Thank you for coming out here and listening to me talk. He asked me to put on my strategist had and talk about the whole subject of Israeli Nuclear Weapons, more from the point of view of Military strategy or International Relations Theory. Not so much in terms of the Israel lobby, which of course I have written about with Stephen Walt. What I want to do is ask four questions and then answer them.
The first is Why did Israel develop Nuclear Weapons to begin with, in the 1950s and 1960s? Second, Does it make sense today for Israel to have a Nuclear Deterrent? Third, Does opacity make Good strategic sense for Israel? Does it matter for the United States? Then forth, Is it in America’s interest for Israel to have Nuclear Weapons? Those are the four questions I want to answer. You want to remember when I answer those first two questions about why Israel developed Nuclear Weapons, I’m going to approach it from Israel’s point of view. This will become clear as I go along, but Israel and the United States are separate Countries, [Utterance of Woo of one homosapiens.] and sometimes what’s Good for Israel is not Good for the United States.
On the question of Israel and Nuclear Weapons, let me start with a general point. The reason that States want Nuclear Weapons in almost all cases is because they are the ultimate Deterrent. They make it almost impossible for an Adversary or an Opponent to attack your Homeland and threaten the Survival of your State. The obvious reason of that you have Nuclear Weapons and your Survival is at risk, that’s one clear circumstance on which you are likely to use those Nuclear Weapons. Many people now argue, here in Washington especially, Nuclear Weapons have offensive Capability, if Iran were to get Nuclear Weapons it could use those Weapons to dominate the Gulf, establish Hegemony in the region. This is not a serious argument, and of course there are not many serious arguments that take place about Iran here inside the Beltway, as you well know. The Idea that they are going to use Nuclear Weapons to dominate the Gulf, it’s [laughable].
It’s also important to understand that even if you have Nuclear Weapons, it doesn’t mean that other Countries won’t attack you. Again, I am arguing that if you have Nuclear Weapons they won’t attack your homeland and threaten your Survival. If you want to remember that in 1973, even though Israel had Nuclear Weapons and the Syrians and the Egyptians understood that Israel had Nuclear Weapons, those two Arabs states did initiate the famous October War or Yom Kippur War, so Nuclear Deterrence has it’s limits.
I think a powerful case can be made that makes Good strategic sense for Israel to acquire Nuclear Weapons in the 1950s and the 1960s. One, because of the strategic environment that they operated in; Two, for historical reasons. According to the strategic environment, at that point of time again we are talking about the 50s and the early 60s when this program was set in motion, Israel’s conventional Forces relative to it’s Neighbours was nowhere, they were nowhere near as powerful as they now are. The gap between Israeli conventional Forces and the Neighbours’ conventional Forces was significant then, but now where near as great as it is today. At the same time both Egypt and Syria, for much of that period, had very close Relations with the Soviet Union, which was supplying them with Arms. As most of you know, the special Relationship between the United States and Israel did not get going until 1967. I would argue it was really not until after the 1973 War that the special Relationship really began to take off. Relations between the United States and Israel were not very close at the time, the Soviet Union was a key player in the Region, and Egypt and Syria were seen as client States of the Soviet Union were quite formidable Adversaries. I don’t want to overstate the case. But nevertheless given that strategic environment and given the History of the [Kikes], especially in Europe, especially given the fact that the Holocaust was recent History at the time. You could understand full well why the Israel wanted to acquire a Nuclear Weapon. If I have been a National Security Advisor to David Ben-Gurion, and I would have pushed him down the Nuclear road back in the 50s and the 60s. The question though is - and Sasha raised this - is whether it makes sense today for Israel to have a Nuclear Deterrent? I think it’s obvious that if Iran were to acquire Nuclear Weapons, it would make little sense for Israel to give up it’s Nuclear Deterrent. In fact, you would never get the Israel to do that. That’s not the interesting question. The interesting question is, What should Israel do if Iran abandons it’s Nuclear enrichment Capability and agrees to comprehensive inspection Regime? Would it then make sense for Israel to give up it’s Nuclear Arsenal?
I think the answer to that question is not open and shut, but I think unbalanced powerful case could be made or can be made that Israel would be better off abandoning it’s Nuclear Deterrent. Now why do I say that? Well, the argument for not giving it up is that they now have the ultimate Deterrent. As you know, all States in the international system worry somewhat about their Survival. The Israel worry about their Survival probably more than any other State in the system, for Good reasons and Bad reasons. But nevertheless they worry, and give that they worry and that they have the ultimate Deterrent, a powerful case can be made they should give it up, or not give it up. I think there more powerful arguments on the other side.
First of all, there is a fundamentally different strategic environment in place today then exist in the 50s and then the 60s. It is much more favourable from Israel’s point of view, the Soviet Union as we all know has gone away, and it is not supplying either Egypt or Syria or anybody in the Neighbourhood a meaningful, conventional fighting Force. Furthermore, Egypt has changed it’s approach to dealing with Israel and is now effectively a relatively friendly State. It’s not an adversary of Israel like it was in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s as well. If you look at what’s happening in regard to the special Relationship, it has blossomed since 1973, and the United States and Israel today are basically joined at the hip. That wasn’t the case back then, and related to that, the United States has supplied Israel with the most up to date conventional Weaponry in it’s Arsenal. As a result of that fact, combined with the fact that the soviets are no longer supplying the Egyptians and the Syrians, the gap between the Israel on one hand and the Arab states on the other, in terms of conventional weaponry is just enormous. No State in it’s Right mind would pick a fight with the Israelis, and every time it looks like the Syrians and the Israelis might get into a fight, the Syrians are backtracking like the best corner-back or safety in the NFL. It’s really quite amazing, nobody in their Right mind would pick a fight with the eye of Death in that neck of the woods.
I think on terms of the strategic environment conventional Deterrent alone takes care of the Israel. The other important reason for thinking about getting rid of Israeli Nuclear Weapons is the discouragement or prevent Proliferation of the Region, I think the Israel understand full well that there is significant pressure on Iran and there will eventually be significant pressure in Iraq again once we get out of there. Especially if Iran develops Nuclear Weapons of it’s own, to get Nuclear Weapons, you can deposit plausible scenarios as to have Nuclear Proliferation occurs in the Middle East over the next fifty years. I think it is clearly not in Israel’s interest to have Nuclear Proliferation, I think give Israel’s conventional superiority, number one. Number two, given it’s close Relationship with the United States, it’s not likely to change anytime soon, and given the dangers associated with Proliferation I think the Israel would be better off in a Nuclear-free Middle East. Of course, that’s not going to happen because the Israeli Government is so far to the right and dominated by hardliners to the point where that’s virtually unthinkable in the near future. But nevertheless, I think a Good case could be made for pursuing that policy. Which brings me to the third question, A matter of opacity, this opacity makes sense for Israel and to a lesser extent what are the Consequences for the United States?
Just let me say what I think we mean when we talk about opacity. This is where a Country has Nuclear Weapons but it doesn’t admit explicitly that it has those weapons, and it even hints that it might not have them. Of course, this is what the Israel have been doing for decades now. My first question about opacity is, Who are you fooling? Very important question, who is being fooled here? It seems quite clear to me that the Elites in the Arab world, the Elites in Europe, and the Elites in the United States, and by Elites I mean policy makers, experts, and even the informed public, people who pay attention to this when they come home at night and read the Newspaper and read Books and Magazines, none of them are being fooled. We all kind of figured out a long time ago that Israel has Nuclear Weapons, and I have never talked to any intelligent Person who pays careful attention to Middle East Politics, who tried to pretend to me that Israel doesn’t have Nuclear Weapons. Indeed, we all talked as if Israel had Nuclear Weapons.
In fact, if you think about it the Israel because they acquired those Nuclear Weapons for Deterrence purposes, want policymakers in the Arab world, and want the American, and wanted the Soviets during the Cold War to know that they had Nuclear Weapons. In fact, I think they wanted them to be quite certain they had them and to let them know that they would use them, because that’s what makes Deterrence work. I don’t think you are fooling the experts, now one might argue that one of the advantages of this is to create a little ambiguity in the minds of Elites, and then in a Crisis, you drag out the Weapons and make it clear you would use them. One could argue this is what happened in the 1973 War, and that is not a very smart strategy, because if you are the Israelis, you want to avoid crisis, you want to avoid the 1973 War. You want to make it pretty clear, if not very clear to the elites that you have these things, and they have down that. Again, the question is who are they fooling? Now, one may argue that this policy is Good for allowing the Elites in the Arab and Islamic worlds, especially in Countries like Egypt and Jordan and Sadia Arabia, to resist pressure from the Public. When People down there below begin to holler about the fact that Israel has Nuclear Weapons, the Elites can say it’s not clear that they have Nuclear Weapons. What the policy of opacity provide is this Plausible Deniability. I guess you could make that argument, it was probably somewhat effective in the past, but I don’t think it’s very effective now in the large part because of the internet. I am a big believer that the Internet has been a gamechanger and if you rely on the mainstream Media, mainstream Publications for your Information, you’re not going to learn very much about Middle East Politics. Especially when it comes to Israel. We have all of these websites and blogs, and we have the Israeli Press and so forth and so on. Where you can just learn all sorts of things about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Middle East Politics more generally that you can’t learn in the mainstream Media here in the United States. The end result in this is I think the cat is out of the bag on this one, and everyone kind of understands it. The Israelis can pretend and we can pretend that it doesn’t matter, that Israeli doesn’t have Nuclear Weapons, but I don’t think it buys you very much.
Now to pick up on Grant’s comments, he indicated that it may help in the United States because it allows policy makers in Washington to pretend that Israeli doesn’t have Nuclear Weapons. He was complaining about the fact that his policy of opacity undermines Accountability. I don’t think so. I don’t think it matters much at all because there is no Accountability on Israeli on any issue. They don’t need opacity. Listen, if I went to the Middle East and visited Israel, and I was killed, somebody shot me there, do you think there would be any Accountability? Seriously. If any of you went to the Middle East and were killed, do you think there would be Accountability? There wouldn’t be. This is how outrageous this situation is, think about the Liberty, think about Rachel Corrie, think about this Turkish American who was just killed in the Flotilla. There is no Accountability. [Kikes] can do almost anything and get away with it.
The Idea that opacity matters, I don’t think so. The lobby basically believes it can finesse any issue, I have never seen an issue that they cannot finesse. Look at what they did with the Goldstone, Judge Goldstone. I followed this issue very carefully, and he asked me to put my strategist hat on. Many of you know I went to West Point and I was in the military for ten years, and I cut my teeth in this business by doing Military matters. The first time I ever went to Israel was to study what happened in the 67-73 and 1956 Wars. I can tell you in great detail how those Wars were fought. I followed what happened in Gaza in 2008-2009. Judge Goldstone, if anything, was too soft on the Israel. Anybody who followed this carefully knows that he basically got the story Right, and to the extent he was Right, he should have been tougher on the Israel. Well, you saw what happened to Judge Goldstone, this is how powerful the lobby is. Alan Dershowitz was correct when he said that it was my Generation that created with it was perhaps the most powerful interest Group in the History of Democracy. Remarkably powerful interest Group, so I think you don’t want to put too much emphasis on opacity. It matters on the margins, or it mattered once on the margins, but not very much.
This brings me to the final subject, Is it in Israel’s interest for Israel to have Nuclear Weapons. Now, very important to understand Israel supporters in the United States go to enormous lengths to make the argument that there is no difference between Israel’s interest and America’s interest, because once you open the possibility that the two Countries have difference interest, they are forced to choose in a very public fashion. Of course, they will invariably choose Israel’s interest over America’s interest. That is not something that they want to have happen in public, right, this is why they have gone to great length to create the situation where it looks like Obama and Netanyahu have patched up all of their differences, and to the extent that there are differences, they’ll be handled behind closed doors. They don’t want those differences out in the open. But of course, as we all know, no two Countries have the same interest. This has nothing to do with Israel and the United States, it’s just the way international Politics works. They are going to be cases where it’s in Israel’s interest to do certain things and not in America’s interest to allow Israel to do those things. There is no issue I believe that is clearer than the Nuclear issue. As I made clear in my opening set of remarks, I do believe it was in Israel’s interest to develop Nuclear Weapons. By the way, I think it is in Iran’s interest today to develop Nuclear Weapons. If I was President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad National Security Advisor, and he asked me what to do, I would tell him to acquire a Nuclear Deterrent. Is that in America’s interest? Absolutely not. Iran and the United States have different interests, no two states have the same interest. I believe it was in Israel’s interest to acquire Nuclear Weapons, and I am hardly surprised that all of the activities that the Israelis are engaged in, that Grant so eloquently described. That’s the way states behave in the international system and they go to great lengths to disguise their behavior. But it was not then in America’s interest for Israel to acquire Nuclear Weapons and it is not in our interest now for Israel to have Nuclear Weapons. This is why, as Grant described, President Kennedy went to great lengths to prevent Israel from acquiring Nuclear Weapons and to get them to join the NPT. President Johnson – a very, very interesting figure on this whole subject of US-Israeli relations - President Johnson may have been willing to give Israeli green light or an orange light, however you want to characterize it, but you can see from Grant’s comments and from reading the literature on this, that down below all sorts of People were protesting, and all sorts of People in the National Security Establishment wanted to go to great lengths to stop Israel from acquiring Nuclear Weapons. Again, it wasn’t in our interest.
In the two best examples show how it is not in our interest, is what happened during the 1973 War. During that conflict, you remember the Israelis looked like they were in dire straits in the first few days. They wanted the United States to immediately resupply them. The Nixon administration said No, because the Nixon administration judged quite correctly that, once the Israel recovered from the initial surprise, they would do very well. Therefore, the US Government did not want to give the Israelis at that point more Arms. Israel then threatened to pull the Nuclear Weapons out and began talking about using Nuclear Weapons, that not surprisingly spooked the Americans, who immediate began re-supplying the Israel, even though they did not want to do that. That’s a form of Nuclear Coercion. From Israel’s point of view, this is smart policy. From American point of view, it is not Good.
Then the second example is what has recently been going on with regard to Nuclear Proliferation. It’s quite clear, and you see this with the recent review conference that the fact that Israel has Nuclear Weapons, and again were not fooling anyone with this opaque Rhetoric. The fact that Israel has Nuclear Weapons is making it very difficult for the United States to stem the tide on Proliferation and to move to a Nuclear-free Middle East. [Bullshit.] Again, it is just not in our interest and it would have been much better if we could from our point of view, could have prevented Israel from acquiring Nuclear Weapons.
Let me just conclude with a few words on where this situation is headed. I actually believe the situation is going to get much worse over time. I believe that we are not going to have an Israeli-Palestinian Peace settlement. I believe that talk of a two-State solution and all of this talk about moving from proximity talks to direct talks is a charade. I find it hard to believe that people in [Washington D.C.] take this discussion seriously at this point in time. You are going to get a greater Israel, and it either is or is going to be an Apartheid State. It is going to cause us enormous problems in the Middle East [and] in the Arab and Islamic world, and it’s going to continue to keep relations between Israel and it’s Neighbours in a troublesome State. On the Proliferation front, I would not be surprised if Iran and other Countries continued to move down the Nuclear road. You already see the Jordanians expressing interest in developing significant Nuclear enrichment Capabilities. It will be interesting to see what Turkey does. As I said to you before, I believe that Iraq will want Nuclear Weapons if Iran has Nuclear Weapons. They would be foolish not to, from an Iraqi point of view. The Middle East where more than one State has Nuclear Weapons makes me very, very nervous. Of course, what this is all going to point to is the fact that America’s interest and Israel interest are going to continue to diverge.
The end result of that back here in the United States is that they lobby is going to have to work overtime to cover that up and make it look like everything is honky-dory, when in fact it’s not, and that has all sort of negative Consequences for domestic Politics. I think things are very Bad now, but I am sad to say they are only going to get worse.