The ‘rubbleisation’ of parts of Gaza brings into focus that great ‘known unknown’ of the Middle East: Israel’s nuclear weapons programme. In fact, putting aside issues such as radiation and the ‘nuclear winter’, the result of Israel’s bombing made a good approximation of a ‘tactical’ nuclear strike, with the added bonus of serving a warning to any of Israel’s potential military foes (such as Iran and ISIS) of what could befall them.
Given that Israel has never officially acknowledged its A-Bomb programme, the conditions of its use are inspired guess-work; at a talk he gave a few years ago, Israeli military writer/commentator, Martin van Creveld, said that while Israel’s use of nukes ‘depended on circumstances’ he was clear about one matter: ‘Israel will bring down the rest of the Middle East with it’ if pushed to a point-of-no-return.
Even if the case for ‘tactical nukes’ is clear in theory, in practice the argument has never been clearly won, surrounded as it is by all sorts of variables, ranging from purely operational such as weather to radiation and ecological destruction: it is all guess-work, however inspired.
The issue of the ecological destruction from nuclear warfare is under-researched; however, Lisa Dupuy, a Masters graduate at the Department of War Studies, King’s College, recently wrote a very informative essay on the subject, constrained by an 8,000 word length.
The essay concludes: ‘it so becomes clear that the ecological impact must also account for a large portion of the taboo on these weapons of mass destruction – a true mind-set of ‘extermination’ must be adopted for the resolve to use or even pursue them’. Which takes us back to Martin van Creveld’s ominous warning: in the light of events in Gaza to what extent has that taboo been chipped away? Jasper Humphreys