If you want peace, prepare for atomic war

UN condemns Israel’s “violation” of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Funny, because Israel isn’t a signatory on the pact.

Iran test fires a Fajr-3 missile 370 (R) (photo credit: IRNA / Reuters)
Iran test fires a Fajr-3 missile 370 (R)
(photo credit: IRNA / Reuters)
On December 3, just four days after voting in strong support of a Palestinian state, the UN General Assembly condemned Israel for allegedly violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Of course, this enthusiastic condemnation made no formal legal sense, because Israel, for very good reasons, has chosen to remain outside the 1968 pact. For Israel, agreeing to join the NPT as a non-nuclear member state, its only available treaty membership option, would be tantamount to national suicide.
Why would joining be so lethal to Israel? Plainly, making the Middle East in particular a nuclear weapon free zone could endanger Israel, and correspondingly strengthen Israel's enemies, including non-Arab Iran. By removing Israel's indispensable deterrent to suffering annihilatory military defeat, Israel's non-nuclear enemies would no longer be confronted by the near-certain prospect of unacceptably damaging retaliations. 
In such a denuclearized region, these relentless enemies, soon to be joined by "Palestine," could - at least in various collaborative combinations - achieve an unprecedented strategic advantage. This significantly one-sided advantage could be further enhanced by still-growing Arab and Iranian stockpiles of chemical or biological arms.
A core truth now needs to be more thoroughly understood.
By themselves, US President Barack Obama's well-publicized views notwithstanding, nuclear weapons are not always evil.
Indeed, by themselves, nuclear weapons are not the problem. In some situations, circumstances where war and genocide are not mutually exclusive, these weapons can even prove a blessing to peace and survival.
In the turbulent Middle East, a no-longer-nuclear Israel could be quickly overwhelmed by substantially larger enemy forces. As every military thinker who has read Karl von Clausewitz On War will readily recall, there can come a time, in virtually any military conflict, when "mass counts."
Israel, it follows, must never allow such a time. Instead, it must remain recognizably willing and able to use its nuclear weapons. The objective would not be to encourage any form of nuclear exchange, but rather to diminish the overall probability of existential aggressions and catastrophic war. Si vis pacem, para bellum atomicum. “If you want peace, prepare for atomic war.” At first glance, this would seem an odd strategic maxim for Israel, perhaps even needlessly belligerent. But, in the end, there can be no better military advice for the increasingly imperiled Jewish State. 
Soon, this maxim, still only whispered (in deference to longstanding Israeli policy of "deliberate nuclear ambiguity"),  must become part of a more open Israeli strategic doctrine. This is not because a nuclear war is necessarily becoming more likely. It is because Israel’s nuclear deterrent will remain sorely critical for the prevention of large-scale conventional conflict, and because the credibility of this deterrent will require incrementally greater disclosures.
The myriad security threats facing Israel are not mutually cancelling. With Iran’s steady and unhindered nuclearization, an eventual nuclear war, or even a “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack, cannot be ruled out. Considered together with the plausible understanding that an Iranian nuclear enemy could be driven by incomparably ecstatic expectations of jihad, Israel's military planners will need to augment credible deterrence postures with (1) apt forms of diplomacy; (2) ballistic missile defense; and/or (3) still operationally possible forms of preemption.
Under authoritative international law, such a preemption, if directed against an "urgent" threat that is also "imminent in point of time,"  would represent "anticipatory self-defense."
This last option might include cyber-attacks, assassinations, or regime-change interventions. It need not be limited to the more conspicuously traditional sorts of defensive military strike.
Following the UN General Assembly's recent upgrading of "Palestine" to the diplomatically elevated status of a "nonmember observer state," Israel must examine the strongly related and inter-penetrating security consequences of a Palestinian state. Today, especially if newly-reelected   Obama should continue with the Road Map To Peace in the Middle East, a truly independent state of Palestine could be carved out of Israel. Here, Palestine would quickly become an additional and largely ideal platform for launching anti-Israel war and terror.
Without any evident subterfuge or masquerade, Obama still seeks “a world free of nuclear weapons.” For Israel, acceptable compliance with this improbable and imprudent vision would require certain antecedent forms of nuclear disarmament.  Then, once a new enemy state of Iran and its grateful allies believed that Israel had been bent sufficiently to US-supported "nonproliferation" demands, adversarial military strategies could progress, rapidly, from terror to war, and from attrition to annihilation.
Israel's unilateral nuclear disarmament is very hard to imagine. But it is not entirely inconceivable. Ironically, certain of the country's leading academic strategists continue to advance this manifestly self-destructive idea. I have debated these strategists myself, even on the sober pages of the Harvard journal, International Security.
It is usually difficult to imagine nuclear weapons as anything other than evil.  Yet, there are circumstances wherein a particular state's possession of such weapons may be all that protects it from major war or genocide. Moreover, because such weapons may most efficiently deter international aggressions, at least in those cases where the prospective aggressor remains fully rational, their possession could also protect neighboring states, both friends and foes, from war-related harms.
Should Israel ever be deprived of its nuclear forces because of any naively idealistic hopes for peace, it could become starkly vulnerable to overwhelming enemy attacks.  Although such a life or death vulnerability might be prevented, in principle, by simultaneously instituting parallel forms of chemical/biological weapons disarmament among Israel's enemies, such steps would never actually succeed.  Verification of disarmament compliance is inevitably very difficult.  Any such verification would become even more problematic in those complicated cases in which several enemy states would be involved. 
In the volatile Middle East, the core threat to peace is not Israel's nuclear weapons. These weapons are actually peace-preserving. The real core threat, especially with newly-intersecting dangers emanating from Iran and "Palestine," remains a steadfast jihadist commitment to "excise the Jewish cancer." To wit, we need only consider the most recent exterminatory exhortations from Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal.
"From the river to the sea," says Mashaal, unambiguously delineating the borders of "Palestine." Significantly, it is a definition also fully accepted  by the "moderate" Palestine Authority (PA) president, Mahmoud Abbas.
The US-backed Road Map , like the prior and once functional Oslo  agreements, is merely a convenient enemy expedient.  Nothing more. If ever taken seriously in Jerusalem, it could become an irreversible cartographic detour to oblivion.  
With its undeclared nuclear weapons, Israel could still more-or-less efficiently deter enemy unconventional aggressions, and also most large conventional ones.  With these weapons, Israel could still launch non-nuclear preemptive strikes against enemy state hard targets that would threaten Israel's annihilation.  Without these weapons, any such expressions of anticipatory self-defense would likely represent the onset of a much wider war. This is because there could no longer be any sufficiently persuasive threat of an Israeli counter retaliation. Some truths are annoyingly counter-intuitive. In essence, Israel's nuclear weapons represent an effective impediment to the regional use of nuclear weapons, and to the corollary start of any regional nuclear war. Over time, however, the credibility of Israel's nuclear deterrent will also require certain carefully considered departures from the nation's traditional posture of "deliberate nuclear ambiguity." That point, planning with the correct intent of enhancing national nuclear deterrence, will be the right time to take Israel's bomb out of the country's "basement."           Si vis pacem, para bellum atomicum.           "If you want peace, prepare for atomic war."
The writer (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971)  is the author of many major books and articles dealing with  nuclear strategy and nuclear war, including Security or Armageddon: Israel's Nuclear Strategy; Mimicking Sisyphus: America's Countervailing Nuclear Strategy; and  Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics.  In Israel, he was Chair of Project Daniel (2003). Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.