Some tenuously biblical reflections on strategy

      Louis Rene Beres, Professor
      Department of Political Science
      Purdue University
      LAEB Building
      West Lafayette IN  47907  U.S.A.

      Israel may learn from Samson, not to  "die with the Philistines,"  
but to live despite its enemies.  How is this possible?  The biblical Samson,
blinded but not powerless, could destroy the Philistines only by inflicting
his own death.  And Israel is not blind, nor is it powerful in the sense of a
physical strength born of religious faith joined with desperation.  What,
then, is there for Israel to learn from this hero of the post-Pentateuchal
Book, Judges?  

      First, Israel can learn that it must prepare to take hold of the enemy
temple pillars, not because "last resort" options are of overriding
importance in themselves (they are not of such importance),  but because
preparations for such options could make last resort scenarios for
Jerusalem less likely.  By taking steps to "die with the Philistines,"  Israel
would do far more than prepare for the Apocalypse.  Enhancing Israel's
nuclear deterrence, preemption and warfighting capabilties, such steps
could even push away the Final Battle, preserving the Jewish State by
demonstrating both national power and resolve.

      Regarding prospective contributions to Israeli nuclear deterrence,
preparations for a Samson Option could help convince would-be attackers
that aggression would not prove gainful. This is especially the case if
Israeli preparations were coupled with some level of nuclear disclosure,
and if Israel's pertinent Samson weapons appeared to be sufficiently
invulnerable to enemy first-strikes.  In view of what strategists
sometimes refer to as the "rationality of pretended irrationality,"  Samson
could also aid Israeli nuclear deterrence by demonstrating a willingness to
take existential risks, but this would hold only if last-resort options were
not tied definitionally to certain destruction.  

      Regarding prospective contributions to preemption, preparations for
a Samson Option could convince Israel that essential defensive first-
strikes would be undertaken with diminished expectations of unacceptably
destructive enemy retaliations.  This would depend, of course, upon
antecedent Israeli decisions on disclosure, on Israeli perceptions of the
effects of disclosure on enemy retaliatory prospects, and on Israeli
judgments about enemy perceptions of Samson weapons vulnerability.  As in
the case of Samson and Israeli nuclear deterrence, last-resort
preparations could assist Israel's preemption options by displaying a
willingness to take certain existential risks.  But Israeli planners must be
mindful here of pretended irrationality as a double-edged sword.
Brandished too "irrationally,"  Israeli preparations for a Samson Option
could even encourage enemy preemptions.

      Regarding prospective contributions to Israel's nuclear warfighting
options, preparations for a Samson Option could convince enemy states
that a clear victory would be impossible to achieve; that is, that even
after overwhelming the Jewish State and its military forces these states
would face their own overwhelming destruction.  But here it would be
important for Israel to communicate to potential aggressors the following
understanding:  Israel's "Samson"  weapons are additional to (not at the
expense of) its warfighting  weapons.  In the absence of such communication,
preparations for a Samson Option could effectively impair rather than
reinforce Israel's nuclear warfighting options.

      Second, Israel can learn from Samson the mortal dangers of exploited
vulnerabilities.  Like Samson, the Jewish State possesses great strength.
And like Samson, this strength can be blunted or even be "cut off"
altogether.      Israel's national power, of course, does not lie in any one
single part of its "anatomy,"  but its constituent elements are vulnerable
nonetheless.  These elements can be rendered inoperable.

        What, then, is the "lesson" here from Samson?  More than anything
else, it is that Israel draws its power from the land, from the essential
strategic depth  provided by Judea, Samaria and the Golan, and from the
territorial imperative to secure conventional and unconventional
retaliatory forces from enemy first-strikes.  In the absence of secure
retaliatory forces, Israel's deterrence posture could be eroded to
intolerable limits.

      It follows that Israel's current policy of incremental territorial
concessions  -  a policy that flows from a misguided conception of the
peace process -  is a policy that will destroy Israel's power.  Eliminating
strategic depth and preventing secure retaliatory forces, this policy will
strongly encourage large-scale enemy aggressions against Israel, both
conventional and unconventional.  It is a policy, therefore, that ignores  an
important lesson from Samson.

      Should Israel choose, instead, to learn from Samson, it will
strenuously guard its sources of power.  Rather than accepting further
excisions of its already attenuated land mass, an acceptance that would
impair strategic depth to an unmanageable degree and encourage enemy
"preemptive" strikes,  it will insist upon no additional territorial
concessions.  Recognizing that international law is not a suicide pact,  its
leaders will acknowledge forthrightly that Israel has a primary obligation
to survive, an obligation owed to both its current citizens and to those
earlier generations of Jewish victims who now sleep in the dust.

      Israel must not be ashamed of its own power.  Nor must it continue to
project its own reasonable  intentions upon enemy leaderships.  Recalling
from Samson the terrible consequences of powerlessness  -  consequences
brought on not by irresisitible external forces but by Samson's own
foolishness and misjudgments  -  leaders of the Jewish State must now
preserve and prepare to use all vital elements of national power.   In
military terms, these elements include indispensable land mass and
appropriate forms of nuclear weaponry.

      Should Israel's ongoing surrender of land mass lead to creation of a
Palestinian state, a clear loss of geostrategic power would be exacerbated
by a less tangible, but no less important, power loss.  I refer to the loss
attendant upon the probable Arab and Iranian perception of an incessant
and now unstoppable momentum against the Jewish State, a jihad-centered
perception of military inevitability that might not represent a measurable
loss of power but that would nonetheless reinforce and reiterate enemy
advantages.  Recognizing such perceptions, Israel could decide to take its
bomb out of the "basement" (as a deterrence-enhancing measure) and/or it
could accept a greater willingness to launch preemptive strikes against
enemy hard targets.  Made aware of such Israeli reactions, reactions that
would stem from both Israel's territorial vulnerabilities and from Israel's
awareness of enemy perceptions spawned by the creation of Palestine,
Arab states and/or Iran could respond in more-or-less parallel fashion,
preparing more openly for nuclearization and for first-strike attacks.
Such results of the Peace Process would almost certainly increase Israel's
overall dependence upon nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy.

      Such dependence, more than likely, would focus upon the requirements
of nuclear warfighting.  This is the case because the Peace Process will
enlarge Israel's needs for nuclear weapons to fullfil deterrence and
preemption options, and because these options might not be fulfilled
successfully.  That is, deterrence and preemption strategies could fail,
even though they had been supported by nuclear weapons.  Here, Israel's
continued survival could then require the weapons and tactics needed for
nuclear warfighting, a requirement which, by definition, would represent a
diminution of Israel's power.

      To maintain a viable power position in the Middle East, an obligation
that may be learned from Samson, Israel must maintain at all times the
preemption option.  But as this option would be undermined by this
particular Peace Process (Israel, after all, would be generally identified
as the "aggressor" should it preempt while "peace" were in the process of
being negotiated),  that Process impairs such maintenance.  It follows that
Israel, still learning from Samson, should hold on to its essential sources
of power by rejecting this kind of Peace Process and by simultaneously
protecting the nuclear weapons needed for supporting the preemption

      Why are nuclear weapons needed for such support?  Three general
answers come to mind.  

      Israel needs nuclear weapons to preempt enemy nuclear attacks.  This
does not mean that Israeli preemptions of such attacks would necessarily
be nuclear (more than likely, they would, in fact, be nonnuclear),  but only
that they could be nuclear.

      Israel needs nuclear weapons to support conventional preemptions
against enemy nuclear assets.  With such weapons, Israel could maintain,
explicitly or implicitly, a threat of nuclear counterretaliation.  Without
such weapons, Israel, having to rely entirely upon nonnuclear forces, might
not be able to deter enemy retaliations for the Israeli preemptive strike.

      Israel needs nuclear weapons to support conventional preemptions
against enemy nonnuclear (conventional/chemical/biological) assets.  With
such weapons, Israel could maintain, explicitly or implicitly, a threat of
nuclear counterretaliation.  Without such weapons,  Israel, having to rely
entirely upon nonnuclear forces, might not be able to deter enemy
retaliations for the Israeli preemption.

      Third, Israel can learn from Samson that all world politics, and all
global strategy, move in the midst of death.  To truly understand
calculations of war, deterrence, preemption and defense, Israel's leaders
will need to understand  (1) enemy orientations to death, both individual
and collective;  and  (2) Israeli orientations to death,  both individual and
collective. Faced with enemies for whom personal death would be not only
acceptable but agreeable, Israel could discover that its deterrent had
been immobilized and that Third Temple survival was now dependent upon
some more or less feasible configuration of preemption and active

      Samson, we recall, ultimately faced death with resignation and some
equanimity, but it was not his preferred option.  Like Samson, Israel could
conceivably reach a point where it would be willing to "die with the
Philistines," but such a point, it is generally agreed, should be
scrupulously avoided.  Indeed, the Jewish State must now do everything
within its power to avoid ever having to implement a Samson Option.  For
Israel, there can never be any intrinsic merit in death, either individual or

      Some of Israel's enemies, on the other hand, may operate with
different preference orderings concerning life and death.  If, for example,
an Iranian jihad were contemplated against Israel, such a "holy war" could
reflect fundamentally different orientations to personal and collective
sacrifice.  It is not even out of the question that a strongly
fundamentalist leadership in Teheran ordering such a jihad could regard
certain Israeli nuclear reprisals as tolerable or even desirable.
Recognizing this prospect, possibly with the help of Samson, Israel could
learn the limits of its nuclear deterrent before it is too late.

      To a significant extent, the existential problems facing the State of
Israel stem from human inclinations in enemy states to rebel against an
unbearable truth.  Desperate to live perpetually, various portions of
humankind embrace an entire cornucopia of faiths that promise life
everlasting in exchange for undying loyalty.  In the end, such loyalty is
transferred from faith to state, which then battles with other states in
what political scientists and strategists mistakenly describe as a secular
struggle for power, but which is sometimes much more, much much more.  

      Fourth, Israel can learn from Samson that there are advantages to
concrete imaginings of catastrophe.  For now, the Jewish State, it seems,
can contemplate the end of the Third Temple every day,  and yet can
persevere quite calmly in its most routine and mundane affairs.  This
should not be the case if Israel could begin to contemplate the actual
moment of its disappearance.  Israel, therefore, should begin immediately to
replace reassuringly abstract conceptualizations of End Times with
unbearably precise images of horror.

      Sapere aude!  "Dare to know!"  This motto for the Enlightenment
acquires special meaning in Israel's ongoing struggle to endure.  Just as
repression of the fear of death by individuals can occasion activities that
impair the forces of self-preservation, so can Israel impair its
opportunities for collective survival by denying the real possibility of
Third Temple destruction.

      Nowhere is it written that the Third Temple is forever.   On the
contrary, the State of Israel has never been as vulnerable to
disappearance as it is at the present moment.  Faced with an altogether
unique combination of enemy capabilities and enemy intent, Jerusalem may
now face a more immediate genocidal danger than that faced earlier by
millions of individual European Jews.  The Nazis, after all, were never
capable of destroying several million lives in a fraction of a second, of
wreaking megadeath without first acquiring bodily custody of victim

      There is more! In what surely must be the most terrible irony of all,
Israel, as a solution to what Herzl called "The Jewish Question,"   has, by
definition, made millions of Jews more vulnerable to genocidal assault.  By
being concentrated into a tiny area, these Jews (as well as hundreds of
thousands of non-Jews living within the green lines), are now uniquely
subject to  mass murder.  Once targeted by enemy ballistic missiles with
unconventional warheads, these Jews would be subject to prompt
annihilation in a manner that would certainly be sui generis.

      This is not to suggest, by any means, that the Zionist solution to the
Jewish Problem was a mistake.  Quite the contrary!  The establishment of
the State of Israel was unambiguously correct and historically imperative.
What I am urging here is that Israel now feel itself aware  of the
dimensions of the existential threat and of the steps needed to ensure
physical survival.  There are steps that can be taken  -  steps that would
vindicate Israel's raison d'etre  -  but these steps must not be taken
lightly.  This brings us back to the original point "made" by Samson, the
obligation to go beyond analytically abstract and anesthetized conceptions
of national disaster to fully concrete, flesh and blood images.  For Israel,
more than for any other state on Earth, the time for learned intellectual
games is over.  Learning from Samson, residents of the Jewish State must
now feel (not merely know) that agony is infinitely more productive than
syllogism, that unending despair is more revealing than the most subtle
elucidation of strategic thought, and that tears always have deeper roots
and explanatory benefits than smiles.

      Israel, then, must step into death in order to prevent death.  Such
movement would not mean to draw a last collective breath, but rather, to
discover, in the immanent abyss of death, the course of direction toward
life.  Drawing from the revelation of death's immanence in the life of every
nation, the People of Israel could nurture the felt agony that is now
necessarily antecedent to national survival.

      Healthy, "normal" states can never  "experience" such "felt agony."
These states take national survival as altogether given, as something
absolutely independent from "death."  Objectifying death as a reality
transcending national life, these states forget that life is inevitably
death's prisoner.  Although such forgetting has obvious short-term
benefits, it does interfere with prudential forms of long-term collective

      Israel can not afford to be a "normal" state.  It must, instead, feel
that national survival is problematic, that collective extinction
represents the end point of the same continuum that contains collective
vitality, and that survival as a state cannot be detached from informed
premonitions of disappearance.  As a practcal matter, Israel's essential
presentiments of death are apt to appear only when life in the Jewish State
is shaken to its very foundations.  This means, in another ironic turn of
reasoning, that Israel's required nurturance of unbearably precise images
of national life will be contingent upon coming still closer to national
destruction.  In this connection, hoever, there is a great danger that
Israel will wait too long, that it will come so close to the edge of the cliff
that it will no longer be capable of pulling back.

      Fifth, Israel can learn from Samson that there are dangers in hoping,
in always hoping too much.  Mistakes can bring death, both individual and
collective.  Writing of the Jews as a "people of solitaries,"  E.M. Cioran, the
most dazzling and devastating French philosophical voice since Paul Valery,
observes of the Jewish "nation" that this people,  "...unsuited to the
complacencies of despair, bypassing its age-old fatigue and the
conclusions imposed by fate, lives in the delirium of expectation,
determined not to learn a lesson from its humiliations...."

      Such determination must come to an end.  To learn from its
"humiliations,"  and therefore from Samson, Israel must acknowledge, quickly
and forthrightly, that its enemies are doctrinally committed to destruction
of the Third Commonwealth.  Although, in Muslim parlance, all war dictated by
the shari`a is necessarily "holy,"  the Arabic word jihad  -  which has the
literal meaning of "effort," "striving," or "struggle,"  should not be taken
lightly.  A basic commandment of Islam, jihad is an obligation imposed on all
Muslims by God, and is unambiguously military in intent.  

      Derived from the universality of Muslim revelation, jihad calls upon
all those who have accepted God's message and God's word to strive (jahada)
relentlessly to convert or, at a minumum, to subjugate those who have not
converted.  Significantly, for the State of Israel, this obligation is not
bounded by limits of time or space.  It must continue until the whole world
has accepted Islam or has submitted to the power of the Islamic state.

      What is the prevailing Islamic worldview in the interim?  According to
Bernard Lewis:

           Until that happens, the world is divided into two:
           the House of Islam (dar al-Islam), where Muslims rule
           and the law of Islam prevails;  and the House of War
           (dar al-Harb),  comprising the rest of the world.
           Between the two there is a morally necessary,
           legally and religiously obligatory state of war,
           until the final and inevitable triumph of Islam over
           unbelief.  According to the law books, this state of
           war could be interrupted, when expedient, by an
           armistice or truce of limited duration.  It could not
           be terminated by a peace, but only by a final

      Could anything be clearer?  Throughout the Islamic world, Israel's
current pleas for "peace" agreements are exploited eagerly by Israel's
enemies.  While Jerusalem believes that these incrementally-negotiated
agreements point toward authentic and long-term solutions, the Arabs and
Iran regard them as a temporary expedient, indeed as an extraordinary gift
of the foolish "unbelievers" who will now help bring about their own
divinely-ordained destruction.  Of course, it is arguable that current
Islamic states and movements are not animated by doctrine, and that the
obligations of jihad are therefore extraneous to serious strategic
calculation, but such argumentation would be altogether naive, and, again, a
sign of wishful thinking.

      For Islam, the unsubjugated unbeliever  -  in our present concerns,
the Jew  -  is by definition the enemy.  A part of the Dar al-Harb,  "the
House of War,"  he is differentiated sharply from the dhimmi, the unbeliever
who submits to Muslim rule. As for a Jewish State, one that rules over
Muslims and "occupies" Muslim lands, it is nothing less than the very
incarnation of unbelief, an intolerable source of contamination and a
codified inversion of God's will.

      When Haj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, spoke
together with Hitler, on Berlin radio, in 1942, he cried out:  "Kill the Jews -
kill them with your hands, kill them with your teeth - this is well pleasing
calls for the "realization of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should
take.  The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: `The
Day of Judgment will not come until Moslems fight the Jews, killing them.'"
Israel is despised not because of land, but because it is a Jewish State.
Unless this is understood, Israel will continue to hope too much, to waste
critical time in vain endeavors, and to learn nothing from its humiliations.
Samson can help Israel to understand.  

      Sixth, Israel can learn from Samson the dangers of self-delusion.
Samson was blind before his eyes were put out by the Philistines.
Enchanted by Deliliah, he refused to see what was happening before his
eyes.  He believed only what he wanted to believe.

      For Israel, such "blindness" is not confined to Judges.  It was also
evident on October 5 1973,  with the start of the Yom Kippur War.  Until
then, the country had been committed to an "idea" known generally as "the
concept,"  the kontzeptziya, the contrived idea that the Arabs were
unwilling and incapable of renewing hostilities against the Jewish State.
Aman's overall assessment of enemy designs, lasting until October 5, 1973,
was that war was "highly improbable" or "improbable."  It was this
fundamentally incorrect assumption that created a monumental intelligence
blunder  -  the "mehdal" in post-war Hebrew parlance.  This is a blunder that
could be repeated at far greater cost in the future, primarily because of
the unforseen consequences of the Peace Process.

      The dangers of self-delusion revealed by Samson could also be
understood at another, far more fundamental level.  The state system
itself, within which Israel must always act, is now in a process of
transformation.  Should Israel delude itself about the nature of this
transformation, it could pay dearly for its mistake.

      Today, in the world generally and in the Middle East in particular, the
state speaks, more and more, with religious authority.  The state itself, as
we mentioned earlier, is becoming sacred.  And with states as the abode of
God on Earth, the profane is often not only permissible, it is doctrine.

      A final word here about the Jewish State, its uniqueness and its vital
place in Jewish thought, especially in regard to traditional views on the
coming of the Messiah.  The question has arisen, of course, on whether or
not a Jewish State can be consistent with the expectations of Messianic
redemption.  If redemption should depend upon "the experience of exile," or
"homelessness,"   the State of Israel  -  a state that would block the coming
of the Messiah - could be productive to Jews only where it would cease to

      Now that Israel is a fait accompli, it is impossible to imagine a Jewish
position that would willingly go so far to meet these particular Messianic
preconditions.   Yet, a debate did rage on the underlying issues before
1948, when Martin Buber and Hermann Cohen argued fiercely on Zionism and
Messianism.   Buber advanced the view of Exile as a tragic situation, while
Cohen denied that Diaspora was Exile.  In seeking an end to Diaspora, Cohen
maintained,  Zionists were negating the essential vision of Messianism.
Buber countered that Zionism actually furthers the realization of

           Zionism opposes not the messianic idea, but rather
           the misrepresentation and distortion of this idea
           found in a considerable part of Liberal-Jewish,
           anti-Zionist literature.  This misrepresentation and
           distortion glorifies, in the name of messianism, the
           dispersion, debasement and homelessness of the
           Jewish people, as something unconditionally
           valuable and fortunate, as something that must be
           preserved because it prepares humanity for the
           messianic age.

      How different is Hermann Cohen's assessment, which proclaims:  "The
ghetto mentality is not the ghost, but the true spirit of Judaism and Jewish
reality."  Recalling Micha,  "And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of
many peoples, like dew from the Lord,"  (5:6, 7),  Cohen expresses his "proud
conviction" that Jews must "continue to live as divine dew in the midst of
the peoples, and to remain fruitful among them and for them.  All of the
prophets place us in the midst of the peoples and their common perspective
is the world mission of the remnant of Israel."

      But the role of "divine dew" must certainly be reevaluated after the
Holocaust.  Could Hermann Cohen affirm today that Judaism, because of its
Messianic core,  "is thoroughly a world religion?"  Could he claim
purposefully, fifty years after the great tragedy of diaspora Jewry, that
this Messianic core  "cannot be impaired by historical reality, by
misfortune, or even by the auspicious granting of equal rights?"  Are "hope
and trust" truly the correct path to Jewish survival?  "Happy is he that
waiteth,"  (Dan. 12:12), cautions Cohen, but how much longer shall be the
wait?  And who shall bear responsibility for harms suffered in the interim?

      Israel's only real option for the future, as a Jewish State in the
current system of states, is to endure.  Whatever the relative merits of
the Zionism-Messianism debate earlier on in history, Jewish redemption
today positively requires survival of the Jewish State.  So we may now
return again to Samson, and to the lessons to be learned for such survival.

      In John Milton's Samson Agonistes,  the Chorus intones of Samson:
"The glory late of Israel, now the grief."  When this power of Israel had been
overcome by the Philistines, when that great strength had been subjugated
and humiliated,  hopes for victory were supplanted by resignation and
defeat.  Although "divinely call'd" to "begin Israel's Deliverance," Samson's
work was prevented by Dalila, by that "specious Monster."  Yet of his
calamity,  "She was not the prime cause, but I my self."

      I my self.  In this acceptance of personal responsibility lies the
overriding lesson of Samson for modern Israel.  Taken alone, enemy
deception, which can always be taken as given,  will not overcome the Jewish
State.  This can happen only where Israel would yield to deception,
surrendering its essential sources of strength and power on behalf of lies
and illusions.  Where it would strive to see clearly, Israel will not be
blinded.  Instead, aware that states, like individuals, are decidedly mortal
and that unreason can govern even the "political" world,  Jerusalem can
draw wisdom from Israel's historical humiliations and from Samson's
exploited vulnerabilities.  If need be, Israel, following Samson, can even
choose to "die with the Philistines,"  but it is with the preparations for
such a dying (preparations, as we have seen, that could preclude this
option)  that Jerusalem should now be particularly concerned.

      "Eyeless in Gaza,"  Samson labored at the mill, with slaves, lamenting
that " me, strength is my bane, and proves the source of all my
miseries."  But here Samson was altogether mistaken.  It is certainly not
strength that brought about his unhappy fate, but rather his wilful
abandonment of strength.  Had he held on to his strength, and resisted the
wiles and enchantments of enemy seductions, he would not have been
reduced  "To live a life half dead, a living death,"  until choosing to "die
with the Philistines."   He would have prevailed!                        

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