Connect with us

Defense

War And Pandemic: Expanding Complexities Of Israeli Nuclear Strategy

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Comments

Defense

Why shouldn’t Israel Undermine Iran’s Conventional Deterrence

Published

on

When Naftali Bennett took over as the prime minister of Israel, it was expected that he would take a different approach compared to Netanyahu. This could be a probable expectation, save for the issue of Iran, since Iran is considered a consistent strategic and existential threat in the eyes of Israeli political and military officials same way that Israel has always been considered an enemy in the strategic culture of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, with the resumption of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Israel has intensified its campaign for an imminent military strike on Iran. On the other hand, Iran has tried to create a balance of missile threat against Israel based on valid deterrence during the past years.

However, the level and the nature of performance and deterrence of these two influential actors of the Middle East are fundamentally different. While Iran has defined its deterrence based on hybrid missile deterrence concepts—including direct and extended deterrence—, Israel’s deterrence is based on preemptive warfare, a.k.a. “immediate deterrence,” irrespective of its nuclear capabilities, policies of “strategic ambiguity” and “defensible borders strategy.”

From a direct deterrence perspective (i.e., the strength of a large missile fire from within Iranian territory) and given the extended and asymmetric dimensions (i.e., strengthening missile capabilities of the axis of resistance), the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that Israel will gradually become weaker and more fragile defensively, considering the importance of objective components in the area of ​​deterrence—such as geographical depth and population, and this will derive Israeli leaders to consider their fragile security and survival before any attempt to take on a direct military confrontation with Iran. For instance, when the tensions over Iran’s nuclear program escalated between 2010 and 2013 during the Obama administration, none of Iran’s nuclear facilities was attacked, despite Israel’s repeated expression of its willingness to do so. Former defense minister Ehud Barak justified this inaction with the pretext of Barack Obama’s opposition and lack of support.  In fact, the Netanyahu administration sought to instill this idea to the world that Israel has both the “determination” and the “ability” to attack Iran should this preemptive action not have been faced with Washington objection. The fact that Netanyahu still failed to implement the idea even during Trump administration—as John Bolton points out in the first chapter of his book—despite his overwhelming support for Israel, indicated the fact that Israel does not have independent military capabilities and determination to take such hostile action at no cost without the support of the US.

Therefore, despite the constant claims of Israeli officials, this country’s general strategy so far has been to avoid direct military confrontation with Iran and to focus on less intense and covert warfare. This has changed since 2017 due to Israel’s objection to pro-Iranian forces regaining the control over Al-Bukamal Qa’im border crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border, and the consequent lack of a proportionate and retaliatory response from Iran to Israel’s ongoing operations in Syria. In fact, inaction of Iran has allowed Israeli army to expand its campaign from northern borders and the Golan Heights (as the first ring) to the province of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria, then to the depths of Iraq in cooperation with the US (as the second ring), and eventually, inside the Iranian territory (as the third ring). The expansion of Israel’s subversive actions deep inside Iran is an effort to discredit Iran’s deterrence as well as undermining Iran’s strategic stability, while also dismantling Iran’s military and nuclear capabilities.

In the meantime, Israel’s embark on the strategy of Third-Circle Directorate based on intensifying low-level but effective military actions on Iranian soil has played a greater role in undermining Iran’s conventional deterrent advantages. Israel’s repeated operation and its recklessness in accepting responsibility for such actions has taken Israel’s belief and determination that it can target Iran’s assets and strategic resources inside and outside of Iran with numerous intermittent actions to a new level. Therefore, it can be said that while the previous positions of Israeli officials regarding the bombing and cessation of Iran’s nuclear capabilities were mostly focused on the assassination of Iranian scientists, targeted cyberattacks, sabotages, and bombings of industrial, security, and military facilities, there is no guarantee that the Third-Circle Directorate would not extent to explicit and direct entry of Israeli fighters, bombers or ballistic missiles to bomb Iran’s nuclear and military facilities in cooperation with the United States or independently.

If Israel mistakes Iran’s inaction with inability to respond and decides to extend Mabam Campaign to air or missile strikes inside the Iranian borders, it should not be sure of the unpredictable consequences. Iran has not yet responded decisively to cyber-attacks, the assassination of its scientists, and the Israeli sabotages due to the fact that these actions have been designed and carried out in such a way that Iran has assessed the damage as compensable. That is, a long set of low-level attacks were conducted to change the state of the field without taking actions that justifies an extensive reaction. Iran’s failure to respond to the recent Israeli attack on the port of Latakia is a clear example of the success and effectiveness of Salami Slicing strategy. Such strategies are designed to engage Iran in a polygonal dilemma: that it cannot respond to every individual military actions and small-scale sabotage, while inaction against these multiple small and non-intensive attacks will gradually result in losing its strategic position and deterrent credibility.

This very, unique Israeli strategy in military confrontation with Iran has reinforced the assessment of the Bennett administration about the serious weakness of Iran’s conventional deterrence. As a clear case Foreign Minister Yair Lapid claimed that “Israel could attack Iran if necessary without informing the Biden administration, which is looking to rejoin the nuclear deal”. This problem became more apparent after the assassination of the commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC, especially in the last months of Donald Trump’s presidency. In other words, if Tehran decided to respond directly to various Israeli actions, such as the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and attacks on its military and industrial centers, the risk of a war with Israel with the support of the US would increase. By the same token, this has in fact given Tehran an opportunity not to retaliate based on the concept of conventional strategic stability. That is, at this level of conflict, Iran’s confidence in its ability to retaliate makes it easier for this country to limit and delay the response. From Iranian perspective, therefore, conventional strategic stability means preventing armed conflict in the Middle East, especially a level of conflict that directly threatens its security and territory.

However, if Israel tries to discredit Iran’s conventional deterrence and strategic stability by launching a direct air strike into Iranian territory, Iran’s retaliatory response will not be as limited and symbolic as the attack on the US base of Ain al-Assad in Iraq, because Tehran would face the so-called “Sputnik moment” dilemma, which forces it to test its missile credibility. In such a situation, Iran will be forced to first, launch a decisive comprehensive missile response against Israel and then change its deterrent structure from conventional to nuclear by leaving the NPT in order to contain pressure of domestic public opinion, maintain its credibility with regional rivals such as Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and even the Republic of Azerbaijan, and to reassure its proxy forces in the axis of resistance.

Continue Reading

Defense

Indo-Pacific strategy and the new China-IDF relationship

Published

on

The signing of the United States of America (the new Aukus defense agreement and the Quad Quartet agreement with Japan, India and Australia), had significant future repercussions on the Middle East region and the balances of power and influence within it, given its great geopolitical importance, according to these new American agreements in the “Indo-Pacific region”, China will have to (face a new strong defense alliance in the Indo-Pacific region, then transfer this entire Chinese conflict to the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear file and increase Chinese influence in the sea straits and waterways in the Middle East), an alliance welcomed by regional partners such as  Japan. The three countries in the new US regional alliances and polarizations of “Japan, India, and Australia” also make it clear that such agreements with the United States of America are a (historic opportunity for them and their allies to protect common values ​​and enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region). On the other hand, we find that those American agreements and alliances in the “Indo-Pacific” region surrounding China will be reflected in one way or another and may increase in the Middle East, for China will have to transfer conflict and competition with Washington to the region, Israel and Iran, and this will have future consequences and repercussions.  The countries of the region in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf, as follows:

The equation of competition between the United States and China in the Middle East has increased since the Biden administration took office, and here (placing the neutral countries in the middle became more difficult). One of the areas that may witness an escalation in the intensity of competition between the two sides is the Middle East.

To understand the vision of regional countries for their interests with the two powers, it is necessary to look at the initial indicators issued by the Biden’s administration towards the region. It has become clear that the US administration has a desire to reformulate its approach towards the region, but (it is not yet clear how deep this American step and its impact on the regional security structure sponsored by the United States, especially in the Arab Gulf region).

The US Defense Secretary “Lloyd Austin” announced a comprehensive strategic review of the status of US forces around the world, including the Middle East. It seems that officials in the US Department of Defense “Pentagon” are tending to reconsider the status of US forces in the Middle East, which may be understood (not a condition of reducing them), in favor of increasing the size of the forces in the “Indo-Pacific” region.

At the present time, the Biden administration’s focus was on (ending the war in Yemen, reviving the negotiation track over the Iranian nuclear file), and it did not show much interest in other pivotal files.

In parallel with the previous US approach, the US National Security Adviser “Jake Sullivan”, reduced the number of Middle East experts in the US National Security Council, and significantly increased the number and hierarchy of Indo-Pacific experts.

Defense Minister “Lloyd Austin” also appointed three advisers to him, all of them are Asian experts, and none of them specialize in Middle Eastern issues, in contrast to the approach of all previous US administrations, due to the danger of China, according to the current US security strategy.

These American steps toward China reflect the Biden administration’s vision of the world from the perspective of “the theory of the great power conflict”, which prevailed during the Cold War, and the decline of the Middle East on its list of priorities.

On the Israeli-Chinese side, Beijing will try to play an increasing role inside Israel in order to bring about rapprochement with Tel Aviv at the expense of Washington.  Here, we note the (extent and seriousness of Chinese companies sought to obtain contracts to operate the main Israeli ports, as Washington was particularly concerned about a Chinese company winning a tender to manage a port in Haifa, where the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet is anchored).

Perhaps the future analysis will come in (China’s attempt to play a challenge to American interests inside Israel, and China’s future planning in order to manage all Israeli ports, and thus control the shipping lanes in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea). Which is what Washington fears the most.

In addition to China’s desire to invest and be present in vital infrastructure projects in Israel, (China is trying to obtain this advanced Israeli technology, and trying to obtain any monopoly information that can be harvested in China by Israeli companies to benefit from it in the aspects of Chinese progress and innovation), thus, he challenged American technological progress from the Israeli gate.

The most important and most dangerous for me, analytically, is the attempts of the People’s Republic of China to obtain all Israeli trade secrets related to the United States of America, and even more dangerous in the future is (the rapprochement of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with the Israel Defense Forces, which relies heavily on advanced American equipment such as  Fighter “F-35”).

From my analytical point of view, the expectation remains that (if China succeeds in increasing its ability to exist, monitor and infiltrate the Israeli army), this may allow Beijing to obtain all American military technological secrets from Israel directly, and here is the danger for the United States of America being  Israel is a conduit through which the (People’s Liberation Army of China) “PLA” achieves greater parity with the US armed forces. This is what Washington is trying to confront from Tel Aviv to counter Chinese influence there, as the United States of America cannot in any way allow its military technology to fall into the hands of its main opponent, China.

   Perhaps the final analysis here, is explaining that (the absence of American thinking of a clear strategy until now to confront the growing Chinese influence in the region and the world), and perhaps it is a continuation of the same approach of the “Trump’s administration”, as the United States shows interest in what it does not want, without presenting a clear vision of the results that you want access to this conflict.

Continue Reading

Defense

China, Vietnam, Philippines and United States Sustainability in the South China Sea

Published

on

The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville during a replenishment-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Harris/U.S. Navy/Flickr

Authors : Nabel Akram, Imran Altaf, Komal Tariq

Supremacy of any world power depends upon its control over the important Geo-strategic places. A hegemon must have influence over the Geo-strategic places. This rule is generally applied for every world super power. Other factors like the will to lead, economic, political and military factors are also important but these factors are restricted in a specific sphere of influence. Influence over Geo-strategic important places enhances the influence over other countries related to that place. Britain remained the superpower due to occupation of such important places. The US as a super power and hegemon, is enjoying influence over the Geo-strategic places in the world. The US has influence over Malacca Strait, Suez Canal, and Panama Canal etc. (Oral, 2012). On strategic places, the US is facing challenges from China and Russia. Russia has occupied Crimea the strategically important place in East Europe which covers black sea and offered a way towards Mediterranean Sea. On the other hand, China is struggling hard to get control over South China Sea (SCS). The SCS is an important Geo-strategic, Geo-economic and geopolitical place for world. It contains plenty of natural resources and the hub of fishing. It covers half of the world trade passage. The US has enjoyed strong influence in this place after WWII, but, now the US is facing great resistance from China. The US does not want to lose its influence in East Asia and the SCS. The US is struggling hard with the coordination of the ASEAN states, Japan, Australia and India. China is gradually strengthening its control over the SCS. Due to economic growth, China has got influence over regional countries. Most critical area of South China Sea dispute contains two groups of islands such as Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. Paracel archipelago comes under the rule of China (The People’s Republic of China, 2014). China has occupied this group of islands in 1974. Spratly islands are most disputed among China, Philippines and Vietnam (Ngo, 2017). This group of islands are under the different countries like China, Vietnam, Philippine, Malaysia and Taiwan. China has constructed seven artificial islands on this place (Southerland, 2016). The US has initiated Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in the SCS region with objective to contain China from establishing its hegemony in this region. It has increased the sensitivity of this issue in region (Harress, 2015).   

Vietnam and Philippines both are the potential rival of China in South China Sea dispute. These countries have deep economic and diplomatic ties with China. Both countries are engaging China to set up alliances with the US and other important states for restraining and hedging China. Vietnam and Philippines are making efforts to strengthen their military setup against China. The US is providing its assistance to the rival states of China and opposing Chinese irredentist claim with the help of maritime law and the right of freedom of navigation in the SCS as an international sea. In this way, China has to face potential rivalry from the US, Vietnam and Philippines in SCS.

Philippines and Vietnam have huge trade and diplomatic relations with China for hedging China. Both countries even have strong economic and strategic relations with Chinese competitors like the US, Russia, Japan and India. In this way, both countries are reducing the risk. Vietnam is consistently building its military capabilities through strong economy and making alliances with the strong countries and international and regional institutions. There are following way which cause to hedging China.

  • For hedging China, Philippines and Vietnam are engaging China through a huge trade volume and interdependence. Vietnam has become the biggest trading partner of China. Mutual interdependence will cause to stop China from taking any aggressive action against Vietnam.
  • Philippines and Vietnam are developing diplomatic, political, party to party and people to people relations with China. This will help to know about the behavior of China towards Philippines and Vietnam over South China Sea dispute.
  • Philippines and Vietnam are focusing to increase its military strength. For this purpose, Vietnam has bought large military equipment from Russia and developed its military equipment complex in Vietnam for modernizing its military equipment with the help of Russia. Philippines has increased its military alliance with the US.
  • Vietnam has made alliances with world powers like the US, Russia, India, Japan etc. to secure itself against any aggression from China. For this purpose, it has engaged itself in many exercises and joint ventures with the US and many other countries.
  • Philippines and Vietnam has improved its relations with neighboring countries who can provide help in time of difficulty. This is the reason that Philippines and Vietnam are active in ASEAN forum.

China would play its role as a hegemon after the US. The US should contain China through its neighboring countries like Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and Russia. To gain hegemonic status, it is necessary to become regional hegemon. John Mearsheimer supports regional hegemon. He gives example of the US that it first became regional hegemon in 1898 after Monroe doctrine and gained world hegemonic status after the WWII (Mearsheimer, 2004).

China has acquired economic and military power and about to become a regional hegemon. John Mearsheimer (2006) suggests China to gain hegemonic status; China must need to become regional hegemon and to get more power than its neighbors like Japan, Russia and India. China should increase its military strength and power. China has to regain Taiwan for establishing the status of regional hegemon (Mearsheimer, China’s Unpeaceful Rise, 2006).

Rising security demands of China has unsecured the neighboring countries. Arm race has been started in East Asia region. Although, China has maintained good relations with its neighbors but they have strong concerns over Chinese security measures. China’s largest economy and advanced military stimulate China to control its surroundings (Roy, 2013).

After open up policies, China has rapidly grown and become world imminent actor. To become a great power, China has to respond all challenges positively and set its priorities to overcome its drawbacks. In future, China should not claim its hegemony. China should need to advocate new world system with some reforms in economy and politics without claiming its hegemony (Bijian, 2005).

China is the largest trading partner of Vietnam. Vietnam’s second largest export partner is China with 13.2 percent of its export. The US secure biggest trading partner with 21 percent of Vietnamese export and Japan secured third with 8.4 percent of Vietnam export. Vietnam’s first largest import partner is China with 34 percent of its import and Japan secured fourth largest import partner with 6.4 percent of Vietnamese import (CIA, 2017). A huge numbers of Chinese foreign direct investment companies are working in Vietnam. It is estimated that about 833 companies are running their business in Vietnam in 2011. The quantity of these companies are increasing day by day and their total registered capital is 4.3 billion. There are following benefits of Vietnam for economic partnership with China;

Spratly Islands (Kalyan Islands Group) are the part of Philippines territory. KIG is the part of Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under UNCLOS 1982 (Palma, 2009). Philippines has filed a case against China and its historical claim of nine dash lines in International court of Tribunal in Hague in 2013. Court has given decision in favor of Philippines on 12 July 2016 but China has rejected the decision and remained adamant in its claim (France-Presse, Agence, July 8th, 2016). Philippines and Chinese relations worsen due to Philippines case and the ongoing problem in Scarborough Shoal and Chinese construction of new islands. This was the scenario when Philippines new president Rodrigo Roe Duterte took charge on 30 July 2016 (Philippine History, 2017) and initiated new strategy that is called strategic hedging. Although Philippines previous governments have close economic and political relations but current government is leading in this respect.  Philippines started to engage China with a huge trade volume. Politically, Philippines has come closer to China (Shead, 2017).

The Geo-strategic position and bundle of resources are the main reason that China is very conscious to control this region whereas other regional actors like Vietnam, Philippine, Malaysia and Brunei are also active for sovereignty over these islands due to Geo-proximity and resources. The US as the global hegemon has become the part of this game and wants to get its part from these resources. This is the reason that it has established strong alliances with other stack holders against China and also provoking Japan, Australia and India against China due to this regional dispute. The SCS is important for the US for three purposes; first it secures the US trade and military, second, it is check to restrain and contain the Chinese hegemony in the East Asia region (Mustajib, 2016), third, it is necessary for the protection of the US allies like Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan and ASEAN member countries. On the trade basis, the SCS is the passage of the 5 trillion annual ships (Robinson, 2018) and ships related to the US trade and military activities are worth 1.2 trillion dollar trade with East Asian countries (Mustajib, 2016).

Peace lies in continuous diplomatic engagement of claimant countries of the SCS dispute. Any change in existing status quo might put the peace of whole region at risk. Philippines and Vietnam consider China as an assertive state. Both States want to establish close relations with China in order to stop China from assertive actions. The US has strong political, economic and military bilateral alliances with Philippine, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries.  The US has launched the FONE operations in the SCS to contain China. These operations show that the US wants to sustain its hegemony in East Asia.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Reports39 mins ago

Green Infrastructure Development Key to Boost Recovery Along the BRI

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) presents a significant opportunity to build out low-carbon infrastructure in emerging and developing economies...

Crypto Insights3 hours ago

The Crypto Regulation: Obscure Classification Flusters Regulators as Crypto Expands into Derivatives Markets

Crypto regulation has long been a topic of debate in policymaking circles. As the white-hot market continues to soar in...

Middle East5 hours ago

China-US and the Iran nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with  Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi on Friday, January 14, 2022 in the...

Eastern Europe8 hours ago

Rebuilding of Karabakh: Results of 2021

The restoration work in Karabakh entered the active phase in 2021 as several projects had been completed and the foundations...

Reports11 hours ago

COVID-19 pandemic stalls global economic recovery

The UN’s key report on the global economy, released on Thursday, shows that the rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19...

Health & Wellness13 hours ago

WHO recommends two new drugs to treat patients with COVID-19 

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday reccommended two new drugs to treat patients with COVID-19, one for patients with critical disease, and another deemed...

Finance15 hours ago

Vietnam’s economic growth is expected to accelerate to 5.5% in 2022

Vietnam’s economic recovery is likely to accelerate in 2022 as GDP growth is expected to rise to 5.5% from 2.6%...

Trending