Theory is a required trait of all meaningful strategic assessment. This article calls upon Israeli nuclear strategists to draw conclusions and recommendations from prior strategic theory, treating their uniquely critical subject matter as far more than ad hoc compilations of discrete threats and singular remedies. The core task must include the systematic identification of complex synergies between foreseeable security threats, and between suitably contemplated strategic policies. Israeli nuclear strategists must consider all pertinent regional security struggles as a protracted contest of “mind over mind,” rather than of “mind over matter,” that is, the more traditionally-defined comparisons of adversarial orders of battle.
INTRODUCTION: SCIENCE AND STRATEGY
“….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….”
– José Ortega y Gasset, Man and Crisis
Far too often, even for experienced military planners and strategists, the core importance of strategic theory is minimized or disregarded. Whenever this happens, no matter how savvy and sophisticated the individual planners’ résumés, investigative conclusions (tactical and operational) will turn out to be too narrow or too limited. There is, of course, always a residual chance that these results might somehow still lead the determined analyst in productive policy directions, but there is plainly no good reason for inquiry to be “backward” in the first place.
Thus, we must ask: Why would Israel intentionally choose to operate with manifestly reduced chances of achieving any meaningful success?
There is considerable irony here. Today’s Israeli military planners and strategists are impressively familiar with myriad and complex technical and technological aspects of war and defense, yet they are simultaneously lacking in certain prerequisite philosophical skills. This vital deficiency has absolutely nothing to do with any notable methodological shortcomings—on the contrary, Israel’s relevant thinkers are visibly talented in every conceivable element of data collection, data manipulation, and analytic assessment—but it does reflect a tangible lack of acquaintance with philosophy of science.
More precisely, this epistemological shortcoming has to do with a willful scholarly detachment from elementary “rules” of concept formation, hypothesis creation, the so-called “problem of induction,” and also an assortment of closely-related expectations.
Going forward, the actual consequences of this epistemological detachment, however unwitting, could range from entirely trivial to palpably catastrophic.
For example, in any purportedly scientific study of strategic military issues, inquiry must begin with an appropriate hypothesis. Thereafter, pursuant to what we have learned from Karl Popper, Carl Hempel, and others, this critical hypothesis, with its readily-identifiable linkages between independent and dependent variables, would need to undergo suitable deductive elaboration, followed (wherever possible) by empirical testing of all the logically “entailed” propositions.
The hoped-for result of this systematic intellectual effort must be a detailed network of deductively interrelated propositions; that is, an intellectual construct more generally known as theory.
In principle, for Israeli military planners—especially those with prospectively nuclear responsibilities—theory derived in this fashion could have inestimable practical value. Indeed, in all sectors of human knowledge, theory provides the investigator with an indispensable “safety net.” Only those who carefully plan to “cast,” can then expect to “catch.”
WORLD SYSTEM STRUCTURE AND ISRAEL’S STRATEGY
There is more. To optimize their difficult work, Israeli strategists will need to begin at the beginning, acknowledging that regional anarchy, which represents the unchanging structural context of all their subsequent inquiries, is never just a distressing or idiosyncratic function of the moment. Rather, as they must soon learn to recognize, it is deeply rooted in the authoritatively codified and customary foundations of modern world politics.
More than anything else, these legal and geopolitical structures – namely authoritative international law and national state preferences – now point to still-expanding conditions of chaotic regional disintegration. Yet, even in chaos, which is not the same as anarchy, there may be certain discernible regularities, a sort of fixed “geometry,” which needs to be properly identified and studied. Out of the bewildering mêlée of the situationwhich has been unraveling in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere since the so-called “Arab Spring,” Israel’s strategic thinkers can still locate a usable blueprint for their country’s national survival, but only if they first choose wisely to cast their analytic “nets.”
Of course, world and regional politics remain notably and unalterably complex. There is no good argument for examining separately the range of present and future threats to Israel’s survival (e.g., Iran’s still-advancing nuclearization; Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq; Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood; Hizballah operations in Lebanon and the Syrian Golan Heights; Syrian air defense collaborations with Russia; Hamas operations in Gaza, etc.) as if each were somehow singular and unrelated. On the contrary, there are always foreseeable interactions between individual catastrophic harms, synergies that could render the potentially existential risks of both anarchy and chaos even more pressing.
For Israel, the dangers of regional chaotic disintegration are both particular and unique. Facing not only a continuing nuclear threat from Iran, but also the more or less simultaneous appearance of an independent Palestinian state the Jewish state could at any point find itself engulfed in mass-casualty terrorism, unconventional war, or both. As to the long-promised security assistance from the United States, President Barack Obama or his successor could never offer anything more than compassionate American help in burying the dead.
An enduring and plausibly still-growing threat to Israel remains the “suicide bomber” in macrocosm. In this connection, the probability of a genuine Middle East chaos could be massively enlarged by certain altogether conceivable instances of enemy irrationality. If, for example, Israel should begin to face a Jihadist adversary that would value selected religious expectations more highly than its own physical survival, Israel’s deterrents, conventional and nuclear, could quickly be immobilized.
Such a paralysis of Israeli power could, at some point, mean a heightened threat of nuclear or biological war, or both. Depending upon the precise form of the adversary—a single state enemy, or a state-sub state “hybrid” —this development could also place Israel in the menacing cross hairs of mass-destruction terrorism.
FROM ANARCHY TO CHAOS
“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” warned the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, “and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” Now, assembled in almost two hundred armed tribal camps called nation-states, all peoples coexist uneasily and more or less insecurely on a grievously fractured planet. The jurisprudential and civilizational origins of this radically decentralized world lie in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), a foundational treaty that put a codified end to the Thirty Years War, and simultaneously inaugurated the “balance of power” state system.
Now, however, anarchy is potentially more threatening than ever before, owing largely to the unprecedented fusion of chaos with potentially apocalyptic weaponry.
In the worst-case scenario, even with the United Nations and its associated international community, there will be no safety in arms, no rescues from political authority, and no reassuring answers from science. In time, new wars could rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and until all things human are leveled in a more or less primal disorder. “The worst,” once remarked Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, “does sometimes happen.”
In history and world politics, the “worst” is a very old story. So, too, is anarchy. Chaos, however, is not. There is a meaningful difference, especially for Israel in the fragmented Middle East.
There is more. Chaos and anarchy may represent opposite end points of the same global continuum. Perversely, perhaps, “mere” anarchy, or the absence of a central world authority, is “normal.” Chaos, however, is sui generis. It is, therefore, thoroughly “abnormal.”
Since the seventeenth century, our anarchic world can best be described as a system. What happens in any one part of this world, therefore, necessarily affects what happens in some, or all, of the other parts. When a deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one nation to another, the corrosive effects can undermine regional and international stability. When this deterioration is rapid and catastrophic, as it would be following the start of any unconventional war or unconventional terrorism, the corollary effects would be correspondingly immediate and overwhelming.
These effects, in other words, would be chaotic.
Aware that even an incremental collapse of remaining world authority structures would impact its few friends as well as its many enemies, Israel’s leaders will need to heed Durrenmatt’s incontestable observation about the “worst,” and advance certain precise and plausible premonitions of collapse in order to capably chart more durable paths to survival. Significantly, such a critical awareness is likely not yet in place.
Once again, if they are not careful, Israel’s leaders could waste precious time with purely ritualistic considerations of American “peace plans.” Instead, they should consider how Israel ought to respond to international life in a global state of nature, a condition best described by the seventeenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Recall, in Leviathan, Hobbes famously describes the “life of man” in such fragmenting circumstances as “…solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”
It is still a meaningful warning.
Looking beyond Hobbes, and a philosophy that formed much of the wellspring of America’s founding fathers and their principal documents, the specific triggering mechanism of our disassembling world’s incremental descent into chaos could originate from a variety of mass-casualty attacks against Israel or from similar attacks against other Western democracies. Alternatively, it could draw “explosive nurturance” – that is, find a learning opportunity in the belligerent use of nuclear weapons in other parts of the world –even from seemingly distant and unrelated regions. For example, if the first military use of nuclear weapons after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were initiated by North Korea or Pakistan, even Israel’s nuclear survival strategy would have to be modified.
The precise “spillover” impact on Israel of any nuclear weapons use by North Korea or Pakistan would depend, in part, upon the specific combatants involved, rationality or irrationality of these combatants, the yields and ranges of the nuclear weapons actually fired, and the prompt aggregate calculation of civilian and military damage in the affected areas.
SYSTEMIC CHANGES AND ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY
Recalling Carl von Clausewitz (On War), because of the “friction” generated by nuclear weapons use outside the Middle East, Israel might need to move beyond “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” sooner than originally expected. Any such shift would also have substantial implications for Israel’s strategic nuclear deployments, its nuclear targeting doctrine, its cyber-defenses, and also its ballistic missile defenses. All of this suggests that Israel’s nuclear strategy must now be shaped not only by assorted expectations of a direct attack upon the Jewish state, but also by nuclear developments outside its own immediate region.
Any chaotic disintegration of the world system would fundamentally transform the Israeli system. Again, recalling the Swiss playwright Durrenmatt, such a transformation could ultimately involve total or near-total destruction. In anticipation, therefore, Israel will soon have to orient its basic strategic planning to an assortment of worst-case prospects, thus focusing much more deliberately on a wide range of primarily “self-help” security options.
The State of Nations remains the “State of Nature” described in political philosophy that originates with the philosophers Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau. For Israel, certain prominent but time-dishonored processes of “peacemaking,” processes that are conveniently but erroneously premised on allegedly “scientific” assumptions of reason and rationality, will, finally, have to be renounced.
For example, Israel’s persistently one-sided surrender of territories, its mistaken reluctance to accept certain critical preemption options (although, more recently, Israeli preemptions may have taken the newer and uniquely non-explosive forms of cyber-defense and cyber-warfare), and its periodic releases of live terrorists in exchange for slain Jews, may never bring about any direct and total defeat. Taken together, however, these synergistic policy errors will cumulatively weaken Israel, perhaps fatally. Whether the principal effect will to “merely” impair the Jewish state, or to also open it up, operationally, to a devastating missile attack and major acts of terror is still not clear.
For Israel, the fragmenting situations in North Africa and the Middle East are just the beginning. Wider patterns of anarchy, chaos, and disorder are plausibly inevitable. What might still be avoided, however, is mega-destruction – that is, the sort of harms attendant upon some combination of chemical, biological, or nuclear assaults.
Avoiding this end result will require much more than good luck. It will require a primary and antecedent awareness in Jerusalem that in current world politics, as in any other primordial State of Nature, survival demands courage, imagination, and the awareness that even huge short-term national losses are preferable to national disappearance. In turn, such an awareness must always represent a fundamentally intellectual challenge, not a narrowly operational one.
Arguably, in the hierarchy of current and potentially catastrophic threats to Israel, Iranian nuclearization—even after the July 14, 2015 Vienna Pact—still looms largest. But there are also other critical hazards on the horizon; several with distinctly synergistic qualities. Oddly, because it is still unrecognized by so many well-meaning Israelis, the most serious such hazard is the parallel or coinciding creation of a Palestinian state.
If this were to occur, the “worst” would likely happen as a consequence. Israel’s senior operational planners, therefore, must look very closely at all of its interwoven security challenges. Keeping especially Iran and an independent Palestinian state in mind, Israel will need to direct particular attention toward what military thinkers have sometimes identified as the “correlation of forces,” only with a substantially improved orientation to both (a) the prevailing “correlation,” and (b) the preferred “correlation,” when referring to ratios of cumulative power, both current and desired.
RATIONALITY, IRRATIONALITY, AND SUITABLE ENHANCEMENTS OF ISRAEL’S OPERATIONAL PLANNING
Since the Second Lebanon War (2006), Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strategists and tacticians have likely begun to apply this operational planning approach in creative and non-traditional ways. Historically, a correlation of forces approach has generally been applied as a measure of competitive armed forces, ranging from quantitative considerations at the subunit level, and extending all the way up to assessments of major formations. This approach has also been used to compare resources and capabilities at both the operational levels of day-to-day strategy, and at the much higher levels of “grand strategy,” for instance, during the Second Lebanon War. At times, this particular application has been related to the similar, but less comprehensive military notion of “force ratios.”
Facing an even broader and more ominous variety of existential security threats than ever, perils originating from both state and sub-state adversaries, Israel must undertake broader and more complex correlation of forces assessments than traditional assessments, which typically exclude estimations of enemy intent and of complex synergies connecting such intent with always-changing enemy capabilities. IDF planners must, in this new and wider search, seek more than a traditionally objective yardstick for the appropriate measurement of opposing forces. Although defense strategists in Tel Aviv already routinely compare data concerning both the numerical and qualitative characteristics of relevant units, including, inter alia, personnel, weaponry, and equipment, IDF field commanders will now also need to cultivate some newly subjective kinds of understanding.
This recommendation may appear to fly in the face of the usual military emphases on facts, but—in war as well as in peace—what are seen as “facts” are often instead the ambiguous result of very personal and particular interpretations.
In exploiting a suitably improved concept of a correlation of forces, Israel’s senior planners will seemingly have to reject a basic axiom of “geometry.” Here, they must recognize that certain critical force measurements must not only remain imprecise, but also that the unavoidable imprecision may itself include important forms of military understanding. For example, an enemy’s consuming dedication to religious expectations, combined with strength of will, may resist traditional measures, but could still be determinative.
In certain military assessments, as in judgments of human psychology, there are ascertainable variables that are refractory to measurement, but that may still be of very considerable importance.
Several emerging hazards to Israeli national security will be shaped by the distinctively “Westphalian” geometry of chaos. In this unbalanced climate, with its largely unprecedented set of imprecise calculations, the whole may turn out to be more (or less) than the simple sum of its parts. It follows that Israeli planners must bring a still more nuanced and unorthodox approach to their multi-disciplinary work. This will require, in particular, the counterintuitive awareness that proper planning must sometimes presume enemy irrationality, and that it must also be able to distinguish between authentic enemy irrationality, and pretended irrationality.
How can the IDF planner recognize the difference between real and contrived irrationality? This is an urgent question which cannot be answered by any standard reference to the more traditional “correlation of forces” modes of analysis.
These same issues of rational decision-making will have to be looked at from the standpoint of optimizing Israel’s capacity to project purposeful images of military policy. Reciprocally, therefore, IDF planners will have to decide when, if ever, Israel would be better served in both its deterrence and war-fighting capabilities by the deliberate projection of an image of limited or partial irrationality. Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan, then Minister of Defense, displayed a more visceral version of this posture when he warned:”Israel must be seen as a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” But Israeli planners must also remember that pretended irrationality is a double-edged sword. Brandished too provocatively, any recognizable preparations for the so-called “Samson Option,” Israel’s last-resort deterrence strategy, could unexpectedly encourage enemy preemptions.
Through improved reliance on correlation of forces thinking, Israel will need to seize every available operational initiative, including certain intelligence and counterintelligence functions, in order to influence and control each enemy’s matrix of expectations. This is a tall policy order, especially as these enemies will include both state and sub-state adversaries (“hybrid” enemies), often with substantial and subtle interactions between them. Moreover, in an age of chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons, the consequences of certain IDF planning failures could at some point become literally intolerable.
MOVING TOWARD A NEW “CORRELATION OF FORCES” PARADIGM
More precise questions arise from any such correlation of forces calculations. This section will explore in greater detail the characteristics that will define a more holistic IDF concept of a correlation of forces.
First, this concept must take careful account of all enemy leaders’ intentions as well as capabilities. Such an accounting is always more subjective than any more traditional assessments of personnel, weapons, and logistical data. But such an accounting will also need to be thoughtful and nuanced, despite relying less on tangible scientific modeling than upon behaviorally-informed profiles.
It will not be enough for IDF planners to judiciously gather and examine relevant hard data from all of the usual sources. It will also be important to put Israeli planners directly into the “shoes” of each enemy leader, president, king or terrorist, thus determining, among other things, what relevant Israeli capacity and vulnerability looks like to them.
Second, expanding on areas previously discussed, any properly refined IDF correlation of forces concept must take very close account of enemy leaders’ rationality. Any adversary that does not conform to the presumed rules of rational behavior in world politics might not be deterred by any Israeli threats, military or otherwise. This is the case even where Israel would actually possess both the capacity and resolve to make good on its deterrent threats.
If an enemy state or sub-state did not value its own continued survival more highly than any other consideration, the standard logic of deterrence would fail. All bets would be off concerning probable enemy reactions to Israeli retaliatory threats.
Insofar as assassination or targeted killing may be considered as a particular form of preemption (seen as “anticipatory self-defense” under international law), however, it is plausible that the United States and Israel could abandon any operational plans for the more standard and recognizable military forms of defensive first-strike, while remaining willing to selectively kill Iranian leaders or nuclear scientists. From the standpoint of an expanded and improved IDF correlation of forces orientation, this would mean the more formal inclusion of assassination and sabotage within the country’s overall strategic doctrine.
Third, IDF planning assessments must certainly consider the organization of changing enemy state units; their training standards; their morale; their reconnaissance capabilities; their battle experience; and their suitability and adaptability to the prospective battlefield. Traditionally, these assessments are not difficult to make on an individual or piecemeal basis. But now, creative IDF planners must be able to conceptualize such ordinarily diverse factors together in their entirety. Recalling Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War, one vital purpose of this new strategic holism should be to avoid protracted warfare. Indeed, the ancient Chinese strategist’s observation that “No country has ever profited from protracted warfare….” is always meaningful to Israel.
Fourth, and closely related to the previous point above, IDF assessments must consider the cumulative capabilities and intentions of Israel’s non-state enemies; that is, the entire configuration of anti‑Israel terrorist groups. In the future, such assessments must offer more than a simple group by group consideration. Rather, the groups in question should also be considered in their entirety, collectively, as they may interrelate with one another. Several hostile groups will also need to be considered particularly for their interactive relationship with core enemy states. This last point might best be characterized as an essential IDF correlation of forces search for vital synergies between its assorted state and sub-state adversaries.
There is nothing genuinely new about the concept of “asymmetric warfare,” but today, especially in the Middle East, the crucial asymmetry lies not in particular force structures or ratios, but rather in determination and strength of will. In a similar vein, Clausewitz, in his Principles of War (1812), spoke of a genuine need for “audacity.” This special quality represents another crucial variable for IDF planners; this, too, inevitably eludes precise and tangible measurement.
Fifth, recalling this time Sun Tzu’s injunction that, “If there is no place to go, it is fatal terrain,” IDF strategic planning judgments should take note of the still-ongoing metamorphosis of a fragmented non-state adversary (Fatah/Hamas) into a sovereign state adversary (the Palestinian Authority). As has been known since 1967, with any such metamorphosis, Israel’s “strategic depth” will shrink to less manageable levels. Any expanding enemy momentum to fold Israel into the new Arab state would be further energized. After all, even today, official maps of “Palestine” drawn by both the Palestine Authority and Hamas, still include all of Israel.
If, perhaps because of still-insistent peace pressures coming from Washington, Palestinian statehood cannot be avoided, the following question must be raised: How should Israel learn to coexist with Palestine? In one respect, any codified institutionalization of disparate Arab enemies into “Palestine” could possibly offer at least some geostrategic benefit to Israel. Certain forms of Israeli reprisal and retaliation would likely be easier to undertake, and thus be more purposeful.
There would also be a corresponding and incontestably serious loss of “strategic depth” tgo Israel through the loss of vital territories. And this is to say nothing of the obvious historical, religious and legal grounds for maintaining full Israeli possession of Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
SYNERGIES AND FORCE-MULTIPLIERS
In the matter of synergies, the IDF will need to consider and search for critical new “force multipliers.” These are collections of related characteristics, other than weapons and force size, that make any military organization more effective in combat. A force multiplier may be generalship; tactical surprise; tactical mobility; or certain command and control system enhancements. It could include such imaginative and less costly forms of preemption as assassination and sabotage. It could now also include certain well-integrated components of cyber-warfare, and also a reciprocal capacity to prevent and blunt any incoming cyber-attacks.
This last force multiplier could prove more decisive than any others. Although cyber-warfare did not exist in the times of Sun-Tzu and even Clausewitz, “cyber-audacity” could already represent a core component of Israel’s broadened approach to correlation of forces.
There is more. Since any force multiplier may create synergy, and given the antecedent “geometry of chaos,” IDF fighting units could conceivably become substantially more effective than the mere sum of their respective parts.
Before this can happen, however, senior planners must ensure that their analyses and recommendations do not offer false hope. As Thucydides (416 BCE) wrote on the ultimatum of the Athenians to the Melians during the Peloponnesian War, “But hope is by nature an expensive commodity, and those who are risking their all on one cast find out what it means only when they are already ruined.”
The overriding objective of IDF correlation of forces war planning must be to inform decision-making about two complementary matters: (1) perceived vulnerabilities of Israel; and (2) perceived vulnerabilities of enemy states and non-states. For the IDF Intelligence Branch in particular, this means gathering and assessing, for example, information concerning the expected persuasiveness of the country’s still-undisclosed nuclear deterrence posture. To endure well into the uncertain future, such information, and not merely a contrived series of unfounded hopes, must be at the core of its structured orientation to a regional correlation of forces.
All this information, especially when it comes to Israel’s “opaque” or undeclared nuclear deterrent, must flow reliably and quickly to key “consumers” within the broader IDF sphere and to the country’s political leadership. Once it is received and digested by this leadership, including, of course, the other security services and the General Staff, selected information must also flow as needed to the national warning centers; to operating force commanders; to contingency operations planners; to research directors; to combat AND training developers; and to national resource allocators. Above all, IDF planners doing this sensitive work must firmly resist all pressures that might be imposed by divergent political interests in order to support preconceived hopes.
Conceptually, in a world of growing international anarchy, this means that IDF correlation of forces should include (1) recognizing enemy force multipliers; (2) challenging and undermining enemy force multipliers; and (3) developing and refining its own force multipliers. Regarding number (3), this means a particularly heavy IDF emphasis on air superiority; communications; intelligence; and surprise. Once again, recalling Moshe Dayan, it may also mean a heightened and calculated awareness of the possible benefits of appearing less than completely rational to one’s enemies.
It is routinely assumed that Israel’s security from an enemy missile attack is ensured by nuclear deterrence, however opaque or “ambiguous.” But such a strategy of dissuasion actually depends upon many complex conditions and perceptions. By itself, the mere possession of nuclear weapons, even if fully or partially disclosed, can never bestow real safety.
By definition, a rational state enemy of Israel will always accept or reject a first-strike option by comparing the costs and benefits of each available alternative. Where the expected costs of striking first are taken to exceed expected gains, this enemy will be deterred. But where expected costs are believed to be exceeded by expected gains, deterrence will fail. Here, Israel would be faced with an enemy attack, whether as a “bolt from the blue,” or as an outcome of crisis escalation.
FURTHER STRENGTHENING ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR DETERRENT
In thinking about strategy, therefore, an immediate task for Israel will be to strengthen its nuclear deterrent to the extent that any enemy state must always conclude, upon calculation, that a first strike would be irrational. This means taking steps to convince enemy states that the costs of such a strike will invariably exceed the benefits. To accomplish this, Israel must convince prospective attackers that it remains both willing and capable of retaliation with its nuclear weapons.
Should an enemy state considering an attack upon Israel be unconvinced about either one or both of these essential components of nuclear deterrence, it might choose to strike first, depending upon the “utility” that it places on the expected results of such an attack. This sort of “unconvincing” nuclear deterrence posture is part of the reason that Israel must now consider the expected benefits of ending its current policy of deliberate ambiguity, the usual way of referring to Israel’s “bomb in the basement.”
A major focus of IDF strategic planning will have to be the nuclear posture of deliberate ambiguity. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surely understands that in order to continue the nuclear deterrence of increasingly formidable enemies Israel will soon require diminished nuclear secrecy. What must be determined by IDF planners concerned with an improved correlation of forces will be the extent and subtlety with which Israel should begin to communicate tangible elements of its nuclear positions, intentions, and capabilities to these enemies.
The geo-strategic rationale for such carefully constructed forms of nuclear disclosure would not lie in exposing the obvious—that is, that Israel simply “has” the bomb. Rather, among other things, this disclosure must persuade prospective attackers that Israel’s nuclear weapons are both usable and penetration-capable.
To protect Israel against enemy strikes, particularly against attacks that could carry intolerable costs, IDF defense planners must be prepared to exploit every relevant aspect of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. The success of Israel’s efforts will depend not only upon its choice of targeting doctrine (“counterforce” or “counter value”), but also upon the extent to which this choice is made known in advance to enemy states and their sub-state surrogates. Before such enemies can be deterred from first strikes against Israel, and from launching retaliatory attacks following Israeli preemptions, it may not be enough for them to know only that Israel “has” the bomb.
These enemies may also need to recognize that Israeli nuclear weapons are sufficiently invulnerable to such attacks, and that they are pointed directly at high-value population targets.
Among many other things, IDF planners working on an improved strategic paradigm must understand that removing the bomb from Israel’s “basement” will enhance enemy perceptions of secure and capable Israeli nuclear forces. Such a calculated end to the current policy of deliberate ambiguity could also underscore Israel’s willingness to use these nuclear forces in reprisal for certain enemy first-strike and retaliatory attacks. IDF planners must proceed on the assumption that perceived willingness is always just as important as perceived capability.
This, again, may bring to mind the counter-intuitively presumed advantages for Israel of sometimes appearing less than fully rational.
MAINTAINING A PREEMPTION OPTION
Under certain circumstances, a correlation of forces paradigm may lead IDF planners to consider certain preemption options. There will surely arise circumstances in which the existential risks to Israel of continuing to rely upon a combination of nuclear deterrence and active defense will simply become too great. Under such perilous circumstances, Israeli decision-makers will need to determine whether such essential defensive strikes, known jurisprudentially as expressions of “anticipatory self-defense,” would be cost-effective.  This judgment would depend upon a number of critical factors, including: (a) expected probability of enemy first strikes; (b) expected cost (disutility) of enemy first strikes; (c) expected schedule of enemy unconventional weapons deployments; (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 United States and world community reactions to Israeli preemptions.
IDF planners will no doubt note that Israel’s rational inclinations to strike preemptively under certain circumstances will be affected by steps taken by prospective target states (e.g., Iran) to guard themselves against Israeli preemption. Should Israel refrain for too long (for any reason) from a defensive first strike, certain enemy states might begin to implement protective measures that would pose substantial additional obstacles and hazards for Israel. These measures could include the attachment of automated launch mechanisms to nuclear weapons, or the adoption of “launch-on-warning” policies.
These policies might, at some point, call for the retaliatory launch of bombers or missiles upon receipt of warning that an Israeli attack is underway. By requiring launch before the attacking Israeli warheads actually reached their intended targets, enemy reliance on launch-on-warning policies carries even graver risks of catastrophic error.
The single most important factor in IDF correlation of forces planning judgments on the preemption option will be the expected rationality of enemy decision-makers. After all, if leaders could be expected to strike at Israel with unconventional forces regardless of anticipated Israeli counterstrikes, deterrence would fail. Enemy strikes could be expected even if their leaders fully understood that Israel had “successfully” deployed its own nuclear weapons in completely survivable modes; that Israel’s nuclear weapons were entirely capable of penetrating the enemy’s active defenses; and that Israel’s leaders were altogether willing to retaliate.
It is also conceivable that some of Israel’s foes would be neither rational nor irrational, but mad, used in the same sense as Moshe Dayan used the word when speaking of Israel as a “mad dog.”. While irrational enemy decision-makers would in themselves pose problems for Israeli nuclear deterrence, they might still be rendered susceptible to alternate forms of deterrence. This means, much like rational enemy decision-makers, that they could still be expected to maintain a fixed, determinable, and “transitive” hierarchy of preferences.
Genuinely mad adversaries, on the other hand, would display no such calculable hierarchy of preferences, and would not be subject to ordinary strategies of Israeli nuclear deterrence. Although it would be worse for Israel to have to face a mad nuclear adversary than a “merely” irrational one, Jerusalem would naturally have no real say in such a matter. Conceptually, this means that Israel must maintain a “three-track” system of nuclear deterrence and defense, one track each for adversaries that are presumed to be rational, irrational, or mad.
One major complicating factor in utilizing any such trichotomous distinction would be the practical difficulty of actually determining the correct enemy inclination in moments of adversarial confrontation and decision.
SCIENCE, ASYMMETRY, AND NUCLEAR WAR FIGHTING
Facing the contemporary climate of chaotic regional disintegration, it is time for Israel to go beyond its already-expanded paradigm of numerical, data-based military assessments to additional considerations. Within this wider and more self-consciously qualitative strategic paradigm, IDF planners should focus, among other areas, upon the cumulative and interpenetrating importance of unconventional weapons, and low-intensity warfare in the region. This is an area of concern which is both uniquely complex and increasingly urgent; “geometrically,” it suggests that the “whole” of threats facing Israel is potentially far greater than the mere sum of its discrete and observable “parts.”
“Everything is very simple in war,” writes Carl von Clausewitz in On War, “but the simplest thing is still difficult.” For Israel, looking forward, this means, inter alia, an overriding obligation to forge, dialectically and deductively, sound strategic theory—that is, a coherent network of interrelated propositions from which suitable policy options could be readily identified, rank-ordered, and selected. In more starkly conceptual terms, this means a self-consciously theoretical consideration of (1) all plausible interactions among available strategic options; and (2) all plausible synergies between expected enemy attacks (both state and sub state).
Should nuclear weapons ever be introduced into armed conflict between Israel and its enemies, either by Israel itself, or by a foe, nuclear war, at one level or another, would ensue. This sobering conclusion holds true as long as: (a) enemy first strikes would not destroy Israel’s second-strike nuclear capability; (b) enemy retaliations for an Israeli conventional preemption would not destroy Israel’s nuclear counter-retaliatory capability; (c) Israeli preemptive strikes involving nuclear weapons would not destroy enemy state second-strike capabilities; and (d) Israeli retaliations for conventional first strikes would not destroy an enemy’s nuclear counter-retaliatory capacity.
All this implies that in order to fulfill its most primary survival obligations, Israel must take appropriate steps to ensure the likelihood of (a) and (b) above, as well as to ensure the corollary unlikelihood of (c) and (d). Moreover, to actually succeed in these multi-layered steps, it will first be necessary to forge antecedent strategic theory, one that can “parsimoniously” – that is, most efficiently – account for a potentially broad assortment of regional terror group alignments and re-alignments, sometimes with synergies or force-multipliers operating between them Inevitably, some or even all of these sub-state adversaries could choose to act as proxies of state enemies of Israel, and not necessarily along more predictably sectarian lines.
As of December 2016, the Shi’i Hizballah organization is operating in both Lebanon and Syria against assorted foes, while IS is competing for power with Hamas in Gaza, and also with Druze fighters near the Israeli Golan Heights. Over time, IS might be expected to make operational inroads against both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and, ultimately, even to take over any Palestinian state already established in Judea and Samaria, and in Gaza. For now, for better or for worse, neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority (PA) seems to recognize that the most significant impediment to viable Palestinian statehood is not the Jewish state, but rather a Sunni band of Arab terrorists.
There are still additional nuclear narratives that demand Israel’s conceptual and theoretical attention. Terror attacks upon Israel could draw in one or more of Israel’s state enemies, or a terror group itself could attain independent nuclear capability. In this still more ominous scenario – simply because it is the more likely of these two scenarios, the expected danger to Israel would arrive not in the form of any actual nuclear weapons attack, but rather as a relatively tolerable “dirty bomb.”
Taken by itself, the dirty-bomb variant of nuclear terrorism would pose no authentic hazards of mass destruction; yet, at least in some expected synergies with other kinds of attack, both state and sub-state, the overall costs to Israel could still prove considerable.
Geostrategic calculations in the Middle East should never be confused with ordinary geometry. Plainly, these calculations are not reducible to some fixed “menu” of axioms and postulates. Nonetheless, there are still ascertainable premises and propositions from which a promising and durable theory of strategic advantage could be gleaned to better aid strategic advisors in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
THE OVERALL STRATEGIC CHALLENGE: A BEWILDERING CONTEST OF “MIND OVER MIND”
Penetrating this dense amalgam of propositions will present Israel’s military planners with a computational task on the very highest order of intellectual difficulty. But there is no other serious option. Whatever other course these planners choose in their ongoing strategic assessments, they must never lose sight of the fact that their most basic task concerns a continual struggle of “mind over mind,” never merely one of “mind over matter,” since the critical strategic threats to Israel will have to be dealt with intellectually or analytically before they can be dealt with operationally.
There is one last compelling observation to be made about theory, doctrine, and Israel’s strategic posture. this incomparable component of national security planning must include an ever-present and dynamic avant garde, a commitment to advance that could continuously enrich Israel’s strategic studies. In essence, by embracing this vital notion of a constantly-changing and cross-fertilizing intellectual vanguard, Israel’s military planners will remain optimally creative and useful in their increasingly complex and daunting security obligations.
For Israel’s strategic planners, there will be a need for a special courage, not the usual heroism displayed on the battlefield (which Israelis have always revealed in conspicuous and enviable abundance), but rather the less orthodox variety that could permit the individual planner to take serious professional risks. “Whenever the new Muses present themselves,” cautioned Jose Ortega y Gassett, the great Spanish Existentialist thinker, “the masses bristle.” Israeli thinkers who would now challenge more mainstream strategic studies as a theory-building avant garde might need to endure some corollary measures of dissent or disapproval.
Will they be ready?
* Louis René Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and has lectured and published widely on Israeli security issues. Born in Zürich, Switzerland on August 31, 1945, he is the author of twelve books and several hundred journal articles and monographs in the field. His most recent book is titled Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).
 Still the best discussion of the “problem of induction” is found at Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), especially Chapter 1. In essence, Popper explains that “…it is far from obvious, from a logical point of view, that we are justified in inferring universal statements from singular ones, no matter how numerous.” And in his most famous passage, he continues: “…no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white.” (p. 27).
 One such expectation is usually called “Occam’s Razor,” or the “principle of parsimony.” In essence, it stipulates a preference for the simplest explanation still consistent with scientific method. Regarding our current concerns for Israel’s nuclear strategy, it suggests, inter alia, that the country’s military planners not seek to identify and examine every important variable, but rather to “say the most, with the least.” This presents an important and often neglected cautionary idea, because all too often, strategists and planners mistakenly attempt to identify every conceivably important variable, thereby effectively distracting themselves from forging a more purposefully efficient or “parsimonious” theory.
 A hypothesis is a necessary guide. It does not emerge spontaneously when an inquiry is concluded. Rather, it should function throughout the entire conduct of inquiry, organizing and integrating all empirical findings into a single coherent system. Without a tentative “answer” in the express form of an hypothesis, there would exist no usable criterion for properly judging whether the considered “facts” are actually relevant or irrelevant.
 One should recall, in this connection, Morris R. Cohen, Ernest Nagel, Rudolf Carnap and even John Stuart Mill.
 An hypothesis is said to be “scientific” only where it is expected to yield deductive consequences that are then suitably testable by experience.
 In this connection, the scholar’s “cast” must always be linked to expressly dialectical thought processes. Back in the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerged as the preferred form of early “scientific” investigation. Plato describes the dialectician as one who knows how to ask and then to answer questions. In fashioning a usable strategic theory, Israeli planners will first need to better understand this core expectation—even before they proceed to the usual compilations of facts, figures, orders of battle, and regional balances of power.
 The Middle East exists, of course, within the still-broader anarchy of “Westphalian” international relations. This jurisprudential/strategic reference is to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which concluded the Thirty Years War, and created the still-enduring state system. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1, Consol. T.S. 119. Together, these two agreements comprise the Peace of Westphalia. Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan was first published in 1651, just three years after the Peace of Westphalia. It is at Chapter XIII that Hobbes famously references the “state of nature” as an anarchic situation characterized by “continuall feare; and danger of violent death….”
 “The region is in a raging storm. Everything is changing. There are some developments in recent months that we would not necessarily have predicted.” So stated Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, IAF Chief of Staff, in reference to the “drastic rise in the threat of ballistic missiles to Israel….” See: Yaakov Lappin, “IAF Very Disturbed by Significant Rise in Ballistic Threat,” The Jerusalem Post, April 3, 2016.
 The term “geometry” is used here merely as an elucidating metaphor, not in the more technically usual or classically Newtonian sense of a literally calculable and decipherable space.
 See Louis René Beres, “After the Vienna Agreement: Could Israel and a Nuclear Iran Coexist?” IPS Publications, Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya, Israel, September 2015.
 In this connection, Israel must always bear in mind that an inevitable corollary of Palestinian statehood is delegitimization of Israel – one is the invariant reciprocal of the other. Most recently, see full text of the UNESCO resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” approved in Paris on October 13, 2016. Among other things, the UN “cultural agency’s resolution insists that Jerusalem holy sites be identified by their Muslim names only.
 Here, there exists even a nuclear dimension to any link between Palestinian terrorism and Israel. This widely-overlooked and prospectively critical dimension concerns risks to Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, from terrorism and/or war. Already, in 1991, and later, in 2014, this facility came under missile or rocket from Iraqi and Hamas aggressions, respectively. See, on these under-examined events, Bennett Ramberg, “Should Israel Close Dimona: The Radiological Consequences of a Military Strike on Israel’s Plutonium-Production Reactor?” Arms Control Today, May 2008, pp. 6-13.
 Recalling the Roman Stoic philosopher and statesman, Cicero, in The Letters to His Friends: “For what can be done against force, without force?” During the nuclear age, the traditional term, “balance of power,” has sometimes been replaced with a more appropriate “balance of terror.” For the origins of this replacement, se Albert Wohlstetter, “The Delicate Balance of Terror,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 37, No.2., January 1959, pp. 211-234.
 Hobbes argues convincingly that the international state of nature is “less intolerable” than that condition among individuals in nature because, only in the latter, the “weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.” Significantly, with the spread of nuclear weapons, this difference is plainly disappearing. Interestingly, perhaps, in the pre-nuclear age, Samuel Pufendorf, like Hobbes, was persuaded that the state of nations “…lacks those inconveniences which are attendant upon a pure state of nature….” Similarly, Spinoza suggested that “…a commonwealth can guard itself against being subjugated by another, as a man in the state of nature cannot do.” (See: Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis, University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10, No.3., 1972-73, p. 65.)
 For further clarification of these issues, see: Louis René Beres, “On the Eve of New Atoms,” The Washington Times, September 28, 2016.
 In this connection, we may learn from the philosopher Karl Jaspers, Reason and Existence (1935): “The rational is not thinkable without its other, the non-rational, and it never appears in reality without it.”
 Regarding the P5+1 Vienna Pact – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Israeli military planners ought to recall Carol von Clausewitz, On War: “Defensive warfare….does not consist of waiting idly for things to happen. We must wait only if it brings us visible and decisive advantages. That calm before the storm, when the aggressor is gathering new forces for a great blow, is most dangerous for the defender.” See Hans W. Gatzke, tr., Principles of War: New York, Dover Publications, 2003, p. 54, from III “Strategy.” See also, 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 24, 2013.
 On this conflict, see recent analysis by Maj. Gen. (IAF/ret.) David Ivry, “The Second Lebanon War – Objectives vs. Results,” Israel Defense, September 10, 2016.
 It is widely and authoritatively presumed in certain U.S. military circles that a U.S. Air Force Effects-Based Approach to Operations (EBO) was employed by the Israel Air Force (IAF) during this 2006 conflict.
 Oddly, perhaps, one of these variables is the promise of immortality, or the primal power over death. This is always the ultimate form of power, especially in the Islamic Middle East. Here, IDF planners may learn from Lucretius’ poem, On the Nature of Things. The core “message” of this ancient Epicurean text could have very serious current and future implications for Israel’s security and survival. What the young Virgil, citing Lucretius, called “fear of the doom against which no prayer avails,” still leads many to destroy human life. Because the affected individual fails to understand the delicate life balance between destructive and creative forces, he/she is deeply anxious about personal dissolution. This individual, to use the precise mythical categories first set forth by Lucretius himself, will be on the “side of mars,” rather than of “Venus,” thereby reaching out to the rest of the world aggressively rather than compassionately. Individuals, and therefore also certain states, have now largely accepted an attitude toward death that turns them toward the presumed and palpable pleasures of violence.
 On deterring a prospectively irrational nuclear Iran, see: Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran?” The Atlantic, August 2012; and Professor Louis René Beres and General John T. Chain, “Israel and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012. General Chain (USAF/ret.) served as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).
 Nuclear war fighting per se must never be an acceptable strategic option for Israel. Always its nuclear weapons and doctrine must be oriented toward deterrence, not actual combat engagements. This conclusion was central to the Final Report of Project Daniel: Israel’s Strategic Future, ACPR Policy Paper No. 155, ACPR, Israel, May 2004, 64 pp. See also: Louis René Beres, “Facing Iran’s Ongoing Nuclearization: A Retrospective on Project Daniel,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vo. 22, Issue 3, June 2009, pp. 491-514; and Louis René Beres, “Israel’s Uncertain Strategic Future,” Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College, Vol. XXXVII, No.1., Spring 2007, pp, 37-54. Professor Beres was Chair of Project Daniel.
 See, especially, Louis René Beres, “Facing Iran’s Ongoing Nuclearization: A Retrospective on Project Daniel,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 22, Issue 3, June 2009, pp. 491-514; 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; Louis René Beres, “On Assassination, Preemption and Counterterrorism: The View From International Law,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 21. Issue 4., December 2008, pp. 694-725. For earlier writings by this author on anticipatory self-defense under international law, see: Louis René Beres, Chair, The Project Daniel Group, Israel’s Strategic Future: Project Daniel, ACPR Policy Paper No. 155, ACPR (Israel), May 2004, 64pp (this paper was prepared for presentation to the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and transmitted by hand on January 16, 2003); Louis René Beres, Security Threats and Effective Remedies: Israel’s Strategic, Tactical and Legal Options, ACPR Policy Paper No. 102, ACPR (Israel), April 2000, 110 pp; Louis René Beres, Israel’s Survival Imperatives: The Oslo Agreements in International Law and National Strategy, ACPR Policy Paper No. 25, ACPR (Israel), April 1998, 74 pp; Louis René Beres, “Assassinating Saddam Hussein: The View From International Law,” Indiana International And Comparative Law Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2003, pp. 847- 869; Louis René Beres, “The Newly Expanded American Doctrine of Preemption: Can It Include Assassination,” Denver Journal Of International Law And Policy, Vol. 31, No. 2., Winter 2002, pp. 157-177; Louis René Beres and (Col/IDF/Ret.), Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto, “Reconsidering Israel’s Destruction of Iraq’s Osiraq Nuclear Reactor,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2., 1995, pp. 437-449; Louis René Beres, “Striking `First’: Israel’s Post Gulf War Options Under International Law,” Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Journal, Vol. 14, Nov. 1991, pp. 10-24; Louis René Beres, “On Assassination as Anticipatory Self-Defense: Is It Permissible?” 70 U. Det. Mercy L. Rev. U., 13 (1992); Louis René Beres, “On Assassination as Self-Defense: The Case of Israel,” 20 Hofstra L. Rev 321 (1991); Louis René Beres, “Preserving the Third Temple: Israel’s Right of Anticipatory Self-Defense Under International Law,” 26 Vand. J. Transnat’l L. 111 (1993); Louis René Beres, “After the Gulf War: Israel, Preemption and Anticipatory Self-Defense,” 13 Hous. J. Int’l L. 259 (1991); Louis René Beres, “Israel and Anticipatory Self-Defense,” 8 ARIZ J. INT’L & COMP. L. REV. 89 (1991); Louis René Beres, “After the Scud Attacks: Israel, `Palestine,’ and Anticipatory Self-Defense,” 6 Emory Int’l L. Rev. 71 (1992); and Louis René Beres, “Israel, Force and International Law: Assessing Anticipatory Self-Defense,” The Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, Vol. 13, No. 2., 1991, pp. 1-14.
 International law is not a suicide pact. Assassination, subject to applicable legal rules of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity (humanitarian international law), may sometimes represent the least injurious form of self-defense. Where genuinely genocidal attacks are still being planned (arguably, the current case of Iran versus Israel), the permissibility of assassination as anticipatory self-defense could even be unassailable. The residual permissibility of assassination derives from the persistently Westphalian logic of international law. Our world legal order is obligated to protect us all from clear and terrible infringements on our physical safety, yet this fundamentally anarchic system still lacks an independent centralized mechanism to fulfill this critical obligation. Perhaps, in the best of all possible worlds, assassination would have absolutely no defensible place in law and policy. But we do not yet live in such a world, and the manifestly negative aspects of assassination cannot be properly evaluated apart from all other available options. Rather, such aspects must always be compared to what would be expected of these other options. If the expected costs of assassination should appear lower than the expected costs of alternative resorts to military force, assassination may well emerge as the distinctly rational and moral choice. However odious it might appear in isolation, assassination in certain circumstances may still represent the best overall option. Assassination will always elicit indignation, even by those who would find large-scale warfare appropriate. But the civilizational promise of genuine worldwide security is far from being realized, and existentially imperiled states will inevitably need to confront critical choices between employing assassination in very limited circumstances, or renouncing such tactics at the expense of survival. In facing such choices, these states, especially Israel, will discover that all viable alternatives to the assassination option could include very large-scale violence, and these these alternatives are apt to exact a substantially larger toll in human life and suffering.
 From the standpoint of international law, it could also be reasonable to examine assassination as a possible and permissible form of ordinary self-defense; that is, as a forceful measure of self-help short of war that is undertaken after an armed attack occurs. Tactically, however, from a correlation of forces perspective, there are at least two serious problems with such a position: (1) In view of the ongoing proliferation of extraordinarily destructive weapons technologies, waiting to resort to post-attack self-defense could be unacceptably dangerous or even fatal; and (2) assassination, while it may prove to be helpful in preventing an attack in the first place, is substantially less likely to be useful in mitigating further harms once an enemy attack has already been launched.
 In his Utopia, published in 1516, Thomas More offered a curious but clarifying juxtaposition of foreign policy stratagems and objectives. Although the Utopians are expected to be generous toward other states, they also offer rewards for the assassination of enemy leaders (Book II). This is not because More wished to be gratuitously barbarous, but rather because he was a realistic utopian. Sharing with St. Augustine (whose City of God had been the subject of his 1501 lectures), a fundamentally dark assessment of human political arrangements, More constructed a “lesser evil” philosophy that favored a distinctly pragmatic kind of morality. Sir Thomas More understood that the truly tragic element of politics is necessarily constituted of conscious choices of evil for the sake of good. With regard to this investigation of Israel’s security and correlation of forces, this suggests that assassination must always be disagreeable in the “best of all possible worlds”(for example, the Leibnizian world satirized by Voltaire in Candide), but that it may be an indispensable expedient in a world that remains distressingly imperfect – a world where a “geometry of chaos” still prevails.
 This actual condition of anarchy stands in stark contrast to the jurisprudential assumption of solidarity between all states in the presumably common struggle against aggression and terrorism. Such a peremptory expectation (known formally in international law as a jus cogens 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); Emmerich De Vattel, 1 Le Droit Des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758).
 See Louis René Beres, “Changing Direction? Updating Israel’s Nuclear Doctrine,” INSS, Israel, Strategic Assessment, Vol. 17, No. 3, October 2014, pp. 93-106. See also: Louis René Beres, Looking Ahead: Revising Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity in the Middle East, Herzliya Conference Policy Paper, Herzliya Conference, March 11-14, 2013 (Herzliya, Israel); Louis René Beres and Leon (Bud) Edney, Admiral (USN/ret.), “Facing a Nuclear Iran, Israel Must Rethink its Nuclear Ambiguity,” US News & World Report, February 11, 2013, 3pp; and Professor Louis René Beres and Admiral Leon (Bud) Edney, “Reconsidering Israel’s Nuclear Posture,” The Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2013. Admiral Edney served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (SACLANT).
 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.
 Even before the nuclear age, legal theorists took strong positions in support of anticipatory self-defense. Emmerich de Vattel, the Swiss scholar, concludes in The Law of Nations (1758): “The safest plan is to prevent evil, where that is possible. A nation has the right to resist the injury another seeks to inflict upon it, and to use force and every other just means of resistance against the aggressor.” Vattel, similar to Hugo Grotius in The Law of War and Peace (1625) drew upon ancient Hebrew Scripture and derivative Jewish Law. The Torah contains a provision exonerating from guilt a potential victim of robbery with possible violence if, in capable self-defense, he struck down and, if necessary even killed the attacker, before he committed any crime (Exodus, 22:1.) Additionally, says Maimonides, “If a man comes to slay you, forestall by slaying him.” (Rashi, Sanhedrin, 72a). Finally, apropos of pertinent legal criteria here, the Talmud expressly categorizes a war designed “to diminish the heathens, so that they shall not march against them” as milhemet reshut,” or discretionary (Sotah, 44b).
 An antecedent or corollary concern must also be the ethical or humanitarian calculus in these particular circumstances. Although an ideal world order would contain “neither victims nor executioners,” such an optimal arrangement of global power and authority is assuredly not yet on the horizon. (This phrase is taken from Albert Camus, Neither Victims Nor Executioners (Dwight Mc Donald., ed., 1968)). Confronting what he called “our century of fear,” Camus asked his readers to be “neither victims nor executioners,” living not in a world in which killing has disappeared (“we are not so crazy as that”), but one wherein killing has become illegitimate. This is a fine expectation of the philosopher, but certainly not one that can be purposefully harmonized with strategic or even jurisprudential realism. Deprived of the capacity to act as lawful executioners, both states and individuals within states facing aggression, terrorism and/or genocide would be forced by Camus’ reasoning to become victims. The core problem with Camus’ argument, therefore, is that the will to kill remains unimpressed by others’ commitments to “goodness.” This means that both within states, and also between them, executioners must still have their rightful place, and that without these executioners, there would only be more victims.
 A recent expression of such a “new form” is Russia’s substantial buildup of forces in Syria, especially since the collapsed ceasefire in late September 2016. This build up includes more trained personnel to operationalize the newly-delivered S-300 surface-to-air missile system. In examining the consequences of this development dialectically, it will likely deter any more significant U.S. military action in Syria, which, in turn, could affect Israel’s own prospective plan’s for this now-principal regional theater of conflict.
 For earlier looks at the expected consequences of specifically nuclear attacks, 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). See also, much more recently, by Ami Rojkes Dombe, “What Happens When a Nuclear Bomb Hits a Wall?” Israel Defense, September 10, 2016.
 An Israeli nuclear preemption is almost inconceivable, but is still logically possible. Realistically, it could be expected only if: (1) Israel’s pertinent enemy or enemies had already acquired nuclear or other unconventional weapons presumed capable of destroying the Jewish State; (2) this enemy state or states had been explicit that fully genocidal intentions paralleled capabilities; (3) this state or states was/were reliably believed ready to begin a final countdown-to-launch; and (4) Israel believed that non-nuclear preemptions could not possibly achieve the particular levels of damage-limitation needed for its national survival.
 Such costs could come from a fully non-nuclear terrorist attack upon the Israeli reactor at Dimona. Already, there is a history of attempts against this Israeli plutonium-production reactor, both by a state (Iraq) in 1991, and by a Palestinian terror group (Hamas) in 2014. Neither attack was successful, but a relevant precedent has been established. For more on the specific threat to Israel’s nuclear reactor facilities, see: Bennett Ramberg, “Should Israel Close Dimona? The Radiological Consequences of a Military Strike on Israel’s Plutonium-Production Reactor,” Arms Control Today, May 2008, pp. 6-13. See also, by the same author: Bennett Ramberg, “The Next Chernobyl May Be Intentional,” Reuters, April 26, 2016.
 For this generically useful distinction, I am indebted to F.E. Adcock’s classic volume, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1962), especially Chapter IV.
 More generally, on the search for an avant garde in strategic studies, see, by this author: Louis René Beres, “On the Need for an Avant Garde in Strategic Studies,” Oxford University Press, OUP Blog, July 4, 2011.
 See Jose Ortega y Gassett, The Dehumanization of Art and Other Essays on Art, Culture, and Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1948), p.7.
Photo credit: Negev Nuclear Research Center © Vierkant, via Wikipedia