The call for unhindered use of nuclear weapons by the Israeli army seems unrealistic but it is the only realistic choice. Every other strategy amounts to either military or economic suicide on the part of Israel.

Three decades ago, Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt. That supposedly eliminated the only meaningful Arab enemy. Egypt has not formally threatened Israel since, and political relations between the two countries remain cordial. Nevertheless, the Israeli military budget increased. The reasons were many, including the rising cost of weapons, the bureaucratic tendency of spending to perpetuate itself, and arms race with Egypt. Arab countries continue to spend on arms. Egypt and Iran, Muslim powerhouses, have to maintain armies much stronger than any of their neighbors’. Saudi Arabia has to protect its riches, though it is incapable of maintaining a functioning army. Accordingly, it opts for WMD (such as ballistic missiles) and eyes the possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons; likely the Saudis already possess Pakistani warheads. To summarize, Arabs engage in arms races; Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are militarized in excess of the others. Israel has to maintain an army capable of crushing them all simultaneously. Opposing the entire Middle East, even the entire Islamic world, isn’t cheap. Israeli smartness and tactical advantages play a role, but in the end, numbers matter. Brilliant German generals suffered defeat when they invaded Russia, which possessed unlimited human and material resources. The ever-bureaucratizing IDF staff makes winning moves such as the preemption in 1967 or Sharon’s advance into the enemy’s rear in 1973 exceptions. The arms race today is qualitatively different from twenty years ago. Arabs buy cutting-edge American and Russian weapons rather than taking deliveries of uncompetitive Russian arms, as they did from 1950 through the 1980s. Israel cannot discount the quantity of weapons stockpiled by Arabs, who spend $50–100billion annually on weapons. Israel cannot afford to match those quantities, and even if she did, the Arabs could field a hundred times more infantry than the Jewish state. Israel’s only strategic choice is preventing full-blown military conflicts. That could be achieved with extreme threat, assured by denying Muslims the chance to acquire WMD, and confirmed with the first nuclear response.

Threats consist of two parts: severity and credibility. The American nuclear threat is severe, but after the wars in Korea and Vietnam and nuclear development crises in China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran, it is not credible. To remain credible, a threat has to be realized intermittently, but not so often as to become routine violence.

The second objective, denial of WMD to the Muslims, offers Israel a platform for maintaining her nuclear threat credibility. Israel could use tactical nuclear weapons, not necessarily low-yield, against the WMD facilities of Muslim countries, foremost against their nuclear facilities. That would be understandable to foreign liberals (who oppose the arms race), conservatives (worried about nuclear proliferation), and Arabs (concerned about Persian ascent and jealous of Egyptian dominance). The key concept in punishment is justice; people accept just punishment and oppose arbitrary prosecution. Israel has to consistently suppress any attempt by the other regional countries to acquire WMD. The policy must be enforced against every state, not only the weak. Israel’s only hope of existence amid the sea of Muslims is hegemony. Assured Israeli nuclear reprisal would be sufficiently frightening that the Muslims would soon stop accumulating WMD, and Israel won’t have to dissipate the threatening effect in many strikes.

Tactical nuclear explosions are not as damaging as commonly thought. Once the Muslims see a few, they would fear them somewhat less. The doctrine of escalation deals with that. Israel needs to use tactical nuclear weapons in demilitarization operations, but strategic bombs in repelling Muslim aggression or build-up at Israeli borders. Tactical nuclear strikes affect military installations; strategic strikes evaporate Muslim cities. Israel should develop the third and last stage of escalation, an apocalyptic response to an unstoppable Muslim invasion or WMD attack against Israel: wholesale nuclear annihilation of Muslim shrines and cities. Israel invariably lacks depth of defense; bringing the war into Muslim cities makes the entire Middle East a battleground and emulates the depth of defense for Israel.

Could Israel rely on international treaties for protection? Poland did before WWII. The world urged restraint on Israel in 1967 and 1973, and embargoed arms sales in 1948. The Security Council would shower the Muslims with condemning resolutions while they wiped the Jews out.

There is no economic or military alternative to demilitarization of enemies, preemption, and the first nuclear response. There would be consequences: international sanctions (didn’t the Jews get used to them during millennia of living in the Diaspora?) and radiological fallout (no clinical evidence exists of its adverse effect on health). The price is large, but that’s the only deal we could get.