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War And Pandemic: Expanding Complexities Of Israeli Nuclear Strategy

Prof. Louis René Beres

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I warn the reader that this essay requires to be read very seriously and that I am unacquainted with any art which can make the subject clear to those who will not bestow on it their  serious attention.”-Jean Jacques-Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762)

More than ever, long-term deterrence of multiple adversaries in the Middle East by Israel remains steeply complicated. Now faced with an expanding disease pandemic superimposed upon all usual or “normal” strategic issues, Israel’s response will require herculean combinations of refined analysis and creative intuition. This task has already become so grievously complex and many-sided that nothing less than unprecedented applications of human intellectual effort can rise adequately to the protracted challenge.

Prima facie, the myriad difficulties of rising to this existential challenge represent a formidable barrier to success and long-term survival. In essence, there exists grave danger that these difficulties could occasion not any purposefully enhanced national commitment or “national will,” but rather incremental resignation or even irremediable despair. It follows that before any necessary strategic policy modifications can be launched by Israeli thinkers and planners, those responsible will, like Lady Macbeth, first have to “screw up their courage to the sticking place.”

As for my own readers, they, too, will have to follow along an overlapping variety of inherently complex arguments, a task, inter alia, requiring them to “read very seriously;” that is, to “bestow on it their serious attention.”

But how to begin? For half a century, I have been thinking and writing about Israel’s nuclear strategy. Arguably, at least to some calculable extent, this has been an incomprehensible and foolhardy academic focus. Israel, after all, has never even meaningfully acknowledged its possession of nuclear weapons, let alone identified any corresponding national nuclear infrastructures, strategies or tactics.

None at all.[1]

So, what exactly has there been left to analyze?

What, precisely, can be examined and usefully reconstituted right now?

There are tangible answers, but they cannot be offered ex nihilo, from an empirical or conceptual vacuum.  Accordingly, here is a tentative but still valid reply.

In all world politics, especially in the Middle East, the most enduring truth of what is taking place is often what is not said. During these past several years, it has been relatively easy to extrapolate from various multiple and intersecting open sources that Israel’s nuclear capacity (in its broadest possible outline) represents such an “essential truth,” and that the country’s physical survival is closely intertwined with this “deliberately ambiguous” defense posture. Now, however, looking ahead, a core responsibility for both planners and politicians in Israel must be to more explicitly utilize/optimize their country’s always-evolving nuclear strategy, and to tackle this bold challenge against an ever-changing backdrop of state and sub-state adversaries.

There will be even more substance to consider. This task will require various informed assessments not only of more-or-less decipherable prospects, but also of certain foreseeable “hybrid” enemies (e.g., Iran-Hezbollah; Iran- Hamas). In turn, these hybrids will represent substantially more complex foes; that is, adversaries comprised (in varying conceivable configurations) of both state and sub-state elements. Inevitably, the suitability of Israel’s relevant national nuclear planning will vary, at least in part, according to the particular “mix” involved. To this point, of course, and understandably, little published analysis has ever addressed the effective use of Israeli nuclear deterrence against sub-state and/or “hybridized” adversaries.

Among other things, this once-reasonable inattention will have to be appropriately changed and properly updated.

Soon.

Israel will require more explicit considerations of nuclear deterrence strategies directed against certain conventional or non-nuclear enemies.[2] Above all, these starkly demanding considerations will represent intellectual obligations; that is, analytic responsibilities that can be met only by more markedly purposeful and science-based theorizing,[3] not by the cleverly shallow rhetorical flourishes of market-centered national politicians. In the United States, unmistakably, we are already witnessing the catastrophic security consequences of a presidential leadership based entirely upon raw “intuition” or “gut feeling.” Left to its own anti-science devices, these consequences, which now include steadily cascading Covid-19 death counts, could alter the very indispensable fabric of American national survival.

Whether in Israel or the United States, national security challenges can never be dealt with capably under the manipulative guidance of any commerce-centered impresarios. Such guidance did not reduce the North Korean nuclear threat to the United States when US President Donald Trump declared after the Singapore Summit that he and his counterpart in Pyongyang had “fallen in love.”

Not a scintilla; not a calculable bit.

Indeed, since that substantively unplanned and unprepared-for summit, North Korea has accelerated and expanded its military nuclear programs.

There is more. By definition, the imperative exploration of Israel’s nuclear strategy cannot be undertaken with a view to ascertaining any precise event probabilities. In science and mathematics, true statements of probability must always be drawn from the discernible frequency of pertinent past events. Clearly, in the matters at hand, there has never been an authentic nuclear war.

It follows that Israeli scholars and political leaders should remain aptly modest about offering any more specific nuclear conflict predictions. Going back to ancient Greek philosophers and playwrights, especially Aristotle (both Poetics and Politics), this will not be a suitable time for any Israeli displays of hubris. Lest they forget, such always-misplaced displays led directly to the near-catastrophe of the 1973 Yom Kippur War (mechdal).

 For Israel, perhaps more than for any other imperiled state in world politics, it is vital not to prepare “retrospectively” for the dynamics and weapon-systems of any previous war. Though, for the moment, Israel faces no regional nuclear adversaries, this relatively favorable condition will not last indefinitely. When it does finally come to an end – such an eventual or incremental cessation is pretty much inevitable over time, especially as US President Trump’s policies can only hasten Iranian nuclearization and regional insecurity – Jerusalem/Tel Aviv should be prepared to conceptualize a more future-oriented and fully-systematic strategy of national strategic response.[4]

In  turn, whether or not Israel is adequately prepared for such a difficult task will depend, at least in part, on whether adversarial nuclear capacities become evident in tolerable increments or (instead) in certain tangible acts (witting or unwitting) of verifiable enemy disclosure. If the latter, the worst case for Israel would then involve certain actual enemy resorts to nuclear conflict.

What then? In any truly civilized world, it’s a question that should never have to be asked.

Never.

To best prepare for any impending nuclear adversary,[5] whether Shiite Iran[6] or a Sunni Arab enemy (Pakistan is already a Sunni non-Arab nuclear power), or both, Israel/IMOD must remain continuously analytic and theory-focused. This means, among other things, factoring into virtually every coherent nuclear threat assessment (a) the expected rationality of enemy decision-makers and (b) the expected intentionality of these decision-makers during any conceivable crisis.[7]

Now, there is also something else of prospectively grave significance. This is the ongoing Corona virus pandemic, a plague so persistent and consequential that it could directly impact an adversarial state’s pertinent rationality and intentions. More exactly, depending upon the actual impact of disease on this enemy’s most senior decision-makers, such a foe could become more or less likely to initiate variable (minor or major) levels of conflict. Reciprocally, Israel’s own senior decision-makers, already anticipating such changeable enemy orientations to war, could experience a heightened inclination to preempt. In law, any such defensive first-strikes could be known formally as “anticipatory self-defense.”[8]

It remains high time for Israeli strategists to be more self-consciously scientific in the sense of producing more aptly comprehensive theoretic assessments. These are now the only appraisals that can capably explore a needed variety of “soft” human factors.[9] Until now, of course, Israel’s defense establishment has been very capably scientific, but primarily in the operational sense of maintaining precise mathematical attention to assorted weapon systems and infrastructures. Just as importantly, however, IDF/MOD will now need to operationalize some less tangible but still scientific orientations to any prospective nuclear conflict.[10]

An appropriate example here would be the creation of multiple decisional “templates” to allow consideration of certain not-easily measurable explanatory factors. Still more precisely, if a basically dichotomous or two-part distinction could be assumed concerning enemy rationality and intentionality, four logically possible categories or scenarios would result. These discrete narrative templates could then lucidly inform Israel’s long-term nuclear security policies and posture.

Again, each template’s examination should take into account, to whatever extent possible, any likely Covid-19 impacts on enemy decision-makers.

To proceed, IDF planners ought to consider the following more-or-less believable narratives, a determined consideration that could significantly enhance already-disciplined orientations to the country’s national defense:

(1) Rational/Intentional 

Both Israeli and enemy leaders are presumptively rational (i.e., each set of leaders values national survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences), and any nuclear exchange between them would be the result of fully deliberate decision choices by one or both of the relevant decision-makers;

(2) Rational/Unintentional

Both sets of leaders are presumptively rational, and any nuclear exchange between them would be the result of certain unintended decision choices made by one or both of them;

(3) Irrational/Intentional

Either Israeli or enemy leaders, or both, are presumptively irrational, and any nuclear exchange between them would be the result of still fully deliberate decisional choices made by one or both; and

(4) Irrational/Unintentional

Either Israeli or enemy leaders, or both, are presumptively irrational, and any nuclear exchange between these adversaries would be the necessary outcome of unintended decisions made by one or both of them.

In all such complex strategic matters (Clausewitz reminds, in On War, “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is still very difficult.”), nothing could prove more practical than good theory.[11] Always, such duly general and comprehensive policy explanations could help guide Jerusalem beyond otherwise vague, ad hoc or simply “seat-of-the-pants” appraisals of adversarial nuclear conflict possibilities.[12]

By definition, any future nuclear crisis between Israel and designable enemy states would be unique or sui generis. This means, among other things, that Israel’s Prime Minister and his principal national security advisors ought never become overly-confident about predicting specific nuclear crisis outcomes or their own expertise in being able to successfully manage any such unprecedented crises. Moreover, as hinted at earlier in this essay, such expertise could be more-or-less affected by any ongoing disease pandemic. After all, Israel’s own decision-makers, like pertinent enemy decision-makers, would be meaningfully vulnerable to all virulent forms of biological “insult.”

There is more. There are no real experts in nuclear conflict situations. This statement includes a now-sitting American president who had earlier placed a far-reaching and wholly baseless faith in North Korea’s Kim Jung Un (“We fell in love”), and ho still reveals no serious intellectual understanding of US nuclear deterrence obligations. None at all.

Other thoughts dawn. Israeli strategic analysts must continuously upgrade any proposed nuclear investigations by identifying the core distinctions between intentional or deliberate nuclear war and between unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war. The tangible risks resulting from these different types of possible nuclear conflict are apt to vary considerably, in part because of certain hard-to-quantify or calculate “pandemic variables.” Moreover, those Israeli analysts who would remain too exclusively focused upon any deliberate nuclear war scenario could sometime too casually underestimate a more authentically serious and even sweeping enemy threat.

In principle, any such underestimations could produce lethal or prospectively existential outcomes for Israel. To make the avoidance of these underestimations sufficiently problematic, nuclear war risks in the Middle East could be created or enhanced via various “spillover effects” from nuclear conflict situations in other regions. Presently, regarding Israel, the most credible “ignition points” for any such creation would be India-Pakistan escalations and/or North Korean aggressions. It goes without saying, of course, that such additionally portentous escalations and/or aggressions could themselves be affected by various Covid-19 considerations

While any North Korea-Middle East nuclear intersections may at first appear far-fetched, literally any crossing of the nuclear threshold on this planet could sometime impact nuclear use in certain other far-flung places.

This does not even take into account historic ties between destabilizing North Korean nuclear technologies and the traditional Arab  state enemies of Israel. The  most obvious case in point is Syria, and Israel’s remediating preemption (Operation Orchard) undertaken back in September 2007.[13]

There is more. Israel could soon need to respond to expectedly bewildering conditions generated by any US war with Iran. This is the case, moreover, even if Iran were itself to remain entirely non-nuclear.[14] Again, IMOD and the Prime Minister will need to anticipate such conditions in a suitably systematic and dialectical fashion.

Always, international relations represent a system. What happens in any one component of this system can more-or-less frequently impact what happens in another. Sometimes, the cumulative impact of regional or global interactions can also be “synergistic.” In these very dense circumstances, by definition, the calculable “whole” of any relevant interactions will prove to be greater than the simple sum of pertinent “parts.” Here, too, the presence of pandemic factors could represent a relevant and significant “force multiplier.”

In thinking about nuclear strategy, Israeli planners must calculate holistically, broadly, considering the world as a multi-actor totality, one where consequential outcomes will have to be assessed in their most conceivably complex intersections.

 Also noteworthy here is a seemingly subtle but still meaningful difference between inadvertent nuclear war and accidental nuclear war. Any accidental nuclear war would have to be inadvertent; conversely, however, there could take place various recognizable forms of inadvertent nuclear war that would not be accidental. The policy-related differences here would not by any means be insignificant.

Most critical, in clarifying this connection, would be potentially serious errors in calculation, whether committed by one or both (or several) sides. The most evident example of any such grievous mistakes would concern more-or-less plausible misjudgments of enemy intent or capacity as might emerge during the course of some particular crisis escalation. Such consequential misjudgments would most likely stem from an expectedly mutual search for strategic advantage taking place during an ongoing competition in nuclear risk-taking.

 In orthodox military parlance, this would mean a determinable multi-party search for “escalation dominance.” Accordingly, such a search could be affected by any Covid-19 triggered conditions of chaos.

To achieve a proper or (better still) optimal start in this sort of required theorizing, Israeli analysts would first need to pinpoint and conceptualize the vital similarities and differences between deliberate nuclear war, inadvertent nuclear war, and accidental nuclear war.

Subsequently, undertaking various related investigations of rationality and irrationality within each affected country’s decision-making structure would become necessary. One potential source of an unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war could be a failed strategy of “pretended irrationality.” To wit, a posturing Israeli prime minister who had somehow too “successfully” convinced enemy counterparts of his own irrationality could unwittingly spark an otherwise-avoidable enemy preemption.

At this time, correspondingly, US President Donald Trump has toyed vis-à-vis North Korea with displaying an intermittent  or occasional posture of “pretended irrationality,” but to no apparent avail. In part, this tangible lack of success may be due to the president’s earlier public declarations concerning alleged benefits of feigned irrationality.

 There is more. An Israeli leadership that had begun to take seriously an enemy leader’s self-declared unpredictability could sometime be frightened into striking first itself. In this diametrically opposite or reciprocal case, Jerusalem would become the preempting party that could then claim legality for its allegedly defensive first-strike. Under authoritative international law, as we have already noted, a permissible preemption could possibly be taken as a proper expression of “anticipatory self-defense.”[15]

Also worth considering amid any such chess-like strategic and legal dialectics is that the first scenario could end not with an enemy preemption, but with Israeli decision-makers deciding to “preempt the preemption.” Here, Israel, sensing the too-great “success” of its own pretended irrationality, might then “foresee” an enemy’s resultant insecurity. They might then decide (correctly or incorrectly) to “strike first before they are struck first themselves.”[16]

The dense strategic dialectic[17] in such cases would be multi-factorial  and complicated, perhaps even bewildering.[18]

One final point warrants concluding emphasis. A future Israeli posture of feigned or pretended irrationality need not be inherently misconceived or inconceivable. Years ago, in precisely this conceptual regard, Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan declared: “Israel must be seen (by its enemies) as a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.”

Looking ahead, such seemingly “out-of-the-box” Israeli security postures are uncertain and untested, but they are not necessarily mistaken prima facie or beyond any serious consideration. Moreover, the credibility of such potential military postures could be enhanced by considering certain more conspicuous characterizations of a last-resort “Samson Option.”[19] The key point of any such characterizations would be not to prepare for some actual “final battle” (an outcome that could be in no single country’s overall best interests), but rather to better convince a pertinent existential adversary of Israel’s willingness to take certain extraordinary risks to ensure its own survival.

While Israel has yet to exploit this particular modality of strategic thinking, Russia made precisely such a calculation with its Burevestnik missile –  a self-declared “vengeance nuclear weapon.” Plainly, Moscow is not hoping to employ such a missile as part of any operational policy, but instead to signal the United States that it is prepared to “go to the mat” with the Americans, even in starkly unpredictable nuclear terms. The Russian “point” here is not to “fight a nuclear war,” but to successfully influence the choices that its American rival will most expectedly make.[20]

Inevitably, this means to best maximize Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

Going forward, a major focus of changing Israel’s nuclear strategy will have to be the country’s longstanding posture of deliberate ambiguity or “bomb in the basement.”[21] The Prime Minister surely understands that adequate nuclear deterrence of increasingly formidable enemies could soon require lessrather than more Israeli nuclear secrecy. Accordingly, inter alia, what will soon need to be determined by IDF planners will be the operational extent and subtlety with which Israel should communicate assorted core elements of its nuclear posture; that is, its corollary intentions and capabilities to selected enemy states.

To protect itself against any enemy strikes that could carry utterly intolerable costs, IDF defense planners will need to prepare to exploit every relevant aspect and function of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. The success of Israel’s effort here will depend not only upon its particular choice of targeting doctrine (“counterforce” or “counter value”), but also upon the extent to which this key choice is made known in advance to enemy states and (at least sometimes) to these foes’ sub-state surrogates. Before such enemies can be suitably deterred from launching first strike aggressions against Israel,[22] and before they can be deterred from launching retaliatory attacks following any Israeli preemptions, it may not be enough for them merely to know that Israel has the bomb.

In extremis atomicum, these enemies will also need to believe that Israeli nuclear weapons are sufficiently invulnerable to first-strike attacksand that they are pointed menacingly at appropriately high-value targets.

The key message here is obvious and straightforward. Removing the bomb from Israel’s “basement” could enhance Israel’s nuclear deterrent to the extent that it would enlarge enemy perceptions of secure and capable Israeli nuclear forces.[23] Such a calculated end to deliberate ambiguity could also underscore Israel’s willingness to use these nuclear forces in reprisal for certain enemy first-strike and/or retaliatory attacks.[24]

From the standpoint of successful Israeli nuclear deterrence, IDF planners must generally proceed on the assumption that perceived willingness is always just as important as perceived capability. In all cases, Israel’s nuclear strategy and forces must remain fully oriented to deterrence, and never toward actual war fighting. Already, with this in mind, Jerusalem/Tel Aviv has likely taken appropriate steps to reject tactical or relatively low-yield “battlefield” nuclear weapons, and, as corollary, corresponding plans for counter-force targeting.

For Israel, without conceivable exception, nuclear weapons can make sense only for deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.[25]

There are various attendant problems of nuclear proliferation amongst enemy states.[26] These new nuclear powers could implement protective measures that would pose additional hazards to Israel. Designed to guard against preemption, either by Israel or by other regional enemies, such measures could involve the attachment of “hair trigger” launch mechanisms to nuclear weapon systems and/or the adoption of “launch on warning” policies, possibly coupled with pre-delegations of launch authority.

This means, most plainly, that Israel could become increasingly endangered by steps taken by its newly-nuclear enemies to prevent an eleventh-hour preemption. Optimally, Israel would do everything possible to prevent such steps, especially because of the expanded risks of accidental or unauthorized attacks against its own armaments and populations. Still, if these steps were somehow to become a fait accompli, Jerusalem might then calculate, and quite correctly, that a preemptive strike would be both legal and operationally cost-effective.

The expected enemy retaliation, however damaging, might appear more tolerable than the expected consequences of enemy first-strikes  –  strikes likely occasioned by the failure of “anti-preemption” protocols.

There is also the related matter of conventional deterrence.  In some circumstances, enemy states contemplating a conventional attack upon Israel might be dissuaded only by the threat of a strong conventional retaliation. Hence, inasmuch as a conventional war could quickly escalate into an unconventional war, Israel’s conventional deterrent could sometime prove indispensable in offering protection against chemical/biological/nuclear war[27] as well as conventional war.[28] 

Arguably, a persuasive conventional deterrent is a sine qua non of Israel’s security. This is the case irrespective of the persuasiveness of Jerusalem’s nuclear deterrent, and/or the availability of any reasonable preemption options.

Reciprocally, Israel’s conventional and nuclear deterrents are interrelated, even intertwined.  For the foreseeable future, any enemy states that would launch an exclusively conventional attack upon Israel would almost surely have to maintain multiple unconventionalweapons capabilities in reserve.  Even if Israel could rely upon conventional deterrence as its “first line” of protection, that line would necessarily be augmented by Israeli nuclear deterrence in order to prevent any intra-war escalations initiated by enemy states.

Looking ahead, Israel must prepare to rely upon a distinctly multi-faceted doctrine of nuclear deterrence. In turn, this doctrine will need to be purposefully less ambiguous and more determinedly “synergistic.” Its core focus must embrace prospectively rational and non-rational enemies, and include both national and sub-national foes.[29]

These intersecting requirements are not for the intellectually faint-hearted.

Hence, they are offered here for strategic consideration and refinement to the Few, not to the Many.

Over time, any such prudential reliance should prove agreeably “cost-effective.” In any event, whether directed at nuclear or non-nuclear adversaries (or both), Israel’s nuclear strategy will play an increasingly important role in that country’s national security planning. At some point, Israel and Iran –  resembling the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War – could find themselves like “two scorpions in a bottle”[30] or perhaps enclosed like two “scorpions” amid three or four others.

What happens then? Will Israel be ready? A positive answer is possible only if the task is viewed in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv as a preeminently intellectual one, a struggle not just about comparative ordnance or competitive “orders of battle,” but about “mind over mind.” In these times. of course, all relevant matters of mind will have to include various considerations of biology/pathology as well as the more usual military ones.

Fortunately, Israel has always been in recognizably prominent possession of what is most durably important. This largely overlooked factor is intellectual power. Going forward with its imperative strategic tasks, Israel’s senior planners and prime minister may have to more fully appreciate the primacy of such an antecedent or primary power. This would mean, inter alia, looking far beyond the more usual focus on high-technology military solutions, including various altogether unprecedented factors concerning virulent disease pandemic.

Among other things, these biological variables could impact actual processes  of crisis decision-making in Jerusalem and/or in certain enemy capitals, impacts with certain still-unknown force-multiplying effects that at some point could also become synergistic.

At that stage, the “whole” injurious impact of the pandemic on pertinent Israeli decision-making would have become more-or-less greater than the simple sum of all relevant “parts.” Immediately, therefore, because it would be impossible to anticipate in detail such a profound impact in all or even most of its plausible disease-based consequences, the optimal course for Israel must be to hew in general to certain strategic postures recognizably averse to excessive threat-making or risk-taking. Going forward, in these expansively uncertain times, Israel’s defense and security decision-makers should consider maximizing their inclinations to more cooperative or collaborative interactions with particular adversarial counterparts. Nonetheless, as long as the country maintains its “ace in the whole” nuclear strategy, which should be for a very long time, Jerusalem must keep up its efforts to ensure a refined and uniformly credible national nuclear strategy. And this strategy should continue to emphasize deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.

Otherwise, “It’s a hard rain gonna fall.”

In Israel, nuclear war must always be viewed only as a terminal disease. This means that any actual use of such weapons, by Israel and/or by its enemies, would necessarily signify an irremediable policy failure. Though assorted threats of nuclear reprisal must still reserve a residual place in Israel’s core defense planning processes – indeed, a place that is both important and indispensable – this perilous “sticking place” must also display very clear and understandable boundaries. In the final analysis, such boundaries should represent the coherent result of certain prior intellectual triumphs achieved by Israel’s policy analysts and decision-makers, victories that today must include a suitable awareness of pertinent “pandemic variables.”

Otherwise, in a literal instant, “hard rain” could drown several thousand years of civilizational progress and entire libraries of a once-sacred  poetry.


[1] Still, there were three prominently recorded incidents in which some explicit reference was made to Israel’s “bomb” by a prime minister, but none went beyond a deliberately vague and general commentary. On December 22, 1995, then Prime Minister Shimon Peres declared to the Israeli press that Israel would be willing “to give up the atom” in exchange for peace. Years later, on December 11, 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert uttered a very similar remark. And in just the last year, at the end of 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed a pertinent “slip of the tongue,” combining “Israel” and “its nuclear….” in the same public utterance.

[2] At first hearing, it may sound prima facie erroneous to adapt any nation’s nuclear strategy to assorted non-nuclear adversaries, but it should nonetheless be obvious to Israel – for specific example, in the case of Iran – that even a wholly conventional enemy could (1) sometime threaten existential harms; and (2) these threats might sometime be rationally countered with varying forms and degrees of expressly nuclear deterrence.

[3] At the same time, we cannot be allowed to forget, that theoretical fruitfulness must be achieved at some more-or-less tangible cost of “dehumanization.”  As Goethe reminds us is Urfaust, the original Faust fragment: “All theory, dear friend, is grey, And the golden tree of life is green.” Translated by the author from the German: “Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grun des Lebens goldner Baum.”

[4] Such needed preparation must extend to multiplying enemy nuclear states, or the dynamic problem of nuclear proliferation. Philosophically, this problem has certain conceptual antecedents in the work of seventeenth-century English scholar, Thomas Hobbes. Here, instructs the author of Leviathan, although the “state of nations” exists in the condition of a “state of nature,” it is more tolerable than the condition of individuals in that state. This is because, in the case of individual human beings, “the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.” With nuclear weapons spread, however, there is no longer any reason to assert that the state of nations must be more tolerable. Instead, this spread will bring the state of nations much closer to a true Hobbesian state of nature. Similarly, the classical German philosopher, Samuel Pufendorf, also unable to imagine nuclear weapons and nuclear warfare, still reasoned, like Hobbes, that the state of nations “lacks those inconveniences which are attendant upon a pure state of nature….” And in the same vein, wrote Baruch Spinoza: “A commonwealth can guard itself against being subjugated by another, as a man in the state of nature cannot do.” See: A.G. Wernham, ed., The Political Works, Tractatus Politicus, iii, II (Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 295.

[5] For earlier published writings by Professor Beres on the Iranian nuclear threat, see: Louis René Beres, “Israel, Force, and International Law: Assessing Anticipatory Self-Defense,” The Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, Vol. 13, No. 2., June 1991, pp. 1-14; Louis René Beres, “After the Gulf War: Israel, `Palestine,’ and the Risk of Nuclear War in the Middle East,” Strategic Review, Vol. XIX, No. 4., Fall 1991, pp, 48-55; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Prospects for Nuclear War in the Middle East,” Strategic Review, Vol. XXI, No.2., Spring 1993, pp. 52-60; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Nuclear War: A Tactical and Legal Assessment,” Jerusalem Letter, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem, Israel, November 1993, pp. 1-7; Louis René Beres, “North Korea Today, Iran Tomorrow,” Midstream, June/July 1994, pp. 5-7, co-authored with COL. (IDF/res.) Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto (former Chief of Planning, Israel Air Force); Louis René Beres, “The Security and Future of Israel: An Exchange,” Midstream, Vol. XXXXI, No. 5., June/July 1995, pp. 15-23, a debate between Professor Beres and Maj. General (IDF/res.) Shlomo Gazit, a former Chief of IDF Intelligence Branch (Aman) and later, military advisor to Prime Minister Shimon Peres; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Nuclear War: A Jurisprudential Assessment,” UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, Spring 1996, Vol. 1., No. 1, pp. 65-97; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Preemption: Choosing the Least Unattractive Option Under International Law,” Dickinson Journal of International Law, Vol. 14, No. 2., Winter 1996, pp. 187-206; Louis René Beres, “The Iranian Threat to Israel: Capabilities and Intentions,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 9., No. 1., Spring 1996, pp. 51-62; Louis René Beres, “The Iranian Threat to Israel,” Midstream, Vol. 44, No. 6., September/October 1998, pp. 8-11; Louis René Beres, “Security Threats and Effective Remedies: Israel’s Strategic, Tactical and Legal Options: A Comprehensive Master Plan for the Jewish State in the Third Millennium,” The Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel), ACPR Policy Paper No. 102, April 2000, 110 pp; Louis René Beres, “Iran’s Growing Threat to Israel,” Midstream, Vol. XXXXVI, No. 7, November 2000, pp. 2-4; and Louis René Beres, “Israel and the Bomb,” a Dialogue with Professor Zeev Maoz, International Security (Harvard University), Vol. 29, No.1., Summer 2004, pp. 1-4.

[6] On deterring a potentially nuclear Iran, see: Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran?” The Atlantic, August 2012; and Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Israel and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012. General Chain (USAF/ret.) served as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).

[7] It can also underscore Sun-Tzu’s oft-cited suggestion to “embrace the unorthodox.” For a specific application of Sun-Tzu to Israel’s prospective calculations, see: Louis René Beres, “Lessons for Israel from Ancient Chinese Military Thought: Facing Iranian Nuclearization with Sun-Tzu,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, posted October 24, 2013.

[8] The origins of anticipatory self-defense in customary law lie in The Caroline, a case that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. Following this case, the serious threat of armed attack has generally justified certain militarily defensive actions. 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 antecedent attack. Here, the jurisprudential framework permitted a military response to a threat so long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” See: Beth M. Polebaum, “National Self-defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,” 59 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 187, 190-91 (1984)(noting that the Caroline case had transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a legal doctrine). Still earlier, see: Hugo Grotius, Of the Causes of War, and First of Self-Defense, and Defense of Our Property, reprinted in 2 Classics of International Law, 168-75 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1925)(1625); and Emmerich de Vattel, The Right of Self-Protection and the Effects of the Sovereignty and Independence of Nations, reprinted in 3 Classics of International Law, 130 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1916)(1758). Also, Samuel Pufendorf, The Two Books on the Duty of Man and Citizen According to Natural Law,  32 (Frank Gardner Moore., tr., 1927 (1682).

[9] This does not mean trying to account for absolutely every pertinent explanatory variable. Clarification can be found at “Occam’s Razor,” or the “principle of parsimony.” In essence, it stipulates a preference for the simplest explanation still consistent with scientific method. Regarding current concerns for Israel’s nuclear strategy, it suggests, inter alia, that the country’s military planners not seek to identify and examine every seemingly important variable, but rather to “say the most, with the least.” This presents an important and often neglected cautionary idea, because all too often, strategists and planners mistakenly attempt to be too inclusive, unwittingly distracting themselves from forging more efficient and “parsimonious” theory.

[10] For early assessments of the expected consequences of nuclear war fighting, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed., Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

[11] This reminder references the largely unpredictable effects of errors in knowledge and information concerning intra-Israel (IDF/MOD) strategic uncertainties; on Israeli and Iranian under-estimations or over-estimations of relative power position; and on the unalterably vast and largely irremediable differences between theories of deterrence, and enemy intent “as it actually is.” See: Carl von Clausewitz, “Uber das Leben und den Charakter von Scharnhorst,” Historisch-politische Zeitschrift, 1 (1832); cited in Barry D. Watts, Clausewitzian Friction and Future War, McNair Paper No. 52, October, 1996, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Washington, D.C. p. 9.

[12] Such appraisals will also need to take account of a possible chaos in world politics, a condition classically foreseen by Thomas Hobbes, and one made far more likely by ongoing disease pandemic. Although composed in the seventeenth century, Hobbes’ Leviathan still offers a prospectively illuminating vision of chaos, a view that goes far beyond “ordinary” conditions of “mere” anarchy. Says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII, “Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery:” during chaos, a condition which Hobbes identifies as a “time of War,”  it is a time “…where every man is Enemy to every man… and where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” At the time of writing, Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition existing among individual human beings  – because of what he called the “dreadful equality” of individual men in nature being able to kill others – but this once-relevant differentiation has effectively disappeared with the global spread of nuclear weapons.

[13] https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/29389

[14] See, by this writer at Israel Defense: Louis René Beres,  https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/38613

[15] See, by this writer: Louis René Beres, https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/33558

[16] For early scholarly examinations of preemption and anticipatory self-defense, by this author, with particular reference to Israel, see:  Louis René Beres,  “Preserving the Third Temple:  Israel’s Right of Anticipatory Self-Defense Under International Law,”  Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law,  Vol. 26,  No. 1,  April 1993,  pp. 111- 148;  Louis René Beres,  “After the Gulf War:  Israel, Preemption and Anticipatory Self-Defense,”  Houston Journal of International Law, Vol. 13,  No. 2,  Spring 1991,  pp. 259 – 280;  and Louis René Beres,  “Striking `First’: Israel’s Post Gulf War Options Under International Law,” Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Journal  Vol. 14,  Nov. 1991,  pp. 1 – 24.

[17] The Israeli analytic “cast” must always be linked to expressly dialectical thought processes. In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerged as the preferred form of early “scientific” investigation. Plato describes the dialectician as one who knows how to ask and then to answer questions. In fashioning a usable strategic theory, Israeli planners will first need to better understand this core expectation –  even before they proceed to the usual compilations of facts, figures, orders of battle, and regional balances of power.

[18] In a well-known passage in Francis Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning, the early philosopher of science says that the medieval scholastics were like spiders, weaving webs out of their own heads, without any consideration of surrounding facts. These webs were admirable on account of their workmanship and fineness of thread, but they were nonetheless lacking in any true explanatory substance. (I, iv., 5). Presently, in explaining and advancing Israel’s nuclear strategy, it is important to construct theory upon suitably fact-based foundations, not on the perilously diaphanous constructions of modern-day scholastics.

[19] See by this writer (USMA West Point/Pentagon):  Louis René Beres,  https://mwi.usma.edu/israel-samson-option-interconnected-world/

[20]             Similarly,  Israeli preparations for nuclear war fighting could be conceived not as distinct alternatives to nuclear deterrence, but as essential and even integral components of nuclear deterrence.  Some years ago, Colin Gray, reasoning about U.S.-Soviet nuclear relations, argued that a vital connection exists between “likely net prowess in war and the quality of pre-war deterrent effect.”  (See:  Colin Gray, National Style in Strategy: The American Example,” INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, 6, No. 2, fall 1981, p. 35.)  Elsewhere, in a published debate with this writer, Gray said essentially the same thing:  “Fortunately, there is every reason to believe that probable high proficiency in war-waging yields optimum deterrent effect.”  (See Gray, “Presidential Directive 59: Flawed But Useful,” PARAMETERS, 11, No. 1, March 1981, p. 34.  Gray was responding directly to Louis René Beres, “Presidential Directive 59: A Critical Assessment,” PARAMETERS, March 1981, pp. 19 – 28.) .                      

[21] See earlier, by this writer: Louis René Beres, Looking Ahead: Revising Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity in the Middle East, Herzliya Conference Policy Paper, Herzliya Conference, March 11-14, 2013 (Herzliya, Israel). See also: Louis René Beres and Admiral (USN/ret.) Leon (Bud) Edney, “Facing a Nuclear Iran, Israel Must Re-Think Its Nuclear Ambiguity,” U.S. News & World Report, February 11, 2013, 3 pp; and Professor Louis René Beres and Admiral Leon (Bud) Edney, “Reconsidering Israel’s Nuclear Posture,” The Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2013.

[22] Punishment of aggression is a longstanding and authoritative expectation of international criminal law.  The underlying legal principle of Nullum Crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment,” has its discernible origins in the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1728 – 1686 B.C.E.);  the Laws of Eshnunna (c. 2000 B.C.E.);  the even earlier Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100 B.C.E.) and the law of exact retaliation, or Lex Talionis, presented in three separate passages of the Torah

[23] The expected security benefits to Israel of any considered reductions in “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” must remain more-or-less dependent upon Clausewitzian “friction.” Here, this classic term of operational military planning references the always-unpredictable effects of errors in knowledge and information concerning intra-Israel (IDF/MOD) strategic uncertainties, Israeli and adversarial underestimations or overestimations of relative power position, and the unalterably vast and largely irremediable differences between abstract theories of deterrence, and actual enemy intentions.

[24]  More generally, the expressly  legal problem of reprisal as a permissible rationale for the use of force by states is identified  in the U.N. Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States (1970)(https://cil.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/formidable/18/1970-Declaration-on-Principles-of-International-Law-Concerning-Friendly-Relations.pdf) . A possible prohibition of reprisals is also deducible from the broad regulation of force expressed in the UN Charter at Article 2(4); the obligation to settle disputes peacefully at Article 2(3); and the general limiting of permissible force by states (codified and customary) to necessary self-defense.

[25] In the words of Israel’s Strategic Future, the Final Report of Project Daniel (Israel, 2004): “The primary point of Israel’s nuclear forces must always be deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.” See also: Louis René Beres, “Facing Iran’s Ongoing Nuclearization: A Retrospective on Project Daniel,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 22, Issue 3, June 2009, pp 491-514; and Louis René Beres, “Israel’s Uncertain Strategic Future,” Parameters: Journal of the U.S. Army War College, Vol. XXXVII, No.1., Spring 2007, pp. 37-54.

[26] See, by this writer: Louis René Beres, “Facing Myriad Enemies: Core Elements of Israeli Nuclear Deterrence,” The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Fall/Winter 2013, Vol. XX, Issue 1., pp. 17-30.

[27] The idea of biological war may take on a whole new urgency in view of the current Covid-19 pandemic. More precisely, this extraordinary disease outbreak remains of unproven national origin, and could influence various countries either to move more assertively toward biological weapons preparation or away from any such production. At this point, the correct expectation must remain highly subjective and analytically problematic.

[28] Already, non-nuclear Iran may rank ahead of Israel in overall or cumulative military capacity. According to an article in The Jerusalem Post (August 12, 2019),Israel ranks behind regional enemy Iran for the second year in a row, despite international pressure and sanctions against the Islamic republic. Global Firepower states that Israel has 170,000 active personnel in all branches of the armed forces, with a further 445,000 people in reserve, meaning a total of 7.3% of Israel’s population are somehow involved a military role. Compared to Iran, which similarly has around 873,000 people on active duty and in reserve, but only 1.1% of the population is involved in the armed forces.

[29] It is worth noting here that Israel’s nuclear strategy could have certain meaningful implications for U.S. national security. On these generally ignored connections, see Louis René Beres and (General/USA/ret.) Barry McCaffrey, ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY AND AMERICA’S NATIONAL SECURITY, Tel-Aviv University and Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, Tel-Aviv, December 2016: https://sectech.tau.ac.il/sites/sectech.tau.ac.il/files/PalmBeachBook.pdf

[30] See, by this writer: Louis René Beres, “Like Two Scorpions in a Bottle: Could Israel and a Nuclear Iran Coexist in the Middle East,” The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. 8., No.1., 2014, pp. 23-32.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Defense

The Difficulties of Balancing Military Confrontations in Europe

Muratcan Isildak

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Tensions between the West and Russia since 2014 have created a tense military balance focused on Europe. There is an increasing armed activity that climbs up in the Baltic and Black Sea regions. These activities take forms such as deployment of troops, large-scale exercises, and close contact at common sea areas and borders. Although direct attack is not seen as a realistic scenario for both parties, current trends increase the risks of misunderstandings, dangerous accidents and uncontrolled escalation of tension. Although the existing communication channels have reduced the likelihood of undesirable results to date, the level of interaction between the parties is low.

Traditionally, the dispatch and management of tension-boosting threats is handled through trust-and security-building measures, as well as through weapons control tools. These are created to provide some degree of predictability to confrontations, to provide greater stability between intense political tensions. However, in the last two decades, a serious resolution of arms control mechanisms has been observed at the regional and global level.

This model even prevented the Ukraine conflict, which has its roots in the abolition of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Agreement of America and NATO’s reluctance to approve the Conventional Forces (CFE) Agreement in Europe and the Adaptation Agreement of this agreement. Due to the perceived blocking policy of the West, Russia gradually withdrew from the second document after 2007 and also changed its previous positive attitude towards military security.

The process of building a stack of weapons since 2014 has been accompanied by discussions about the renewal of the Vienna document, which systematized confidence building measures, difficulties in the implementation of the Open Skies Treaty and a general sense of hopelessness within the arms control community.

The Treaty of Russian-American Mid-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), which ended on August 2, 2019, was the last element of the old set of institutions that fell from value. The future of the New Strategic Weapons Reduction Treaty, which remains the last solid document on the limitation of nuclear forces, is still pending.

In the midst of these developments, several high-level politicians encouraged the re-stability in Europe through the revitalization of treaty-based restrictions in the military field. For example, in 2016, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for “Restarting arms control as a tried and tested tool for risk reduction, transparency and confidence in Europe”.

Subsequently, his successor Sigmar Gabriel called for “preventing the damage of proven agreements”. He then suggested: “We must do everything we can to protect and develop these contracts and, if necessary, show the courage to return to a new path, for example, the traditional weapon control system”.

Calls for greater predictability in the face of deep divisions in Europe are definitely commendable. Thanks to these calls, arms control has re-entered the international agenda (primarily through the OSCE Structural Dialogue). However, it is not enough to try to protect the mechanisms and even the principles negotiated in the past for the success of the military restrictions.

It is important to reflect on major changes that make the straightforward application of old records less promising and require the redesign of the very basic principles of gun control dogmas.

Russia did not receive enough security guarantees from the West in the 1990s and 2000s. As a result, the level of mobility of the Russian military force and even the degree of unpredictability in the deployment became a compensation for the gap between NATO and conventional forces.

At the same time, it was a logical way to triangulate the combination of a large region, a relatively small population and a reduction in military spending. The drastic structural reforms implemented after 2008 and the large-scale instant exercises carried out by Moscow since 2013 have led to the establishment of new principles that have turned Russia into a more effective military force.

The desire to achieve more mobility also paved the way for NATO to decide to revive two powers related to logistics and transatlantic communication. These developments raised mutual concerns about the unpredictability of the other party in potential crises in Russia and the West.

These criteria may not be fully applied to new doctrinal priorities. Today’s armies associate threats over time rather than geography, quality rather than quantity, and integrated networks, not specific weapon types. The size of the armies decreased, but the percentage of units with high readiness increased.

Therefore, applying advanced military systems carries the risk of miscalculations and misperceptions. It is not the real potential of technologically superior skills that have the greatest destabilizing effect, but the uncertainties about untested tools and applications.

For example, the strategic trilogy concept that featured during the Cold War (including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine missiles and heavy bombers) opposed the traditional split between the Land, Navy and Air Force. Today, it is important to think equally creatively about reducing complexity while maintaining the validity of any potential limitation in the military field on the one hand.

This does not necessarily mean that they will avoid any commitment. However, the current political transformations undermine European actors in an effort to organize military positions, making possible arrangements more fragile.

However, there is a qualitative difference between the current situations. At that time, concerns about Asia led to changes in regime design, these are very important for the fate of Asia today. Given the ongoing trends in power transition, Europe’s prospect of isolation from external influences can be expected to decrease further. In terms of strategic stability, efforts to reinstate weapon constraints will be defined by the transition from a two-factor balance between Russia and the United States to a multilateral equation where China, as well as India and some other states, have a greater role.

This assessment shows that many of the premises developed for arms control in the second half of the 20th century were no longer valid. It is very important to adapt to the features that define modern agile forces to promote meaningful institutions that provide greater predictability and increased control. This requires the ability to regulate dynamic positions, qualitative criteria rather than quantitative criteria, and integration tools rather than only vehicles with striking capacity.

The need to reconsider the basic categories that define the various levels and aspects of military balance is not unimportant. In particular, strategic stability becomes an increasingly reduced concept, with the emergence of new skills that can affect it. Also, there are new ways to harass, force, and overthrow opponents outside of the war, which can disrupt stability. Since the ability to regulate depends on the ability to define regulatory objects, serious conceptual work should be done before possible negotiations on future weapon control.

Finally, global power transitions mean that successful arms control in Europe requires greater sensitivity to developments elsewhere. Regional actors must either find ways to minimize the wider reflections of local regulations in an increasingly interconnected world; either try to turn certain mechanisms into global norms; or design regimes to strengthen them, rather than putting pressure on other major areas of operation.

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Nuclearization Of South Asia: Where Do We Stand Now?

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Pakistan-India relations have continued to deteriorate since the nuclear test of May 1998. Both the states have faced numerous crisis during which the nuclear weapons have played a very important role. Nuclear weapons have been an effective deterrent force and kept the conflicts from blowing into all-out war. All the recent events suggests that there is a dire need to take transitional measures to reduce the nuclear risks. Nuclear weapons are confusing pieces of technology as their efficiency of destruction is best established when they are not deployed and yet in the same breath, they are to be used when required. This dilemma is further demented when one state is enemy with the other on almost everything. Escalation is both inevitable and perhaps one of the most devastating missteps in nuclear deterrence; one that requires an impressive level of trust. To achieve such a barrier, conventional rivalries need to be revisited, caution needs to be reinstituted and communication needs to be uninterrupted.

From Massive Retaliation of John Foster Dulles to McNamara’s Assured Destruction, nuclear bipolarity changed faces and paved ways for agreements and treaties to replace escalation and deployments. From direct engagements to proxies, from installation of hotlines to breaking ice and bilateralism, even when there was hope the world still endured in fear of an all-out devastation. Still, after all this, what lessons were learnt? How was ‘responsible nuclear weapons state’ defined? More importantly, what was the yardstick beyond which no state possessing such technology dare not tread? States possessing nuclear weapons technology decided not to escalate beyond a certain point and declared that no matter the trust deficit, they were supposed to always adhere to bilaterally settle their disputes. Even after two decades of nuclearization Pakistan and India, admirers of nuclear learning and experts of nuclear deterrence, perhaps were and might still are devoid of such bilateral convictions.

Looking at all the crisis situations in past most importantly the 1999 Kargil conflict, where the things escalated too quickly under nuclear overhang the question arises whether South Asia learnt anything on how close the Kargil was to a showdown of unimaginable proportion?  Talking about more recent event ‘Pulwama’, Whatever happened after Pulwama in 2019 cannot be merely set aside as an emotional rhetoric, it was an actual sub-conventional engagement which had the potential to escalate. Like Kargil Pulwama was a chance to reexamine exactly what went wrong for things to go this far. Instead, India initiated overhauling of its force posture and Pakistan played along. South Asia went from Cold Start to Tactical Nuclear Weapons, from asymmetric confrontations to trans-border infiltrations and from hostilities at Line of Control to Abhinandan’s failed leap for glory. Instantly, everyone started crying war with no one to vouch for peace. What we see now is Indian prompted continued escalatory trajectories, distorted sense of stability, a desperate call for third-party mediation and a complete lack of bilateralism.

Nuclear deterrence, in its generic understanding, requires engaging parties to manifest caution while communicating their strategic posture. Confidence Building Mechanisms in that regard are important but as standalone systems are usually inefficient in dealing with their desired results. Soviet Union’s iron curtain is what caused Cuban Missile Crisis but even a man like Khrushchev realized what could have happened and resorted to engaging with Kennedy. For Narendra Modi and his cabinet, the idealized fog of war cast by an iron curtain of fear/ compellence is much more desirable than a chance at cooperation/dialogue. Bilateralism via Track-II might be fruitful but considering how much we distrust one another, it’s highly likely that all such actions would eventually be put to unnecessary speculation of possessing vested interest. Pakistan and India might not resort to an all-out confrontation but their trust deficit is enough to keep low-yield kinetic engagements alive. Pakistan fears for a false flag terrorist activity from India while India is wary of Pakistan trying to internationalize what it considers to be a bilateral issue.

In the past we have seen that issues between India-Pakistan are never resolved instead the hostility has increased so much that mitigation of the conflict looks like a  farfetched idea. Both states need third party to get running the wheel of diplomatic engagement. Nuclear strategy is not a circular motion rather it is a spiraling affair with each turn graduating it to a new occasion whilst remaining hinged to a singular immovable point of connection. If nuclear deterrence keeps rotating without graduating, it tends to wear out its capacity to deter. What happens next is either another Kargil or something even worse. Pulwama, like Pathankot was a chance for both states to engage positively whilst maintaining their adversarial relationship and even now things are, in a way, plausible for this to occur. Threat, in this context, is how the current trajectory is moving from trust deficit to zero tolerance which can lead to incalculable repercussions.

If both India-Pakistan do not learn any lesson from the past then the future might not be very welcoming. . Nuclear deterrence is as important as it is frightening and Mutually Assured Destruction is almost certainly a final outcome if bilateralism is sacrificed at the altars of diplomatic inflexibility. An arms race without restraint is as dangerous as an uncontrolled escalation of sensitive flashpoints and both strategies are corrosive if taken without mutual consent.

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22 Years of Nuclearization of South Asia: Current Doctrinal Postures

Haris Bilal Malik

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May 2020 marks the 22nd anniversary of the overt nuclearization of South Asia. The evolved nuclear doctrinal postures of both India and Pakistan have been a key component of their defence and security policies. During this period; India has undergone gradual shifts in its nuclear doctrinal posture. The Indian posture as set out in the 1999 ‘Draft Nuclear Doctrine‘ (DND) was based on an assertion that India would pursue the ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy. The first amendment to this posture, which came out in January 2003, was based on a review by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of the nuclear doctrine. It stated that if India’s armed forces or its people were attacked with chemical and biological weapons, India reserves the right to respond with nuclear weapons. This review could, therefore, be considered a contradiction to India’s declared NFU policy at the doctrinal level. On the basis of this notion, it could be assumed that India has had an aspiration to drift away from its NFU policy since 2003.

Subsequently, the notion of a preemptive ‘splendid first strike‘ has been a key part of the discourse surrounding the Indian and international strategic community since the years 2016-2017. According to this, if in India’s assessment, Pakistan was found to be deploying nuclear weapons, in a contingency, India would resort to such a splendid first strike. With such a doctrinal posture, India’s quest for preemption against Pakistan seems to be an attempt to neutralize the deterrent value of Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. In this regard, India has been constantly advancing its nuclear weapons capabilities based on enhanced missile programs and the development of its land, sea, and air-based nuclear triad thus negating its own NFU policy. This vindicates Pakistan’s already expressed doubts over India’s long-debated NFU policy. Such Indian notion would likely serve as an overt drift towards a more offensive counterforce doctrinal posture aimed at undermining Pakistan’s deterrence posture. This would further affect the strategic stability and deterrence equilibrium in the South Asian region.

India’s rapid augmentation of its offensive doctrinal posture vis-à-vis Pakistan is based on enhancing its strategic nuclear capabilities. Under its massive military up-gradation program, India has developed the latest versions of ballistic and cruise missiles, indigenous ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems in addition to Russian made S-400, nuclear submarines, and enhanced capabilities for space weaponization. In the same vein, India’s aspiration for supersonic and hypersonic weapons is also evidence of its offensive doctrinal posture. Furthermore, India has been carrying out an extensive cruise missile development program having incredible supersonic speed along with its prospective enhanced air defence shield. Through considerable technological advancements India has shifted its approach from a counter-value to a counter-force doctrinal posture, as it demonstrates its ambitions of achieving escalation-dominance throughout the region. These technological advancements are clear indicators that India’s doctrinal posture is aimed at destabilizing the existing nuclear deterrence equilibrium in South Asia.

Pakistan, on the other hand has been threatened by India’s offensive postures and hegemonic aspirations. Consequently it has to maintain a certain balance of power to preserve its security. Pakistan’s doctrinal posture is defensive in nature and has over the years shifted from strategic deterrence to ‘full spectrum deterrence’ (FSD) by adding tactical nuclear weapons which, it claims, falls within the threshold of ‘minimum credible deterrence’. In this regard, Pakistan too has developed its missile technology based on; short, intermediate, and long-range ballistic missiles. Pakistan’s tactical range ‘Nasr’ missile is widely regarded as a ‘weapon of deterrence’ aimed at denying space for a limited war imposed by India. The induction of ‘multiple independent reentry vehicle’ (MIRV), the development of land, air and sea-launched cruise missiles and the provision of a naval-based second-strike capability have all played a significant role in the preservation of minimum credible deterrence and the assurance of full-spectrum deterrence at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.

Contrary to India’s declared NFU policy, Pakistan has never made such an assertion and has deliberately maintained a policy of ambiguity concerning a nuclear first strike against India. This has been carried out to assure its security and to preserve its sovereignty by deterring India with the employment of Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) within the ambit of Credible Minimum Deterrence. This posture asserts that since Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are for defensive purposes in principle, they are aimed at deterring India from any and all kinds of aggression. This has been evident from recent crisis situations as well during which Pakistan’s deterrent posture has prevented further escalation. Therefore, even now Pakistan is likely to keep its options open and still leave room for the possibility of carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a viable potential deterrent against India if any of its stated red lines are crossed.

Hence, the security dynamics of the South Asian region have changed significantly since its nuclearization in 1998. The impact of this has been substantial and irreversible on regional and extra-regional politics, the security architecture of South Asia, and the international nuclear order. As has been long evident India has held long term inspiration to become a great power. There have been continuous insinuations about the transformations in India’s nuclear doctrinal posture from ‘No First Use’ to counterforce offensive posture. The current security architecture of South Asia revolves around this Indian behavior as a nuclear state. In contrast, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is based solely on assuring its security, preserving its sovereignty, and deterring India by maintaining a credible deterrence posture.  Based on the undeniable threats from India to its existence, Pakistan needs to further expand its doctrinal posture vis-à-vis India. This would preserve the pre-existing nuclear deterrence equilibrium and the ‘balance of power’in the South Asian region.

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