Non-Conventional-Weapons Proliferation in the Middle East: Tackling the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Capabilities

By Efraim Karsh; Martin S. Navias et al. | Go to book overview
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9
Non-Conventional Weaponry and the Future of Arab-Israeli Deterrence

AVNER YANIV

THE term 'deterrence' made its appearance in strategic discourse in the Middle East only in the 1960s. Until then, it had been used occasionally in political and strategic contexts but never in a technical sense and always without a specific meaning. The most important reason for the belated discovery of this notion--which, in Raymond Aron's words, is 'as old as humanity'--revolved around its initial ambiguity. At the beginning, it was far from clear what deterrence meant, and, even when it began to assume a more rigorous existence in the West, its relevance to what was happening in the Middle East was hardly self-evident.1

The Israelis were apparently the first to follow Western thinking in this regard. Some time in the late 1950s or early 1960s, the Israeli General Staff began to employ as a standard formulation the notion that the purpose of Israel's national security policy was deterrence. A leading member of the team of generals who turned this formulation into a virtual reflex was Yitzhak Rabin, who, in his tour of duty as Chief-of-Staff ( 1964-8), had the notion of deterrence embraced to such a degree that the late Dan Horowitz, one of Israel's foremost students of this topic, once declared it 'the most commonly used [term] of the jargon of strategic studies' and 'an integral part of the vocabulary of the public debate' in Israel.2

The Arab world was at first very slow to follow suit. The reason, at least in relation to Israel, was very simple. Deterrence, though supportive of offensive military means, is essentially a status quo strategy, clearly distinguishable from an aggressive

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1
R. Aron, Peace and War ( New York: Doubleday, 1966), 404.
2
D. Horowitz, "'The Israeli Concept of National Security and the Prospects of Peace in the Middle East'", in G. Sheffer (ed.), Dynamics of a Conflict ( Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1975), 244.

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