Hoping for Plan B
In The Two O'Clock War: The 1973 Yom Kippur Conflict and the Airlift That Saved Israel, author Walter Boyne relates the story of how Israel, faced with national extinction in the first days of the conflict, considered the idea of dropping nuclear weapons on Arab capitals as a last resort. This story is repeated in an Air Force monograph on the 1973 War without confirmation. By far the most intriguing version of the story as related by Boyne concerns the rumor that Israel had prepared a strike on Moscow to wreak ultimate vengeance on Sadat's superpower sponsor, although Boyne attaches little credibility to the tale, citing limitations on the range of Israel's F-4 strike aircraft.
James Dunnigan, speaking at the Glenn and Helen podcast, argued that the key problem posed by Kim Jong Il's missile posturing -- for China -- was that it might force Japan to go nuclear, adding that Japan with it's plentiful supply of fissile material and superlative industrial and technical base, could produce weapons and launchers that could unquestionably work within fairly short order.
These two instances illustrate the limits of political correctness in dealing with nations. No declarations of "illegitimacy" will eliminate the actual existence of Israel; no admonitions against rearmament can wholly restrain a Japan bent upon survival. Words are one thing, but physical reality is another. An Salama A Salama in Al-ahram op-ed piece said:
The Palestinians must be aware by now that they can no longer count on Arab help, economically, politically or militarily. They must defend themselves without waiting for Arab assistance.
Half the Palestinian cabinet and many parliamentarians are in Israel's hands. President Mahmoud Abbas is trapped and Gaza is being pummeled, all because one Israeli soldier has been abducted in retaliation to the killing of an entire Palestinian family on a Gaza beach. And yet Arab nations have had enough. They've had enough of this endless tragedy. They've had enough of the slogans and rhetoric that gets us nowhere. Arab governments have run out of options. They are tired of running around, trying to get sympathy from the UN and a resolution from the Security Council. Meanwhile, Israel is bullying everyone. Only recently it sent planes into Syria's airspace, just to show the Syrians who's the boss. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh isn't even asking the international community to intervene.
Just who in the "international community" actually has the ability to intervene against Israel is a good question. The one country that definitely has the capability to physically compel Israel is exactly the one Arab countries know better than to ask. And the countries which regularly announce their willingness to compel Israel are the very ones who shudder at the actual prospect of compelling anything. Asymmetric warfare at it's limit becomes entirely symmetric. The restraints which hold back the stronger party dissolve in proportion to the proximity of success. Media campaigns, UN statements, even terrorist acts might nudge the Israeli settlers out of Gaza, but when pursuit continues into Israel these methods may lose traction altogether. When Israel starts paying Hamas back in their own coin the "asymmetric" rules of the game collapse and a kind of lawlessness reigns which threatens to engulf the whole region.
One of the saddest commentaries on modern manners is that nobody takes you seriously until you act crazy. Only a few die-hard geographers would even be interested in locating North Korea on the map if not for the erratic, almost demented behavior of its rulers. One of terrorisms continuing professional challenges to craft attacks each of which is gorier than the last; each outrage worse than the preceding, lest the "international community" begin to suspect an outbreak sanity and forget all about your cause. So well understood is this effect that many readers hardly bat an eyelash upon reading that the Great Leader steals Chinese rolling stock delivering foodstuffs to his starving country; nobody is surprised to learn that the Palestinian authority expects Israel to pay it money even while it uses the money to shell Israel. It's all part of a familiar game. Nothing new. But a real crisis immediately ensues when those who from whom we expect restraint suddenly start doing the unexpected. Like parking itself in Gaza or buzzing the Syrian President's house.
Israel's actions in Gaza, like the suddenly vigorous reaction of Japan against North Korea, are signs that that the situation is becoming so serious the old, familiar rules may not work any more; the corollary of which is that things are slipping ever slowly from our grasp.