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Israeli Strangelove now at Harvard calmly lays out ‘Armageddon scenario’

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To understand the news involving Israeli nuclear-armed subs off Iran, I recommend an important post by Jerome Slater on his blog about a crazy/chilling paper from a former high Israeli security adviser now at Harvard, named Chuck Freilich

Read the whole original post–which includes a link to Freilich’s paper–then ask yourself what in heaven’s name this guy is doing at Harvard? And how many other brains in Israeli command are as deluded as he is? (It suggests again how little Americans know about rightwing trends in Israeli society.) In my excerpt from Slater, note once again the utter refusal by this Israeli strangelove to reckon with the Palestinian issue as anything that Israel has to deal with. No, Israel has endless Arab enemies. Also note Slater’s view that our Israel policy is not just a strategic liability, no, it’s making us a nuke target. Excerpt, with my emphases

[T]he latest, and surely the craziest employment of the rationality-of-irrationality strategy of nuclear deterrence: Chuck Freilich’s thirty-four page study and recommendations for Israeli policy, “The Armageddon Scenario: Israel and the Threat of Nuclear Terrorism.”  Freilich’s core argument is that Israel must enhance its deterrence against nuclear terrorism by adopting a policy under which it will initiate nuclear attacks against any state or non-state group that has a “declared nuclear terrorist capability, a stated intention to acquire one, or an advanced suspected one.”

While Freilich does not refer to [Thomas Schelling’s] rationality-of-irrationality theory [act so crazy that your enemies will fear you might actually nuke them], that is clearly the logic of his argument. Does he actually mean what he seems to be saying: that Israel should not merely retaliate against a state or terrorist group that attacks it with nuclear weapons, but should completely destroy, in advance, any unfriendly state or group that declares it has the intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, or is merely suspected of having such an intention?” Yes.

To be sure, there are all sorts of crackpot theories and arguments, particularly concerning the use of nuclear weapons, but most of them are unlikely to actually influence state policies. However, Freilich’s arguments are more ominous, since he is at very heart of the Israeli government-military-academic establishment: a former Deputy National Security Adviser to the Israeli government and an Israeli delegate to the UN, now a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center and a professor of political science at Hebrew and Tel Aviv universities. The “Armageddon Scenario” was published by Bar-Ilan University’s Center for National Security Studies, a rightwing thinktank that is known to be highly influential within the Netanyahu government.

Here is Freilich’s argument. Israel (and the United States) faces a grave threat of nuclear terrorism, not only from a nuclear Iran, but perhaps “one which may be no less likely and actually far more difficult to counter [because]….those most likely to pursue nuclear terrorism may be fundamentally nihilistic and thus undeterrable… [they] may be prepared to pay any cost in lives – their own and others’ – in pursuit of their goal of destroying Israel.” Moreover, because al-Qaeda can blend in with the population and perhaps clandestinely set off a nuclear weapon in an Israeli or American city, there may be “no return address,” as he puts it, for retaliation.

The problem is real: Osama Bin Laden is known to be seeking nuclear weapons–which could be acquired by theft, loss of control over nuclear arsenals, or clandestine transfer or sales of nuclear weapons by North Korea or Pakistan– and he has openly threatened to use them against Israel and the United States. Freilich is hardly the first analyst to have noticed the problem, despite his modest claim to be “the first to examine the nature of the nuclear threat Israel faces and to propose potential responses to it.” However, the nature of his proposed responses is certainly original.

To begin, Freilich argues that the nuclear terrorism problem cannot be solved by political or diplomatic means and he has no criticism—not a word–of Israeli policies and behavior towards the Palestinians; rather, the underlying premise of his argument is that the Israeli occupation and increasingly harsh repression of the Palestinians have nothing to do with the hatred it has engendered in the Arab/Muslim world. For those who find this premise to be preposterous the only solution can be a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole, precisely what has been offered to Israel by the Arab world since 2002.

Freilich not only rejects such a course, he argues—and this is also certainly original—that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would actually increase the threats to Israel: “Peace in the Middle East, although desirable, unfortunately will not provide for true reconciliation….For the radicals who will never accept Israel, a peace agreement will further increase their determination to try and restore ‘Arab rights’ by all means possible….A Palestinian state might create a sanctuary for terrorist organizations, which could use its territory, with or without its knowledge and cooperation, to develop and deploy a nuclear bomb on Israel’s borders and near major population centers. …The more Israel is accepted in the region and establishes peaceful relations with Arab states, the more the radicals will be determined to find new ways of achieving their goals.”

To meet this problem, Freilich concludes, Israel must adopt a new and more far reaching deterrence policy: “If the source of a terrorist nuclear attack against Israel is unknown, or if it is known to originate with al-Qaeda or Iran, Israel should make it clear that its response will be unlimited and include not just major population centers, but all sites of value, including those of major symbolic importance…such as Muslim cultural and religious sites.”

But even such draconic threats might not be sufficient, Freilich fears, to dissuade terrorist attacks. Therefore, Israel must go beyond deterrence and adopt a policy of preventive war:…

There is indeed a threat of nuclear terrorism against Israel and the United States—to this country, to a substantial degree, precisely because of its near-unconditional support of Israel. The best way to defuse this threat would be a negotiated and fair settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To be sure, while it is (shall we say) far-fetched to argue that such a settlement would increase the terrorist threat, it must be conceded that it might not eliminate it altogether: the conflict has gone on for so long, and with such terrible consequences for the Palestinian people, that the bitterness and hatred it has engendered in the Islamic world might continue for some time.

For this reason alone, it may not be the case that a two-state solution is the best way for Israel to solve its deterrence problem. Recently, despairing of the possibility that a two-state solution will ever be reached, a number of observers are considering a one-state solution: that is, a single Jewish-Palestinian binational democratic state. Under the present circumstances, it is hard to see how such a fantasy could be realized: all the factors that now prevent a two-state solution–principally blind Israeli stupidity– would make a one state solution even more impossible. Yet, what might finally convince the Israelis—or at least should convince them—is the realization that the close intermixing of Jews and Arabs in a single state and in its major cities would be the best possible deterrent against any Islamic nuclear terrorist attack.

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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