Israeli Nuclear Weapons and War in the Middle East
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA
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This thesis examines the influence of the Israeli nuclear weapons capability on conflict in the Middle East. There are two perspectives regarding the impact of nuclear proliferation on strategic stability. Three paths to strategic instability are examined preventive attacks, preemptive attacks, and the escalation of conventional conflict to nuclear war. The optimistic perspective argues that nuclear weapons make preventive and preemptive attacks less likely, and keep conventional conflict from escalating to nuclear war. The pessimistic perspective argues the opposite that nuclear weapons make preventive and preemptive attacks more likely, and raise the likelihood of escalation to nuclear war. My analysis of the Israeli cases shows that opaque nuclear proliferation decreases the pressure for preventive attacks, increases the chances for miscalculation, and creates sufficient concern about nuclear weapons to reduce the likelihood of preemptive attacks. Two factors help reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation as posed by proliferation pessimists, opaque nuclear weapons programs and nondeclaratory nuclear weapons policies. The implication of this research is that if the United States cannot dissuade a country from going nuclear, it should reinforce its incentives to maintain opacity and a nondeclaratory policy. Particular attention should be given to states which resist these efforts, as they represent the greatest risk of nuclear weapons use.
- Government and Political Science