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November 28, 2009

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srp

BTW, this idea of Iran "giving" a nuke to Hezbollah is irrelevant. The RG personnel can actually accompany the thing to Lebanon, maintain custody throughout, mount it on one of the rockets they've given to Hez, and fire it off, probably without even a formal notification to their Lebanese puppets. It's called special operations.

anduril

Cecil, I'm not going to respond at great length--it's clear that you have some personal reason for refusing to engage with Roth's ideas. Here, however, is the passage you seized upon:

Israel fears that Iran’s nuclear ambitions could undermine its qualitative superiority of arms and its consistent ability to inflict disproportionate casualties on adversaries -- the cornerstones of Israel’s defense strategy.

How does Israel manifest "its consistent ability to inflict disproportionate casualties on adversaries." Not with nuclear weapons--Israel has never used its nukes. Instead, Israel has used conventional weaponry to inflict disproportionate casualties. The loss of "qualitative superiority" that Israel fears is not "qualitative superiority" in the nuclear arena--Israel will maintain qualitative nuclear superiority for the indefinite future. No, Roth is referring to "qualitative superiority" in conventional warfare--the only type of warfare that Israel has ever engaged in.

How would Iran's nuclear ambitions undermine this capability, which Roth correctly identifies as "the cornerstones of Israel’s defense strategy?" Because it introduces an element of uncertainty into the strategic equation and, Roth argues, will cause Israel to respond with more restraint. This uncertainty would be magnified if an Iranian nuclear capability led to further proliferation in the region:

The development of nuclear weapons by Egypt or Saudi Arabia would pose a grave danger to the Jewish state, despite the fact that Egypt has signed a peace treaty with Israel. This is because leaders who have reconciled themselves to Israel’s existence -- including those of Egypt, Jordan, and certain segments of the Palestinian national movement -- have done so because they believed Israel was strong but unlikely to endure in the long term. (Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, for example, justified his pursuit of a peace process with Israel by comparing the Israelis to crusaders: strong today, gone tomorrow.) More broadly, as the Palestinian-American political scientist Hilal Khashan’s work on Arab attitudes toward peace has shown, the willingness of Arabs to make peace with Israel is a direct function of their perception of Israel’s invincibility. Just as an Iranian nuclear capability would imply a nuclear guarantee for anti-Zionist proxies, an Egyptian or Saudi nuclear capability would reduce incentives for other Arab states to make peace with Israel because, shielded under an Arab nuclear umbrella, they would no longer fear catastrophic defeat or further loss of territory.

Such developments would shatter the perception of Israeli invincibility on which successive Israeli governments have pinned their hopes for eventual peace in the region. As a result, Israel’s security would be dependent on maintaining a state of perpetual armed readiness and hair-trigger alert that could counter immediate threats but only in an inconclusive manner, as displayed recently in Lebanon and Gaza. The restraint that Israel showed in both conflicts out of deference to U.S. and European concerns would only be magnified by the new fear of crossing an Arab red line. Future operations resembling the 2006 invasion of Lebanon or the January 2009 attack on Gaza are likely to be even more restrained and therefore, by Israel’s own metric, less effective in pushing Arabs toward peace. In fact, such operations may do Israel more harm than good, because as Israel uses less force and causes less damage, the deterrent effect that Israel hopes to bolster through such operations only gets further eroded.

Thus, even though Israel would maintain an overall "qualitative superiority" in nuclear weaponry that would easily deter any first strike attack on Israel, their freedom of action would be constrained and thus their security would be eroded in spite of the fact that they would be able to deter a nuclear attack. As I expressed it above:

Roth's larger point is that mere possession of nuclear weapons (say, by Israel) may deter a nuclear attack by another country (say, Iran), but it may nevertheless NOT prevent a deterioration in that country's overall security situation.

For what can only be personal reasons you refuse to engage with these ideas--perhaps because they shake up your secure Neocon orthodoxy.

anduril

Where did he say that?

Most explicitly, in the article that Cecil linked.

anduril

How you can pretend that's "out of context" or dishonest is hard to feature.[sic]

Not hard at all. You cited as silliness only the first portion of the summary--bolded below--snatching it out of the total context:

Contrary to popular belief, Israel is not afraid of a nuclear attack by Iran or Hezbollah; rather, it fears losing its nuclear monopoly in the region and the image of invincibility that comes with it.

The unbolded portion, which you concealed from those readers who didn't refer to the original, happens to be the main focus of the article. The title of the article is "The Root of All Fears." The first portion eliminates one factor as the "root" of Israel's fear; the second portion,the part that you concealed, identifies what Roth says is the TRUE "root" of all Israel's fear really is. As such, THAT is the main focus of the article--it identifies what the title refers to.

Cecil Turner

Cecil, I'm not going to respond at great length--it's clear that you have some personal reason for refusing to engage with Roth's ideas.

If that's not "great length," I'd hate to see it when you go long. And my "personal reason" is that I think Roth is full of it. You can parse his statements til doomsday, and they'll still be unpersuasive.

Roth's larger point is that mere possession of nuclear weapons (say, by Israel) may deter a nuclear attack by another country (say, Iran), but it may nevertheless NOT prevent a deterioration in that country's overall security situation.

Roth could've said just that: there are other reasons for fearing an Iranian nuclear program, and they'll happen before Iranian nukes are an existential threat to Israel. Why didn't he say it that way? Because it's boring. We'd all be going "no sh*t, Shlomo" instead of pretending it was cutting edge stuff. By throwing in the "they're not really worried about a direct attack" silliness he gets a reaction.

But pretending deterrence is an effective response in the middle or long term is simply wrong. In the first place we have no real idea of how effective deterrence is on the Iranian regime (which is unstable for several reasons, some discussed above); in the second, the obvious projection of the relative capabilities favors Iran. I suspect Roth knows all that, and is intentionally overstating his case to be controversial. I suspect your embracing the obviously flawed argument is based in politics. Why remains a bit of a mystery. (And unlike you and Roth, I won't try to claim I've read your mind and know what you're thinking.)

Cecil Turner

The unbolded portion, which you concealed from those readers who didn't refer to the original, happens to be the main focus of the article.

Utter frickin' nonsense. You posted practically the whole piece in this comment section. Nobody could've missed any part you thought important, and the part I quoted is the first statement in the article, the overstatement that provides the "hook" for readers, and is the only truly controversial part of it. It's also obviously wrong. You just don't like it because it's indefensible.

Accusing me of attempting to "conceal" something by quoting the sub header? Good grief. I start to see why you like zionist conspiracy theories.

Buford Gooch

I am thankful to the blog gods for the little squares beside the comments. One can determine immediately that the posting is by a loon, and just skip that one. It's too bad more JOMers don't avail themselves of it. Then, they would cease responding to said loon, and it might go away. Anyone who constantly attacks the reading comprehension of his audience displays his own inability to communicate.

anduril

Accusing me of attempting to "conceal" something by quoting the sub header?

That's right. It was only after I called you on it that you included the really important part.

But pretending deterrence is an effective response in the middle or long term is simply wrong.

Deterrence is how we survived the cold war. Nobody's saying it's fun, but Roth seems to be suggesting that Israel may have no alternative. And, he argues, that situation--which differs in crucial respects from the position of the US during the Cold War--erodes Israel's overall security situation. Reread the last paragraph:

The possibility that Israel may no longer be capable of forcing peace upon those who deny its right to exist is beginning to dawn on many Israelis. Whether Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear infrastructure or not, the time has come for Israel’s defense community to develop a strategic doctrine for long-term coexistence that does not rely on a posture of invincibility. But, given that widespread Arab acceptance of Israel’s right to exist does not appear to be on the horizon, most Israelis, including the current prime minister, insist that Israel’s most urgent strategic objective is to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Doing so would temporarily remove the threat of a regional nuclear cascade and maintain Israel’s superiority of arms. More important, it would hold at bay the suspicion that Israel may never attain true peace. This increasingly widespread fear has a toxic effect on national morale, is an existential threat to the Jewish state, and lies at the root of Israel’s obsession with the Iranian bomb.

Roth could've said just that: there are other reasons for fearing an Iranian nuclear program, and they'll happen before Iranian nukes are an existential threat to Israel. Why didn't he say it that way?

I'll grant you that he would've been better served had he sent the article to me for editing. :-)

Cecil Turner

That's right. It was only after I called you on it that you included the really important part.

You're delusional. The independent clause I quoted can stand on its own (that's the definition, dontchaknow). I included the "important part" to illustrate the fact that it was independent (you know, the type you separate with a semicolon). You still haven't tried to defend that silly statement, because it's still indefensible. Pretending it's inextricably connected to the other unobjectionable clause is just wrong. Calling me a liar in the process just makes you an ignorant jerk instead of merely ignorant.

anduril

Nice try, Cecil. Let's go over this nice and slow.

The independent clause I quoted can stand on its own (that's the definition, dontchaknow). I included the "important part" to illustrate the fact that it was independent (you know, the type you separate with a semicolon). You still haven't tried to defend that silly statement, because it's still indefensible. Pretending it's inextricably connected to the other unobjectionable clause is just wrong.

First of all, you conveniently avoid dealing with my explanation that the second clause is actually the important clause.

Here's the entire sentence, with the part that you quoted in bold:

Contrary to popular belief, Israel is not afraid of a nuclear attack by Iran or Hezbollah; rather, it fears losing its nuclear monopoly in the region and the image of invincibility that comes with it.

Now here's my explanation, which you conveniently ignored:

The unbolded portion, which you concealed from those readers who didn't refer to the original, happens to be the main focus of the article. The title of the article is "The Root of All Fears." The first portion eliminates one factor as the "root" of Israel's fear; the second portion, the part that you concealed, identifies what Roth says is the TRUE "root" of all Israel's fear really is. As such, THAT is the main focus of the article--it identifies what the title refers to.

IOW, you quoted the summary of the article, but you left out the clause in the one-sentence summary that actually explains the very title of the article. I'll try to explain this very simply. The title of the article is "The Root of All Fear." In other words, the article purports to explain exactly what is the root of Israel's fear of Iran's nuclear program. In fact, Roth states that fear of a nuclear attack is NOT the root of Israel's fear--the root of Israel's fear is fear of "losing its nuclear monopoly in the region and the image of invincibility that comes with it."

Now, those are Roth's words, not mine. If I had written the summary I would have made the meaning more clear. But the meaning is intelligible for anyone who has read (or, really, even skimmed) the article. Roth is saying that Israel's loss of its nuclear monopoly WILL NOT cause Israel to fear a nuclear attack, but loss of its nuclear monopoly WILL entail other likely but less drastic consequences--and it is those other consequences that are the root of Israel's fear of Iran's nuclear program. You may disagree with Roth, but his position is certainly not "silly on its face," and you can only try to make it appear silly by presenting half of it, safe in the belief that few of your readers will take the trouble to consider an alternative to the "popular belief."

But since you've turned into a pedant and now want to hide behind grammar and punctuation, let's consider that aspect.

The introductory phrase, Contrary to popular belief, is, when combined with the semi-colon that concludes the first clause, a dead giveaway that the first clause is not meant to stand on its own--no matter that it could stand as an independent sentence.

The use of the semi-colon accentuates the point. Either clause could stand as an independent sentence--that's the meaning of the semi-colon. Why use the semi-colon, then? To signal to the reader that the author views the clauses as so closely connected in meaning that they should be considered as in some sense a single unit--in point of fact, a sentence. An examination of the first clause illustrates this. As an independent sentence, that first clause would be awkward, since the introductory phrase clearly hints at an alternative to "popular belief" that remains unexpressed within the clause. And that's what the semi-colon leads us to anticipate. By using the semi-colon, Roth signals that the alternative to "popular belief" lies just ahead, just beyond the semi-colon. He uses the semi-colon to join the two clauses because he wants to balance the two alternatives--the "popular belief" and his own view--within one structure--a sentence.

So let's return from form to meaning. Both the structure and the actual content of the first clause signals the reader that Roth is doing no more in the first clause than stating his rejection of the "popular belief." Therefore, the crux of what Roth intends to communicate lies after the semi-colon, in the alternative to the "popular belief" that he will present and argue for in the paper. Both clauses are indispensable to the larger message that Roth hopes to communicate. In the paper, Roth must first argue to the reader that the "popular belief" does not explain the facts (Israel's palpable fear of Iran's nuclear program) as we know them, and then he must argue that his alternative DOES explain the facts. However, since the belief that Roth is attacking is, indeed, "popular" it must have a surface plausibility. And that is why Roth includes the second clause: to induce the reader to continue to the body of the article he must briefly present his alternative explanation.

What that leads us to is this: since the "belief" expressed in the first clause (that Israel fears a nuclear attack by Iran) is "popular" and therefore plausible, to present the first clause's denial of the "popular belief" without the offer of a reasonable alternative that the second clause contains is grossly unfair to Roth and conceals the possibility of a reasonable alternative. The only reason the first clause can appear to be "silly on its face" is because it is ripped out of its proper context, which includes its close relationship to the second clause. The first clause was never intended to "stand on its own," apart from the second clause. Which is why Roth used the semi-colon--dontchaknow?

Strawman Cometh

If you have to use the phrases: "first clause", "second clause" and "semi-colon" in one paragraph, whatever your argument is, it is beyond salvation.

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