[Freemanlist2] Louis René Beres - After the Falling Rockets from Lebanon:
Freeman Center For Strategic Studies
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After the Falling Rockets from Lebanon:
Interrelated Commentaries on Israel's Performance and Survival
ACPR Policy Paper No. 166, 2007
Louis René Beres
Following the recent war in Lebanon, Israel will have to draw certain major lessons to ensure its long-term strategic survival. What is needed now, immediately and urgently, are thoughtful and coherent guidelines concerning national defense, deterrence, targeting and even preemption (anticipatory self-defense). It is no longer adequate for Israel (more or less capably) to merely stumble from one war to the next without an appropriate “master plan” for direction. Armed with such a framework of expanded conceptual understanding, the Jewish state could quickly begin to deduce pertinent tactics and policy options to match particular situations and crises. In the near-term, of course, the need for such a plan will be especially plain in matters of both nuclear war avoidance and counter-WMD terrorism.
Taking the “falling rockets from Lebanon” as its starting point, this learned policy paper by Professor Louis René Beres (USA) explores a wide range of topics and themes concerning Israel’s war performance and its resultant outlook for peace and security. To carry out this exploration, the author looks closely at various complex synergies between international law and geopolitics. He also examines emerging IDF doctrine against the essential background of Arab/Islamic visions of faith and war. Divided into six chapters, After the Falling Rockets from Lebanon begins with brief appraisals of “Law, Strategy, Reason and Death” (Chapter 1) and ends with a look at “Myth, Heroism and Unending Struggle” (Chapter 6). Intermediate chapters deal with “Jewish Pain, Suffering and Life” (Chapter 2); “Logic, Persuasion, American Guarantees and Preemption” (Chapter 3); “Language, Thinking, Dialectic and Contemplation” (Chapter 4); and “Assassination, Anarchy, Rules and Dogmas” (Chapter 5).
There is, in short, nothing narrowly operational about these crisp and critical essays. Rather, of varying length, they offer a panoply of far-reaching perspectives from which – ultimately – relevant Israeli strategy and tactics can be extrapolated.
Professor Beres is known to readers of ACPR publications, inter alia, as Chair of “Project Daniel”, a small advisory group that had presented former Prime Minister Sharon with an important report titled Israel’s Strategic Future. In that now no-longer-confidential report, Beres and his distinguished colleagues – including a former member of the IDF General Staff – issued specific warnings to the Prime Minister about Iranian nuclearization and the need for a suitable Israeli response. More specifically, the Daniel Group recommended an end to nuclear ambiguity in certain specified circumstances and also a resort to preemption (anticipatory self-defense) as a last-resort measure to prevent nuclear-inflicted genocide from Tehran. Project Daniel also advised that Israel adopt an openly counter-value nuclear targeting doctrine, including the explicit identification of various high-value population centers and resources in selected parts of the Arab/Islamic world. The
recommendations were very controversial, but the authors were guided by their informed view of the genuinely existential threats now facing Israel, and by their understanding that catastrophic war avoidance requires credible deterrence.
After the falling rockets from Lebanon, Israel has much to fear. But Israel also has both the will and the capacity to learn from this latest war, not merely the singular lessons of strategy and tactics, but also the much broader insights of religion, philosophy, law and politics. It is with this distinctly broader view in mind that Professor Beres now offers us his latest ACPR Policy Paper. We all share his belief that war can be a dreadful preceptor, but that it can be a deeply meaningful teacher nonetheless.
* * *
The recent war in Lebanon was an event that has already left significant marks, and it is certainly bound to have a continued impact on developments in Israel, the Middle East region and beyond. For Israel, this was a fight against Iran by proxy. Hizbullah and its allies, both inside Lebanon and in the broader Middle East, have claimed a “divine victory” in its confrontation with Israel. Although the facts are somewhat different – in concrete terms neither side has really been victorious and the overall perception was very damaging to Israel in more than one respect. While Israel certainly created greater damage to Hizbullah than vice versa, the well-oiled propaganda apparatus run by Hizbullah, aided by the less-than-perfect PR effort on the Israeli side, produced distinctly negative consequences. Not only may Israel’s own deterrent capability have been damaged, at least temporarily, but so too, indirectly, has that of the United States vis-à-vis Hizbullah’s patron, Iran.
Both of these matters will thus have to be decisively and urgently dealt with.
In the Arab world, perceptions are often stronger than facts. Even though the Israeli air force had great success in totally eliminating Hizbullah’s long-range missiles and missile launchers, and in spite of the fact that there wasn’t a single actual combat in which Israeli soldiers didn’t have the upper hand, the image created in the minds of many people was totally different. In addition to a more general problem, how modern armies should deal with militarized terrorist groups, the war has given rise to serious questions with regards to the present Israeli leadership and the command structure in the IDF. It is too early, of course, to predict what the ramifications of this will be. There is no doubt, however, that both Israel’s friends and enemies will be watching.
While the recent fighting in Lebanon is fresh in our memory, more important are the overall implications for Israel’s future in the confrontation with its enemies. These implications are enlarged by the fact that, like it or not, Israel also finds itself in the eye of the gathering storm between the Free World and Islamic “Jihadism”.
Professor Beres’s policy paper addresses all these issues – and more! All of it is important. Consider, for example, this crucial observation:
In calculations of strategic deterrence, Israel’s planner must always recall that what matters is whether a prospective attacker perceives secure Israeli retaliatory forces. Where a prospective attacker perceives vulnerable retaliatory forces, it might judge the first-strike option against Israel to be entirely cost-effective. This means, inter alia, that Israel’s intelligence estimates must always keep close watch over enemy perceptions...
One can only hope that this analysis by Professor Beres will be diligently studied by Israel’s strategic planners.
Ambassador Zalman Shoval
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