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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 15:21 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: My breathtaking naivete

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27 August 2008 11:33

Chris Skinner reponds to my post on why Israel should get rid of its nukes. My response follows:  

Ever the idealist and trusting believer in the power of logic instead of the logic of power. Hitler had a peace treaty with Stalin – wasn’t worth much in the end. Israel’s treaties with its neighbours are no more worthy if it suits any of them to invade. On the other hand, as several campaigns have proven, Israel would not be easily ‘overwhelmed in a matter of days’ by any conventional force (vide 6-day and Yom Kippur wars) as you have asserted (without evidence again, I note).

Finally — another breathtaking exemplar of naiveté in even discussing Israel voluntarily and unilaterally eschewing its nuclear deterrent – the only thing that might actually convince Iran not to attack Israel. Wishing for a less dangerous world is one thing – foolishly suggesting it can be attained by wishful thinking is quite another.

Really, there's no peacenik naivete here. The primary reason I recommend unilateral Israeli nuclear disarmament is that it would improve Israel's security. But I understand the enmities in the region and that disarmament can only work if it advantages everyone and doesn't rely on trust or faith. 

Consider the bind Israel is in — for decades it has enjoyed military superiority over its adversaries, but if Iran achieves nuclear weapons capability, Israel will be at threat of almost instantaneous annihilation. If Israel is prepared to consider radical means — such as military strikes — to prevent this possibility, why not consider other unpalatable measures? One might be unilateral Israeli nuclear disarmament, which could provide a massive impetus toward permanent, verifiable denuclearisation of the entire Middle East. That is surely infinitely preferable for Israel than a slow but inexorable nuclearisation of the region?

And what would be the consequence if such an Israeli gesture failed to convince Iran and its neighbours to not go nuclear? Pretty manageable, as I've argued. First, Israel would maintain a civilian nuclear establishment that, in an emergency, could be re-militarised (Japan is in just this position today — it is an NPT member in good standing but has the tools and expertise to build a crude nuclear weapon in a year or less.)

And second, Israel has massive conventional superiority over its neighbours. I note Chris' references to the Yom Kippur and the Six-Day Wars, but that actually supports my argument. After all, if Israel is capable of defending itself with conventional means only, as demonstrated in these two wars, what is the nuclear deterrent for? I said in my previous post that the threat Israel faces of being quickly overrun by conventional forces might be serious enough to justify an extant nuclear deterrent, but Chris himself shoots that argument down.