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As an Oxford-trained Arabist, educated during the height of British imperialism, he embodied a Britain that by no longer existed. Yet, as often noted, individuals can be slow to change, and even slower to change their fundamental worldviews. This stand against Nasser was, according to Eden, a chance for him to correct the mistakes made by Britain and himself in the past. This case is an interesting synthesis of older, previous theories of preventive war alongside a cognitive explanation. Declining power and capabilities are a factor, but not in the sense described by Levy. Likewise, historical analogies are important in this case, but have not previously been used in preventive war theories.

Declining power, hostile image of the enemy, and other factors might be present, but they are not the driving force in preventive war decisionmaking. It is how leaders interpret and perceive these factors that is critical in any explanation of preventive war.

It is thus critical to examine the beliefs and perceptions of the individual decision-maker alongside material factors. They dropped the bombs in a single pass lasting just over two minutes and flew back to Israeli airspace without incident. Many condemned the strike, some supported it if only tacitly , but none doubted its ramifications. Israel had carried out the first preventive strike on a nuclear facility in history, and it had done so successfully, effectively destroying the Iraqi reactor without suffering a single casualty.

This case is important in that it shows the importance of individual decision-makers in the context of preventive war. The theories of preventive war put forward up to this point have, for the most part, focused on relative power and capabilities. In fact, considerations of the balance of power do not seem to have played an important part in Israeli considerations.

Rather, it was the effect on their sense of security that was important.


By , Israeli decision-makers believed that the situation had progressed to a point where it was, or was about to become, intolerable. Thus, a key factor in this case is the image of the adversary held by key Israeli decision-makers, who saw Iraqi nuclear ambitions as dangerous because of the combination of 42 Why Leaders Choose War their intentions and capabilities. This case cannot be explained without reference to the perception of Iraqi intentions, as a capability-driven explanation does not explain why Israel did not attack nascent nuclear programs in other states.

Thus, it was the combination of the Israeli image of Iraq and the perception of their dangerous intentions coupled with disturbing advances in their capabilities that drove the decision-making of a determined, strong leader. The leadership of Menachem Begin provides an example of a leader who is self-assured in the face of criticism, and has the courage of his convictions. No explanation of the Osiraq strike can be complete without dealing with these varied factors. In addition to the specific importance of leaders, this case very clearly exhibits three of the factors mentioned in Chapter 1.

Second, there was a belief that conflict was inevitable between the two states.

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In fact, this case is an illustration of a sub-category of this factor in which many decisionmakers believe a state of war to exist. Third, the timing of this strike was driven by the belief that there was only a short window in which to act. This was true not only because of the nature of the threat a soon-to-be active nuclear facility , but also because of domestic political considerations upcoming elections.

An understanding of the tumultuous relationship between the two countries is necessary to comprehend the general frame in which Israeli decision-makers analyzed on both a conscious and unconscious level the actions of Iraq. On May 14, , the day Israel came into existence, an Iraqi brigade was already in the midst of attacking Israeli forces. By the time the fighting had ended, Iraq had 16, soldiers stationed in Palestine.

Iraq is, therefore, from both the practical and the legal point of view the only Arab state in a permanent state of war with Israel. However, such behavior on the part of Iraq was not forthcoming, and the potential threat of the Iraqi nuclear program was likely magnified by the image of them already held by Israel. A question arises here as to whether Iraqi behavior solidified Israeli views so that no change was possible.

This has been argued in other circumstances. Jerel A. The Soviet Union never directly attacked the United States in a direct military battle , yet Iraq, by , had already fought Israel in three major wars. Much of the literature on bad faith images has focused on the opportunities for conciliation or trust-building measures missed because of cognitive rigidity. Michael Oren wrote of Israeli psychology that there existed an ambivalence within the Israelis: an overblown confidence in their invincibility alongside an equally inflated sense of doom.

To the West, Israelis portrayed themselves as inadequately armed Davids struggling against Philistine giants, and to the Arabs, as Goliaths of incalculable strength. Moshe Dayan told Pentagon officials that Israel faced mortal danger, and, in the same breath, that it could smash the combined Arab armies in weeks. The leader of Iraq, Colonel Abdel Karim Kassem, allied himself with the Iraqi Communists in his struggle for power in that same year, which naturally led him toward closer relations with the Soviet Union.

Construction began on the reactor, an IRT, in Because of the low capacity of the reactor and the fact that it used uranium enriched to only 10 percent it did not seem to arouse alarm in any other countries. They are, in fact, much more cautious with such investments than are Western governments. We knew that the Soviet Union would not permit its exploitation for the production of nuclear arms. The Soviet Union delayed any new improvements for years, and continued to supervise the facility very closely. The story of his rise to power, and his ruthlessness once in power, would have been known by all Israeli leaders, and would have been a factor in their considerations.

Hussein was born in in the area of Tikrit to a relatively poor family. He was handed down a death sentence in absentia by a military court in Iraq. During this time, he was arrested for threatening to kill another Iraqi expatriate, but was released by the Egyptian President, Colonel Nasser. Although still a violent thug, he commanded respect, and had transformed himself from being a dim student from Tikrit into an autodidact who read widely and whose greatest understanding was of the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political power.

Thus began a process by which power was centered around the town of Tikrit, and in the hands of the minority Sunni population. As a first cousin of General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, Saddam was well placed to prosper in the new regime. However, realizing that his reign would not last long because he was a thirtythree-year-old with no military experience, Hussein forced al-Bakr to withdraw his resignation until the time was right.

Psychological stress

In the s, Iraq had the sixth largest oil reserves in the world, estimated then at 41 billion barrels. Everything that there was to be sold could be sold.

And we wanted to do the selling. We were determined to keep an inside track on the contracts. By , that number had risen to , tons and 21 percent of all French oil. The rhetoric of Iraqi leaders had become increasingly belligerent. If, however, Hussein coveted a source of plutonium for a nuclear weapons program, the graphite reactor was a good choice. Weissman and Krosney reported that Chirac originally agreed to the Iraqi request.

This survey was disseminated to all echelons required to know thereof, military and political. The Osiris reactor is a Materials Testing Reactor MTR whose primary function is to test how various materials used in the construction of nuclear power plants 48 Why Leaders Choose War wear when bombarded by a high neutron flux.

The fuel for both reactors was to be uranium enriched to over 92 percent. France had agreed to sell Iraq over 70 kg of such fuel. A group of French physicists, using very restrictive calculations, assessed that Osiraq would produce about 6 kg every fourteen months. Snyder writes that the Osiris reactor was designed for nations engaged in the production of nuclear power reactors. It was not an electricity-generating reactor, but rather a research reactor. Additionally, although Iraq had claimed to be interested in a civilian power-generating program, the natural choice for such a program would be a very different reactor.

However, these reactors are not useful for the production of excess plutonium, nor do they use enriched uranium. The Iraqis chose a reactor that was completely unsuited to their stated needs, but well suited to a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

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The Arab countries should possess whatever is necessary to defend themselves. He also wanted a reprocessing plant. Spent fuel from a typical light water reactor such as Osiris contains around 0. Thus, 1. Like France, it relied heavily on imported oil, particularly from Iraq. In , Italy was importing one-fifth of its oil from Iraq. This lab could only produce very small quantities of plutonium several grams per year.

The Israeli report released after the bombing indicates that Israeli decision-makers were convinced that the facility could be easily modified to produce large amounts of plutonium.

Feldman notes that natural uranium might be used to conduct blanket irradiation to produce plutonium. Its U content was only 6—10 percent, in contrast to the 93 percent enriched uranium typically used in such reactors. It thus solved two problems at once: it eliminated the need for large amounts of costly U while also reducing the risk of weapons-grade uranium being diverted for other purposes. Virtually all of the 22 developing countries with nuclear research reactors take considerable pride in discussing the projects.

Iraqi officials attending the end of the conference of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation here [in Vienna], however, flatly refused to discuss any aspect of their interests. But the linchpin of this decision was the psychology of Menachem Begin, and his determination to act on his instincts and beliefs.

The May elections in Israel brought the Likud party to power after twenty-nine years of Labour Party domination. It is not possible in a work of this length to trace the development of a man to whom entire books are devoted.