by Professor Louis Rene Beres
The 'Obama Doctrine' and Israeli Strategic Planning
The high-minded centerpiece of Barack Obama's still-emerging strategic doctrine is "a world free of nuclear weapons." Although plainly misconceived - this presidential policy expectation is both unattainable and undesirable -
Doctrine is a net. In the interpenetrating worlds of war and peace, only those who cast will catch. Without an appropriate and up-to-date doctrine that takes
What should be done?
First, Israeli strategists must now look directly at their country's principal existential threats, and identify these perils, promptly and openly, as the dominant object and rationale of their inquiries. Will the "Obama Doctrine," with its expressly-diminished reliance on nuclear deterrence, be helpful or harmful in coping with these threats?
Second, Israeli strategists must understand: (a)
Third, Israeli strategists must understand that the entire world is best understood as a system, and that the disintegration of power and authority structures within this wider macro-system will impact, with enormous and at-least partially foreseeable consequences, the Israeli micro-system. How will this impact be enlarged or reduced by President Obama's now-codified unwillingness to respond to lower-order (chemical or biological) attacks with nuclear reprisals?
Fourth, the Obama Doctrine does not provide any real guidance on how to deal with those states and sub-state organizations that may not be subject to deterrent threats. This brings to mind the core security problem of prospective enemy irrationality. How should
Fifth, long-term, Israeli strategists must learn to consider seemingly irrelevant literature, real literature, not the narrowly technical materials normally generated by military thinkers, but the genuinely creative and artistic product of writers, poets and playwrights. The broadly intellectual insights that can be gleaned from this real literature may ultimately provide a far better source of strategic understanding than the visually impressive but often misleading matrixes, mathematics, metaphors and scenarios of the "experts."
Sixth, Israeli strategists need to acknowledge the occasional advantages of private as opposed to collective strategic thought. They should be reminded of Aristotle's prescient view: "Deception occurs to a greater extent when we are investigating with others than by ourselves, for an investigation with someone else is carried on quite as much by means of the thing itself." There is a correct time for collaborative or "team" investigations, but in certain matters concerning Israeli security, as in all science generally, one may sometimes discover optimal conceptual value in the private musings of single individuals. This observation refers especially to strategic doctrine.
Seventh, Israeli strategists now need to open up, again, and with greater diligence and formal insight, the major policy question of nuclear ambiguity. Possibly under growing pressure from
Eighth, again with a clear view to changing nuclear doctrine in the
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at
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