The primary importance of “system” is obvious to all serious students of world politics. In this connection, what happens in the protracted American crisis with North Korea could sometime have substantial or even profound implications for the Middle East. Most urgently, as ongoing crisis in northeast Asia has focused renewed attention on the risks and consequences of a nuclear war, a broadly “systemic” question should be raised in both Washington and Jerusalem:
For a short window of time, at least, selective preemptions against certain Iranian nuclear assets and corollary infrastructures might still have made overall strategic sense. Now, however, for Israel, the country most directly threatened by a prospectively nuclear Iran, rational self-defense options must be limited to narrowly reactive counter-measures. Above all, this means conspicuous reliance for Jerusalem upon long-term nuclear deterrence and ballistic-missile defense.
There is more. If Israel’s senior military planners operate according to a properly fashioned strategic doctrine, these still-remaining options should include a graduated end to Israel’s policy of “deliberate nuclear ambiguity,” or what is sometimes called the “bomb in the basement.” Included, too, would be continuous engineering upgrades to all intersecting and multi-layered missile interceptors, and certain parallel efforts aimed at enhanced national plans for intelligence, counterintelligence, cyber-defense and cyber-war. In specific military parlance, because these plans would be inter-penetrating or “synergistic,” they could suitably represent more-or-less powerful “force multipliers.”
Earlier, a successful and timely preemption might still have prevented a nuclear Iran. Now, Israel’s defensive anti-missile programs can do nothing toward slowing down Iranian nuclearization, but they could nonetheless become useful adjuncts to national nuclear deterrence. This reinforcing development would come about because the rationality of any contemplated Iranian attack upon Israel would likely be impacted by Israel’s already-deployed hard-target protections.
With visibly capable Israeli ballistic missile defenses in place, Tehran would require a steadily increasing number of offensive missiles to ensure its presumptively necessary penetration capacity. Such defenses, therefore, constitute a vital component of Israel’s overall deterrence posture.