Wednesday, March 09, 2011

how the end begins: the road to nuclear ww-III

NYTimes | When Rosenbaum turns to the Middle East as a hot center of nuclear danger, however, he hits his stride. He’s already explored the question of the morality of deterrence, of threatening to kill millions of people in a retaliatory nuclear attack if the United States were struck with nuclear weapons. He’s noted that the World Court in 1996 adjudged “that the entire system of nuclear deterrence was a war crime.” That may be so, Rosenbaum acknowledges, but what is Israel, in particular, to do?

Surrounded by enemies who call for its destruction, Rosenbaum writes, Israel has assembled a substantial if unacknowledged nuclear arsenal. An attack by a ­nuclear-armed regional enemy — perhaps Iran at some future date when it has acquired nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to deliver them — could materialize without effective warning, and only a few nuclear weapons would be enough to destroy the country. Israel has therefore deployed nuclear cruise missiles on a small fleet of German-made submarines that reportedly patrol the Iranian coast. The submarines give Israel a secure second-strike capability, which deterrence theory predicts should be adequate to prevent a rational enemy from attacking. But what if deterrence fails?

The Jews would then be visited with a second Holocaust, Rosenbaum observes. He calls this possibility “Hitler’s chain reaction,” noting that the United States had raced to develop the atomic bomb in the first place because it feared that Nazi Germany was working on such a weapon. “The contemporary Middle East is a Hitler dream come true,” he writes sardonically. “The Jews have been compelled by the Holocaust and history to, in effect, round themselves up and may feel compelled by history to inflict an attack with genocidal consequences on others that could well precede a second one for them.” That is, either Israel would attack first with nuclear weapons, pre-emptively, and then be attacked in turn, or its submarines would retaliate after Israel was destroyed. Either way, a second Holocaust would result.

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