The Jewish State's Security depends on more than just its anti-ballistic missile program
Louis René Beres is professor of political science and international law at
For both Israel and
What strategic options will remain available to
The core of Israel's active defense plan for
From the technical side, everything is looking good. Test results for the Arrow, as for Iron Dome, continue to be strongly positive.
Yet, there are also some conceptual problems. Facing the prospect of a fully nuclear
In principle, Israel's preemption option may now appear less urgent. Many strategic planners and scientists believe that the Arrow's repeated success in testing confirms that Israel is prepared to deal satisfactorily with any and all conceivable Iranian nuclear missile attack scenarios.
If Arrow were suitably efficient in its expected reliability of interception, even an irrational Iranian adversary armed with nuclear and/or biological weapons might be dealt with effectively. Even if Israel's nuclear deterrent were somehow made irrelevant by
The answer lies in certain untenable assumptions about any system of ballistic missile defense. No system of ballistic missile defense, anywhere, can be correctly judged as simply "reliable" or "unreliable."
Reliability of intercept is a "soft" concept, and any missile defense system will have "leakage." Whether or not such leakage would fall within acceptable levels must ultimately depend largely upon the kinds of warheads fitted upon an enemy's missiles.
In evaluating its disappearing preemption option vis-à-vis
A fully zero leakage-rate would be necessary to adequately protect Israel against any nuclear and/or biological warheads, and such a zero leakage-rate is unattainable.
Israel must move immediately to strengthen its nuclear deterrence posture. To be deterred, a rational adversary will need to calculate that Israel's second-strike forces are invulnerable to any first-strike aggressions. Facing the Arrow, this adversary will now require increasing numbers of missiles to achieve an assuredly destructive first-strike against Israel.
With any non-rational adversary, however, all Israeli bets on successful deterrence would be off.
International law is not a suicide pact. Israel has the same residual right granted to all states to act preemptively when facing an existential assault. Known as anticipatory self-defense, this universal right is affirmed in customary international law, and also in "the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations." It is even supported by the 1996 Advisory Opinion on nuclear weapons issued by the
Israel must continue to develop, test and implement an Arrow-based interception capability to match the growing threat dictated by all enemy ballistic missiles. It must also prepare for certain possible preemptions, and take steps to enhance the credibility of its nuclear deterrent. Israel must thus operationalize a recognizable second-strike nuclear force, one that is hardened and dispersed, and that is ready to inflict an unacceptable retaliatory salvo against identifiable enemy cities.
Israel must make it clear to any would-be nuclear aggressor that Arrow defenses would always operate simultaneously with decisive Israeli nuclear retaliations. In no way,
Arrow is necessary for Israeli security, but it is not sufficient.
The Arrow-based ballistic missile defense is indispensable for Israel, but it is not enough. Although, after Bushehr, it is already very late, Israel and
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