best for us not to search for it exclusively on television, at the movies or on Facebook.
In that large part of America that knows very little of Wall Street, there is often great fragility, restless anxiety and palpable unhappiness. Taught again and again that respect and success will lie comfortingly in high salaries, and in corollary patterns of high consumption, the dutiful American mass now celebrates fitting in. At the same time, it generally abhors real literature, serious learning and any tilt toward “self reliance.”

Ritualistically, in yet another stupefying pretense of democracy, we Americans will turn again and again to elections. Stubbornly patriotic, these transient diversions will certainly offer us a more or less pleasing amalgam of searing anger, hackneyed gossip and reassuring clichés. But as a convenient activity that serves to obscure an otherwise-evident plutocracy, these cheerfully prescribed excursions into politics will have little meaningful or enduring effect upon the sustainability of our economic markets.

As with hyper-consumption and engineered demand, no politics can ever rescue our economy. Adam Smith would have agreed.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. The author of ten major books and several hundred scholarly articles on world affairs, his columns appear in many major American and European newspapers and magazines. Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.

Now With Saudi Arabia On Its Side: Israel And Anticipatory Self-Defense Against Iran

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

International law is not a suicide pact. This particular sentence should be very familiar to this column’s readers. Every state facing plainly existential harms always has the right to defend itself before being attacked. In the increasingly urgent matter of Israel and Iran, a subject on which I have been commenting for some time, any further delay in undertaking permissible acts of preemption could irrevocably doom the Jewish state.

Interestingly enough, as we now know from WikiLeaks, Israel could have even Saudi Arabia on its side. Although King Abdullah’s plaintive plea to the U.S. to “cut off the head of the snake” was mistakenly ignored, Jerusalem could ultimately turn out to be a far better protective ally for the Saudi King than Washington.

The reverse, however, is not true. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states that share a common fear of Iran would never prove helpful to Israel. Instead, they will continue to accumulate large amounts of America’s most advanced weapon systems without even a tiny probability of ever being capable of using them against Iran. For Riyadh and its Gulf neighbors, such weapons are always only for decoration. When it comes to any actual military action, they will inevitably and desperately turn for help to the United States.

Israel, as always, must stand alone. In the aftermath of any Iranian nuclear attack, which might still be several years away, Washington’s only tangible aid would be to help bury the dead. This limited assistance would not be the result of any indifference or animosity, but rather of an entirely predictable impotence. Simply put, when a nuclear aggression against Israel had already become a fait accompli, there would be nothing else for America to do.

To merely survive, Israel’s immediate obligation must be to enhance its deterrence and defense postures, to consider a prompt end to “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” (that is, to take its bomb “out of the basement”), and to further refine still-pertinent preemption options. Israel should never expect stable coexistence with a nuclear Iran ruled by doctrinaire Islamic clerics.

Israel’s core plan for active defense remains the Arrow. To protect against any future nuclear attack from Iran, this advanced system of ballistic missile defense (BMD) must be complemented by recognizably viable options for defensive non-nuclear first strikes against selected Iranian military and industrial targets. It should never be assumed by Israel that a safe and durable “balance of terror” could be created with a staunchly Jihadist Tehran.

Deterrence must always be based upon an assumption of enemy rationality. This assumption might not be warranted, however, in the case of Iran. Here, also, any purported analogy between Iran and our own U.S. deterrence relationship with the former Soviet Union would be misguided.

If Iran’s current leadership could somehow meet the core test of rationality, always valuing national survival more highly than any other preference, there would still exist grave risks to Israel. These hazards would be associated with Tehran’s problematic command and control of any nuclear forces. Even a completely rational Iranian leadership could base its critical nuclear decisions upon erroneous information, on a variety of computer errors, or on precipitous pre-delegations of launch authority.

The related problem of vulnerability to violent regime overthrow, or coup d’état in Tehran, must also be considered in Jerusalem. In addition to the almost-comedic irony of mutual strategic interest between Israel and Saudi Arabia on Iran, another sharply ironic observation can be made: There can be absolutely no assurances that any successor regime in Iran would necessarily pose a diminished security threat to Israel.

If Israel’s Arrow were presumed to be one hundred percent effective, even an irrational Iranian adversary armed with nuclear or biological weapons could be kept away without defensive first strikes and also without any threats of retaliation. The problem is that no BMD system can ever be “leak proof.”

Terrorist proxies in ships or trucks, not missiles, could deliver Iranian nuclear attacks upon Israel. In such low-tech but distinctly high consequence assaults, there would be no benefit to Israel of deploying any anti-missile defenses.

Every state has an indisputable right under international law to act preemptively when facing a potentially mortal aggression. The 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice even extends such lawful authority to the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in certain last-resort circumstances. For now, at least, Israel could and should undertake any planned acts of anticipatory self-defense without nuclear weapons. This may now also mean the prudentially targeted elimination of selected enemy scientists, and a critical resort to vital cyber-defenses.

International law is not a suicide pact.

Although President Medvedev claims otherwise, Russia is still selling Iran its S-300 advanced strategic-range air defense system. Once fully deployed, this weapon, which has an “engagement envelope” of at least 100 miles, could greatly complicate the success of any essential Israeli hard-target (military or industrial) preemption.

If Iran should be permitted to become fully nuclear – an entirely likely scenario, as the so-called sanctions represent little more than a fly on the elephant’s back – Israel would need to substantially enhance the credibility of its presumed nuclear deterrent. Israel’s robust second-strike strategic force – hardened; multiplied; and dispersed – would need to be configured to inflict a decisive retaliatory blow against selected enemy cities. In technical military terms, this means, for Israel, an openly counter value-targeted nuclear force.

The dangers of a nuclear Iran would directly impact the United States. Over time, the U.S. could become as vulnerable as Israel to certain nuclear-armed terrorist surrogates. Any American plan for a “rogue state” anti-ballistic missile shield, for us, and for our NATO allies, would have exactly the same limitations as Israel’s already-deployed Arrow.

International politics can make strange bedfellows. Now, with Riyadh “on its side,” Israel may finally have the optimal political setting for a last chance at anticipatory self-defense.

International law is not a suicide pact.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. He was Chair of Project Daniel (Israel, 2003), and is the author of many major books, articles and monographs on nuclear strategy and nuclear war. Dr. Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

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