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China-Russian Strategic Partnership: From Continental to Marine

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In the China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership, the concept of maritime strategic partnership has not yet been formed. This is not a defect for China-Russia cooperation in the past, but it seems to be a deficiency for the current and future China-Russia relations.

Theoretically, the strategic partnership between China and Russia can cover all fields; in reality, though, this does not mean that the cooperation between China and Russia in all fields has reached the height of strategic partnership. It is in this sense that putting forward the concept of maritime strategic partnership is still of substantial significance to China-Russia relations.

The international and regional cooperation between China and Russia has traditionally been in the Eurasian continent. China and Russia are both vast countries, stretching across the Eurasian continent. They are neighbors and geographically connected. They naturally form a huge Eurasian plate, and their mutual interests are mainly concentrated in the Eurasian continent. Therefore, it is natural that the international and regional strategic cooperation between China and Russia starts from and is based on the Eurasian continent. The major bilateral cooperation projects, such as the SCO, the connection between OBOR and the EEU, the Greater Eurasia Partnership, are all linked by the Eurasian continent and unfold in it.

Although China and Russia have traditionally been seen as continental states, they are bordered by oceans, have long coastlines, consider themselves maritime states, and both are committed to becoming great oceanic powers. From the 1990s, the Chinese government formulated a series of policy documents on maritime development, including China’s Oceans in the 21st Century. Transforming China into a maritime power is also an established strategic goal of China. At the international level, China put forward the initiative of building the Maritime Silk Road in 2013 as well as the proposal of building a maritime community of shared future in 2019. As early as 2001, Russia formulated “The Maritime Theory of the Russian Federation to 2020”, which included the development of the world’s marine resources, the protection of Russia’s maritime interests and the consolidation of its position among the world’s greatest maritime powers.

China and Russia have conducted cooperation related with oceans, including the Arctic cooperation, building of the Maritime Silk Road, joint military exercises in the Pacific, Indian, the Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans, the joint aircraft cruising in the Sea of Japan, etc. At the same time, there has been public opinion in the academic circles to promote the strategic maritime cooperation between China and Russia. However, there is no concept of the strategic maritime partnership between the two states.

Under the framework of China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership, China and Russia should form the concept of maritime strategic partnership, which is needed both for practical cooperation and long-term development of bilateral relations. Marine strategic partnership is not the same meaning as marine strategic cooperation. Strategic cooperation points to specific cooperative behavior, while strategic partnership refers to the status of mutual recognition as strategic partners. The concept of maritime strategic partnership will form an overall cooperation framework, integrating continental and oceanic cooperation together and opening up more space for the strategic cooperation between the two countries.

China and Russia have the conditions and possibility to form a strategic maritime partnership. China and Russia have overlapping interests in the maritime area, maybe there could be contradictions in some issues, but no serious conflicting interests. Politically, the two states maintain high-level relations, which serves as the necessary political foundation. Both China and Russia regard maritime development as an important strategic direction. Geographically, China faces the Pacific Ocean and is adjacent to the Indian Ocean, while Russia mainly lies along the Arctic Ocean and has a close view of the Atlantic Ocean. The sea lines of China and Russia are connected to form a complete oceanic continuum. Maritime cooperation is a natural extension of continental cooperation for China and Russia. The two countries have a complementary structure in many aspects of the maritime field. They can make use of each other’s conditions to expand their respective maritime development space and produce greater benefits. Obviously, there will be more and more maritime intersection between the two countries, and more and more areas for cooperation. This will create potential for sustainable development of maritime strategic partnership.

The 21st century belongs to the ocean century. The oceans are becoming the political, economic and security gravity of the world, especially the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, as well as the Arctic Ocean region. The Pacific and Indian Ocean regions are home to four of the six largest economies in the world today: the United States, China, Japan, and India. The Arctic region is becoming a new hotspot of international politics, security and energy exploitation. The ocean regions determine the future distribution of international power and the future development of the world to a considerable extent. In international maritime affairs, neither China nor Russia will be absent, but the two countries can enhance their respective positions to have greater influence through cooperation, which is a more effective way to realize their national interests than working alone.

The basic connotation of the China-Russia strategic maritime partnership concept is that the two countries act as strategic partners to carry out overall, comprehensive and long-term cooperation with each other in maritime areas. Its main regions are the Pacific, Indian, and Arctic oceans, but it can also extend into the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. As part of the strategic partnership between China and Russia, the maritime strategic partnership is consistent with its nature. It is not confrontational and does not target any third country. Its basic goal aims to facilitate development of the two countries.

The major functions of marine strategic partner of China and Russia are to extend their ocean space for development, enhance their development ability, boost their international status and expand influence in marine affairs, better safeguard their interests and marine safety as well as jointly maintain security and stability of oceans, promote the effective governance of the international marine affairs. It will also build a sound foundation for the maritime relations between the two countries, respect for each other’s maritime interests and security, providing a constructive channel and mechanism for the two countries to solve possible problems and contradictions in marine affairs.

The content of marine strategic partnership includes resources development, environmental protection, joint research and investigation, scientific and technological innovation, energy cooperation, infrastructural construction, new channel construction, combat against piracy and terrorism, ensuring the safety of international maritime traffic, marine military strategic and security cooperation, maintaining an international maritime regime that is compatible with a just and fair international order, and so on. However, the marine strategic partnership of China and Russia is open for cooperation in any area, along with the development of the bilateral cooperation, its range of cooperation will grow larger and wider. In order to promote the maritime strategic partnership, China and Russia could set up special agenda and mechanisms.

At present, the main cooperation tracks of China-Russia maritime strategic partners are cooperation in the Arctic and the building of the Silk Road on the ice, the maintenance and construction of international maritime regime, maritime strategic security and military cooperation, and promoting cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.

The Arctic is the region where maritime economic cooperation between China and Russia is most concentrated and where there is the greatest potential and possibility for economic cooperation between them. It is also the region where China and Russia are engaging in building the Silk Road on ice. It almost covers the whole range of the current marine economic cooperation between China and Russia, including climate change, energy development, environmental protection, science and technology innovation, the infrastructure investment and construction, etc… With the global warming, time available for navigation in the Arctic will be extended, this will increase the China-Russia cooperation in business use of the Northern channel. It may even change the basic structure of international shipping routes, from which both China and Russia are expected to benefit.

Russia is an Arctic country, while China is a near-Arctic country. Russia has some concerns about China’s deep involvement in the Arctic. However, China does not pose a threat to Russia’s interests on the two issues it most fears: military security and territorial disputes. So, China’s deeper entry into the Arctic does not actually conflict with Russia’s fundamental interests.

The maritime regime is an important part of the international order, and its status is becoming more and more important. Just as the current international order is chaotic, the current international maritime regime is in disarray. Maintaining and building the international maritime regime is indispensable to building of the international order in the future. In this regard, China and Russia share similar basic political principles which are derived from their consistent or close political positions on the building of the international order. The fundamental point is that both countries respect state sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as settle maritime disputes by peaceful means, on the basis of the UN Charter and international law.

Strategic security and military cooperation occupy a special important position in the China-Russia maritime strategic partnership, which has clearly been demonstrated in the past through military cooperation between the two countries. Both China and Russia are facing serious security threats from sea, some of which are from the same source. Judging from the current trend, the threat will be long-term and increasingly acute. Maritime military cooperation between China and Russia can enhance their respective military defense capabilities and more effectively safeguard their security. A strategic maritime partnership between China and Russia does not guarantee that the two countries will be “comrades-in-arms” in the event of a military conflict, but at least it will help the two countries remain “friends” and provide political understanding and, perhaps, support.

The Indian Ocean region is an important direction of China-Russia maritime strategic partnership not only because of the importance of the Indian Ocean region itself, but also because of the situation after the implementation of the Indo-Pacific strategy by the U.S. The Indo-Pacific strategy unites four important countries in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, namely the United States, Japan, India, and Australia. Based on the Quad mechanism, the four countries try to build a comprehensive cooperation framework across the two oceans, including politics, security, economy, science and technology, environment, public health, infrastructure construction, connectivity, etc. The emergence of such a framework can have a deconstructive impact on the existing multilateral mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific. It also enables the United States, Japan, India and Australia to have a dominant mechanism in the affairs of the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

There is no doubt that the main target of the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy is China, and the United States does not conceal this. Geographically, the Indo-Pacific strategy also presents a semi-encirclement to China from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. Under such circumstances, it is an important question whether China and Russia can cooperate and jointly deal with the situation. Due to the exclusive nature of the Indo-Pacific strategy, both China and Russia officially oppose it. However, since the Indo-Pacific strategy is aimed at China first and foremost, the feelings and reactions of China and Russia could be different.

Russia has an instinctive sense of alienation towards the Indo-Pacific strategy and is generally suspicious and opposed to it. This is because Russia has realized that the Indo-Pacific strategy is also a strategic challenge for Russia, it has a negative strategic impact on Russia’s position in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and Eurasia, as it could marginalize Russia in affairs in these regions.

Nevertheless, Russian public opinion has not reacted strongly to the Indo-Pacific strategy, which is understandable, because Russia is not its focus. The Indo-Pacific strategy is mainly a dispute between China and the United States. Although Russia is not a bystander, it is not at the forefront of the conflict. From this perspective, some Russian academics regard the Belt and Road Initiative as the counterpart of the Indo-Pacific strategy, while others take the community of shared human destiny as its counterpart. Its meaning is self-evident, that is, the contradiction between China and the United States is the main line of the Indo-Pacific strategy, and Russia takes a back place. Objectively speaking, this kind of thinking of Russian academia is natural.

However, this does not prevent China and Russia from dealing with the Indo-Pacific strategy in a coordinated way. From the grand strategy perspective, the cooperation between China and Russia in the Indian Ocean is helpful to ease the overall strategic pressure on Russia, so it is also in line with Russia’s grand strategy interests. Moreover, even if Russia completely avoids the edge of the Indo-Pacific strategy, it will not reduce the pressure of the United States on Russia, but will only make the strategic position of the United States more active, and the position of Russia more passive. Therefore, it is a reasonable strategic choice for China and Russia to jointly cope with the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States.

The response of China and Russia is not a tit-for-tat confrontation with the Indo-Pacific strategy but an enhanced cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. In other words, the basic way for China and Russia to jointly respond is not to confront the Indo-Pacific strategy but to increase their own development in the Indian Ocean region in a coordinated way. While there are justified reasons for China and Russia to oppose the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, since it itself puts both China and Russia on the opposite side, but there is no need for China and Russia not to accept the Indo-Pacific concept. It should be noted that with the development of globalization, the increasing convenience of transportation and communication, and the expanding scope of regional cooperation, it is natural for the Indian and Pacific regions to be closer and closer economically, politically and in terms of security. It is likely that the Indo-Pacific concept will be used more and more often in the future. China and Russia should not resist the Indo-Pacific concept just because it is used by the U.S. They should not let it become the “patent” of the U.S. and give up the development under the Indo-Pacific concept. China and Russia can also have their own Indo-Pacific vision and should also cooperate under this concept, and there are even more reasons for them to do so in terms of geography and economy as well as politics and security.

The cooperation between China and Russia in the Indian Ocean region has its certain favorable conditions. Both China and Russia have cooperative relations with local countries and maintain presence in the region in different degrees and varied forms. India and Pakistan are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. China and Russia have jointly formed several trilateral dialogue mechanisms with local countries, such as “China-Russia-India” and “China-Russia-Iran”. Both China and Russia have high-level cooperation platform with ASEAN, close relations with Pakistan, and both have transport corridor projects to the Indian Ocean. Although Russia’s presence in the Indian Ocean region is not as extensive and comprehensive as that of China’s, it holds close military relations with the local countries, including India, Pakistan, Iran, also some southeast Asian countries and African countries. It should also be noted that China and Russia each have the most important framework to connect with the Indian Ocean region, that is, China’s OBOR and Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership. With all these formats, China and Russia can develop extensive cooperation in the Indian Ocean region and form closer ties with the countries in the region, which is the best way for the two countries to jointly response to the Indo-Pacific strategy.

From our partner RIAC

Professor, Institute of International Studies, Fudan University, Shanghai, Expert of the China Forum

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HTS enters Turkey’s plot against the Kurds

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Ever since Turkey entered the 2017 Astana agreement with Russia and Iran Ankara has been relentless in its efforts to sell the international community the idea of absolute necessity of Turkish military presence in North-East Syria to support the moderate opposition and deter the Assad government.

The Astana meetings that followed the initial agreement indeed resulted in making Turkey responsible for the state of the Syrian opposition in Idlib and Aleppo provinces but – and there is always a but when it comes to the decade-long Syrian conflict – Ankara’s mission was never defined as ‘support’ of the opposition. Instead, Turkey volunteered to perform an arduous task of separating moderate Syrian armed groups from those who were considered radical and posed a potential security threat on both regional and global levels. This process, dubbed ‘delimitation of the Syrian opposition,’ is hardly any closer to completion now than before raising the question of the extent of Ankara’s ability – and intention – to fulfill its pledge.

Shared goals

Turkey’s insistence on supporting the moderate opposition conveniently combines with the recent attempts of Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) which is de-facto dominant power in the Idlib de-escalation zone, to recast the image of the group. Although HTS is considered a terrorist organization by the UN and a number of global powers al-Joulani made a number of high-profile media appearances to promote the group’s vision of the future of Syria and confirm that its ambitions are confined to national scale only.

Talking to the Turkish version of The Independent al-Joulani spoke against any foreign military presence in Syria, making no special mention of the Turkish army. Meanwhile in Idlib, a position of the Turkish military located next to those of HTS is a common, even natural occurrence. This co-existence of regular armed forces and radical terrorists is not affected neither by hard evidence of HTS involvement in committing war crimes, nor even by the fact that HTS is listed as a terror group by Turkey’s authorities.

Shared enemies

In his interview to The Independent al-Joulani has also touched upon the position of the Syrian Kurds, another key axis of Turkey’s policy in Syria. Commenting on the current developments in Afghanistan the HTS leader suggested that the aftermath of the US surprise withdrawal from Kabul will also have an impact on the Kurds or, as he put it ‘the US-backed enemies of the Syrian revolution.’ He also accused the Kurds of conducting attacks in living quarters in the areas of the “Olive Branch” and “Euphrates Shield” operations carried out by the Turkish military in Northern Syria.

HTS has never been in direct confrontation with the Kurds. However, al-Joulani’s words highlighted his open hostility towards the Kurdish administration, that, as the HTS leader purports, is only able to control a huge swath of Syria and maintain relative stability thanks to the US support. This Kurdish dream will crumble as soon as the last US plane takes off from the Syrian soil, according to al-Joulani.

Does this opinion reflects Turkey’s intention to put an end to the ‘Kurdish threat’ should the US withdraw from Syria? The events in the Afghanistan provide enough evidence to conclude that it’s entirely possible. Indeed, such concerns have been expressed in a number of articles authored by both local and international analysts.

The bottom line

Turkey’s regional policies and HTS leader’s statements confirm that Ankara seeks to transform HTS into a bully of sorts. The group’s primary task would be to exercise pressure on other armed units to facilitate the delimitation process orchestrated by the Turkish authorities. As the US grip over the region gradually loosens and HTS control over Syria’s north-west tightens thanks to its efforts to achieve international recognition with the tacit support of Turkey, the Kurds are facing an uncertain future. Moreover, close coordination between Turkey and HTS harbors negative consequences not only for the Kurds but rather for all of Syria.

To prevent this, the international community must intervene and deny HTS the opportunity to position itself as a part of the moderate opposition and gain the right to establish legitimate administrative bodies. Otherwise Syria will face law-twisting terrorists running their own statelet with all the support that Turkey is able to provide as a prominent regional power.

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To include or not include? China-led SCO weighs Iranian membership

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The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan may help Iran reduce its international isolation. At least, that’s what the Islamic Republic hopes when leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) gather in Tajikistan next weekend.

Members are admitted to the eight-member China-led SCO that also groups Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, by unanimous consensus. Iran, unlike its rivals in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has long had observer status with the SCO.

The Gulf states have so far kept their distance to the China-dominated regional alliance created to counter the ‘evils’  of ‘terrorism, separatism, and extremism” so as not to irritate their main security ally, the United States.

Acceptance of the Iranian application would constitute a diplomatic coup for Tehran and Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi. Mr. Raisi, a proponent of closer relations with China and Russia, is expected to make his first appearance on the international stage at the SCO summit in Dushanbe since having assumed office last month.

Iranian officials hope, perhaps over-optimistically, that SCO membership would help them counter the impact of harsh US sanctions. Ali Akbar Velayati, an international affairs advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has advised the Raisi government to look East towards China, Russia and India asserting that they could “help our economy to make progress.”

Similarly, it is not clear that membership would substantially reduce Iran’s international isolation or significantly improve its existing relations with other SCO members. What membership would do is effectively give Iran a veto should Saudi Arabia and the UAE choose to seek more formal relations with the SCO in response to a reduced US commitment to their security. The SCO is expected to grant Saudi Arabia and Egypt the status of dialogue partner at its Dushanbe summit.

Gulf confidence in the reliability of the United States as a security guarantor has been rattled by the chaotic US departure from Afghanistan as well as the recent removal of the most advanced US missile defence weapon, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia  as Yemeni Houthi rebels were successfully hitting targets in the kingdom.

China and Russia have in the past been reluctant to entertain full Iranian membership because they did not want to upset their delicately balanced relations with both Iran and its detractors. Policymakers, in the wake of Afghanistan, may figure that the two-year application process will give them time to prevent upsetting the apple cart.

To be sure, Tajikistan, in anticipation of a Taliban victory, first publicly promoted Iranian SCO membership in late May.

Zohidi Nizomiddin, Tajikistan’s ambassador to Iran, told a news conference in Tehran “that Iran to become a major member is among plans of the Shanghai Organization and if other countries are ready to accept Iran, Tajikistan will also be ready.” Tajikistan opposed Iranian membership in the past, accusing Iran of supporting Islamist rebels in the country.

Mr. Nizomiddin’s comments have since been supported by reports in Russian media. “There is a general disposition for this, there is no doubt about it,” said Bakhtiyor Khakimov, Russia’s ambassador at large for SCO affairs.

Russian analyst Adlan Margoev noted that “the SCO is a platform for discussing regional problems. Iran is also a state in the region, for which it is important to discuss these problems and seek solutions together.”

The Tajik and Russian backing of Iranian membership raises tantalizing questions about potential differences within the SCO towards dealing with the Taliban. Iran and Tajikistan, in contrast to Russia and China that have praised the Taliban’s conduct since the fall of Kabul, have adopted a harder, more critical attitude.

Nonetheless, Russia has in recent weeks held joint military drills with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan near the Tajik-Afghan border. Russia further promised to bolster Tajikistan by supplying weapons and providing training.

Tajikistan is believed to support Tajik rebels in the Panjshir Valley in northern Afghanistan that last week lost a potentially initial first round of fighting against the Taliban. It remains unclear whether the rebels will be able to regroup. Tajiks account for approximately one-quarter of the Afghan population. As the

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon recently awarded posthumously Tajikistan’s third-highest award to two ethnic Afghan Tajiks, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary father of current Tajik rebel leader Ahmad Massoud, and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, for their contribution to ending a devastating civil war in the 1990s in the Central Asian country.

Tajikistan and Iran agreed in April to create a joint military defence committee that would enhance security cooperation and counter-terrorism collaboration.

Iran recently changed its tone regarding Afghanistan after the Taliban failed to include a Hazara Shiite in their newly appointed caretaker government. Hazaras, who account for 20 per cent of the Afghan population, have reason to fear Taliban repression despite the group’s protection last month of Shiite celebrations of Ashura, the commemoration of the Prophet Moses’ parting of the sea.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, took the Taliban to task for  “ignoring the need for inclusive government, foreign intervention and the use of military means instead of dialogue to meet the demands of ethnic groups and social groups that are the main concerns of the friends of the Afghan people.” Mr. Shamkhani was referring to alleged Pakistani support for the Taliban in the battle for Panjshir.

Supporters of Iranian membership may figure that affairs in Afghanistan will have been sorted out by the time the application procedure has run its course with Afghanistan well on its way towards reconstruction. That may prove to be correct. By the same token, however, so could the opposite with an Afghanistan that is wracked by internal conflict and incapable of controlling militants operating from its soil.

The SCO may in either case want Iran to be in its tent to ensure that all of Afghanistan’s neighbours, as well as regional powers Russia and India, are seated at one table. Mr Margoev, the analyst, argued that “just like other countries in the region – (we should) sit at the same table with Iran and not call it a guest from outside.”

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Can Israeli Nuclear Threats Protect Against Non-Nuclear Attacks?

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Abstract: It is widely assumed that a state’s nuclear weapons and strategy are irrelevant to non-nuclear threats. A contrary argument is advanced by Louis René Beres with particular reference to the State of Israel. Urging greater “seamlessness”[1] in Israeli nuclear deterrence, special attention is directed by Professor Beres toward a prospective policy shift from “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” to “nuclear disclosure.”[2] Any such shift, whether sudden or incremental, would still depend upon enemy rationality.[3] A related problem would concern various associated risks of unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war. All things considered, the best time for Israel to upgrade its formal decision theory processes regarding nuclear deterrence and non-nuclear threats is the present. Unavoidably, on these critical processes, even the most nuanced and refined outcomes would represent some form of “glorified belief.”[4]

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“Formal decision-theory does not depend on data…. The task of theory is confined to the construction of a deductive apparatus, to be used in deriving logically necessary conclusions from given assumptions.”

Anatol Rapoport, Strategy and Conscience (1964)

 Nature of the Problem

Though counter-intuitive and still unverifiable, Israel’s nuclear weapons and strategy remain at least potentially relevant to non-nuclear threats. Determining precise levels of relevance, however, would be inescapably difficult and depend upon such “fuzzy” factors as enemy rationality[5] and the plausibility/destructiveness of non-nuclear harms. This anticipated dependence would apply both to first strike attacks and to retaliatory or counter-retaliatory strikes.

There are several associated details. To begin, it would be unreasonable to argue that Israel’s nuclear deterrence posture should always parallel (or roughly parallel) prospective enemy destructiveness, and/or that non-nuclear enemy threats – whether issued from individual states, alliances of states, terror-group adversaries or state-terror group “hybrids”[6] – should be symmetrically countered.

               At first look, a “symmetry hypothesis” could appear to make perfect sense. Nonetheless, strategic truth is inherently complex and can prove stubbornly recalcitrant. Also, because virtually all Israel-related nuclear scenarios are sui generis (without any determinable precedent), nothing of authentic scientific value could be extrapolated. Concerning Israeli nuclear decision-makers’ usable “probabilities,” all that they would really be asked to accept would be variously convincing iterations of  “glorified belief.”[7]

               These are all very “dense” analytic matters. In addition to applicable history and law, Israel’s core strategists will need to be informed by appropriate philosophies of science. In this very significant connection, any meaningful assessments of hypotheses concerning “asymmetrical deterrence” and Israeli national security should be founded upon formal deductive examinations. This fixed imperative indicates, among other things, that intelligence assessments devoid of tangible empirical content can still be suitably predictive. In essence, these assessments should be supportable by stringent logical standards of internal consistency, thematic interconnectedness and dialectical reasoning.[8]

Enemy Threats of Biological War, Biological Terrorism and/or Large Conventional Attack

               Now, how best to proceed? A good place for working strategists would be within the “grey area” of enemy non-nuclear threats that is nonetheless unconventional. Most obvious here would be ascertainably credible enemy threats of biological warfare and/or biological terrorism. While non-nuclear by definition, biological warfare attacks could still produce grievously injurious or near-existential event outcomes for Israel.[9]

               In principle, Israeli policies of calibrated nuclear reprisal for biological warfare (BW) attacks could exhibit compelling deterrent effectiveness against very limited types of adversary. Such policies would be inapplicable, prima facie, against any threats issuing from terror groups that function alone, without recognizable state alignments. In such residual cases, Israel – lacking operational targets more suitable for nuclear targeting – would need to “fall back” upon more usual arsenals of counter-terrorist methods. Such a tactical retrogression would be required even if the particular terror group involved (e.g., Sunni ISIS-K; Shiite Hezbollah; Shiite Houthi) had revealed plausible nuclear threat capabilities.

There is more. Because such terrorists could identify personal death as an expression of religious martyrdom, Israeli planners would have to draw upon continuously challenging psychological factors.[10]

               What about enemy conventional threats that would involve neither nuclear nor biological hazards, but were still prospectively massive enough to produce existential or near-existential harms to Israel? On its face, in such all-too-credible cases, a prospective conventional aggressor could still reasonably calculate that Jerusalem would make good on some of its decipherable nuclear threats. Here, however, Israel’s nuclear deterrent threat credibility could prove dependent upon certain antecedent doctrinal shifts from “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” (the so-called “bomb in the basement”) to “nuclear disclosure.”[11]

               Why? Any correct answer must hinge on Israel’s presumed operational flexibility. In the absence of any prior shift away from “deliberate nuclear ambiguity,” a would-be aggressor state might not understand or accept that the State of Israel had available a sufficiently broad array of graduated nuclear retaliatory responses. In the presumed absence of such an array, Israeli nuclear deterrence could be more-or-less severely diminished.

               Additional nuances arise. As a direct consequence of any presumptively diminished nuclear ambiguity, Jerusalem could signal its then relevant adversary or adversaries that Israel would wittingly cross the nuclear retaliatory threshold to punish all acts of existential or near-existential aggressions. Using more expressly military parlance, Israel’s recommended shift to certain apt forms of nuclear disclosure would be intended to ensure the country’s indispensable success in “escalation dominance.”[12]

               Inter alia, the nuclear deterrence advantages for Israel of moving from traditional nuclear ambiguity to selective nuclear disclosure would lie in the signal it could “telegraph” to non-nuclear foes. This signal would warn such adversaries (e.g., Iran) that Jerusalem was not limited to launching retaliations that employ massive and/or disproportionate levels of nuclear force. A still-timely Israeli move from nuclear ambiguity to nuclear disclosure – as long as such a doctrinal move were suitably nuanced and incremental – could improve Israel’s prospects for deterring large-scale conventional attacks with consciously “tailored” nuclear threats.[13]

               After America’s defeat in Afghanistan, a not-yet-nuclear Iran could sometimes expect a less determined Israel.[14]

               There is more. Stipulated Israeli nuclear deterrence benefits against non-nuclear threats could extend to certain threats of nuclear counter-retaliation. If, for example, Israel should sometime consider initiating a non-nuclear defensive first-strike against a pre-nuclear Iran, a preemptive act that could conceivably represent “anticipatory self-defense”[15] under Westphalian international law,[16] the likelihood of suffering any massive Iranian conventional retaliation might be correspondingly diminished. In essence, by following a properly charted path from deliberate nuclear ambiguity to nuclear disclosure, Jerusalem could expectedly upgrade its overall deterrence posture vis-à-vis both nuclear and non-nuclear threats.

Escalation Dominance and Inadvertent Nuclear War

               In protecting itself from any deliberate nuclear attack, Israeli strategists must accept certain core assumptions of enemy rationality. But even if these assumptions were well-founded, there will still remain variously attendant dangers of unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war. These fully existential dangers could be produced by enemy hacking operations, computer malfunction (an accidental nuclear war) or by decision-making miscalculation (whether by the enemy, by Israel itself, or by both/all parties.) In the portentous third scenario, damaging synergies could arise that would prove extremely difficult or impossible to halt or reverse.

               To a largely unforeseeable extent, the geo-strategic search for “escalation dominance” by all sides to a potentially nuclear conflict would enlarge the decipherable risks of an inadvertent nuclear war. These risks include prospects of a nuclear war by accident and/or decisional miscalculation. The “solution” here could not be to simply wish-away the common search for “escalation dominance” (ipso facto, any such wish would be contrary to the “logic” of balance-of-power world politics),[17] but instead to manage all prospectively nuclear crises at their lowest possible levels of destructiveness. Plainly, wherever feasible, it would be best to avoid such crises altogether, and to maintain in place reliable “circuit breakers” against strategic hacking and technical malfunction.

               The above discussion has been highly abstract. To a conspicuous extent, however, such abstractness is indispensable. This is because generality is an inherent trait of all serious meaning in military theorizing and strategizing.

There is more. There does exist a co-equal need for relevant facts and usable empirical content. Today, this should bring to mind recently-changed ties between Israel and certain Sunni Arab states, and more-or-less corresponding threats (both explicit and implicit) from Shiite Iran. How, therefore, Israeli nuclear strategists should competently inquire, will Trump-era “Abraham Accords”[18] and America’s recent defeat in Afghanistan affect such major threats? Have these Accords actually given Israel reason for greater security confidence, or did they really enhance “peace” where there were never any actual adversaries? Have former President Trump’s contrived Accords (they were designed for domestic political interests only) effectively hardened the Middle East Sunni-Shia dualism and made Iran a still-greater threat to Israel?

At present, Israel has no regional nuclear adversaries, but the steady approach of a nuclear Iran could encourage rapid nuclearization among such Sunni Arab states as Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Also, following the turnover of Afghanistan to Taliban and (possibly) other Islamist forces, non-Arab Pakistan will likely become a more direct adversary of both the United States and Israel.[19] The Pakistani jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the large-scale Mumbai, India attack in 2008.

There is more. Pakistan is an already nuclear Islamic state with substantial ties to China. And Pakistan, like Israel, is not a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or NPT.[20]

“Everything is very simple in war,” says Carl von Clausewitz in On War, “but the simplest thing is very difficult.”

               On September 1, 2021, Israel officially moved into the U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.  Taking over from European Command (EUCOM), Jerusalem likely sees its new role as defending U.S. and Israeli interests simultaneously, primarily by countering Iran within CENTCOM’s designated sphere of authority. This countervailing power would be directed at Iran-backed anti-Israel insurgents (especially Hezbollah and Houthi) and at a quickly expanding Iranian nuclearization.

 In regard to the second objective, Israel should consider where there could ever be an auspicious place for issuing nuclear threats against its still non-nuclear Shiite adversary in Tehran. In part, at least, the “answers” here would depend upon Jerusalem’s prior transformations of “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” (the “bomb in the basement”) into variously recognizable postures of “deliberate nuclear disclosure.” Though all such considerations would necessarily concern matters that are sui generis or without historical precedent, Israel has no logical alternative to launching appropriately deductive investigations.

Palestine, Preemption and Nuclear Threats to Israel

                Salient issues of Israeli nuclear deterrence against non-nuclear threats could be impacted by Palestinian statehood.[21] To wit, while never ever mentioned “in the same breath,” the creation of Palestine could meaningfully affect Israel’s inclination to preempt against Iran. Because of Israel’s manifestly small size, its inclination to strike first at enemy hard targets could sometime become palpably high.  Deprived of its already minimal “strategic depth,” Israel might not be able to hold out for as long as was possible when Palestine was merely a pre-state “authority.” 

               It is plausible that once Palestine came into de jure formal existence as a state,[22] any shift in Israel’s nuclear strategy from deliberate ambiguity to nuclear disclosure could reduce Israel’s Jerusalem’s incentive to preempt against Iran. But this expectation could make strategic sense only if Israel were first made to believe that its nuclear deterrent threat, in determinable consequence of this shift, was now being taken with abundant seriousness by Iran. On its face, any such unique determination would be problematic at best.

               Several corollary problems would also need to be considered.  First, how would Israel’s leadership ever actually know that taking its bomb out of the “basement” had improved its nuclear deterrence posture?  To a certain unpredictable extent, the credibility of Jerusalem’s nuclear threats would be contingent upon the variable severity of different provocations.  It might prove believable if Israel were to threaten nuclear reprisals for provocations that endanger the very survival of the state, but it would almost certainly be unbelievable to threaten such reprisals for relatively minor territorial infringements or for absolutely any level of terrorist incursions. Whatever analysts might conclude on such questions, because there exists no discoverable frequency of pertinent past events, any judgments of probability by IDF/MOD planners would represent only “glorified belief.”

               There are other problems.  To function successfully, Israel’s nuclear deterrent, even after any conspicuous removal from the “basement,” would have to appear secure from enemy preemptive strikes. Israel would need to be especially wary of “decapitation,” of losing the “head” of its military command and control system by result of enemy first strikes.  Should Israel’s existential enemies (presently all still non-nuclear) remain unpersuaded by Jerusalem’s move away from deliberate ambiguity, they might sometime initiate such strikes as could effectively immobilize Israel’s order of battle.

               By definition, any such scenario would be unacceptable to Israel.

               But there are various contrary arguments. One such argument, about the effects of Palestine on Israel’s inclinations to preempt, suggests that because of Israel’s expanded vulnerability, its nuclear deterrent could actually become more credible.  As a result, goes this contrary argument, Jerusalem could better afford not to strike first than when it still controlled/administered disputed Palestinian territories.  In this particular situation, the principal benefit to Israel of shifting from nuclear ambiguity to nuclear disclosure would seem to lie in an explicitly-identified “escalation ladder,” a metaphoric process revealing a systematically broad array of considered Israeli reprisals. Optimally, these reprisals would range from certain limited conventional responses to measured nuclear strikes.

A Presumed Inevitability of War and Enemy Vulnerabilities

               In weighing different arguments concerning the effect of Palestine upon Israeli nuclear deterrence, specific attention should be directed toward Israel’s own recognizable presumptions about the inevitability of war and its long-term expectations for Arab and Iranian strategic vulnerability.  Should Israel’s leaders conclude that the creation of Palestine would make another major war more-or-less inevitable, and that, over time, enemy vulnerability to Israeli strikes would actually diminish, Jerusalem’s inclination to strike first against Iran could be increased.  To a certain extent, Israel’s tactical/operational judgments on preemption would be affected by various antecedent decisions on nuclear strategy.

               Namely, these critical decisions would concern “counter value” vs. “counterforce” objectives. 

               Should Israel opt for nuclear deterrence based on an “assured destruction” (“counter value”) strategy, Jerusalem would likely choose a relatively small number of weapons that might be relatively inaccurate.  A “counterforce” strategy, on the other hand, would require a larger number of more accurate weapons, ordnance that could destroy even the most hardened enemy targets.  To a certain extent, “going for counterforce” could make all Israeli nuclear threats more credible.  This conclusion would be based largely on the assumption that because the effects of war-fighting nuclear weapons would be more precise and controlled, they would also be more amenable to actual use.

               War-fighting postures of Israeli nuclear deterrence would be more apt to encourage an Israeli preemption.  And if counterforce targeted nuclear weapons were ever fired, especially in a proliferated regional setting, the resultant escalation could produce extensive counter value nuclear exchanges.  Even if such escalations were averted, the “collateral” effects of counterforce detonations could still prove devastating.

               In making its nuclear choices, Israel will have to confront a paradox.  Credible nuclear deterrence, essential to Israeli security and survival in a world made more dangerous by the creation of Palestine,[23]  would require “usable” nuclear weapons.  If, after all, these weapons were patently inappropriate for any reasonable objective, they would not deter.  At the same time, the more usable such nuclear weapons become in order to enhance nuclear deterrence, the more likely it is, at one time or another, they will actually be fired.  While this paradox would seem to suggest the rationality of Israel deploying only the least-harmful forms of usable nuclear weapons, the fact that there could be no coordinated agreements with enemy states on deployable nuclear weapons points to a starkly different conclusion.

                Unless Israel were to calculate that the more harmful weapons would produce greater hazards for its own population as well as for target populations, there could exist no tactical benefit to opting for the least injurious nuclear weapons. For the moment, at least, it appears that Israel has rejected any nuclear warfighting strategies of deterrence in favor of a still-implicit counter-value engagement posture. But this could change in response to the pace and direction of ongoing Iranian nuclearization. Significant, too, is that non-Arab Islamic Pakistan has adopted a nuclear warfighting strategy of deterrence vis-à-vis India, and has underscored this adoption by its deployment of certain low-yield nuclear missile forces.

The Bottom Line

               All things considered, Israel, if confronted by a new state of Palestine, would then be especially well-advised to do everything possible to prevent the appearance of any Arab and/or Iranian nuclear powers, including calculably pertinent (cost-effective) non-nuclear preemptions.  Under all conditions, Israel would require a believable (and hence usable) nuclear deterrent, one that could be employed against certain non-nuclear threats without igniting “Armageddon” for the regional belligerents. In the worst case scenario, these Israeli nuclear weapons could also serve certain damage-limiting military purposes against Iranian weapons (both nuclear and non-nuclear) should nuclear deterrence fail.[24]

               In sum, the creation of a fully sovereign Palestine could have dramatic effects on Israel’s decisions concerning anticipatory self-defense.  Israel’s own presumptive nuclear weapons status and strategy would strongly influence this decision.  More precisely, should Jerusalem determine that Israel’s nuclear weapons could support preemption by deterring hostile target states from retaliating, this status might encourage Israeli defensive first strikes.  If, on the other hand, Jerusalem were to calculate that these target states would be unimpressed by threats of any Israeli nuclear counter-retaliation, this status would likely not encourage any such Israeli attacks.

               A key question surfaces. Could the precise form of Israel’s nuclear strategy make a difference in these unique circumstances?  Relying upon nuclear weapons not to deter enemy first strikes, but to support its own preemptive attacks, Israel would then have to choose between continued nuclear ambiguity (implicit threats) and nuclear disclosure (explicit threats). That choice should now be perfectly clear.[25] Israel’s only rational posture, going forward, is to selectively remove “The Bomb” from its “basement.”

The Question of Israel’s National “Will”

               In view of what is now generally believed throughout the Middle East, and, indeed, all over the world, there is every good reason to assume that Israel’s nuclear arsenal does exist and that Israel’s assorted enemies share this assumption.  The most critical question about Israel’s nuclear deterrent, however, is not about capability, but will.[26]  How likely is it that Israel, after launching non-nuclear preemptive strikes against enemy hard targets, would respond to enemy reprisals with a nuclear counter-retaliation?

               To answer this core question, Israel’s decision-makers will first have to put themselves into the shoes of various enemy leaders.  Will these leaders calculate that they can afford to retaliate against Israel, i.e., that such retaliation would not produce a nuclear counter-retaliation?  In asking this question, they will assume, of course, a non-nuclear retaliation against Israel.  A nuclear retaliation, should it become technically possible for Iran, would invite a nuclear counter-retaliatory blow.

                Depending upon the way in which the enemy decision-makers interpret Israel’s authoritative perceptions, they will accept or reject the cost-effectiveness of a non-nuclear retaliation against Israel.  This means that it is likely in Israel’s best interests to communicate the following strategic assumption to all its existential enemies: Israel could be acting rationally by responding to enemy non-nuclear reprisals to Israeli preemptive attacks with a nuclear counter-retaliation.  Naturally, the plausibility of this assumption would be enhanced considerably if enemy reprisals were to involve chemical and/or biological weapons.

               All such “glorified belief” calculations assume enemy rationality.  In the absence of calculations that compare the costs and benefits of all strategic alternatives, what will happen in the Middle East could remain a matter of endlessly visceral conjecture.  The prospect of non-rational judgments in the region is always plausible, especially as the influence of Islamist/Jihadist ideology remains determinative among Iranian decisional elites. Still, various dangers of a nuclear war will obtain even among fully rational adversaries, both deliberate nuclear war and inadvertent unclear war.

               To the extent that Israel might one day believe itself confronted with non-rational enemies, particularly ones with highly destructive weapons in their arsenals, its incentive to preempt could suddenly become overwhelming.  Should such enemies be believed to hold nuclear weapons,[27] Israel might then decide, quite rationally, to launch a nuclear preemption against these enemy weapons.  This would appear to be the only calculable circumstance in which a rational Israeli preemptive strike could ever be nuclear. And though it remains impossible to offer any science-based probability predictions about unique events, ordinary dialectical reasoning would still seem to support such “glorified belief.”

There is more. Israel’s nuclear deterrent must always remain oriented toward dominating escalation at multiple and intersecting levels of conventional and unconventional enemy threats. For this to work, however, Israeli strategic planners must continuously bear in mind that all future operational success will depend upon prior formulations of suitable national doctrine or strategic theory.[28] In the end, the truest forms of Israeli power, whether expressed as anticipatory self-defense or as some other form of deterrence-maximizing effort, will have to reflect “a triumph of mind over mind” rather than any mere triumph of “mind over matter.”

Summing Up

               The most persuasive forms of military power on planet earth are not guns, battleships or missiles. Rather, they are conveniently believable promises of “life everlasting” or personal immortality.[29] When one finally uncovers what is most utterly important to the vast majority of human beings, this factor is a presumptive power over death.[30] Accordingly, and regrettably, individuals all over the world too often see the corrosive dynamics of belligerent nationalism (e.g., former US President Donald Trump’s “America First”) as a preferred path to personal immortality.[31]

               Why else, in essentially all global conflict (international and intranational) would each side seek so desperately and conspicuously to align with God? Always, the loudest nationalistic claim is manipulatively reassuring: “Fear not,” the citizens and subjects are counseled, “God is on our side.”[32] In our present analytic context, what promise could possibly prove more heartening to Israel’s enemies and more worrisome to Israel?

               Ultimately, Israel’s most compelling forms of strategic influence will derive not from high technology weaponry (an always ongoing preoccupation in Tel-Aviv), but from the immutably incomparable advantages of intellectual power. These always-overriding advantages must be explored and compared according to two very specific but overlapping criteria of assessment: law and strategy.  In certain circumstances, these complex expectations would not be helpfully congruent or “in synch” with each other, but contradictory or diametrically opposed. Here, the underlying “mind over mind” challenges to Israel would become excruciatingly difficult; nonetheless, successful decision-making outcomes could still be kept in plain sight and remain credible.

               What would be required, always, will be a suitably theoretical appreciation of decisional complexity[33] and a corresponding willingness to approach overlapping issues from the convergent standpoints of science,[34] intellect and dialectical analysis.[35] In principle, at least, cumulative policy failures could produce broadly existential outcomes. Acknowledging this, Israel’s policy planners and decision –makers, wherever possible, should strive to ensure that the beleaguered country’s nuclear deterrent can protect against large-scale non-nuclear attacks.[36] The first step in accepting such necessary assurance should be the systematic elaboration of formal decision-theory.

               This expressly deductive enterprise would not depend on any historical precedent or data, and could offer firm intellectual support to Israeli decision-makers’ most vital expressions of “glorified belief.”[37]


[1] See by Professor Beres and Ambassador Zalman Shoval, Modern War Institute (West Point):  https://mwi.usma.edu/creating-seamless-strategic-deterrent-israel-case-study/

[2] The author’s first comprehensive examination of this issue was: Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (1986). See also his more recent: Louis René Beres, 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

[3] Expressions of enemy irrationality could take different or overlapping forms. These 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).

[4]This term is embraced by theoretical mathematician Anatol Rapoport, Strategy and Conscience (1964).

[5] In world politics and law, a state or insurgent-group is determinedly rational to the extent that its leadership always values collective survival more highly than any other conceivable preference or combination of preferences. Of course, an insurgent/terrorist force will not always display such a clarifying or “helpful” preference ordering. Pertinent current examples regarding Israel are Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah.

[6] Following US defeat in Afghanistan, the Taliban led government in Kabul will likely cooperate closely with Islamist groups opposed to Israel, including Palestinian Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Congratulating the Taliban on August 17, 2021, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh observed: “The demise of the US occupation of Afghanistan is a prelude to the demise of the Israeli occupation of the land of Palestine.” See: Dan Diker, “The Taliban’s Palestinian Partners: Implications for the Middle East Peace Process,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, September 5, 2021.

[7] See: Anatol Rapoport, Strategy and Conscience (1964).

[8]. The term “dialectic” originates from the Greek expression for the art of conversation. A common contemporary meaning is method of seeking truth by correct reasoning. From the standpoint of shaping Israel’s strategy  vis-à-vis Iran, the following operations could be regarded as essential but nonexclusive components: (1)  a method of refutation conducted by examining logical consequences; (2) a method of division or repeated logical analysis of genera into species; (3) logical reasoning using premises that are probable or generally accepted; (4) formal logic; and (5) the logical development of thought through thesis and antithesis to fruitful synthesis of these opposites.

[9] We well know that a naturally occurring biological threat now confronts all states and peoples (Covid19). Though unrelated to threats of bio terror and bio war per se, there are various ways in which this “pandemic variable” could become pertinent to strategic questions here at hand. Accordingly, strategists would first need to think in terms of a dynamic and continuous feedback loop; to wit, one wherein the investigator systematically considers different ways in which the anarchic structures of world politics impact medical control of the pandemic and, reciprocally, how the pandemic could then impact “Westphalian” or “everyone for himself” (“state of nature”) global structures. In principle, there would be no final or conclusive end to this dynamic cycle. Rather, by definition, each successive impact would be more-or-less transient/temporary, thereby setting the stage for the next round of reciprocal changes, and so on.

[10] See, for example, by this author: Louis René Beres, “Martyrdom and International Law,” Jurist, September 10, 2018; and Louis René Beres, “Religious Extremism and International Legal Norms: Perfidy, Preemption and Irrationality,” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 39, No.3., 2007-2008, pp. 709-730.

[11] See by this author, Louis René Beres, at INSS (Tel Aviv):  file:///C:/Users/lberes/AppData/Local/Temp/adkan17_3ENG%20(3)_Beres.pdf

[12] Embedded in attempts to achieve this success would be variously credible threats of “assured destruction.” This term references ability to inflict “unacceptable damage” after absorbing an attacker’s first strike.  In the traditional nuclear lexicon, mutual assured destruction (MAD) would describe a stand-off condition in which an assured destruction capacity is possessed by both (or all) opposing sides.  Counterforce strategies would be those which target only an adversary’s strategic military facilities and supporting infrastructure.  Such strategies could be dangerous not only because of the “collateral damage” they might produce, but also because they could heighten the likelihood of first-strike attacks. Collateral damage would refer to harms done to human and non-human resources as a consequence of strategic strikes directed at enemy forces or military facilities.  Even such “unintended” damage could quickly involve large numbers of casualties/fatalities.

[13] In effect, Israel’s posture of deliberate nuclear ambiguity was already breached by two of the country’s prime ministers, first, by Shimon Peres, on December 22, 1995, and second, by Ehud Olmert, on December 11, 2006. Peres, speaking to a group of Israeli newspaper and magazine editors, then stated publicly:  “…give me peace, and we’ll give up the atom. That’s the whole story.” When, later, Olmert offered similarly general but also revelatory remarks, they were described widely (and benignly) as “slips of the tongue.”

[14] It’s now a very delicate regional balance of power for Israel to negotiate. For years, a Salafi/Deobandi (Sunni) Crescent has emerged to challenge the Shiite Crescent. The objective is an attempt by Al Qaeda and other Salafi/Deobandi Islamist groups to counter the Crescent created by Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The recent fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban suggests, inter alia, growing Salafi/Deobandi power vis-à-vis Israel, Iran and the United States.

 

[15] This lawful option can be found in customary international law. The most precise origins of anticipatory self-defense in such authoritative law lie in the Caroline, a case that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. Following this case, the serious threat of armed attack has generally justified certain militarily defensive actions. In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that did not require an antecedent attack. Here, the jurisprudential framework permitted a military response to a threat so long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” See: Beth M. Polebaum, “National Self-defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,” 59 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 187, 190-91 (1984) (noting that the Caroline case had transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a legal doctrine). Still earlier, see: Hugo Grotius, Of the Causes of War, and First of Self-Defense, and Defense of Our Property, reprinted in 2 Classics of International Law, 168-75 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1925) (1625); and Emmerich de Vattel, The Right of Self-Protection and the Effects of the Sovereignty and Independence of Nations, reprinted in 3 Classics of International Law, 130 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1916) (1758). Also, Samuel Pufendorf, The Two Books on the Duty of Man and Citizen According to Natural Law, 32 (Frank Gardner Moore., tr., 1927 (1682).

[16]The Peace of Westphalia (1648) concluded the Thirty Years War and created the still-existing 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 “Peace of Westphalia.” Incontestably, since this Peace put an end to the last of the major religious wars sparked by the Reformation, the “state system” has been ridden with evident strife and recurrent calamity. As a global “state of nature” characterized by interminable “war of all against all” (a bellum omnium contra omnes), the conspicuous legacy of Westphalia has proven disappointing and frightful.

.[17] The idea of a balance of power – an idea of which the nuclear-age balance of terror is merely a modern variant – has never been more than facile metaphor. Oddly, it has never had anything to do with ascertaining equilibrium. As such, balance is always more-or-less a matter of individual subjective perception. Adversarial states can never be sufficiently confident that identifiable strategic circumstances are actually “balanced” in their favor. In consequence, each side must perpetually fear that it will be left behind, a fear creating ever-wider patterns of world system insecurity and disequilibrium.

[18]See https://www.state.gov/the-abraham-accords/ Also to be considered as complementary in this connection is the Israel-Sudan Normalization Agreement (October 23, 2020) and Israel-Morocco Normalization Agreement (December 10, 2020).

[19]Seventeenth-century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, instructs that although international relations (the state of nations) is in the state of nature, it is nonetheless more tolerable than the condition of individual men in nature. This is because, with individual human beings, “the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.” Now, with the advent of nuclear weapons, there is no reason to believe that the state of nations remains more tolerable. Rather, nuclear weapons are bringing the state of nations closer to the true Hobbesian state of nature. See, also, David P. Gauthier, The Logic of Leviathan: The Moral and Political Theory of Thomas Hobbes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 207. As with Hobbes, Pufendorf argues that the state of nations is not quite as intolerable as the state of nature between individuals. The state of nations, reasons Pufendorf, “lacks those inconveniences which are attendant upon a pure state of nature….” And similarly, Spinoza suggests “that a commonwealth can guard itself against being subjugated by another, as a man in the state of nature cannot do.” See, A.G. Wernham, ed., The Political Works, Tractatus Politicus, iii, II (Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 295.

[20]See: https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/npt/

[21]For much earlier original writings by this author on the prospective impact of a Palestinian state on Israeli nuclear deterrence, see: Louis René Beres, “Security Threats and Effective Remedies: Israel’s Strategic, Tactical and Legal Options,” Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel), ACPR Policy Paper No. 102, April 2000, 110 pp; Louis René Beres, “After the `Peace Process:’ Israel, Palestine, and Regional Nuclear War,” DICKINSON JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 15, No. 2., Winter 1997, pp. 301-335; Louis René Beres, “Limits of Nuclear Deterrence: The Strategic Risks and Dangers to Israel of False Hope,” ARMED FORCES AND SOCIETY, Vol. 23., No. 4., Summer 1997, pp. 539-568; Louis René Beres, “Getting Beyond Nuclear Deterrence: Israel, Intelligence and False Hope,” INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE, Vol. 10., No. 1., Spring 1997, pp. 75-90; Louis René Beres, “On Living in a Bad Neighborhood: The Informed Argument for Israeli Nuclear Weapons,” POLITICAL CROSSROADS, Vol. 5., Nos. 1/2, 1997, pp. 143-157; Louis René Beres, “Facing the Apocalypse: Israel and the `Peace Process,’” BTZEDEK: THE JOURNAL OF RESPONSIBLE JEWISH COMMENTARY (Israel), Vol. 1., No. 3., Fall/Winter 1997, pp. 32-35; Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why Golan Demilitarization Would Not Work,” STRATEGIC REVIEW, Vol. XXIV, No. 1., Winter 1996, pp. 75-76; Louis René Beres, “Implications of a Palestinian State for Israeli Security and Nuclear War: A Jurisprudential Assessment,” DICKINSON JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 17., No. 2., 1999, pp. 229-286; Louis René Beres, “A Palestinian State and Israel’s Nuclear Strategy,” CROSSROADS: AN INTERNATIONAL SOCIO-POLITICAL JOURNAL, No. 31, 1991, pp. 97-104; Louis René Beres, “The Question of Palestine and Israel’s Nuclear Strategy,” THE POLITICAL QUARTERLY, Vol. 62, No. 4., October-December 1991, pp. 451-460; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Palestine and Regional Nuclear War,” BULLETIN OF PEACE PROPOSALS, Vol. 22., No. 2., June 1991, pp. 227-234; Louis René Beres, “A Palestinian State: Implications for Israel’s Security and the Possibility of Nuclear War,” BULLETIN OF THE JERUSALEM INSTITUTE FOR WESTERN DEFENCE  (Israel), Vol. 4., Bulletin No, 3., October 1991, pp. 3-10; Louis René Beres, ISRAELI SECURITY AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS, PSIS Occasional Papers, No. 1/1990, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland, 40 pp; and Louis René Beres, “After the Gulf War: Israel, Palestine and the Risk of Nuclear War in the Middle East,” STRATEGIC REVIEW, Vol. XIX, No. 4., Fall 1991, pp. 48-55.

[22]Contending Palestinian authorities still remain unable to meet variously codified expectations of statehood identified at the 1934 Convention on the Rights and Duties of States. This “Montevideo Convention” is the treaty governing statehood in all applicable international law. Jurisprudentially, Palestine still remains a “Non-Member Observer State.”

[23] It is important to understand that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that any Palestinian state remain “demilitarized” was not merely unrealistic’ it was also inconsistent with pertinent international law. 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.

[24] These complex and nuanced expectations bring to mind Sun-Tzu’s suggestion (in military matters) to embrace the “unorthodox.” For a recent and specific application to Israel of Sun-Tzu’s ancient wisdom, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, “Lessons for Israel from Ancient Chinese Military Thought: Facing Iranian Nuclearization with Sun-Tzu,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, posted October 24, 2013.

[25] Strategists should be reminded here of a warning speech of Pericles (432 BCE). As recorded by Thucydides: “What I fear more than the strategies of our enemies, is our own mistakes.” See: Thucydides: The Speeches of Pericles, H.G. Edinger, tr., New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1979, p. 17.

 

.[26]The modern philosophic origins of “will” are discoverable in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration, Schopenhauer drew upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Friedrich Nietzsche drew just as importantly upon Arthur Schopenhauer. Goethe was also a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’Gasset, author of the singularly prophetic twentieth-century 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 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).

[27] From a jurisprudential point of view, any use of nuclear weapons by an insurgent group would represent a serious violation of the laws of war.  These laws have been brought to bear upon non-state participants in world politics by Article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and by the two protocols to the conventions.  Protocol I makes the law concerning international conflicts applicable to conflicts fought for self-determination against alien occupation and against colonialist and racist regimes.  A product of the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts that ended on June 10, 1977, the protocol (which was justified by the decolonization provisions of the U.N. Charter and by resolutions of the General Assembly) brings irregular forces within the full scope of the law of armed conflict.  Protocol II, also addition to the Geneva Conventions, concerns protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts.  Hence, this protocol applies to all armed conflicts that are not covered by Protocol I and that take place within the territory of a state between its armed forces and dissident armed forces.

[28] “Military doctrine” is not the same as “military strategy.” Doctrine “sets the stage” for strategy. It identifies various central beliefs that must subsequently animate any actual “order of battle.” Among other things, military doctrine describes underlying general principles on how a particular war ought to be waged. The reciprocal task for military strategy is to adapt as required in order to best support previously-fashioned military doctrine.

[29] In world politics, says philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, any deeply-felt promise of immortality must be of “transcendent importance.”  Seehis Religion in the Making, 1927.

[30] “I believe,” says Oswald Spengler in his magisterial The Decline of the West (1918), “is the one great word against metaphysical fear.”

[31] In the nineteenth century, in his posthumously published lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observed: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.” Earlier, German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel opined, in his Philosophy of Right (1820), that the state represents “the march of God in the world.” The “deification” of Realpolitik, a transformation from mere principle of action to a sacred end in itself, drew its originating strength from the doctrine of sovereignty advanced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially conceived as a principle of internal order, this doctrine underwent a specific metamorphosis, whence it became the formal or justifying rationale for international anarchy –  that is, for the global “state of nature.” First established by Jean Bodin as a juristic concept in De Republica (1576), sovereignty came to be regarded as a power absolute and above the law. Understood in terms of modern international relations, this doctrine encouraged the notion that states lie above and beyond any form of legal regulation in their interactions with each other.

[32] Through the ages, and with “God on our Side,” conflicting states and religions have asserted that personal immortality can sometimes be achieved, but only at the sacrificial expense of certain despised “others,” of “heathen,” “blasphemers,” “apostates.” When he painted The Triumph of Death in ca. 1562, Peter Bruegel drew upon his direct personal experience with religious war and disease plague.  Already in the sixteenth century, he had understood that any intersection of these horrors (one man-made, the other natural) could be ill-fated, force-multiplying and even synergistic. This last term describes results wherein the “whole” outcome exceeds the calculable sum of all constituent “parts.”

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

[34]In the words of Jose Ortega y’Gasset: “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…. The latter is not possible without the former.” (Man and Crisis, 1958).

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

[36]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

[37] Throughout this essay, the term “glorified belief” is used not as a pejorative, but as a science-backed description of what is predictable in global military interactions that are sui generis.

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