Sociable

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tough Love and Strange Love

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer July 13, 2009

Tough Love and Strange Love

If you would know the historical roots of Israel’s current political strategic thinking under the Netanyahu administration, follow me into the not too distance past. Those were the days, when the Rand Corporation, really a think tank launched and funded by the U.S. Air Force, was explaining to John Foster Dulles that he was neglecting U.S. security. Dulles, it appears, did not understand that it was all important to prepare a second strike capacity to nuke the Russians after they, the Russians nuked the U.S., which had already nuked them the first time, because of a serious case of Soviet aggression against some vital U.S. interest somewhere on the globe. One of the geniuses who worked on explaining the necessity for being ready to launch nuclear war, with at least a double barrel was a dazzling young intellectual named Herman Kahn. Kahn made it clear that deterrence involved readiness to include, and plan for the possibility of a full scale nuclear counter-attack on the United States – after the first US nuclear attack on the USSR. If you were bright back then, you built yourself a well stocked nuclear-proof bomb shelter. Kahn advised digging deep into the rock under Manhattan, for one-big public shelter. One of the brightest ways to prevent war was to convince the Russians that the US had some sort of Doomsday Machine that would go off automatically and destroy the whole of the USSR, in case of a Russian counter-attack after a US attack. To package this bright idea, Kahn and his associates worked overtime to convince the US public that nuclear war was winnable and squeamishness about doing everything to survive meant certain death and annihilation.
The Current Israeli Disciple
Uzi Arad is Israel’s national security adviser and a close confidant of Netanayhau. Uzi came up in the ranks, after serving in the Mosad for twenty years. He became an expert in nuclear strategy via advanced study at Princeton and was recruited by the Hudson Institute outfit, where he became, by his own admission a devotee of Herman Kahn.
.” But above all I was drawn to Herman Kahn, with whom I worked at the Hudson Institute. Kahn is the original Dr. Strangelove. He was a Jewish-American genius who was a salient nuclear hawk and dealt with the planning and feasibility of nuclear wars. Kahn was a towering figure. He was a beacon of intelligence, knowledge and pioneering thought. He combined conceptual productivity, humor and informality. He attracted a group of devotees of whom I was one in the 1970s. But he also had bitter rivals who criticized him for even conceiving of the idea of a nuclear war. In the Cold War it was precisely those who talked about defense and survival who were considered nuclear hawks. The doves talked about "mutual assured destruction," which blocks any possibility of thinking about nuclear weapons… Like Kahn, I was one of the hawks.
On the face of it, what is the point of this? Why execute the enemy after deterrence has failed? But according to [Yeheskel] Dror (an Israeli political scientist of similar views – RK) , it is important to ascertain that the deterrence will work, even if you yourself have been destroyed. He sees this as a contribution to the repair of the world [tikkun olam]. (See Ha’aretz Magazine, July 10, 2009 pp. 8-11)
Eventually this kind of academo-paranonia, dressed up with a lot of “game theory”’ and claiming to improve on MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), which was deemed by Kahn to be too timid, became the object of ridicule and repugnance. The rejection of this kind of nuclear voodoo found expression in the famous, classic and highly regarded movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, “Dr. Strangelove” (1964). Dr. S is a former Nazi, who has become a top advisor to the U.S. president. When nuclear war breaks out after a long series of stupidities, and not a few misunderstandings, Dr. S. starts instructing the government just what must be done to save at the least some Americans, in order to renew the battle, after the current round of mass death and destruction.
It may help observers of the scene here in Israel to understand that theories long repudiated even by the US strategic military establishment have become the current fashion here. In the long and detailed interview, Arad who is a government official reminds the reader that the views expressed are his own. This is a rather strange procedure for a high ranking government official in a super sensitive job. Arad, it is clear wants to lead the team and not just be a part of it. Ari Shavit, one of the more important “new -right” journalists stresses Arad’s importance:
“Arad holds tremendous power. He holds the Iranian portfolio, he conducts the sensitive dialogue with the United States, and he is the closest person to the Prime Minister.” (Ibid)
Lieberman, by comparison, is half racist buffoon and half shrewd ethnic politician. Though he is less of a fool than he seems, he is not in Arad’s class. On most issues, Arad is a bit more explicit (and embarrassing, for his boss), in explaining government policy. On the Palestinian front, he claims that there is no Palestinian partner for a true peace. “There are no true peace leaders among the Palestinians.” And…”even the moderates among them do not really want a settlement.” On the Syrian front: “The Syrians are certainly aware that the Netanyahu government and the majority of the public will not leave the Golan Heights.” He is certain that “the new U.S. administration is very realistic regarding the Syrian sector,” and that, in contradistinction to the Palestinian issue, “there are no comparable declarations.” We must deal with the Iranian issue first because “if Iran goes nuclear, everything that will be achieved with the Palestinians will be swept away in tidal wave.” He launches a tirade against the previous Israeli government whose concessions have left Netanyahu with “scorched earth.” He claims that “It is clear that they [the settlements] are not the most important or urgent problem.” The international attitude to Israel is “extremely unfair.” [All quotes are from the interview].
This not quite the brunt style used by the Israeli government people when speaking with the U.S. and other international parties, but this is the indisputable substance of Israeli policy, at least as long as Arad is around.
100 % Absolute Deterrence!
When talking about Iran, Arad explains, with coy modesty, that he is not at liberty to tell us “what the government of Israel thinks. Nor will I tell you what the U.S. government thinks.” Of course, after the caveat, he proceeds directly and immediately to expresses current Israeli positions. Israel should be the spokesperson for concerns and warnings to prevent the emergence of a multi-nuclear Middle East. According to Arad, Netanyahu is brilliant for avoiding any direct call to bomb Iran. Economic pressure, according to his boss, is the way to go and the best method would be a total maritime blockade on Iran. Of course, if the Iranians do not understand the message and react irresponsibly, then the time has come to ready the “military option” whose preparation is vital in any event. In fact, a sound military option would help the Iranians to understand their situation. Having a military option on the table increases the possibility that it will not be needed. So the strategy of provoke and bomb is, in essence, just the same, thinly disguised, hawkish rubbish. In all of this, Arad is just another neo-con.
The Really Scary Stuff
Arad is looking for a pretext to attack Iran, though he appreciates the importance of finding a way to keep the US in the picture. The classic Dr. Strangelove thinking is still around: “A situation of mutual armament is safer than a situation of mutual peace…the main reason for this is that in a situation of mutual peace, if one of the sides cheats it wipes you out. You have no means to deter them. So game theory pushes you into the corner of “both for us and them. I am not at liberty to discuss these issues explicitly…” So Arad refers us once more to Prof. Yehezkel Dror, and quotes him about “hard absolute deterrence…superb deterrence that will ensure that, even if the country is itself destroyed, the country that attacks it will be annihilated.” If you did not get the message, it is simple. Israel must involve itself in an arms race that can never end until Israel is certain – absolutely certain – that our current enemy, whomsoever it is, has interiorized that any kind of over reaction to Israel aggression– another unknown quantity - will touch off a fatal attack by Israel. The soul of Israel must torment itself, until it has convinced itself that its enemy(ies) are convinced that Israel, which no longer exists, at that point for all practical purposes, will press the button insuring that the destruction is indeed mutual.
Stay with us as we continue to analyze this zany stuff. Arad: “On the face of it what is the point of this? Why execute the enemy after deterrence has failed? But according to Dror, it is important to ascertain that the deterrence will work, even if you yourself have been destroyed.” This is for Arad nothing but simple defensive strategy.
Ha’aretz reported yesterday that the National Security Council, headed by Arad has become, because of Netanyahu’s trust, a much more significant factor in decision making. (Ha’aretz, July12, 2009). Today, there is quite a bit of fall out in the wake of the interview because many of those lambasted are still in prominent positions.
Tough Love or Strangelove
Well meaning people suggest that the Obama administration respond to the Israeli refusal to negotiate for peace in good faith with tough love. Anyone with the faintest acquaintance with Israeli politics can tell you that the Israelis will not respond to tough love. They have rising hopes that the Obama is a One Term President, and are willing to help realize this goal. A few weeks back, the Obamaites assured us that the prez is too smart to be outwitted and out-maneuvered by the Netanyahu government and the pro-Israeli lobby. But the Israeli policy of procrastination, endless discussion, claims they want to do something about the outposts and the settlements but they simply cannot, does seem to be blunting Obama’s initiative. Mitchell is running hard, going nowhere, and Obama is busy picking up after Joe Biden. Israel and its friends are watching Obama getting involved more in protracted negotiations in other areas that lead no where. Obama, was cool and calm in Cairo last month, but appears today more becalmed than calm. You may want to move the Israeli leadership with “tough love”, but Israel’s hero is, to this very day, Dr. Strangelove.