SOME INFORMED OBSERVATIONS
ON ISRAELI SECURITY

MILLENNIAL THOUGHTS
FOR THE IDF PLANNING STAFF

By Louis Rene Beres

[December 20,1999] Those who place hope in outside protection for Israel, primarily from the U.S., assume - more or less - a continuation of traditional international relations. Yet, it is altogether likely that we live in an era of total fragmentation and disunity, a worldwide anarchy that will give new meaning to "Westphalian" international relations and reinforce, rather than reduce, the self-help imperative. Hence, if this presumption of further global disintegration is to be taken seriously by Israeli planners, they will have to accept, however reluctantly, the obligation to face overriding dangers alone. One is reminded here of THE SECOND COMING, the poem by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

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All world politics, and all global strategy, move in the midst of death. To truly understand calculations of war, deterrence and defense, Israeli planners need to understand (1) enemy orientations to death, both individual and collective; and (2) Israeli orientations to death, both individual and collective.

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Heinrich von Treitschke, in his published lectures on POLITICS, cites approvingly to Fichte: "Individual man sees in his country the realization of his earthly immortality." Such "seeing" among Israel's current enemies is a source of particular, even existential, danger. The danger is exacerbated by lack of symmetry with "individual man" in Israel, who most assuredly sees such "realization" much less in his own country.

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There is great danger for Israel in presuming too much Reason in enemy decision-making and world affairs. Today the use of violence within and between states is often self-propelled and self-rewarding, effectively supplanting Clausewsitz with De Sade. The argument has been made most convincingly by Milan Kundera, in his book THE ART OF THE NOVEL. Describing a sheer force of violence that wills to assert itself as force, he talks about this force as "naked, as naked as in Kafka's novels....The aggressivity of force is thoroughly disinterested; unmotivated; it wills only its own will; it is pure irrationality." If Kundera is correct, what is Israel to do about its enemies? What shall it assume about enemy decision- making processes? Should not Israeli planners throw out the handbooks of political scientists and strategic theorists in favor of Kafka and Kundera? And what, exactly, can they learn from the "fiction" writers?

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The great Romanian (French) playwright, Eugene Ionesco, died in April 1994. In his only novel, THE HERMIT, Ionesco claims: "People kill and are killed in order to prove to themselves that life exists." Although a broad philosophical reflection, rather than an immediately useful strategic maxim, it says much about intentions of Israel's enemies and, by extension, about Israel's prospective responses.

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To understand and predict global responses to Israeli actions in world affairs, Israeli planners must never forget that their country is always the Jew in macrocosm. For the world, macrocosm and microcosm are indistinguishable and indissoluble. Hence, for Israeli planners to expect global responses to Israeli actions to be detached from millennia of prejudicial hatreds is foolish in the extreme. Israel is not just another state, one among many others. It is unique, sui generis, not in the sense that it is believed to warrant greater justice (a post-Holocaust conclusion one might expect in a world dominated by Reason) but in the sense that it allegedly deserves less, always less, than every other state. Israel and justice cannot be uttered in the same breath for the same reason that Jews and justice cannot be uttered in the same breath. Israel, the Jew in macrocosm, will always be despised, will always be kept distanced from justice. Israeli decision-makers must always plan accordingly.

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With further regard to Israel and considerations of justice (again, a paradoxical conjunction of terms), it must be recalled that histories of victimization have never conferred survival upon a people or a state, least of all upon the Jewish People. Such recollection stands in marked contrast to the oft-stated wish that terrible suffering, as in the matter of the Holocaust, cannot possibly be in vain. Eugene Ionesco, for example, offers the following passage from Andre Gide's JOURNAL, dated January 29, 1932: "The idea that so much suffering can be in vain is intolerable to me, it kept me awake all night...." As a "good Westerner," continues Ionesco, "Andre Gide couldn't help but think that suffering was the price of happiness, that suffering has to be rewarded." Yet, Israeli planners must not forget that the world hardly ever pities those who suffer; all the more those who suffer greatly. Often, suffering creates scorn. So it is today with Jewish suffering, the Holocaust and the State of Israel.

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Israeli planners are not philosophers. But they should recall Horace's recipe: "Si vis me flere dolendum est primum ipsi tibi" - if you want me to weep, you must first grieve yourself. Before Israel can expect concern from the world, for its past and for its future, its own population must "first grieve" itself; must care, deeply and profoundly and publicly, for its own history and its own essential continuity; for surviving at all costs.

Paradoxically, current government policies of sequential concessions and territorial "compromise" display the very opposite of such needed "grief," suggesting an unwarranted degree of "understanding" and inflated national self-confidence. Further, post-Zionist private sentiments, now widespread throughout Israel, that collective meaning for the post-Holocaust Jewish State is more discoverable in Los Angeles than in enduring Jewish values, also reject essential forms of "grief."

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Regarding judgments of rationality and deterrence, Israeli planners must never fail to put themselves into the shoes of enemy decision-makers. What will impact these decision-makers, and therefore Israel's safety, will not be Israeli perceptions or even some "objectively correct" set of facts, but only what they perceive as real. Hence, what may well appear prudent and rational in Tel-Aviv could be taken as cowardly and irrational in Teheran or Damascus. I have in mind, for example, differential views on Israel's decision not to retaliate for 39 Iraqi Scud missile attacks during the 1991 Gulf War. What will be the long-term effects of this decision on Israel's overall deterrence posture? This is an important question, one that needs to be asked again and again and again.

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Israeli planners focus, of course, on enemy capabilities and intentions. But do they focus on each variable as separate and discrete, or rather as interdependent and synergistic? As one can affect the other, only the latter orientation is correct and productive.

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Israel is unable to ensure its security, even its survival, through reliance on ballistic missile defense and U.S. guarantees. Rather, barring radical transformation of enemy regimes, Jerusalem will have no existential choice but to preemptively destroy unconventional weapons and supporting infrastructures in a timely manner. Although the currently fashionable idea of a "multilayered defense" has its attractions (above all, it puts off the preemption imperative by highlighting far more palatable tactical options), in the end it will mean little. It follows that Israeli planners should look closely and immediately at the following threat dimensions: (1) expected probability of enemy first-strikes over time; (2) expected disutility of enemy first-strikes over time (itself dependent, inter alia, on nature of enemy weaponry, projected enemy targeting doctrines, and multiplication/dispersion/hardening of Israeli unconventional forces); (3) expected collaborative prospects between enemy states (and possibly between enemy state and non-state actors); (4) expected schedules of enemy unconventional weapons deployments; (5) expected efficiency of enemy active defenses over time; (6) expected efficiency of Israeli active defenses over time; (7) expected efficiency of Israeli hard-target counterforce operations over time; and (8) expected world community reactions to Israeli preemptions. It goes without saying that Israel's commitment to the "Peace Process" has greatly impaired its essential preemption option, and that such commitment is even more injurious to Israeli survival than is commonly understood.

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The dangers to Israel of a Palestinian state must be understood within the general context of concern for Israeli nuclear strategy and regional nuclear war. Should the "Peace Process" produce a state of Palestine, which is now certain, Israel's substantial loss of strategic depth will be recognized by enemy states, especially by Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Syria, as a significant liability for Jerusalem. Such recognition, in turn, will heat up enemy state intentions against Israel, occasioning an accelerated search for capabilities and, consequently, a heightened risk of war initiated from Teheran or Baghdad or Cairo or Damascus. Israeli planners, of course, might foresee such enemy calculations and seek to compensate for the loss of territories in a number of different ways. For example, Jerusalem could decide to take its bomb out of the "basement" (as a deterrence-enhancing measure) and/or it could accept a heightened willingness to launch preemptive strikes against enemy hard targets. Made aware of such Israeli intentions, intentions that would accrue from Israel's new vulnerabilities, enemy states could respond in a more or less parallel fashion, preparing more openly for nuclearization and/or for first-strike attacks against the Jewish State.

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The phrase, "Death to Israel," like the phrase "Death to the Jews," is a phrase that is always uttered in chorus. A hater of Israel, like a hater of individual Jews, is always attached to a crowd or to a mob. In such hatreds, one cannot be alone. It is this communal tradition of hatred, more than anything else, that draws adherents - both among the nations and among peoples within nations. There is little point in seeking to transform this tradition, which is deeply embedded in a generically human desperation to belong. Instead, those who are responsible for Israeli safety and security from enemy attacks should now focus exclusively on what can be changed.

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Israeli planners must protect Israel's nuclear forces by some combination of multiplication/dispersion/hardening. Enemy planners, observing such measures, might perceive preparations for an Israeli first-strike. Such erroneous perceptions are all the more likely should Israel simultaneously seek further force protection via appropriate forms of active and passive defenses. Ironically, in seeking to stabilize deterrence by signaling enemy states that its own nuclear forces are secure from enemy first strikes - i.e., that these are exclusively second-strike forces with "assured destruction" capability - Jerusalem could create the impression that it is preparing to strike first. Here, Israel's attempts to convince enemy states that it is not preparing for preemption could backfire, generating new incentives to these enemy states to "preempt" themselves. The alternative, for Israel, would be to deliberately disguise efforts at nuclear force protection from enemy states, but such subterfuge would also carry considerable risk. After all, should Israel's enemies calculate that Jerusalem's nuclear forces are insufficiently protected from first- strike attacks, they would want to exploit current but potentially transient Israeli weakness. Moreover, because insufficient force protection by Jerusalem could encourage Israeli first-strikes, Israel's enemies would have compelling reasons to launch prompt "preemptive" attacks.

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Regarding the legal right to preemption, Israel's planners may wish to recall the authoritative jurisprudential argument of Hugo Grotius in his COMMENTARY ON THE LAW OF PRIZE AND BOOTY: "Now, as Cicero explains, this (justification for anticipatory self-defense) exists whenever he who chooses to wait (for formal declarations of war) will be obliged to pay an unjust penalty before he can exact a just penalty; and, in a general sense, it exists whenever matters do not admit of delay. Thus it is obvious that a just war can be waged in return, without recourse to judicial procedure, against an opponent who has begun an unjust war; nor will any declaration of that just war be required....For, as Aelian says, citing Plato as his authority, any war undertaken for the necessary repulsion of injury, is proclaimed not by a crier nor by a herald but by the voice of Nature herself."

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Israel's military planners must consider important complex relationships between C3I vulnerability and predelegations of launch authority. To reduce the risks of "decapitation," an objective as essential to Israeli nuclear deterrence as protection of the weapons themselves, Jerusalem might consider increasing the number of authoritative decision-makers who would have the right to launch under certain carefully-defined residual contingencies. But because the deterrence value of such an increase would require that prospective enemies learn (however indirectly and incompletely) that Israel had taken these decapitation-avoidance predelegations (after all, without such learning, enemies would be more apt to calculate that first-strike attacks are cost-effective), those enemies might feel increasingly compelled to "preempt." These premption incentives would derive from new enemy state fears of a fully intentional Israeli first-strike and/or new fears of accidental, unauthorized or unintentional nuclear strikes from Israel. Aware of these probable enemy reactions to its predelegations of launch authority, predelegations which might or might not be complemented by launch-on-warning measures, Israel, reciprocally, could feel compelled to actually strike first, a preemption of preemptive attack that may or may not prove to be net gainful and that may or may not have been avoided by antecedent resistance to predelegations of launch authority. Significantly, this entire scenario could be "played" in the other direction. Here, Iran or an Arab state enemy seeking to reduce its decapitation risks would implement predelegations of launch authority, thereby encouraging Israeli preemptions and, as a consequence, Iranian and/or Arab state "preemptions of Israeli preemption." If all of this sounds dreadfully complicated, it is because this is a dreadfully complicated business. Those who do not feel comfortable with dreadful complications should not be in the strategic planning business. Israel does not need IDF simplifiers. It does not need more "experts." It needs broadly educated planners who are willing to fashion an indispensable strategic dialectic, a nuanced genre that goes well beyond the purely journalistic/reportorial "expertise" of current academic strategists.

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The destructiveness of nuclear weapons continues to pose conceptual problems for Israeli planners (military and civilian) and academic strategists. Fearful of association with such terrible weapons, these planners and strategists too often dance around the most urgent questions. As a result, nuclear war involving Israel may become more likely and security benefits that might have been identified in advance may be lost forever.

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Israel's planners should be reminded of M. Unamuno's instructive remark about Hegel: "Hegel made famous his aphorism that all the rational is real and all the real rational; but there are many of us who, unconvinced by Hegel, continue to believe that the real, the really real, is irrational, that reason builds upon irrationalities." For Israel, faced with the prospect of unconventional aggression from enemy states, it would be prudent to "build upon irrationalities," i.e., upon the expected irrationalities of an increasingly formidable enemy.

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In considering the operation of nuclear deterrence and associated matters of nuclear strategy, including preremption, Israeli planners may recall that such operation impacts and determines the adequacy of pertinent international law. For example, the adequacy of international law in preventing nuclear war in the Middle East will depend not only upon certain treaties (e.g., the Nonproliferation Treaty), customs and general principles of jurisprudence, but also upon the success or failure of particular country strategies in the region. Hence, if Israel's strategy should reduce the threat of nuclear war, either because of successful forms of deterrence or because of essential nonnuclear preemptive strikes, such strategy would have to be considered an essential component of international law.

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Even if it could be assumed, by Israeli planners, that enemy state leaders will always be rational, a problematic assumption, to be sure, this would say nothing about the accuracy of information used in making rational calculations. Rationality, we must recall, refers only to the intention of maximizing specified values or preferences. It says nothing at all about whether the information used is correct or incorrect. Hence, rational enemy state leaders may make errors in calculation that lead to war against Israel.

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Where Israel should face enemy states bent upon a war of extermination (and where have they faced a different enemy), the following jurisprudential understanding should not be lost: War and genocide need not be mutually exclusive. War might well be the means whereby genocide is undertaken. This should be as obvious today as it was during and after the Holocaust. According to Articles II and III of the Genocide Convention, which entered into force on January 12, 1951, genocide includes any of several listed acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such...." It follows that where Israel is identified as the institutionalized expression of the Jewish People (an expression that includes national, ethnical, racial and religious components) acts of war intended to destroy the Jewish State could assuredly be genocidal. Here it should be remembered that international law is not a suicide pact; nowhere is it written that Israel must wait patiently for a second genocidal assault.

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Like it or not, Israeli planners must consider the prospect of Israeli nuclear preemption against enemy hard targets. Ironically, this prospect could be heightened to the extent that Israel puts off non-nuclear preemptions against developing enemy nuclear assets. If it waits too long to exercise conventional preemption options, Israel could face a choice between (1) undertaking nuclear preemption and ensuring survival of the Third Temple Commonwealth; or (2) resisting nuclear preemption and risking destruction of the Third Temple Commonwealth. Israeli planners could accept the rationality of Option 1 where: (a) Israel's state enemy had acquired and deployed nuclear and/or other unconventional weapons judged capable of destroying the Third Temple Commonwealth; (b) Israel's state enemies had made clear that their intentions paralleled their capabilities; (c) Israel's state enemies were believed ready by Israeli decsion-makers to begin a "countdown to launch;" and (d) Jerusalem believed that Israeli non-nuclear preemptions could not achieve the needed minimum level of damage-limitation, i.e., levels consistent with preservation of the State.

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I am aware that the juxtaposition of Israel and Jewish extermination inherent in references to "destruction of the Third Temple Commonwealth" is so dreadful that it borders on sacrilege. Yet, it is a juxtaposition that should not be ignored or disregarded. Should Israeli planners fail to take it seriously, the concentration of millions of post-Holocaust Jews in an area smaller than a large county in California could prove a blessing to those among Israel's enemies who would refashion genocide as war. But if we do take seriously the connections between Zionist objectives and Jewish vulnerability in the Third Commonwealth, we will have taken the first critical steps toward ensuring Israeli security, toward making certain that Jewish liberation does not become Jewish misfortune.

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Applied to Israel and the Middle East, the fashionable concepts of "security regime" and "confidence building measures" are sheer nonsense, the deleterious fabrications of academics dedicated to looking away from an uncomfortable reality. Exploiting Israeli frustration and fatigue, such concepts appear enormously tempting. They are, however, unforgivably dangerous, generating faith in a "Peace Process" that points only to Israel's dismemberment and disappearance.

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There is a marked tendency in Israel to imitate American strategic thinking. This is a serious mistake, as virtually all American academic strategists are paid not to think and, above all, not to depart from prudent (and therefore intellectually sterile) forms of prescription. To use the language of Jose Ortega y Gasset, whose REVOLT OF THE MASSES (1932) is one of the most important books of our century, today's Ph.D. "expert" in Washington or Tel-Aviv is essentially a "learned ignoramus, which is a very serious matter, as it implies that he is a person who is ignorant, not in the fashion of the ignorant man, but with all the petulance of one who is learned in his own special line."

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For Israel, the future cannot be separated from the past. They are indissolubly interconnected. To prepare for the future, Israel's leaders must look closely at the past, not only from 1948 onward, but for 5000 years. The point is more than the cliched imperative to learn the "lessons of history." It is to understand that Jewish history is altogether sui generis, that Israel's history is an integral part of this Jewish history, and that an erroneous "cosmopolitanism" (i.e., "Jews are just another people in the worldwide community of humankind") could be a particularly serious mistake.

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Regarding the methods of Israeli strategic analysis, it is essential that they be based upon an appropriate dialectic. Hence, analysts must approach their problem as an interrelated series of thoughts, where each thought or idea about, for example, enemy capabilities/intentions presents a complication that moves inquiry onward to the next thought or idea. Contained in this strategic dialectic is an obligation to continue thinking, an obligation that can never be fulfilled entirely (because of what the philosophers call the "infinite regress problem"), but that must still be attempted as fully and as competently as possible. Without such a dialectic, those who work on Israeli security matters will continue to focus only upon discrete moments in time, on static phenomena (e.g., numbers of weapons; types of weapons; leadership personalities, etc), rather than upon appropriately dynamic and generic interactions (synergies).

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The term "dialectic" originates from the Greek expression for the art of conversation. Today, a common meaning is that dialectic is a method of seeking truth via correct reasoning. From the standpoint of our concerns, the following operations may be identified as essential but non-exclusive components of a strategic dialectic: (1) A method of refutation by examining logical consequences; (2) A method of division or repeated logical analysis of genera into species; (3) Logical reasoning using premises that are probable or generally accepted; (4) Formal logic; and (5) The logical development of thought through thesis and antithesis to a synthesis of these opposites.

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Dialectic likely originated in the 5th century B.C.E., as Zeno, author of the famous PARADOXES, was recognized by Aristotle as its inventor. In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerges as the supreme form of philosophical/analytic method. In one of these dialogues, Plato describes the dialectician as someone who knows how to ask and to answer questions. This is what should now be transposed to the study of Israeli security matters. We need, in these all-important matters, to know how to ask and to answer questions. This knowledge must precede compilations of facts, figures, and power "balances."

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The dialectician needs to recognize the advantages of private as opposed to collective thought. Here we are reminded of Aristotle's view: "Deception occurs to a greater extent when we are investigating with others than by ourselves, for an investigation with someone else is carried on quite as much by means of the thing itself." Understood in terms of Israeli strategic analysis, this suggests some serious limitations to "teamwork," "group projects," "centers for strategic studies," "expert collaboration," etc. It is not that these forms of investigation are inappropriate per se, but that they must be tempered by sober private thinking.

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The advantages of a new Israeli strategic dialectic will depend, in part, upon the coherence of the overall academic enterprise. Israel does not face a random set of discrete and wholly separate military threats. Rather, there is a general threat environment within which discrete threat components fit. The task for Israeli academic strategists is not to figure out in advance each and every specific threat component (this is a task of certain government intelligence analysts), but to identify a strategy which will accomodate the understanding of a broad variety of possible threats. This means, inter alia, an obligation to fashion a strategic "master plan," a body of generalized and interrelated propositions from which specific policy options can be derived. Such a plan would not contain all or even most of the "answers," but it would offer a comprehensive and informed framework within which all of the important questions might be addressed. Significantly, such a plan would never be "completed." It would serve those who oversee Israel's security needs continually, incrementally and directly, as an ongoing and expanding set of purposeful guidelines.

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"In the areas with which we are concerned," wrote Walter Benjamin, "insight only occurs as a lightning bolt. The text is the thunder-peal rolling long behind." For us, such an "area" is Israeli strategic studies. It is an area that will be ill-served by standard thinking and texts. It is an area that can only be served productively by flashes of understanding that defy (and quite probably contradict) mainstream assessments and analyses.

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The current and ongoing disintegration of the world is creation in reverse. For Israel, the Jewish State, there are therefore special lessons to be learned from this disintegration. The geometry of chaos, in a strange and paradoxical symmetry, reveals both sense and form. How shall they be discovered? This is an important question, one that goes far beyond the usual sorts of ON WAR and TRANSFORMATION OF WAR queries. It must not be ignored.

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Israel, it seems, can contemplate the end of the Third Temple Commonwealth every day, and yet persevere quite calmly in its most routine and mundane affairs. This should not be the case if Israel could begin to contemplate the moment of its collective disappearance. It follows that Israel must begin immediately to replace reassuringly abstract conceptualizations of End Times with unbearably concrete imaginings of catastrophe. Only then could the leaders of Israel take the steps needed to survive into the Third Millennium.

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There exists, among Israel's enemies, a voluptuousness all their own; the voluptuousness of conflict against the Jewish State as such. It is in Israel's strategic interest not to lose sight of this voluptuousness. Israel's enemies, in good part, do not read Clausewitz. They are, in good measure, animated by more primal needs and expectations.

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E.M. Cioran, the most dazzling and devastating French philosophical voice since Paul Valery (and an original thinker in the tradition of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein) writes of the Jews as a "People of Solitaries," a People, for all of its recognized lucidity, that "readily sacrifices to illusion: it hopes, it always hopes too much....With so many enemies, any other people, in its place, would have laid down its arms; but this nation, unsuited to the complacencies of despair, bypassing its age-old fatigue and the conclusions imposed by its fate, lives in the delirium of expectation, determined not to learn a lesson from its humiliations...." How true, how especially true is this observation of a "nation" for the State of the Jews, the State of Israel.

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When Pericles delivered his Funeral Oration and other speeches, with their praise of Athenian civilization, his perspective was largely military. Recorded by Thucydides, an historian whose main interest was to study the growth and use of power for military objectives, the speeches of Pericles express confidence in ultimate victory for Athens, but they also express grave concern for self-imposed setbacks along the way: "What I fear more than the strategies of our enemies is our own mistakes." Although Pericles exaggerated the separateness of enemy strategies and Athenian mistakes (they were, of course, interrelated and even synergistic), there is an important lesson here for Israel. In observing enemy preparations for war, do not forget that the effectiveness of these preparations will always depend upon Israel's particular responses.

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Under contemporary international law, the right of self-defense is not confined to post-attack circumstances. Rather, it extends, under carefully defined conditions, to preemptive or "anticipatory" strikes. In this connection, Israel's leaders and planners should recall Pufendorf's authoritative argument in his ON THE DUTY OF MAN AND CITIZEN ACCORDING TO NATURAL LAW: "...where it is quite clear that the other is already planning an attack upon me, even though he has not yet fully revealed his intentions, it will be permitted at once to begin forcible self-defense, and to anticipate him who is preparing mischief, provided there be no hope that, when admonished in a friendly spirit, he may put off his hostile temper, or if such admonition be likely to injure our cause. Hence, he is to be regarded as the aggressor, who first conceived the wish to injure, and prepared himself to carry it out. But the excuse of self-defense will be his, who by quickness shall overpower his slower assailant. And for defense, it is not required that one receive the first blow, or merely avoid and parry those aimed at him." --------------

A passage in the ODYSSEY speaks of two gates, one of horn and one of ivory. Through the ivory gate false dreams pass to humankind, and through the gate of horn go only the true and prophetic dreams. At this moment in its always precarious history, Israel is sorely tempted by the ivory gate, choosing to base preservation of the Third Temple Commonwealth upon fanciful visions of a "Peace Process," "confidence building measures" and "security communities." Israel would be far better off, however, to pass instead through the gate of horn, preparing to use military force selectively and preemptively in order to endure. This decision will likely occasion greater pain and uncertainty in the short run, but it would base preservation of the Third Temple Commonwealth upon altogether sober assessments of REALPOLITIK and would affirm, rather than reject, the essential obligations of international law.

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According to al-Da'wa (THE MISSION), an Islamic publication, the status of Israel is identical to the status of the individual Jew. What is this status? "The race (sic) is corrupt at the root, full of duplicity, and the Muslims have everything to lose in seeking to deal with them; they must be exterminated." Historically, the Islamic world's orientation to extermination of the Jews has not been limited to phrasemaking. Even before Israel came into existence in May 1948, on November 28, 1941, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin, met in Berlin with Adolph Hitler. The declared subject of their meeting was nothing less than "the final solution of the Jewish Question." This meeting, which followed Haj Amin's active organization of Muslim SS troops in Bosnia, included the Mufti's promise to aid German victory in the war. Later, after Israel's trial and punishment of Adolph Eichmann in 1961, Iranian and Arab newspapers described the mass murderer of Jews as a "martyr," congratulating him posthumously for having "conferred a real blessing on humanity" by liquidating six million "subhumans."

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Regarding American orientations to genocide in the Middle East, Israel would do well to recall Reagan and Bush administration indifference to extermination of the Kurds. Iraqi documents seized during the Kurdish uprising in March and April 1991 detail mass slayings of civilians, including videotapes of executions, beatings and torture. United States authorities, for years, encouraged Kurdish revolt, and then betrayed this unfortunate people to genocidal destruction. During the late 1980s, the U.S. stood by silently as Saddam Hussein's regime systematically demolished Kurdish villages and towns, and forcibly transferred a half million or more Kurds into specially-created concentration camps. In March of 1991, after encouraging the Iraqi Kurds to rise up against the Baghdad regime, the Bush administration did nothing to prevent new crushing genocidal blows against the Kurds by the Iraqi army.

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From the standpoint of international law, we must distinguish preemptive attacks from preventive ones. Preemption represents a strategy of striking an enemy first, in the expectation that the only alternative is to be struck first oneself. A preemptive attack is launched by a state that believes enemy forces are about to attack. A preventive attack, however, is launched not out of concern for imminent hostilities, but for fear of a longer-term deterioration in the pertinent military balance. Hence, in a preemptive attack, the length of time by which the enemy's action is anticipated is very short, while in a preventive strike the interval is considerably longer. A problem for Israel, in this regard, is not only the practical difficulty in determining imminence, but also the fact that delaying a defensive strike until imminence is plausible could be fatal.

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In the strict jurisprudential sense, because a state of war exists between Israel and Iran (at Iran's particular insistence), the Jewish State does not need to meet the requirements of anticipatory self-defense. Rather, as there can be no authentic preemption in an ongoing belligerency, an Israeli "first strike" against Iran would need only to fulfill the expectations of the laws of war, i.e., the rules of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity. A legal state of war can exist between two states irrespective of the presence or absence of ongoing hostilities between national armed forces. The principle affirming that the existence of a legal state of war depends upon the intentions of one or more of the states involved, and not on "objective" phenomena, is known variously as the "state of war doctrine;" "de jure war;" "war in the legal sense" and "war in the sense of international law."

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Confronting what he calls "our century of fear," Albert Camus would have us all be "neither victims nor executioners," living not in a world in which killing has disappeared ("we are not so crazy as that!"), but one wherein killing has become illegitimate. This is a fine expectation, to be sure, yet unless it is fashioned with a promising view toward effective nonlethal measures of preserving order and justice, the result will certainly be an enlargement of pain and terror. Deprived of the capacity to act as lawful executioners, states facing aggression would be forced by Camus' reasoning to become victims. Why is Camus so sorely mistaken? Where, exactly, has he gone wrong? The answer, it would seem, lies in his presumption, however implicit, of a natural reciprocity among human beings and states in the matter of killing. More specifically, we are asked to believe that as greater numbers of people agree not to be executioners, still greater numbers will follow upon the same course. In time, the argument proceeds, the number of those who refuse to sanction killing will become so great that there will be fewer and fewer victims. The problem, of course, is that Camus' presumed reciprocity does not exist. The will to kill, as we have learned from so many for so long, is unimpressed by particular commitments to "goodness." It follows that executioners may have their rightful place in world politics, and that without them there would only be more victims.

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In the realm of world politics, executioners sometimes function as assassins. Although such functioning is almost always an instance of wrongful execution, there are certain carefully circumscribed and residual cases where it may be rightful, permissible, and even distinctly law enforcing. Understood in terms of Israel's security needs, this points to the option of assassination as a form of anticipatory self-defense. In determining whether or not a particular instance of assassination would qualify as such a form under international law, the act: (1) must not be designed to achieve a prohibited objective, but only to forestall destruction of Israel's land and people; and (2) must meet the legal test known to international lawyers as the Caroline - i.e., the danger that gives rise to the preemptive attack by Israel must be judged "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation." Thus, if the assassination is undertaken only to destroy the potential threat of the enemy (as a preventive action), it would not qualify as permissible under international law. If, however, the assassination were undertaken in anticipation of immediate enemy aggression (as a preemptive action), it could qualify as an instance of anticipatory self-defense. There are several problems here. First, in the real world, judgments concerning the immediacy of anticipated aggression are exceedingly difficult to make. Second, even where such judgments are ventured, it can never be altogether clear whether the degree of immediacy is sufficient to invoke preemption rather than prevention. Third, in meeting the aforestated legal requirements of defensive intent (#1 above), Israel may have to act preventively rather than preemptively (because waiting to allow a threat to become more immediate could have decisively negative strategic/tactical consequences. And fourth, the actual state-preserving benefits that might accrue to Israel from assassination of enemy leaders are apt to be contingent upon not waiting until the danger posed is "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation." Assessments of the lawfulness of assassination as anticipatory self-defense must also include comparisons with alternative forms of preemption. If, for example, the perceived alternative to assassination is large-scale uses of force taking the form of defensive military strikes, a utilitarian or "balance of harms" criterion could surely favor assassination. Such a choice may well have to be made sometime soon in Jerusalem, especially as the territories are transformed into a Palestinian state. Here, deprived of strategic depth, Israel could calculate that it had only three real options: (1) do nothing, rely entirely on deterrence, and hope that enemy states remain dissuaded from striking first; (2) strike preemptively with military force against selected hard targets in enemy states, and hope that substantial reprisals are prevented by persuasive intra-war deterrence, i.e., by compelling Israeli threats of unacceptably damaging counter-retaliation; or (3) strike preemptively by assassination, and hope that this will reduce the overall threat to Israel without escalating into full-fledged military encounters. Although impossible to determine in the abstract, Option 3 might well prove to be the most cost-effective one available to Israel in certain circumstances.

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Jurisprudentially, of course, it would be reasonable to examine assassination as a possible form of ordinary self-defense, i.e., as a forceful measure of self-help short of war that is undertaken after an armed attack occurs. Tactically, however, there are at least two serious problems with such an examination. First, in view of the ongoing proliferation of extraordinarily destructive weapons technologies among Israel's enemies in the Middle East, waiting to resort to ordinary self-defense could be very dangerous, if not altogether fatal. Second, assassination, while it may prove helpful in preventing an attack upon Israel in the first place, is far less likely to be useful in mitigating further harm once an attack has already been launched.

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Martin Van Creveld writes, in THE TRANSFORMATION OF WAR, that as the lines between political violence and criminal violence become blurred, assassination of enemy leaders will become more fashionable: "Over the last three centuries or so, attempts to assassinate or otherwise incapacitate leaders were not regarded as part of the game of war. In the future, there will be a tendency to regard such leaders as criminals who richly deserve the worst fate that can be inflicted upon them." From the standpoint of international law, a case in point is Saddam Hussein. Based upon the peremptory principle of law known as Nullum crimen sine poena, "No crime without a punishment," leaving Saddam in power, unpunished, was altogether unjust. At Nuremberg, the words used by the Court, "So far from it being unjust to punish him, it would be unjust if his wrong were allowed to go unpunished," represented an authoritative reaffirmation of this principle. The earliest statement of Nullum crimen sine poena can be found in the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1728 - 1686 BCE); the Laws of Eshnunna (c. 2000 BCE); the even-earlier code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100 BCE), and, most significantly for Israel, the Lex Talionis or law of exact retaliation, presented in three separate passages of the Torah. For ancient Hebrews, when a crime involved the shedding of blood, not only punishment - but punishment involving a reciprocal bloodletting - was required. Shedding of blood is an abomination that must be expiated, "for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of him who shed it." (NUM. 35:33)

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LOUIS RENE BERES (Princeton 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University, lectures and publishes widely on matters relating to nuclear war, nuclear strategy and terrorism.



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