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Staying Focused: Why Israel Needs More Coherent Nuclear Doctrine and Strategy

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Falling towers, Jerusalem Athens Alexandria, Vienna London, Unreal.-T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

On fundamental issues of national survival, the new Israeli prime minister must remain conspicuously above politics.  One core issue – arguably the most important issue of all – is Israel’s “ambiguous” nuclear strategy.[1] Though news about the Middle East has recently been focused on sub-state or terrorist threats to Israel’s national security,[2] ultimate concern in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv should still emphasize existential perils from enemy states.[3]

               Such overriding threats, both immediate and long-term, could involve certain inter-state or “hybrid” (state- terror group[4]) intersections. For the moment, the most dangerous such intersection for Israel would be Iran and/or Syria fighting in alliance with Hezbollah. Significantly, this Shiite militia is already more of a genuine terror-army than a “mere” terror group.

               Always, complex geopolitical issues should be confronted first at a suitably conceptual or theoretic level. This means variously antecedent conceptual matters of seeking peace via threats of nuclear retaliatory destruction. As such matters are strategic and jurisprudential,[5] they would not necessarily reinforce or even complement each other. Finally, evident elements of morality[6] should also continue to be respected by a Jewish State rooted in Torah and Talmud.[7]

               Further observations are axiomatic. To begin, nuclear weapons are not per se negative for global peace and national security. Rather, as thoughtful observers should already have been able to glean from U.S.- Soviet relations during the Cold War (we may now be embroiled in “Cold War II”[8]), nuclear weapons could prove indispensable to the avoidanceof catastrophic war in general.[9]

               This is not a blanket or across-the-board observation. In prospectively subtle strategic matters, differentiation and nuance are plainly significant. It is plausible, for example, that any additional “horizontal” nuclear proliferation would be destabilizing, and that any further nuclear spread to non-nuclear states should be conscientiously prevented.

               That said, there are recognizable states/countries in our decentralized or “Westphalian”[10] world system that could never survive in the global “state of nature”[11] without maintaining a credible nuclear deterrence posture.[12] The State of Israel is the most obvious case in point.[13] It is conceivably the onlyreasonable example, but – prima facie – that sort of exclusionary judgment is politically sensitive. Ultimately, it must be contingent upon the reciprocally subjective expectations of other presumptively beleaguered states.

               “Everything is simple in war,” we learned long-ago from Carl von Clausewitz On War, “but even the simplest thing is very difficult.”

               What next?Should Israel ever have to face one or several enemies without credible nuclear deterrence, the prospect of an existential defeat could become real and intolerable.[14] This is the case even in the absence of any specifically nuclear adversaries and regardless of whether Israeli nuclear deterrence would continue to be based upon policies of “deliberate ambiguity”[15] – the so-called “bomb in the basement.”[16] In all likelihood, Israel would already have begun to move toward certain limited and selectively defined forms of “nuclear disclosure.”[17]

               In the main, these matters are not hopelessly bewildering. If it should ever be left without nuclear weapons, Israel might not long endure. More than any other state on earth, and perhaps even more than any other state in history, Israel requires nuclear weapons to remain “alive.”For anyone who has watched Middle Eastern security affairs evolve over the past seventy years (Israel became a modern state in May 1948), this sobering conclusion is meaningfully incontestable.

               Periodically,within the United Nations, Israel’s assorted enemies introduce tactical resolutions calling, inter alia, for a Middle East “Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.” Sometimes, these states have called for Israel to join the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and/or submitted a resolution of condemnation directed solely at Israel. On September 20, 2013, such a non-binding resolution specifically targeting Israel was defeated by a vote of 51 to 43, with 32 abstentions. This Iranian-backed resolution was defeated at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) annual general conference; significantly, it had expressed “concern about Israeli nuclear capabilities” and also called upon Israel “to accede to the NPT, and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards.”

               Israel is a member of the IAEA, but it is not subject to IAEA inspections, except for a single and minor research facility.[18]

                Should Israel ever feel compelled to heed such intentionally one-sided resolutions, possibly in response to misguided political pressures from Washington, nothing of decisive military consequence might then stand in the way of singular or coordinated Arab[19] or Iranian attacks. Ultimately, in all war, as Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz once commented, “mass counts.” But Israel lacks mass. Without its nuclear weapons, appropriately configured and conspicuously recognizable, the indispensable core of Israel’s capacity to deter major enemy assaults could irremediably disappear.

               In late September, 2013, then new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani was sounding more conciliatory and reasonable to Israel and the United States than his rancorous predecessor. At one level of assessment, Rouhani’s diplomatic discourse was no longer corrosive or expressly genocidal. Nonetheless, real power in Tehran has remained with senior clerical leadership, especially Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In those key quarters, little or nothing has changed. The next Iranian presidential election will be on 15 June 2021.

               Back on September 22, 2013, Iran’s military forces publicly paraded their arsenal of ballistic missiles deemed capable of hitting Israel. According to western intelligence at the time, Iran displayed 30 missiles, 12 Sejil and 18 Ghadr, with a nominal range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). This was the first time that Iran had featured so many missiles, two-stage weapons using solid fuel (with a verifiable capacity to strike Israeli target and U.S. bases in the Gulf.)

               The Iranian president had been focused on Israel’s chemical weapons, urging, in the name of “fairness,” that Jerusalem be deprived of both its nuclear and its chemical arsenal. Pointing to ongoing chemical disarmament efforts then being directed at Syria, the Iranian Foreign Ministry also urged that Israel pledge to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.

               Geopolitically,[20] the Tehran regime’s plan was to displace pressure from its core ally in Damascus and to undermine Israel’s non-nuclear deterrence posture. Israel did sign the CWC in 1982, but Jerusalem never formally ratified the agreement. In strict jurisprudential terms, non-ratification is not automatically exculpatory, because all states, whether or not they are formal parties to this particular agreement, are still bound by all pertinent and pre-existing customary international law.[21]

               Prima facie, no Israeli government would ever use chemical weapons against noncombatants. Moreover, its implicit deterrent threat of using such weapons against enemy military forces could concern only an existentially last-resort retaliation for the adversarial state’s prior and unconventional aggression. In the final analysis, Israel’s only true existential protection must lie with its presumptive nuclear forces. What is needed now, apropos of this utterly basic requirement, is a comprehensive and systematic re-examination of the country’s underlying nuclear doctrine and strategy.[22]

               Core requirements don’t really change. Without proper doctrine and strategy, Israel’s nuclear forces could sometime become little more than a disjointed mélange of military hardware, one without any recognizable and usable Order of Battle.

               The next time that Israel is forced to defend its multi-system deterrence posture from adversarial calls to enter a regional “nuclear weapons free-zone” or join the NPT, the new prime minister in Jerusalem should already have at hand much more “ammunition” than polite syntax of diplomatic rejection. His Minister of Defense should also already maintain a conceptual and strategic template for optimally coherent national security preparation. Most important, in this regard, will be a persuasive understanding of why Israel should remain a nuclear power and whether the “bomb in the basement” should remain “ambiguous” or sometime be disclosed.

               Any usefully correct answer must include at least the following coalescing arguments, some of which may be intersecting, interpenetrating or synergistic.

1. Israel needs nuclear weapons to deter large conventional attacks by enemy states.   The effectiveness of any such Israeli nuclear deterrence will depend, among other things, upon:  (a) perceived vulnerability of Israeli nuclear forces;  (b) perceived destructiveness of Israeli nuclear forces;  (c) perceived willingness of Israeli leadership to follow through on nuclear threats;  (d) perceived capacities of prospective attacker’s active defenses;  (e) perceptions of Israeli targeting doctrine;  (f) perceptions of Israel’s probable retaliatory response when there is an expectation of non-nuclear but chemical and/or biological  counter-retaliations;   (g) disclosure or continued nondisclosure of Israel’s nuclear arsenal;  and (h) creation or non-creation of a Palestinian state. 

2. Israel needs nuclear weapons to deter all levels of unconventional (chemical/biological/nuclear) attacks.  The effectiveness of these forms of Israeli nuclear deterrence will also depend, on (a) to (h) above. In this connection, Israel’s nuclear weapons are needed to deter enemy escalation of conventional warfare to unconventional warfare, and of one form of unconventional warfare to another (i.e., escalation of chemical warfare to biological warfare, biological warfare to chemical warfare, or biological/chemical warfare to nuclear warfare). This means, in military parlance, a capacity for “escalation dominance.”[23]

3. Israel needs nuclear weapons to preempt enemy nuclear attacks.  This does not mean that Israeli preemptions of such attacks would necessarily be nuclear (on the contrary, they would almost certainly be non-nuclear), but only that they could conceivablybe nuclear.  Of course, should Israel ever need to use its nuclear forces for any such purpose, it would signify the consummate failure of these forces as a deterrent (per number 2, above).  Significantly, such failure is increasingly plausible because of the problematic nature of nuclear deterrence in general, and because of the particular circumstances of the Middle East regarding possible decisional irrationality.

4. Israel needs nuclear weapons to support conventional preemptions against enemy nuclear assets.  With such weapons, Israel could maintain, explicitly or implicitly, a threat of nuclear counter-retaliation. Without such weapons, Israel, having to rely entirely on non-nuclear forces, might not be able to deter enemy retaliations for the Israeli preemptive attack. This also relates to the above-mentioned need for “escalation dominance.”

5. Israel needs nuclear weapons to support conventional preemptions against enemy non-nuclear (conventional/chemical/biological) assets.  With such weapons, Israel could maintain, explicitly or implicitly, a threat of nuclear counter-retaliation. Without such weapons, Israel, having to rely entirely on non-nuclear forces, might not be able to deter enemy retaliations for the Israeli preemptive attack. Again, this illustrates Israel’s basic need to continuously dominate relevant escalatory processes.

6. As only a distinctly last resort,[24] Israel could need nuclear weapons for nuclear war fighting.  Although, in the best of all possible worlds, this residual need would never have to arise, and although Israel should always do everything possible to avoid any such use (Project Daniel made this avoidance a major point in its final report, Israel’s Strategic Future, presentedto former PM Sharon in 2003), it cannot be ruled out altogether. Rather, Israeli planners and decision-makers who could possibly find themselves in a dire situation of “no alternative” (Ein Breira) must still take it seriously.  Among the possible and more-or-less probable paths to nuclear war fighting are the following:  enemy nuclear first-strikes against Israel; enemy non-nuclear first-strikes against Israel that elicit Israeli nuclear reprisals, either immediately or via incremental escalation processes; Israeli nuclear preemptions against enemy states with nuclear assets; Israeli non-nuclear preemptions against enemy states with nuclear assets that elicit enemy nuclear reprisals, either immediately or via incremental escalation processes.  Other paths to nuclear war fighting might include accidental/unintentional/inadvertent nuclear attacks between Israel and regional enemy states, and even the escalatory consequences of nuclear terrorism against the nation.   As long as it can be assumed that Israel is determined to endure, there remainconditions wherein Jerusalem/Tel-Aviv could resort to nuclear war fighting.  This holds true if: (a) enemy first-strikes against Israel would not destroy Israel’s second-strike nuclear capability; (b) enemy retaliations for Israeli conventional preemption would not destroy Israel’s nuclear counter-retaliatory capability; (c) Israeli preemptive strikes involving nuclear weapons would not destroy enemy second-strike nuclear capabilities; and (d) Israeli retaliation for enemy conventional first-strikes would not destroy enemy nuclear counter-retaliatory capabilities.  It follows, from the standpoint of Israel’s nuclear requirements, that Jerusalem/Tel-Aviv should prepare to do what is needed to ensure the likelihood of (a) and (b) above, and the unlikelihood of (c) and (d).

7. Israel also needs nuclear weapons for a residual “Samson Option.” Although any such use of nuclear weapons would be profoundly catastrophic by definition, Israel could still reason that it would be better to “die with the Philistines” than to die alone.  This sort of last-resort understanding is more than a matter of Jewish honor, and is also more than a refutation of the so-called “Masada complex” (suicide without punishment of the aggressor).  It could (depending upon level of awareness by an enemy state) represent an integral and indispensable element of Israel’s overall nuclear deterrent.  The biblical analogy is somewhat misleading.  Samson chose suicide by pushing apart the temple pillars, whereas Israel, using nuclear weapons as a last resort, would not be choosing “suicide” or even committing suicide.  For nation-states, the criteria of “life” and “death” are hardly as clear-cut as they are for individual persons.  Inter alia, it is essential that Israel’s new leaders, in considering possible uses of nuclear weapons, regard the Samson Option as one to be precluded by correct resort to all other nuclear options.  Stated differently, any resort to the Samson Option by Israel would imply the complete failure of all other options, and therefore the failure of its nuclear weapons to provide essential national security.

Deterrence Options

               Scholars may observe (numbers 1 – 2, above) that Israel needs nuclear weapons, among other purposes, to deter large conventional attacks and all levels of unconventional attack by enemy states.   Yet, the effectiveness of nuclear weapons in meeting these needs may be distinctly limited and problematic.  Even if the country should sometime move toward partial or full disclosure of its presumptive nuclear weapons, Israel could not reasonably rely entirely upon nuclear deterrence for its survival.

               Aware of these limitations, Israel must nonetheless seek to strengthen nuclear deterrence such that an enemy state will always calculate that a first-strike upon the Jewish State would be irrational. This means taking steps to convince the enemy state that the costs of such a strike will always exceed the benefits. To accomplish this singularly important objective, Israel must always convince prospective attackers that it maintains both the willingness and the capacity to retaliate with nuclear weapons.

               Where a rational enemy state considering an attack upon Israel would be unconvinced about either one or both of these essential components of nuclear deterrence, it might then choose to strike first, depending, of course, upon the particular value or utility it places upon the expected outcomes of such an attack.

               Regarding willingness, even if Jerusalem were prepared to respond to certain attacks with nuclear reprisals, any enemy failure to recognize such preparedness could still provoke an attack upon Israel.  Here, misperception and/or errors in information could immobilize Israeli nuclear deterrence.  It is also conceivable that Jerusalem would sometime lack willingness to retaliate, and that enemy decision-makers could then perceive this lack correctly.  In this notably perilous case, Israeli nuclear deterrence would be immobilized not because of any “confused signals,” but rather because of specific Israeli intelligence and/or policy failures.

               Regarding capacity, even if Israel is known to maintain a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons, it is essential that an enemy state such as Iran always believe these weapons to be usable. This means that if a first-strike attack were believed capable of destroying Israel’s arsenal, the Jewish State’s nuclear deterrent could still be immobilized.  Even if Israel’s nuclear weapons were configured such that they could not be destroyed by an enemy first-strike, enemy misperceptions or misjudgments about Israeli vulnerability could occasion the catastrophic failure of nuclear deterrence. 

               A further complication here might concern enemy state deployment of anti-tactical ballistic missile defenses, which could contribute to an attack decision against Israel by lowering, more-or-less, the intended aggressor’s expected costs.[25]

               The importance of “usable” nuclear weapons must also be examined from the standpoint of probable harms.  Should Israel’s nuclear weapons be perceived by any would-be attacker as “too destructive,” they might not deter.  Here, to some extent at least, successful nuclear deterrence may actually (and ironically) vary inversely with perceived destructiveness. At the same time, per earlier recommendations by Project Daniel, it is essential that Israel always base its central deterrence position on appropriate levels of “counter value” (counter-city) targeting; never on “counterforce.”[26]

               No examination of Israeli nuclear deterrence options would be complete without further consideration of the “Bomb in the Basement.”  From the beginning, Israel’s “bomb” has remained deliberately ambiguous.  For the future, however, it is by no means certain that an undeclared nuclear deterrent will be capable of meeting the nation’s security goals, or that it will even be equal in effectiveness to a more or less openly-declared nuclear deterrent.

                Disclosure would not be intended to reveal the obvious, i.e., that Israel has the bomb, but instead to heighten enemy perceptions of Jerusalem’s capable nuclear forces and/or Israel’s willingness to use these forces in reprisal for certain specific first strike attacks. 

               What, exactly, are the plausible connections between an openly declared nuclear weapons capacity and enemy perceptions of Israeli nuclear deterrence?  One such connection concerns the relation between disclosure, and perceived vulnerability of Israel’s nuclear forces to preemptive destruction.  Another concerns the relation between disclosure and perceived capacity of Israel’s nuclear forces to penetrate the attacking state’s active defenses.

               To the extent that removing the bomb from the basement or disclosure, would encourage enemy views of an Israeli force that is sufficiently invulnerable to first-strike attacks and/or is capable of piercing enemy active defenses, disclosure could soon represent a rational and prudent option for Israel.[27]  Here, the operational benefits of disclosure would stem from variously deliberate flows of information about dispersion, multiplication, hardening, speed and evasiveness of nuclear weapons systems, and about certain other pertinent technical features of certain nuclear weapons.  Most importantly, such flows, which could also refer to command/control invulnerability and possible pre-delegations of launch authority, could serve to remove any lingering enemy doubts about Israel’s nuclear force capabilities.

               Left unchallenged, however, such doubts could undermine Israeli nuclear deterrence. 

               There is more. Removing the bomb from Israel’s “basement” could heighten enemy perceptions of Israel’s willingness to make good on retaliatory threats.  For example, by releasing information about its nuclear forces that identifies distinctly usable weapons, Israel could successfully remove any remaining doubts about the country’s nuclear resolve.  A prospective attacker, newly aware that Israel could retaliate across the entire spectrum of possible yield scenarios without generating intolerably high levels of civilian harms, could then be more likely (because of Israeli disclosure) to believe Jerusalem’s nuclear deterrent threats.

               There are substantially vital connections between disclosure, doctrine and deterrence.  To the extent that Israel’s strategic doctrine actually identifies certain nuanced and graduated forms of reprisal – forms calibrating Israeli retaliations, to particular levels of provocation – any disclosure of such doctrine (at least in its broadest and most unspecific contours) could contribute to Israel’s nuclear deterrence.  Without such disclosure, Israel’s enemies could be kept guessing about Jerusalem’s probable responses, a condition of protracted uncertainty that could conceivably serve Israel’s security for a while longer, but, at one time or another, could also fail altogether.

               For more than fifty years, I have studied the stunningly complex problem of enemy rationality, including certain earlier published writings concerning the nuclear threat from Iran. By definition, strategic assessments of nuclear deterrence always assume a rational state enemy; that is, an enemy that values its own continued survival more highly than any other preference, or combination of preferences. But for actual operational reasons, this assumption could sometimes become problematic. 

               There is no plausible reason to assume that all prospective attackers of Israel would consistently rank physical survival above all other possible options or even that such attackers would hew perfectly to careful, systematic and transitive comparisons of all expected costs and benefits.  As long as such enemies are capable of missile attacks upon Israel, and as long as Israel is unable to intercept these attacks with a near-perfect or even perfect reliability (no system of ballistic missile defense, including Israel’s Arrow, can ever be leak-proof),[28] any too-great an Israeli dependence upon nuclear deterrence could have existential consequences.

                Where should Israel go from here?  Recognizing the substantial limitations of any “Middle East Peace Process,” Israel must seek its security, at least in part, beyond the tactical protections offered by nuclear deterrence.  Also, it must, as earlier recommended by Project Daniel(2003), stay prepared for possible preemptions against pertinent military targets. Although many will find any such preparations to be “aggressive,” “disproportionate”[29] or “uncivilized,” and while it may already be very late in the game for considering relevant attack scenarios, alternatives could amount to national suicide. Significantly, the right of preemption[30] is well established under customary international law,[31] where it is known formally as “anticipatory self-defense.” [32]

Preemption Options

               Among other purposes, Israel needs nuclear weapons to undertake and/or support various forms of conventional preemption.  In making its preemption decisions, Israel must determine whether such essential defensive strikes, known jurisprudentially as expressions of anticipatory self-defense, would be cost-effective.  This would depend upon a number of critical variables, including:  (a) expected probability of enemy first-strikes;  (b) expected cost of enemy first-strikes; (c) expected schedule of enemy unconventional weapons deployment;  (d) expected efficiency of enemy active defenses over time e) expected efficiency of Israeli active defenses over time;   (f) expected efficiency of Israeli hard-target counterforce operations over time;  (g) expected reactions of unaffected regional enemies; and  (h) expected U.S. and world community reactions to Israeli preemptions.

               Regarding its rational preemption options, Israel’s overriding question should be as follows:  Because Jerusalem must plan for such forms of anticipatory self-defense, against which particular configurations of hard targets should they be directed and when should they be mounted?  If it is assumed that enemy states will only add to their chemical/biological/nuclear arsenals, and that these additions (together with variable air defenses) will make any effective Israeli preemptions more and more difficult, if not impossible, rational Israeli strategy could compel Jerusalem to strike defensively as soon as possible.  If, however, it was assumed that there will be no significant enlargement/deployment of enemy unconventional weapons or air defenses over time, this may actuallysuggest a diminished strategic rationale for Israel to strike first. 

               Israel’s inclinations to strike preemptively in certain circumstances could also be affected by the steps taken by prospective target states to guard against any Israeli preemption.  Should Israel refrain too long from striking first, enemy states could then implement protective measures that would pose additional hazards to Israel. These measures could include the attachment of certain launch mechanisms to nuclear weapon systems, and/or the adoption of “launch-on-warning” policies.  Such policies would call for the retaliatory launch of bombers and/or missiles on mere receipt of warning that a missile attack is underway.  Requiring launch before the attacking warheads actually reached their intended targets, launch-on-warning could clearly carry very grave risks of error.

               Ideally, Israel would do everything possible to prevent such enemy measures from being installed in the first place, especially because of the expanded risks of accidental or unauthorized attacks against its armaments and population centers.  Yet, if such measures should become fact, Jerusalem might still reasonably calculate that a preemptive strike would be cost-effective.  This is because an expected enemy retaliation, however damaging, might still appear less unacceptable than the expected consequences of enemy first strikes.

               Perhaps the single most important factor in Israeli judgments on the preemption option will be the expected rationality of enemy decision-makers.  If, after all, these leaders could be expected to strike at Israel with unconventional forces, irrespective of anticipated Israeli counterstrikes, deterrence, as we have already seen, might not work.  This means that certain enemy strikes could be expected even if enemy leaders understood that Israel had “successfully” deployed its own nuclear weapons in survivable modes, that Israel’s weapons were entirely capable of penetrating enemy active defenses, and that Israel’s leaders were fully willing to retaliate.

               Faced with an irrational enemy bent upon unconventional aggression,[33] Israel could sometime have no effective choice but to abandon all reliance on traditional modes of nuclear deterrence. At the same time, even an irrational enemy –  that is, one that does not value national survival more highly than every other preference, or combination of preferences[34] – could still maintain a recognizable and “transitive” hierarchy of wants. For Iran, such a hierarchy would likely place certain Shiite religious values and institutions at the very top. Hence, directing retaliatory threats toward precisely such values and/or institutions could conceivably still “work.”

                Even if it is not faced with an irrational enemy,[35] Israel will still have to plan carefully for certain preemption options, planning that must take into account Jerusalem’s own nuclear weapons. In the course of such planning, it will be important to recognize that enemy capabilities and intentions are not separate and discrete, but rather interpenetrating, interdependent, and interactive.  This means:  (1) capabilities affect intentions, and vice-versa; and (2) the combined effects of capabilities and intentions may produce certain policy outcomes that are greatly accelerated, and/or are more than the simple sum of these individual effects.

               What are the particular dangers issuing from Iran? For the moment, those who would still downplay the Iranian threat to Israel sometimes argue that Teheran’s unconventional capabilities remain problematic, and/or that its willingness to attack Israel – Jihadist ideologies/motivations notwithstanding [36]– is still tolerably low.  Yet, over the next year, that country’s further development of nuclear weapons will likely become irreversible – accelerated, perhaps, by former US President Donald Trump’s poorly-conceived withdrawal from the 2015 JCPOA agreement – creating conditions whereby a first-strike against Israel might sometime be construed as rational. 

               Whether correct or incorrect in its calculations, any Iranian leadership that believed it could strike Israel with impunity, near-impunity, or at least without incurring what it defined as unacceptable costs, could be strongly motivated to undertake such a strike.  Such motivation could be further heightened to the extent that Iran remained uncertain about Israel’s own preemption plans. Here, Iranian capabilities could affect, and possibly even determine, Iranian intentions.

               The Iranian threat to Israel might, on the other hand, originate from a different direction.  In this scenario, Iran’s intentions toward the Jewish State, irremediably hostile and perhaps even potentially genocidal, could animate Teheran’s accelerated development of nuclear military capabilities. Representing genuinely far-reaching hatreds rather than mere bluster and propagandistic bravado, Iranian diatribes against Israel could ensure the continuing production/deployment of increasingly destructive forces, weapons, and postures that would threaten Israel’s physical survival. 

               What has been described here are circumstances wherein Iranian intentions could affect, and possibly even determine, Iranian capabilities.  Such circumstances now warrant very careful strategic attention in Jerusalem.

               What if Iran’s intentions toward Israel were not irremediably hostile or genocidal? What if its public bombast were not an expression of genuinely belligerent motivations, but rather a concocted position designed entirely for intranational, and/or international political consumption?  The short and most obvious answer to these questions is that such shallow and contrived intentions would not impact Iranian capabilities vis-à-vis Israel. 

               Yet, upon reflection, it is likely that even certain inauthentic expressions of intent could, over time, become authentic, that repeated again and again, such expressions could become self-fulfilling.

                It would be unreasonable for Israel to draw any substantial comfort from an argument that Iranian intentions are effectively harmless. Over time, such falsely reassuring intentions could impact capabilities, perhaps even decisively.  Backed by appropriate nuclear weapons, certain preemption options must remain open and viable to Israel, augmented, of course, by appropriate and complementary plans for comprehensive cyber-defense and cyber-warfare.

               If one or another “Peace Process” should eventually produce a Palestinian State, the effects on enemy capabilities and intentions and therefore on Israeli preemption options, could become significant.  Israel’s substantial loss of strategic depth might be recognized here by enemy states as a distinct military liability for Jerusalem/Tel-Aviv.[37] Such recognition, in turn, could then heat up enemy intentions against Israel, occasioning an accelerated search for capabilities and consequently a heightened risk of war.

               Israel could foresee such enemy calculations, and then seek to compensate for the loss of territories in a number of very different ways.  It could decide that it was time to take its bomb out of the “basement” (nuclear disclosure) as a deterrence-enhancing measure, but this might not be enough of a productive strategy. It could, therefore, accept a heightened willingness to launch preemptive strikes against enemy hard targets, strikes backed up by Israeli nuclear weapons. Made aware of any such Israeli intentions, intentions that would derive from Israel’s new territorial vulnerabilities, certain enemy states could respond in a more or less parallel fashion, preparing more openly and more quickly for their own nuclearization, and/or for first-strike conventional attacks against the Jewish State.

               Taken by itself, a Palestinian state, although non-nuclear itself, could still affect the cumulative capabilities and intentions of Israel and its enemies. But if such a state were created at the same time that Israel had reduced or abandoned its nuclear weapons capabilities, the total impact could be much greater. This starkly complex “correlation of forces”[38] scenario should never be dismissed out of hand. 

               What would happen if Israel were ever to openly relinquish its nuclear options? Under such difficult to imagine circumstances, Israel would not only be more vulnerable to enemy first strikes, it would also be deprived of its essential preemption alternatives. Any Israeli counter-retaliatory deterrence could be immobilized by reduction or removal of its nuclear weapons potential; also, Israeli preemptions could not possibly be 100% effective against enemy unconventional forces. 

               A less than 100% level of effectiveness could be tolerable if Israel had a “leak proof” ATBM (anti-tactical ballistic missile) capability in the Arrow and its related multi-layered systems,[39] but any such capability is unachievable.

Nuclear War fighting Options

               In principle, at least, Israel could require nuclear weapons, among their other essential purposes, for actual nuclear war fighting. Should nuclear deterrence options and/or preemption options fail altogether, Israel’s “hard target” capabilities could then become necessary to national survival. These capabilities would depend, in part, upon nuclear weapons.

               What, exactly, would be appropriate” in such expressly dire circumstances, under conditionsthat Israel must continuously strive to prevent?Instead of “Armageddon” type weapons (see the “Samson Option,” below), Israel would need precision nuclear warheads that could reduce collateral damage to acceptable levels, and hypervelocity nuclear warheads that could readily overcome enemy active defenses. Israel would also benefit from certain radio-frequency weapons. These are nuclear warheads that are tailored to produce as much electromagnetic pulse as possible, destroying electronics and communications over wide areas.

               Regarding the nuclear weapons needed by Israel for actual nuclear war fighting, Jerusalem would require an intermediate option between capitulation on the one hand and a resort to multi-megaton nuclear weapons on the other. 

               Any such discussion may seem objectionable to all people of feeling and sensitivity.   It would, after all, be more apparently “peaceful” to speak of nuclear arms control or sustainable nuclear deterrence or even preemption than nuclear war fighting.  Yet, the Middle East remains a particularly dangerous and potentially irrational neighborhood, and any strategic failure to confront the most catastrophic possibilities could very quickly produce the most correspondingly terrible harms.

                For Israel, a state born out of the ashes of humankind’s most terrible crime, genocide looms both as an ineradicable memory and as a sobering expectation.  Resisting the short-term temptations of any future “Road Map” or contrived “Peace Process,” its new leaders must plan accordingly. But, per earlier recommendations by Project Daniel (2003), nuclear war fighting options should always be rejected wherever possible.[40]

The Samson Option

               Recurring proposals for a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone notwithstanding, Israel needs to maintain its nuclear weapons, both for the indisputably compelling reasons already discussed and also for “last resort” purposes.  Although this is likely the least important need – since, by definition, any actual resort to the Samson Option[41] would reveal the antecedent failure and collapse of all essential security functions – it is not unimportant.  This is because Israeli preparations for last resort operations could still play a major role in enhancing Israeli nuclear deterrence, preemption, and war fighting requirements, and because such preparations could show the world that the post-Holocaust Jewish State had kept its most primal faith with an unwavering Jewish obligation.

               Regarding any prospective contributions to Israeli nuclear deterrence, preparations for a Samson Option could help to convince any would-be attackers that aggression would not prove gainful. This is especially the case if Israeli preparations were coupled with some level of disclosure, if Israel’s pertinent Samson weapons appeared to be sufficiently invulnerable to enemy first-strikes, and if these weapons were identifiably “counter value” in mission function. By definition, the Samson Option would need to be executed with counter value-targeted nuclear weapons. Any such last-resort operations could come into play only after all Israeli counterforce options had already been exhausted.

                Considering what strategists sometimes call the “rationality of pretended irrationality,” Samson could aid Israeli nuclear deterrence by demonstrating a willingness to take existential risks, but this would hold true only if last-resort options were not tied definitionally to certain destruction.       

               Regarding prospective contributions to preemption alternatives, preparation for a Samson Option could convince Israel that essential defensive first strikes would be undertaken with diminished expectations of any unacceptably destructive enemy retaliations.  This would depend upon antecedent Israeli decisions on disclosure, on Israeli perceptions of the effects of disclosure on enemy retaliatory prospects, on Israeli judgments about enemy perceptions of Samson weapons vulnerability, and on enemy awareness of Samson’s counter value force posture. 

               As in the case of Samson and Israeli nuclear deterrence (above), any last-resort preparations could assist Israeli preemption options by displaying a persuasive willingness to take existential risks.  But Israeli planners must be mindful here of pretended irrationality as a double-edged sword.  Brandished too “irrationally,” Israeli preparations for a Samson Option could sometime encourage enemy preemptions.

               Regarding prospective contributions to Israel’s nuclear war fighting options, preparation for a Samson Option could help convince enemy states that achieving a clear victory would be impossible.  But here, it would be important for Israel to communicate to potential aggressors the following understanding:  Israel’s counter value-targeted Samson weapons are additional to (not at the expense of) its counterforce-targeted war fighting weapons. In the absence of such communication, recognizable preparations for a Samson Option could effectively impair rather than reinforce Israel’s nuclear war fighting options

Quo Vadis?

               Nuclear weapons states are notcreated equal. Some, like Iran, in a few years from now, could present an inestimable threat of nuclear engagement.[42] Others, like already-nuclear Israel, need nuclear weapons and associated doctrine to secure themselves from residually mortal harms, whether sudden or incremental. Without these weapons and possibly certain others, Clausewitz’s concept of insufficient “mass” (here referencing Israel’s irremediably limited strategic depth) could at some point overtake and suffocate the mini-state.

                In the still “Westphalian” international system,[43] Israel’s nuclear weapons are required to fulfill identifiable deterrence options, preemption options, potential war fighting options and even a Samson Option. Accordingly, these complex weapons should never be negotiated away in formal international agreements, especially in the midst of any so-called “Peace Process” and during its expectedly attendant creation of a Palestinian state. This imperative remains valid no matter how appealing the ultimate vision of a “world without nuclear weapons” and no matter how apparently sincere the peace-orientation of Iran’s leadership elite.

                For Israel, nuclear weapons choices should be made in cumulative conformance with the seven (7) relevant options just discussed, and with the ever-changing strategic environment of regional and world power configurations.  In the final analysis, regrettable as it may first appear, the ultimate structure of Israeli security must be built in substantial measure upon foundations of nuclear weapons and strategic doctrine, not on “security regimes,” “confidence building measures,” “nuclear weapon free-zones” or US-mediated “Abraham Accords.”[44] On this core point, U.S. President Joseph Biden and his counselors should take careful note: If these foundations were constructed carefully and diligently in Jerusalem/Tel-Aviv, they could best assure that nuclear weapons would never actually be used.

               There remains one last key observation concerning nuclear doctrine and strategy. Israeli planners must always make certain essential distinctions (1) between intentional and inadvertent nuclear war; and (2) between inadvertent nuclear war and accidental nuclear war. By definition, an accidental nuclear war would always be inadvertent, but an inadvertent nuclear war would not necessarily be accidental. False warnings, which could be spawned by mechanical, electrical or computer malfunction or by cyber-hacking, would fit under variously clarifying narratives of accidental nuclear war. A nuclear war caused by decisional miscalculation would be inadvertent but not accidental.

               In dealing with a future nuclear Iran (i.e., Iran in another few years), Israel (and reciprocally, Iran) would have to strike a continuously correct balance between achieving “escalation dominance” and avoiding intra-crisis escalations. During contestation in extremis atomicum, several unanticipated entanglements could lead quickly to a nuclear war.[45] Always, the pertinent decision-makers should bear in mind, these are essentially unprecedented scenarios, and ought never be approached with an intellectually-empty bravado or hubris.

               A non-Israeli case in point as former US President Donald J. Trump’s visceral approach to the Singapore Summit with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, an approach based on “attitude,” not “preparation.” Unsurprisingly, United States security vis-a-vis North Korea is not at its lowest historical point. Thanks to empty US presidential bravado and hubris, North Korean nuclearization has continuously accelerated.

               Today, in a Middle East region marked by a steadily-advancing chaos,[46] more conspicuous equanimity and caution could provide tangible security gains for all. This common gain could be jurisprudential as well as strategic,[47] and place Israel much more squarely in the valued category of law-based and law enforcing nation-states. To be sure, in the best of all possible worlds, the need for national nuclear deterrence would be unnecessary everywhere. But a world order based firmly upon human cooperation and human “oneness” is not yet plausible.[48]

               For now, even in the best of all still-reasonable and still-realistic world systems, Israel should  stay focused on catastrophic war between states[49] and on nuclear doctrine and strategy. Inter alia, former US President Donald J. Trump’s “Abraham, Accords” represent little more than jurisprudential caricature, firming up “peace” between states that never displayed any discernible inclinations toward active belligerency. What is needed, going forward, is a more thoroughly dialectical[50] understanding of credible connections between an expanding Palestinian insurgency and potentially impending nuclear threats from Iran.[51] Though T.S. Eliot describes his geopolitical “wasteland” as “unreal,” the poet was actually being characteristically ironic.

               There is nothing “unreal” about larger and more frequent wars[52] occurring in the Middle East.

               Nothing at all.


[1]See, by this author, Louis René Beres: https://besacenter.org/israel-nuclear-ambiguity/   The actual security benefits to Israel of any explicit reductions in nuclear ambiguity would remain dependent, more or less, upon Clausewitzian “friction.” This refers to the inherently 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.

[2]See, by present author: Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/05/louis-rene-beres-israel-hamas-war/

[3] One may think here of the warning by the High Lama in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon: “The storm…this storm that you talk of…. It will be such a one, my son, as the world has not seen before. There will be no safety by arms, no help from authority, no answer in science. It will rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and all human things are leveled in a vast chaos…. The Dark Ages that are to come will cover the whole world is a single pall; there will be neither escape nor sanctuary.”

[4] Under international law, terrorist movements are always Hostes humani generis, or “Common enemies of mankind.” See: Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM J. INT’L L. (Supp 1935) 435, 566 (quoting King v. Marsh (1615), 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 Eng. Rep 23 (1615) (“a pirate est Hostes humani generis”)).

[5] Formal application of the law of war to insurgent forces dates to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. As more than codified treaties and conventions comprise the law of war or humanitarian international law, it is also plain that obligations of jus in bello (justice in war) are part of “the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations” (Art. 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice) and thereby bind all categories of belligerents. (See Statute of the International Court of Justice, art. 38, June 29, 1945, 59 Stat. 1031, T.S. 993). Hague Convention IV of 1907 declares that even in the absence of a precisely published set of guidelines regarding “unforeseen cases,” the operative pre-conventional sources of humanitarian international law obtain and govern all belligerency. Moreover, the related Martens Clause is included in the Preamble of the 1899 Hague Conventions, International Convention with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War by Land, July 29, 1899, 187 Consol. T.S. 429, 430.

[6] Recalling Blaise Pascal’s Pensées: “All our dignity consists in thought…. It is upon this that we must depend…Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.”

[7]See, by this author, at Modern Diplomacy: Louis René Beres, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/03/20/a-stain-on-jewish-values-israels-misguided-obeisance-to-donald-trump/

[8] See, by this author, at The Jerusalem Post:  Louis René Beres, https://www.jpost.com/Experts/Israeli-strategy-in-the-case-of-a-new-Cold-War-344372 and at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School: Louis René Beres: https://harvardnsj.org/2014/06/staying-strong-enhancing-israels-essential-strategic-options-2/

[9] For early accounts by this author of nuclear war effects in particular, 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, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[10] Reference here is to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which concluded the Thirty Years War, and created the now still-existing and radically decentralized state system. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648., 1, Consol. T.S. 119; together, these two treaties comprise the very important Peace of Westphalia.

[11] The seventeenth-century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, instructs that although international relations are in a state of nature, it is nonetheless a more benign condition than that of individual men in nature. With individual human beings, Hobbes reflected, “the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.” Now, however, with the advent and spread of nuclear weapons, there is no longer any reason to believe that the state of nature remains more tolerable. Moreover, precisely because of this significant transformation of the state of nations into a true Hobbesian state of nature, certain individual states such as Israel even more desperately require a nuclear “equalizer.”

[12] See: Louis René Beres and (Major-General/IDF/res.) Isaac Ben-Israel, “The Limits of Deterrence,” Washington Times, November 21, 2007; Professor Beres and General Ben-Israel, “Deterring Iran,” Washington Times, June 10, 2007; Professor Beres and General Ben-Israel, “Deterring Iranian Nuclear Attack,” Washington Times, January 27, 2009; Professor Beres and General Ben-Israel, “Defending Israel from Iranian Nuclear Attack,” The Jewish Press, March 13, 2013; Louis René Beres and (General/USAF/ret.) John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran?”  The Atlantic, August 9, 2012; and Professor Beres and General Chain, “Living with Iran,” BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Israel, May 2014. General Chain was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).

[13] A different opinion, however, is offered by Israeli academic strategist, Professor Zeev Maoz. See his 2004 debate with this writer: Louis René Beres and Zeev Maoz, “Israel and the Bomb: A Dialogue,” International Security (Harvard), Vol. 29, No. 1, Summer 2004, pp. 175-180.

[14] For a systematic assessment by this author of how a nuclear war might begin in the Middle East, see:  Louis René Beres: https://besacenter.org/israel-nuclear-war/

[15] See: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York and London: Roman & Littlefield, 2016); Louis René Beres, “Looking Ahead: Revising Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity in the Middle East,” Herzliya Conference Working Paper, March, 2013; and Louis René Beres, “Israel’s Strategic Doctrine: Updating Intelligence Community Responsibilities,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 28, No. 1., Spring 2015, pp. 89-104.

[16] For an early treatment of this issue/metaphor, see: Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath/Lexington Books), 1986, 243 pp.

[17] Two Prime Ministers have already had pertinent “slips of the tongue” about Israel possessing nuclear weapons. On December 22, 1995, then Prime Minister Shimon Peres declared to the 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 made much the same statement. Of course, neither prime minister went so far as to make his particular disclosure more purposefully or strategically revealing.

[18] No state, including Israel, is ever under any automatic legal obligation to renounce access to nuclear weapons. In certain distinctly residual or last-resort circumstances, even the actual use of nuclear weapons could be lawful (to the extent, of course, that such use was consistent with codified and customary expectations of distinction, proportionality, and military necessity). On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice at The Hague handed down its Advisory Opinion on “The Legality of the Threat or Use of Force of Nuclear Weapons.” The final paragraph of this Opinion concludes as follows: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of the state would be at stake.” Significantly, Iran, unlike Israel, is a party to the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and has thereby lawfully bound itself never to build or use nuclear weapons.

[19] Following former US President Donald J. Trump’s “Abraham Accords,” the likelihood of coordinated Sunni Arab attacks has perhaps been diminished, but the probability of Shiite attack from Iran has probably been enlarged. One negative factor in this timely calculation is that these agreements – and also the complementary accords signed by Israel with Sudan and Morocco – will have the effect of masking Iran more insecure. See: https://www.state.gov/the-abraham-accords/    For complementary agreements with Sudan and Morocco, see Israel-Sudan Normalization Agreement (October 23, 2020) and Israel-Morocco Normalization Agreement (December 10, 2020).

[20] For philosophic origins of geopolitics (Realpolitik), see Plato ‘s Republic:  “Right is the interest of the stronger,” says Thrasymachus in Bk. I, Sec. 338 of The Republic (B. Jowett tr., 1875).  “Justice is a contract neither to do nor to suffer wrong,” says Glaucon, id., Bk. II, Sec. 359.  See also, Philus in Bk III, Sec. 5 of Cicero, De Republica.

[21] Article 38(1)(b) of the STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE describes international custom as “evidence of a general practice accepted as law.” The essential significance of a norm’s customary character is that the norms bind even those states that are not parties to the pertinent codification. Even where a customary norm and a norm restated in treaty form are apparently identical, these norms are treated as jurisprudentially discrete. During the merits phase of MILITARY AND PARAMILITARY ACTIVITIES IN AND AGAINST NICARAGUA, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated: “Even if two norms belonging to two sources of international law appear identical in content, and even if the States in question are bound by these rules both on the level of treaty-law and on that of customary international law, these norms retain a separate existence.” See: MILITARY AND PARAMILITARY ACTIVITIES IN AND AGAINST NICARAGUA, Nicar. V. US., Merits, 1986 ICJ, Rep. 14 (Judgment of 27 June).

[22] See, on this issue: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy, op. cit., Louis René Beres, “Staying Strong: Enhancing Israel’s Essential Strategic Options,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, June 13, 2014; Louis René Beres, “Changing Direction? Updating Israel’s Nuclear Doctrine,” Strategic Assessment, INSS, Israel, Vol. 17., No.3, October 2014, pp. 93-106; Louis René Beres, “Forging Israeli Strategic Doctrine to Deal with Iran,” The Jerusalem Post, November 19, 2013; and Louis René Beres, “Facing Myriad Enemies: Core Elements of Israeli Nuclear Deterrence,” The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Vol. XX, Issue 1, Fall/Winter 2013, pp. 17-30.

[23]See, by this author at Israel Defense (Tel Aviv):  Louis René Beres, https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/28931

[24] By any measure of reasonableness, exercising a nuclear war fighting option must be regarded by Israel as the single most residual and reluctant choice. Nuclear weapons can succeed only via skillful non-use, that is, as a deterrent. Long prior to the nuclear age, ancient Chinese military theorist Sun-Tzu argued in The Art of War: “Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence” (see Chapter 3, “Planning Offensives”). See also, by this author: Louis René Beres, “Lessons for Israel from Ancient Chinese Military Thought: Facing Iranian Nuclearization with Sun-Tzu,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, October 2013.

[25] See: RESOLUTION ON THE DEFINITION OF AGGRESSION, Dec. 14, 1974, U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 U.N. GAOR, Supp. (No. 31) 142, U.N. Doc. A/9631, 1975, reprinted in 13 I.L.M. 710, 1974; and CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS, Art. 51. Done at San Francisco, June 26, 1945. Entered into force for the United States, Oct. 24, 1945, 59 Stat. 1031, T.S. No. 993, Bevans 1153, 1976, Y.B.U.N. 1043.

[26] Israel, it would appear, has already rejected any doctrinal notions of battlefield or tactical nuclear weaponry. Interestingly, Pakistan, an already nuclear Islamic state and still in protracted nuclear standoff with India, has expressly tilted toward theater nuclear weapons (TNW). Since Pakistan first announced its test of the 60-kilometer Nasr ballistic missile in 2011, that country’s emphasis on TNW appears to have been intended to more effectively deter conventional war with India. In essence, by threatening, implicitly, to use relatively low-yield battlefield nuclear weapons in retaliation for any major Indian conventional attacks, Pakistan hopes to appear more credible and less provocative to Delhi. By such appearance, Islamabad could less likely elicit Indian nuclear reprisals.

[27] In this connection, Israel has likely been moving toward further sea-basing for a portion of its strategic nuclear forces. On these submarine-basing measures, see: Louis René Beres and (Admiral/USN/ret.) Leon “Bud” Edney, “Israel’s Nuclear Strategy: A Larger Role for Submarine-Basing,” The Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2014; and Professor Beres and Admiral Edney, “A Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent for Israel,” Washington Times, September 5, 2014. Admiral Edney is former NATO Supreme Allied Commander/Atlantic.

[28] On pertinent Israeli liabilities of ballistic missile defense, see: Louis René Beres and (Major General/IDF/ret.) Isaac Ben-Israel, “The Limits of Deterrence,” Washington Times, November 21, 2007; Professor Louis René Beres and MG Isaac Ben-Israel, “Deterring Iran,” Washington Times, June 10, 2007; and Professor Louis René Beres and MG Isaac Ben-Israel, “Deterring Iranian Nuclear Attack,” Washington Times, January 27, 2009.

[29] The law of armed conflict is largely concerned with the “principle of proportionality,” a principle that has its jurisprudential and philosophic origins in the Biblical Lex Talionis, the “law of exact retaliation.” Significantly for Israel, the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” precept can be found in three separate passages of the Jewish Torah, or Biblical Pentateuch. These Torah rules are likely related to the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1728- expression 1686 BCE), the first written evidence of penalizing wrongdoing with exact retaliation. In matters concerning personal injury, the code prescribes an eye for an eye (# 196), breaking bone for bone (#197), and extracting tooth for tooth (#199). Among the ancient Hebrews, we must speak not of the Lex Talionis, but of several. Lex Talionis appears in only three passages of the Torah. In their sequence of probable antiquity, they are: Exodus 21: 22-25; Deuteronomy 19: 19-21; and Leviticus 24: 17-21. All have similarities to various other Near Eastern legal codes. These three passages address specific concerns: hurting a pregnant woman, perjury, and guarding Yahweh’s altar against defilement. See Marvin Henberg, Retribution: Evil for Evil in Ethics, Law and Literature, 59-186 (1990). In contemporary international law, the principle of proportionality can be found in the traditional view that a state offended by another state’s use of force, if the offending state refuses to make amends, “is then entitled to take `proportionate’ reprisals.” See Ingrid Detter De Lupis, The Law of War, 75 (1987). Evidence for the rule of proportionality can also be found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) at Art. 4. Similarly, the American Convention on Human Rights allows at Art. 27(1) such derogations “in time of war, public danger or other emergency which threaten the independence or security of a party” on “condition of proportionality.” In essence, the military principle of proportionality requires that the amount of destruction permitted must be proportionate to the importance of the objective. In contrast, the political principle of proportionality states “a war cannot be just unless the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensure from the war is less than the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensue if the war is not fought.” See Douglas P. Lackey, THE ETHICS OF WAR AND PEACE, 40 (1989).

[30]This is a right previously and prominently exercised by Israel. The Six Day War, (1967); Operation Opera (1981); and Operation Orchard (2007) come immediately to mind.

[31] The customary right of anticipatory self-defense has its modern origins in the Caroline incident, an event that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, against British rule. Following this incident, the mere threat of a serious armed attack can now sometimes be taken as sufficient legal justification for preemptive military action. More precisely, in an exchange of 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 a prior attack. Here, a proportionate and discriminate military response to military threat was judged permissible, as long as the danger posed was determinably “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”

[32] Classically, Cicero’s justification for anticipatory self-defense, as recalled by Hugo Grotius in his authoritative Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty, is that it obtains “whenever he who chooses to hesitate will be obliged to pay an unjust penalty, before he can exact a just penalty….” Grotius, who wrote and published in the seventeenth century, is universally regarded as the “father of international law.”

[33] Under international law, the crime of aggression – itself derivative from earlier criminalizing codifications at Nuremberg’s 1945 London Charter, and the 1928 Pact of Paris, has nothing to do with the particular nature of weaponry employed (conventional or unconventional). See: Resolution on the Definition of Aggression, Dec. 14, 1974, U.N.G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), 29 U.N. GAOR, Supp. (No.31) 142, U.N. Doc. A/9631, 1975, reprinted in 13 I.L.M. 710, 1974.

[34] Consider Oswald Spengler: “`I believe,'” is the great word against metaphysical fear, and at the same time it is an avowal of love.'” See: The Decline of the West, his Chapter on “Pythagoras, Mohammed, Cromwell.”

[35] A worrisome variant of enemy irrationality would be any adversary that views death as a zero-sum commodity; i.e., believes its own life requires the death of certain designated “others.” The underlying core idea here is captured generically by Ernest Becker’s paraphrase of Elias Canetti: “Each organism raises it head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.” (See Ernest Becker, Escape from Evil 2 (1975).  Similarly, according to Otto Rank: “The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the Sacrifice, of the other; through the death of the other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of dying, of being killed.” (See: Otto Rank, Will Therapy and Reality 130 (Knopf, 1945) (1936).

[36] Such potentially apocalyptic motivations should not be dismissed too lightly. See, on this point: Andrew G. Bostom, Iran’s Final Solution for Israel: The Legacy of Jihad, and Shiite Islamic Jew Hatred in Iran, Amazon, March 24, 2014, 350 pp. Dr. Bostom is also the author of The Legacy of Jihad: The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism; and Sharia Versus Freedom. See also: Bernard Lewis, The Political Language of Islam (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1988).

[37] In this connection, Israel could take no comfort from any pre-independence agreements for Palestinian “demilitarization.” On this point, see: Louis René Beres and Ambassador Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal, Winter, 1998, pp. 347-363. Zalman Shoval was a two-time Israeli Ambassador to the United States.

[38] See: Louis René Beres, “Understanding the Correlation of Forces in the Middle East: Israel’s Urgent Strategic Imperative,” The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. IV, No. 1., (2010).

[39] Israel’s anti-missile defense shield has four acknowledged layers: The Iron Dome system for intercepting short-range rockets; David’s Sling for medium-range rockets; Arrow-2 against intermediate-range ballistic missiles; and Arrow-3 for deployment against ICBM’s and (potentially) satellites.

[40]Louis René Beres:  http://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/parameters/Articles/07spring/beres.htm

[41] Earlier, by this writer, see: Louis René Beres, “Israel and Samson: Biblical Lessons for Israel’s Strategy in the Nuclear Age,” Israel Affairs, Vol. 1. No.3, July 2005, pp. 491-503.

[42]See, by this author, Louis René Beres:  https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/04/17/a-provident-posture-for-israel-facing-nuclear-iran-as-an-intellectual-problem/   To answer all its most compelling nuclear  concerns, Israel’s strategic planners will need to adhere to well-established scientific canons of systematic inquiry, logical analysis and dialectical reasoning. Four plausible and potentially intersecting narratives “cover the bases” of Israel’s nuclear war risk scenarios: 1) nuclear retaliation; 2) nuclear counter-retaliation; 3) nuclear preemption; and 4) nuclear warfighting.

[43] Regarding legal origins of this Westphalian system, it was founded upon twin–principles of sovereignty and self-determination. See, by this author: Louis Rene Beres, “Self-Determination, International Law and Survival on Planet Earth,” Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 11., No. 1., 1994, pp. 1-26. See also: Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (The Principle of Equal Rights and Self-Determination of Peoples), G.A. Res. 2625, U.N. GAOR, 25th Sess., Supp. No. 28 at 121, U.N. Doc. A/8028 (1970), reprinted in 9 I.L.M. 1292; Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, G.A. Res. 1514, U.N. GAOR, 15th Sess., Supp. No. 16, at 66, U.N. Doc. A/4684 (1960); Principles Which Should Guide Members in Determining Whether or Not an Obligation Exists to Transmit the Information Called for Under Article 73e of the Charter, G.A. Res. 1541, U.N. GAOR, 15th Sess., Supp. No. 16, at 29, U.N. Doc. A/4684 (1960).

[44]For a recent and authoritative assessment of one element of  these accords, see:   https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Wild-Blue-Yonder/Article-Display/Article/2635790/israel-and-the-selling-of-the-f-35-to-the-uae/

[45] Israeli planners must inquire whether accepting risks of a limited nuclear war would exacerbate enemy nuclear intentions, or whether it would enhance the nation’s viable nuclear deterrent. Such conceptual questions have been raised by this author for many years, but usually in reference to more broadly theoretical or generic nuclear questions. See, for example, Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (1972); Louis René Beres, Terrorism and Global Security: The Nuclear Threat (1979; second edition, 1987); Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984); Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (1986); and Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (2016).

[46] Whether it is described in the Old Testament or in other discernible sources of ancient Western thought, chaos can also be viewed as a source of human betterment. Chaos is that which prepares the world for all things, both sacred and profane. Further, as its conspicuous etymology reveals, chaos represents the yawning gulf or gap wherein nothing is as yet, but where all civilizational opportunity must inevitably originate. Appropriately, the great German poet Friedrich Hölderlin observed: “There is a desert sacred and chaotic which stands at the roots of the things and which prepares all things.” Even in the pagan ancient world, the Greeks thought of such a desert as logos, which indicates to us that it was presumed to be anything but starkly random or without conceivable merit.

[47] Criminal responsibility of leaders under international law is never limited to direct personal action or limited by official position. On this peremptory principle of “command responsibility,” or respondeat superior, see: In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1945); The High Command Case (The Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb), 12 Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals 1 (United Nations War Crimes Commission Comp., 1949); see Parks, Command Responsibility for War Crimes, 62 MIL.L. REV. 1 (1973); O’Brien, The Law of War, Command Responsibility and Vietnam, 60 GEO. L.J. 605 (1972); U.S. Dept. Of The Army, Army Subject Schedule No. 27 – 1 (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Hague Convention No. IV of 1907), 10 (1970). The direct individual responsibility of leaders is also unambiguous in view of the London Agreement, which denies defendants the protection of the act of state defense. See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS, Aug. 8, 1945, 59 Stat. 1544, E.A.S. No. 472, 82 U.N.T.S. 279, art. 7.

[48] The term “world order” has its contemporary origins in a scholarly movement begun at the Yale Law School in the mid-and late 1960s, and subsequently expanded at the Politics Department at Princeton University in 1967-68. The present author, Louis René Beres, was an original member of the Princeton-based World Order Models Project, and wrote several early books in this scholarly genre.

[49].Under international law, the generic question of whether or not a state of war actually exists between states may be somewhat ambiguous.  Traditionally, it was held that a formal declaration of war was a necessary condition before “formal” war could be said to exist.  Hugo Grotius, for example, divided wars into declared wars, which were legal, and undeclared wars, which were not.  (See Grotius, THE LAW OF WAR AND PEACE, Bk. III, ch. iii, V and XI).  By the beginning of the twentieth century, the position that war obtains only after a conclusive declaration of war by one of the parties, was codified by Hague Convention III.  More precisely, this convention stipulated that hostilities must not commence without “previous and explicit warning” in the form of a declaration of war or an ultimatum.  (See Hague Convention III Relative to the Opening of Hostilities, 1907, 3 NRGT, 3 series, 437, article 1.)  Currently, of course, declaration of war may be tantamount to declarations of international criminality (because of the criminalization of aggression by authoritative international law), and it could be a jurisprudential absurdity to tie a state of war to formal declarations of belligerency.  It follows that a state of war may exist without formal declarations, but only if there is an armed conflict between two or more states and/or at least one of these states considers itself at war.  On the argument that war need not be formally recognized, see J. Pictet, IV Commentary, Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War 20-1 (1958) (“no need for formal declaration of war, or for recognition of the existence of a state of war”); U.S. Dept. of Army FM 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare 7-8, paras. 8-9 (1956) (instances of armed conflict without declaration of war; law of war applies); The Prize Cases, 67 U.S. (2 Black) at 668 (“war may exist without a declaration on either side”); see also M. McDougal & F. Feliciano, LAW AND MINIMUM WORLD PUBLIC ORDER (1961), pp. 97-113 (legal status of war may be brought about by use of armed force).

[50] Dialectical thinking originated in Fifth Century BCE Athens, as Zeno, author of the Paradoxes, was acknowledged by Aristotle as its “inventor.” In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerges as the supreme form of philosophic/analytic method. The dialectician, says Plato, is the special one who knows how to ask and then answer vital questions. From the specific standpoint of currently necessary refinements in Israeli nuclear strategy and doctrine, this knowledge should never be underestimated or taken for granted.

[51]Palestinian and Iranian threats could be further enlarged by an always-possible collaboration between (Sunni) Hamas and (Shiite) Hezbollah. For Israel, any such collaboration could be “force-multiplying” or “synergistic” to extant dangers posed by Palestinian terrorism and Iranian nuclearization. In the latter case, by definition, the expected “whole” of any prospective harms to Israel would be greater than the calculable sum of its “parts.”

[52] See: https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/05/israel-fears-hamas-hezbollah-coordinating-attacks

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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Preventing Nuclear War in the Middle East: Science, System and “Vision”

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“A scientist, whether theorist or experimenter, puts forward statements, or systems of statements, and tests them step by step.”-Karl R. Popper -The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959)

For the moment, informed global concerns about nuclear war avoidance center on superpower crises over Ukraine. Though such existential concerns are understandable and well-founded, there are coinciding nuclear threats in other parts of the world. More precisely, because world politics must always be evaluated as a system,[1] whatever happens in Ukraine regarding nuclear warfare matters could sometime spill over into the Middle East.

               Irremediably, the specific shape or form of any such “spillover” would be difficult to decipher.

               Now, a very basic query must be raised: What are the essential parameters of relevant strategic planning? Whether or not analysts care to admit it, a nuclear war in the Middle East is conceivable and more-or-less plausible.[2]Nothing can be said about tangible probabilities because a nuclear war – any nuclear war – would represent a unique event. By definition, any nuclear conflict would be sui generis. In science and mathematics, true probabilities must be based upon the isolable frequency of pertinent past events.

               Always.

               Quo Vadis? By definition, no other subject of national security concern could possibly justify comparably serious examinations. This means, inter alia, that Israel’s most capable strategic thinkers and scholars are immediately responsible for ensuring that virtually every imaginable nuclear war scenario will be suitably delineated and explored.[3] It suggests further that Israel’s strategic analyses be consistently and expressly theoretical.

               Recalling philosopher of science Karl Popper’s oft-quoted line (borrowed from the classic German poet, Novalis), “Theory is a net. Only those who cast, can catch.”[4]

               A core question needs to be raised at the outset: How might Israel find itself caught up in a nuclear war? Under what identifiable circumstances could Israel discover itself involved with actual nuclear weapons use?

               Presently, as Israel remains the only regional nuclear power, such concerns could appear baseless. Nonetheless, always changing “order-of-battle” considerations could change suddenly and unexpectedly, most ominously in regard to Iran.[5] Even in the continuing absence of a regional nuclear adversary, a beleaguered Israel could find itself having to rely upon nuclear deterrence against sub-nuclear (i.e., biological and/or massive conventional) threats. Acknowledging such a potentially existential reliance, the prospect of atomic weapons firing ought never be excluded or ruled out ipso facto.

               What next? To answer its most basic nuclear security questions, Jerusalem’s strategic planners will need to adhere closely to variously well-established canons of systematic inquiry, logical analysis and dialectical reasoning. Accordingly, there are four intersecting narratives that best “cover the bases” of Israel’s obligatory nuclear preparedness: Nuclear Retaliation; Nuclear Counter Retaliation; Nuclear Preemption; and Nuclear War fighting.  In sufficient detail, here is what these four comprehensive scenarios could reveal to that country’s capable leaders and scholars:

(1)          Nuclear Retaliation

               Should an enemy state or alliance of enemy states ever launch a nuclear first-strike against Israel, Jerusalem would respond, assuredly, and to whatever extent judged possible/cost-effective, with a nuclear retaliatory strike. If enemy first-strikes were to involve certain other forms of unconventional weapons, notably high-lethality biological weapons, Israel might still launch a nuclear reprisal. This particular response would likely depend, in significant measure, on Jerusalem’s calculated expectations of follow-on aggression and its associated assessments of comparative damage-limitation.

               If Israel were to absorb “only” a massive conventional attack, a nuclear retaliation could not automatically be ruled out, especially if: (a) the state aggressor(s) were perceived to hold nuclear and/or other unconventional weapons in reserve; and/or (b) Israel’s leaders believed that exclusively non-nuclear retaliations could not prevent annihilation of the state. A nuclear retaliation by Israel could be ruled out ipso facto only where enemy state aggressions were conventional, “typical” (that is, sub-existential or consistent with previous historic instances of enemy attack in degree and intent), and hard-target directed (that is, directed solely toward Israeli weapons and military infrastructures, not at “soft” civilian populations).

(2)          Nuclear Counter retaliation

               Should Israel feel compelled to preempt enemy state aggression with conventional weapons, the target state(s)’ response would largely determine Jerusalem’s subsequent moves. If this response were in any way nuclear, Israel would expectedly turn to nuclear counter-retaliation. If this retaliation were to involve other weapons of mass destruction, Israel might then feel pressed to take an appropriate escalatory initiative. Any such initiative would necessarily reflect the presumed need for what is formally described in strategic parlance as “escalation dominance.”

                There is more. All pertinent decisions would depend upon Jerusalem’s early judgments of enemy state intent and on its accompanying calculations of essential damage-limitation. Should the enemy state response to Israel’s preemption be limited to hard-target conventional strikes, it is unlikely that Israel would move on to any nuclear counter retaliations. If, however, the enemy conventional retaliation were “all-out” and plainly directed toward Israeli civilian populations – not just at Israeli military targets – an Israeli nuclear counter retaliation could not be excluded.

               It would appear that such a unique counter-retaliation could be ruled out only if the enemy state’s conventional retaliation were entirely proportionate to Israel’s preemption, confined exclusively to Israeli military targets, circumscribed by the legal limits of “military necessity” (a limit routinely codified in the law of armed conflict)[6] and accompanied by various explicit and verifiable assurances of non-escalatory intent.

(3)          Nuclear Preemption

               It is prima facie implausible (perhaps generally even inconceivable) that Israel would ever decide to launch a preemptive nuclear strike. Although circumstances could arise wherein such a strike would be perfectly rational, it is unlikely that Israel would ever allow itself to reach such “all or nothing” security circumstances. Unless the relevant nuclear weapons were employed in a fashion still consistent with the authoritative laws of war,[7] this form of preemption would represent a flagrantly serious violation of binding (codified and customary) international rules.

               Even if such consistency were possible, the psychological/political impact on the world community would be negative and far-reaching. In essence, this means that an Israeli nuclear preemption could be expected only where (a) Israel’s state enemies had acquired nuclear and/or other weapons of mass destruction judged capable of annihilating the Jewish State; (b) these enemies had made it clear that their military intentions paralleled their capabilities; (c) these enemies were believed ready to begin an active “countdown to launch;” and (d) Jerusalem believed that Israeli non-nuclear preemptions could not possibly achieve needed minimum levels of damage-limitation – that is, levels consistent with physical preservation of the state and nation.[8]

               It is arguable, at least in principle, that an Israeli non-nuclear preemption could sometime represent the best way to reduce the risks of a regional nuclear war.  Such an argument would flow logically from the assumption that if Israel waits too long for Iran to strike first, that enemy (once it had crossed the nuclear weapons threshold) could launch its own nuclear attacks. Even if Iran should strike first with conventional weapons only, Israel might calculate no rational damage-limiting alternatives to launching a nuclear retaliation.

               To the extent that this narrative is taken as a reasonable scenario, the cost-effectiveness/legality of certain Israeli non-nuclear preemptions could be enhanced.  Arguably, in these actions, Jerusalem’s preemptive commitment to “anticipatory self-defense” would be entirely law-enforcing.  No such defense could be mustered on behalf of any Israeli nuclear preemption, an unprecedented attack that would (in virtually all conceivable circumstances) be in stark violation of authoritative international law.  A possible exception could obtain only if Israel’s resort to a nuclear preemption were compelled by plausible expectations of national disappearance (see, in this connection, the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice).

               Should Israel feel compelled to resort to actual nuclear war-fighting at some point after (1) enemy reprisals for Israel’s conventional preemption cause the state to escalate to nuclear weapons, or (2) enemy chemical/biological/conventional first-strikes cause Israel to escalate to nuclear weapons, the country would confront substantial problems under international law.  Should an enemy state launch nuclear first-strikes against Israel (not presently a possibility unless Pakistan is counted as an enemy state), Jerusalem’s retaliatory use of nuclear weapons would be less problematic jurisprudentially. At the same time, matters of law in such dire circumstances would become utterly moot.

(4)          Nuclear War fighting

               Should nuclear weapons be introduced into an actual conflict between Israel and its enemies, either by Israel or a particular foe, nuclear war fighting, at one level or another, would ensue. This would be true so long as: (a) enemy first-strikes against Israel would not destroy Jerusalem’s second-strike nuclear capability; (b) enemy retaliations for an Israeli conventional preemption would not destroy Jerusalem’s nuclear counter retaliatory capability; (c) Israeli preemptive strikes involving nuclear weapons would not destroy adversarial second-strike nuclear capabilities; and (d) Israeli retaliation for enemy conventional first-strikes would not destroy enemy nuclear counter retaliatory capability.

               It follows that in order to satisfy its essential survival requirements, Israel should take immediate, recognizable and reliable steps to ensure the likelihood of (a) and (b) above and the unlikelihood of (c) and (d).

               In all cases, Israel’s nuclear strategy and forces must remain oriented toward deterrence, never to actual war fighting. With this in mind, in all likelihood, Jerusalem has already taken suitable steps to reject tactical or relatively low-yield “battlefield” nuclear weapons and any operational plans for counter-force targeting. For Israel, always and without exception, nuclear weapons can make sense only for deterrence ex ante; not revenge ex post.

               The four above scenarios should remind Israeli planners and policy-makers of the overriding need for coherent nuclear theory and strategy. Among other things, this need postulates a counter-value targeted nuclear retaliatory force that is recognizably secure from enemy first-strikes and presumptively capable of penetrating any enemy state’s active defenses. To best meet this imperative security expectation, the IDF would be well-advised to continue with its sea-basing (submarines) of designated portions of its nuclear deterrent force.[9] To satisfy the equally important requirements of “penetration-capability,” Tel-Aviv will have to stay conspicuously well ahead of all foreseeable enemy air defense refinements.

               There is more. Sooner rather than later, Jerusalem will need to consider a partial and possibly sequenced end to its historic policy of “deliberate nuclear ambiguity.” By selectively beginning to remove the “bomb” from Israel’s “basement,” national planners would be better positioned to enhance the credibility of their country’s nuclear deterrence posture. However counter-intuitive, the mere possession of nuclear forces could never automatically bestow credible nuclear deterrence upon Israel or on any other nation-state.

               Always, something more would be necessary.

               In Israel’s strategic nuclear planning, would-be aggressors, whether nuclear or non-nuclear, should be systematically encouraged to believe that Jerusalem has the required will[10]to launch measured nuclear forces in retaliation and that these forces are sufficiently invulnerable to any-contemplated first-strike attacks. Additionally, these enemies must be made to expect that Israel’s designated nuclear forces could reliably penetrate all already-deployed ballistic-missile defenses and air defenses.

                Israel, it follows from all this, could benefit substantially from releasing at least certain broad outlines of its strategic configurations, capacities and doctrines. Without a prior and well-fashioned strategic doctrine, no such release could make sufficiently persuasive deterrent sense.

                Such intentionally released information could support the perceived utility and security of Israel’s nuclear retaliatory forces. Disclosed solely to enhance Israeli nuclear deterrence, it would center purposefully upon the targeting, hardening, dispersion, multiplication, basing, and yield of selected national ordnance. Under certain conditions, the credibility of Israeli nuclear deterrence could vary inversely with the perceived destructiveness of its pertinent weapons. These should never be treated as issues of “common sense.”            

                Among other fundamental concerns, Israel will need to prepare differently for an expectedly rational nuclear adversary than for an expectedly irrational one.[11] In such variously nuanced and unprecedented circumstances,[12] national decision-makers in Jerusalem would need to distinguish precisely and meaningfully between genuine enemy irrationality, pretended or feigned enemy irrationality and authentic enemy madness.[13] In actual military practice, operationalizing such subtle distinctions could present staggeringly complex intellectual challenges and would need to take account of whether pertinent principal adversaries were (1) fully or partially sovereign states; (2) sub-national terrorist groups; or (3) “hybrid” enemies comprised of both state and sub-state foes.

               Whatever nuances will be encountered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the only rational way for Israel to effectively meet all these growing challenges will be to stay well ahead of its adversaries through the indispensable power of erudition and scholarship. Long ago, in classical Greece and Macedonia, the linked arts of war and deterrence were already described by military planners as challenges of “mind over mind,” not merely crude contests of “mind over matter.” For Israel, such ancient descriptions remain even more valid today.

               Before Israel can successfully satisfy its most primary security and survival obligations,                the country’s capable scholars must assume increasing intellectual responsibility for meeting the relevant challenges of “mind.” Most importantly, this means carrying on a coherent strategic “conversation” that goes significantly beyond usual day-to-day political commentaries or narrowly partisan observations. In the final analysis, Israel’s security situation must never be allowed to become a result of narrow political bickering between competing parties or interests. Instead, it should be allowed to emerge as the lifesaving outcome of optimally disciplined and dispassionate strategic scholarship.

               There is one additional observation, a crucial one that brings the reader back to current superpower disagreements over Ukraine. Though present concern is that these disagreements could impact the prospect of a nuclear conflict in the Middle East (because world politics must always be assessed as a system[14]), there are also variously urgent reciprocal concerns. To wit, a nuclear crisis or nuclear war in the Middle East could affect the likelihood of nuclear crisis or nuclear war between the United States and Russia over Ukraine.

               Of necessity, the basis of this bold assertion is deductive argument rather than empirical generalization. Such a reasoned basis is by no means useless, deceptive or inferior. It represents the only logically acceptable basis for offering estimations of any such unique (sui generis) strategic circumstances.[15]

               Going forward, the prevention of a nuclear war in the Middle East should always be founded upon science-based scholarship and law,[16] not on transient political factors. As a practical matter, observers are unlikely to see any propitious end to “Westphalian” international relations soon,[17] but planners and policy-makers must still acknowledge that the “dreadful equality” of Thomas Hobbes’ “State of Nature” among individuals is also starting to characterize the relationship of certain states in world politics. More to the point, with the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons, some of the “weakest” states could become able to “kill the strongest.”[18]

               Among other things, this hitherto ignored outcome would mean that a particular state’s tangible “superiority” in nuclear weapons might not necessarily produce any proportionate increments of national security or safety.

               “Realistically,” to sum up these matters concerning nuclear war avoidance in the Middle East, analysts ought to not soon expect any fundamental transformations of Realpolitik in the region. In the short term, at least, Israel’s planners and policy makers should continue to do whatever is needed and lawful[19] to maintain the country’s critical deterrence and defense postures. At the same time, and preferably in some sorts of institutionalized cooperation with potentially nuclear adversary Iran, Jerusalem should begin to think beyond the “Westphalian” system of self-help power politics altogether.[20] Though hard to take seriously regarding issues of international relations, the comprehensive wisdom of Federico Fellini does reasonably apply to variously complex matters of nuclear war avoidance:                 “The visionary,” warned the Italian film director succinctly but broadly, “is the only realist.”


[1] In this connection, recall the unchallengeable observation of Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The existence of `system’ in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature, no matter whom….”

[2] For early accounts of nuclear war effects  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, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[3] Rabbi Eleazar quoted Rabbi Hanina, who said: “Scholars build the structure of peace in the world.” See: The Babylonian Talmud, Order Zera’im, Tractate Berakoth, and IX.

[4] See Karl Popper, epigraph to The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959).

[5] On deterring a soon-to-be nuclear Iran, see Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely deter a Nuclear Iran? The Atlantic, August 2012; Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Israel; and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012; and Beres/Chain: Israel: https://besacenter.org/living-iran-israels-strategic-imperative-2/ General Jack Chain (USAF) was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC), from 1986 to 1991.

[6] The law of armed conflict requires, inter alia, that every use of force by an army or an insurgent group meet the test of “proportionality.” Drawn from the core legal principle (St. Petersburg Declaration, 1868, etc.) that “the means that can be used to injure an enemy are not unlimited,” proportionality stipulates that every resort to armed force be limited to what is necessary for meeting appropriate military objectives. This element of codified and customary international law applies to all judgments of military advantage and planned reprisals. It does not mean that each side must either suffer or create symmetrical harms. The rule of proportionality does not stipulate that a defending state must necessarily limit its use of force to the same “amount” employed by the other side. Proper determinations of proportionality need never be calculated in a geopolitical vacuum. To a limited extent, for example, such legal decisions may take into correct consideration the extent to which a particular adversary has committed prior or still-ongoing violations of the law of armed conflict.

[7] According to the rules of international law, every use of force must be judged twice:  once with regard to the right to wage war (jus ad bellum), and once with regard to the means used in conducting war (jus in Bello).  Today, acknowledging the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 and the United Nations Charter of 1945, all right to aggressive war has been abolished.  However, the long-standing customary right of self-defense remains, codified at Article 51 of the Charter.  Similarly, subject to conformance, inter alia, with jus in Bello criteria, certain instances of humanitarian intervention and collective security operations may also be consistent with jus ad bellum.  The laws of war, the rules of jus in Bello, comprise (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules.  Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions (and known thereby as the law of The Hague and the law of Geneva), these rules attempt to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into belligerent calculations.

[8]The question of preemption – any preemption – must also be confronted as alegal matter. For early writings by the present author on this matter with particular reference to Israel (a matter regarding “anticipatory self-defense” under international law), see:  Louis René Beres, “Preserving the Third Temple: Israel’s Right of Anticipatory Self-Defense Under International Law,”  26 VANDERBILT JOURNAL OF TRANSNATIONAL LAW,  111 (1993);  Louis Rene Beres, “After the Gulf War: Israel, Preemption and Anticipatory Self-Defense,”  13 HOUSTON JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 259 (1991);  Louis Rene Beres, “Striking `First’:  Israel’s Post-Gulf War Options Under International Law,”  14 LOYOLA OF LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW JOURNAL (1991);  Louis Rene Beres, “Israel and Anticipatory Self-Defense,”  8 ARIZONA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW  89 (1991);  Louis Rene Beres,  “After the Scud Attacks: Israel, `Palestine,’ and Anticipatory Self-Defense,”  6  EMORY INTERNATIONAL LAW REVIEW  71 (1992).

[9] On Israeli submarine basing measures, see: Louis René Beres and (Admiral/USN/ret.) Leon “Bud” Edney, “Israel’s Nuclear Strategy: A Larger Role for Submarine-Basing,” The Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2014; also Professor Beres and Admiral Edney, “A Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent for Israel,” Washington Times, September 5, 2014. Admiral Edney was a NATO Supreme Allied Commander (SACLANT).

[10] In modern philosophy, a more general highlighting of “will” is discoverable in Arthur Schopenhauer’s writings, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration (and by his own expressed acknowledgment), Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely (and perhaps far more importantly) upon Schopenhauer. Goethe also served as a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the prophetic work, The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very grand essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the occasion of the centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948) and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[11] Expressions of such decisional irrationality in world politics could take variously different forms. These sometime overlapping forms, which would have no necessary correlations with authentic madness, include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker)

[12] Recall widely-cited observation of Sigmund Freud (in his book about America’sAmerica’s Woodrow Wilson): Fools, visionaries, sufferers from delusions, neurotics and lunatics have played great roles at all times in the history of mankind, and not merely when the accident of birth had bequeathed them sovereignty. Usually, they have wreaked havoc; but not always.” Sigmund Freud & William C. Bullitt, Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study, at xvi (1967)..”

[13] On such madness, see Seneca, 1st Century AD/CE: “We are mad, not only individuals, but nations also. We restrain manslaughter and isolated murders, but what of war, and the so-called glory of killing whole peoples? ….Man, the gentlest of animals, is not ashamed to glory in blood-shedding, and to wage war when even the beasts are living in peace together.” (Letters, 95).

[14]In this regard, Israel’s nuclear strategy could have tangible effects upon the United States and meaningful implications for U.S. national security. On these generally ignored but still-significant effects, see Professor 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

[15] In this connection, consider Jose Ortega y’Gasset in Man and Crisis (1958): “Science, by which I mean the entire body of knowledge about things, whether corporeal or spiritual, is as much a work of imagination as it is of observation….”

[16]William Blackstone, the jurist upon whose work the United States owes its own basic system of law, remarks at Book 4 of his Commentaries on the Law of England: “The law of nations (international law) is always binding upon all individuals and all states. Each state is expected, perpetually, to aid and enforce the law of nations as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon the offenses against that universal law.”

[17] See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1.Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia. De facto, though co-existing with various patterns of collective security, “Westphalian” international law remains essentially a “vigilante” or self-help system of power management.

[18]Though composed in the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan still offers a still- illuminating vision of balance-of-power world politics. Says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII, “Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery:”  “During such 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.” Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition existing among individual human beings. This owes to what he called the “dreadful equality” of individual men in nature concerning ability to kill others, but this once-relevant differentiation has now effectively disappeared with the global spread of nuclear weapons. Today, certain “weaker” states that are nonetheless nuclear could still bring “unacceptable harms” to certain “stronger” states.

[19] For the authoritative sources of international law, see art. 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice; done at San Francisco, June 26, 1945. Entered into force, Oct. 24, 1945; for the United States, Oct. 24, 1945.  59 Stat. 1031, T.S. No. 993, 3 Bevans 1153, 1976 Y.B.U.N., 1052.

[20] Even amid “Westphalian” geopolitics in international relations, a dominant jurisprudential assumption of solidarity obtains between all states. This fundamental assumption is already mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 C.E.); Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli Ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey, tr., Clarendon Press, 1925)(1690); and Emmerich De Vattel, 1 Le Droit Des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758).

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What is driving Russia’s security concerns?

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The current discussions between Russia and NATO pivot on Russia’s requirement for the Alliance to provide legally binding security guarantees: specifically, that the alliance will not expand east, which will require revoking the 2008 NATO Bucharest summit decision that Ukraine and Georgia “will become members of NATO” .

It is useful to shed some light on the underlying points which drive Russia’s deep concerns. Moscow holds that the USSR was deceived on the issue of NATO expansion. At the same time, it is recognised that it was the fault of the Soviet leadership not to acquire legally binding guarantees at that time and the fault of the Russian leadership in the 1990s not to prevent NATO expansion per se. The current acrimony is caused by numerous examples of Western leaders making promises, blurred or straightforward, not to expand NATO further.

The Russian leadership after 1991 expressed this concern on many occasions, including the letters of Boris Yeltsin to Bill Clinton in October 1993 and then in December 1994.

But Russia’s proposals were not limited only to political statements. For example, in 2009 Moscow already put forward the draft of a legally binding European Security Treaty.

As to the issue of membership, it is unlikely that Moscow buys certain behind-the-scenes hints that the potential NATO membership of Ukraine is really only a rhetorical position. Often this approach is called “constructive ambiguity”. Moscow strongly believes, with good reason, that in the past all unofficial promises about the expansion of NATO were broken. Why would it believe them now?

Another fundamental point, from Russia’s point of view, is that beside the right to choose alliances, there is a crucial role for the concept of indivisible security, particularly the elements of equal security and the obligation that no country not to strengthen its own security at the expanse of the other. These principles are enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act (1975), in the Paris Charter (1990), in the NATO-Russia Founding Act (1997) and in the Charter of European Security (1999). Therefore, it should be the obligation of both sides to work out the parameters of indivisible security holistically and not to pretend that this is an invention of Moscow.

Arguably, indivisibility of security may include, for example, an obligation not to indicate the other side in military strategic concepts, doctrines, postures and planning as an enemy, rival or adversary. Among other things, it may also include an obligation to halt the development of military planning and military exercises, which designate Europe as a potentialtheatre of war between NATO and Russia. It is Pentagon, which in its official press statements indicate for example Georgia, Ukraine and Romania as “frontline states”.

A common Western argument against Russia’s current draft is that it is difficult to see how such a legally binding guarantee can be achieved when Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty stipulates that its parties, upon unanimous decision, can invite any other European state to join.

But to refer to Article 10 regarding the expansion of NATO after 1991 is not correct. In 1949 Article 10 of course did not envisage the open-door policy for the states that were in the Soviet bloc. After 1991 a qualitatively new situation arose. It was not Article 10 but a political decision of the United States in 1994-1995 to open a totally new chapter in the expansion. That decision was of a paramount importance.

Also, it is said that the United States is similarly unlikely to enter into a bilateral arrangement with Russia regarding NATO expansion, since this would violate Article 8 of the Treaty, whereby parties undertake not to enter into any international engagements in conflict with the Treaty.

Again, the point is not straightforward. The US de facto is the dominant member of NATO, which in most circumstances calls the shots there. According to history, when its national interests demanded, it took decisions that can be interpreted as conflicting or even undermining Article 8. For example, the security interests of the UK were clearly disregarded in 1956-1957 in the course of the Suez crisis due to the actions of the US. Or doesn’t the AUKUS run counter to the security interests of France? Or, for example, didn’t the way in which the US left Afghanistan undermine the security of some other members of NATO?

Short of the legally binding guarantee by NATO, what other options for a settlement might be satisfactory for Russia?

Russia deeply values the status of neutrality that several countries in Europe maintain. Indeed, it would be difficult to dismiss the fact that the international standing of Finland, Austria or Switzerland would have been much lower if not for their policy of neutrality. Moreover, one may say that the security of these countries is even higher than the security of some member states of NATO. So why not consider an option of neutrality, for example, for Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia, buttressed by certain international treaties like it was in the case of Austria?

Another back-up option would be to consider any further theoretical expansion of NATO on the conditions that were applied to the territory of the former German Democratic Republic—i.e. that NATO integrated troops or NATO infrastructure is not deployed on this territory.

Alternatively, a further option could be to place a moratorium on a new membership, for example for 15-20 years, which would not undermine Article 10 per se. For example, Turkey now for 16 years is a candidate-country of the European Union but nobody in the EU pretends that it can become a member in the foreseeable future.

Mutual security concerns could be met if a significant complex of agreements is approved. Firstly, agreements could be made on military-to-military communication, on military drills and exercises, and on patrols of strategic bombers.

Secondly, there could be a NATO-Russia comprehensive agreement on the basis of well-known IncSea and dangerous military activities agreements.

Thirdly, there is scope for an agreement on an obligation not to deploy in NATO members, bordering Russia, any strike systems, either nuclear or conventional.

And fourthly, in the league of its own, there could be an agreement on a Russia-NATO legally binding moratorium on the INF land-based systems, both nuclear and conventional.

Finally, on Ukraine, it is often said that Ukraine is much weaker than Russia and has no ability to launch and sustain a large-scale offensive against Russia. This misses the point.

Russia is concerned about two things. First, that there is no guarantee that sooner or later a third country would not decide to sell to or deploy in Ukraine strike systems that will endanger Russia’s security. Second, that Ukraine may attack not Russia but Donbas, like Poroshenko did in 2015, to try to solve the problem with military means and at the same time to try to involve NATO in military confrontation with Russia. This could be called a Saakashvili style of doing things.

It is unlikely that Russia will ever agree to restrain the movement of troops on its own territory, which would be quite humiliating. This would be a matter for a new CFE treaty if such a treaty is ever revived. Another question is what is considered “in proximity to the Ukrainian border”? At present, the deployment of most additional Russian troops, described by Western sources as “in proximity”, is minimum 200-300 km from the border. Does it mean that Russian troops will be prohibited from approaching its own borders in proximity, for example, of 400-500 km?

Meanwhile, on the other side there are more than 100 thousand Ukrainian troops concentrated on the contact line with Donbas, and much closer to it than the distance between the Russian troops and the Russian border. It is interesting to note that maps, which Western media these days is so fond of printing and which show locations where Russian military forces are stationed or deployed on the territory of Russia, do not have any indication of Ukrainian troops disposition. What happens if Ukrainian troops receive orders to attack Donbas akin to orders that Saakashvili gave his troops in 2008 to attack Tskhinval? It is clear that Moscow will never let Kiev take Donbas by force destroying the whole edifice of the political process based on the Minsk-2 agreements, which, importantly, in 2015 became a part of the UN Security Council Resolution. The additional Russian troops deployments are intended to deter Kiev from attacking Donbas and they are not a harbinger of “invasion of Ukraine”.

At present there are conflicting signals coming from all sides, which can be interpreted in many ways. Warmongers shout that diplomacy is a waste of time and that only muscle-flexing and even application of hard power will teach the other a lesson. Still, most top policymakers in Moscow, Washington and major European capitals seem to prefer further consultations and dialogue, both public and confidential. In the sphere of arms control in Europe and CBMs, on which there is an ample pool of expert recommendations, the US and NATO have let it be known that they are ready to talk seriously with Moscow.

The situations in the Baltic region and in the Black Sea region require urgent and lasting de-escalation. A compromise on the issue of further expansion of NATO should be reached in a way that satisfies both sides in spite of each having to make necessary concessions. A final imperative is that the US-Russia tracks on the future of strategic stability and cyber security should proceed unhindered. The P5 statement of January 2022 on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races needs to be followed by a P5 summit – the Russian proposal that was unanimously supported in 2020.

In summary, Western and Russian diplomats, both civil and military, need time to continue their work, which is of existential importance.

From our partner RIAC

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Defense

In 2022, military rivalry between powers will be increasingly intense

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“Each state pursues its own interest’s, however defined, in ways it judges best. Force is a means of achieving the external ends of states because there exists no consistent, reliable process of reconciling the conflicts of interest that inevitably arise among similar units in a condition of anarchy.” – Kenneth Waltz,

The worldwide security environment is experiencing substantial volatility and uncertainty as a result of huge developments and a pandemic, both of which have not been experienced in a century. In light of this, major countries including as Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and India have hastened their military reform while focusing on crucial sectors. 2022 might be a year when the military game between big nations heats up.

The military competition between major powers is first and foremost a battle for strategic domination, and the role of nuclear weapons in altering the strategic position is self-evident. In 2022, the nuclear arms race will remain the center of military rivalry between Russia, the United States, and other major countries, while hypersonic weapons will become the focus of military technology competition among major nations.

The current nuclear weapons competition between major nations will be more focused on technological improvements in weapon quality. In 2022, the United States would invest USD 27.8 billion in nuclear weapons development. It intends to buy Columbia-class strategic nuclear-powered submarines and improve nuclear command, control, and communication systems, as well as early warning systems.

One Borei-A nuclear-powered submarine, two Tu-160M strategic bombers, and 21 sets of new ballistic missile systems will be ordered by Russia. And its strategic nuclear arsenal is anticipated to be modernized at a pace of more than 90%. This year, the United Kingdom and France will both beef up their nuclear arsenals. They aspire to improve their nuclear forces by constructing new strategic nuclear-powered submarines, increasing the quantity of nuclear warheads, and testing new ballistic missiles.

Russia will commission the Zircon sea-based hypersonic cruise missiles this year and continue to develop new hypersonic missiles as a leader in hypersonic weapon technology. To catch up with Russia, the US will invest USD 3.8 billion this year in the development of hypersonic weapons. Hypersonic weapons are also being researched and developed in France, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

Surviving contemporary warfare is the cornerstone of the military competition between major countries, and keeping the cutting edge of conventional weapons and equipment is a necessary condition for victory. In 2022, major nations including as Russia and the United States will speed up the upgrade of primary war equipment.

The United States will concentrate on improving the Navy and Air Force’s weaponry and equipment. As planned, the US Navy will accelerate the upgrade and commissioning of weapons and equipment such as Ford-class aircraft carriers, Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines, and F-15EX fighter jets, as well as develop a high-end sea and air equipment system that includes new aircraft carrier platforms and fifth-generation fighter jets.

Russian military equipment improvements are in full swing, with the army receiving additional T-14 tanks, the navy receiving 16 major vessels, and the aerospace force and navy receiving over 200 new or better aircraft. The commissioning of a new generation of Boxer armored vehicles in the United Kingdom will be accelerated. India will continue to push for the deployment of its first homegrown aircraft carrier in combat. Japan will also continue to buy F-35B fighter jets and improve the Izumo, a quasi-aircraft carrier.

The US military’s aim this year in the domain of electromagnetic spectrum is to push the Air Force’s Project Kaiju electronic warfare program and the Navy’s next generation jammer low band (NGJ-LB) program, as well as better enhance the electronic warfare process via exercises. Pole-21, Krasukha, and other new electronic warfare systems will be sent to Russia in order to increase the automation of electronic warfare systems. The electronic warfare systems of the Type 45 destroyers, as well as the Type 26 and Type 31 frigates, will be upgraded by the United Kingdom. To build combat power, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces will continue to develop the newly formed 301st Electronic Warfare Company.

Around the world, a new cycle of scientific, technical, and military upheaval is gaining traction, and conflict is swiftly shifting towards a more intelligent form. Russia, the United States, and other major countries have boosted their investment in scientific research in order to win future battles, with a concentration on intelligent technology, unmanned equipment, and human-machine coordinated tactics.

This year, the US military intends to spend USD 874 million on research and development to boost the use of intelligent technologies in domains such as information, command and control, logistics, network defense, and others. More than 150 artificial intelligence (AI) projects are presently being developed in Russia.

This year, it will concentrate on adapting intelligent software for various weapon platforms in order to improve combat effectiveness. France, the United Kingdom, India, and other countries have also stepped up their AI research and attempted to use it broadly in areas such as intelligence reconnaissance, auxiliary decision-making, and network security.

In the scope of human coordinated operations, the United States was the first to investigate and has a distinct edge. The US intends to conduct the first combat test of company-level unmanned armored forces, investigate ways for fifth-generation fighter jets to coordinate with unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and drone swarms, and promote manned and unmanned warships working together on reconnaissance, anti-submarine, and mine-sweeping missions.

Russia will work to integrate unmanned equipment into manned combat systems as quickly as feasible, while also promoting the methodical development of drones and unmanned vehicles. Furthermore, France and the United Kingdom are actively investigating human-machine coordinated techniques in military operations, such as large urban areas.

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