Beyond the West’s Imagination

, Scott Thormaehlen, Leave a comment

The Foreign Policy Research Institute’s (FPRI) retired CIA operations officer Garrett Jones responded to a February 19th piece from the New York Times. Although in agreement with the Times’ conclusion that a conventional strike from Israel on Iran would be problematic, Jones doesn’t “believe the Israelis ever have seriously considered a conventional military strike as an effective way of stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon” (Jones, Israel and Iran: Everyone is Asking the Wrong Questions, FPRI).

Historically, Israel’s doctrine for its nuclear arsenal has been to deter annihilation. Jones draws on the example of Islamic Pakistan obtaining a nuclear weapon and Israel’s lack of concern for its own safety in the face of it.  Israel understood the historical tensions between India and Pakistan, and that the nuclear threat was for India to be concerned with, not Israel. Iran with nuclear weapons, though, represents a direct threat to the Israeli state.

Jones notes that Israel is fully capable of launching a nuclear first strike, but will likely face harsh condemnation from other Middle Eastern countries. However, Israel will act on its “Never Again” slogan that dates back to WWII, if they feel threatened, and deal with the repercussions later.  Dr. Earl Tilford, a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College, suggests that “such an attack…would make clear that Israel won’t tolerate retaliation from Tehran’s surrogates in Lebanon, Syria, and their Hamas allies in Gaza” (Tilford, Iran: Israel’s Options).

Both Jones and Tilford agree that the leaders in the West fail in their imagination to think “the unthinkable.” Tilford draws on the conditions President John F. Kennedy faced in the 1960s against the Soviet Union, when Kennedy “asked the Air Force to plan a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union…President Kennedy thought the unthinkable.”

“Low-yield, tactical nukes would solve problems of penetration,” Tilford argues. “The bonus effect includes making those sites unusable for years. Underground detonations also minimize radioactive fallout.”

Scott Thormaehlen is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail