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Limited wars are too dangerous

Posted By Obadiah Shoher On February 27, 2007 @ 12:12 am In peace process | 13 Comments

It is a truism that warfare develops in spirals of offensive – defensive capabilities. From 1950s to late 1960s, Israel possessed weapons superior to Arab enemies’. Soviet supplies of surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles to Egypt and Syria, along with other decent weaponry, changed the balance and pushed Israel on defensive or very careful offensive. Jews naturally outsmarted Arabs and countered their defenses, such as SAM’s, with superior tactics. The equation has changed from the 1973. Israel relies on super-expensive tanks and American aircraft, while Arabs purchase cheap and very efficient Russian SAM’s and anti-tank missiles. Arab quantitative advantage and the relative cheapness of their defenses would one day make impossible large-scale Israeli invasion of Egypt or Syria or even operation near their borders. Even now, such wars would be prohibitively expensive for Israel. The major lesson from the 1973 war is that Israeli stocks of many weapons were exhausted in two weeks. In the near future, Arabs won’t be able to cover their entire territories with SAM’s and would concentrate them in border areas. That leaves Israel with two options: deep penetrating strikes or total wars. In both cases, Israel has to abandon the absurd notions of not targeting enemy civilians.
The American Strategic Defense Initiative was criticized for provoking arms race and endangering civilians. Better defense leads an attacker to target less-defended areas, predominantly civilian. The declared policy of targeting civilian areas is an acceptable response to the build-up of enemy defense capabilities. Defense is not harmless, but upsets mutual balance of fear. Well-defended party could start offense without fearing great cost to its hinterland. That was the idea of Egypt in 1973: protect the Suez border with SAM’s, and attack from there; sort of a limited liability. Syria bids for massive amount of Russian surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles in the apparent attempt to regain the Golans. Just like the Soviets did in response to the SDI, Israel has to publicly switch to the strategy of extreme devastation. Syrians won’t have enough SAM’s to cover all the significant cities.
Russian newspapers were indignant at the Jewish attempts of “unlawful” self-defense during pogroms. Soviet newspapers scorned apologetic attempts of the Jews subjected to blood libel and intended for resettlement to Siberia, the place Nazi originally earmarked for us. Israel must stop playing the lamb of Isaiah with Russia. Respond to the SAM and AT missiles sales to Arabs with arms sales to Russian separatists and hostile neighbors, such as Georgia.

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