With the publication of ”Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter” (The Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2009, 679 pages)
The married couple that was the top United States nuclear strategists, is again in the forefront. An important reason for the renewed interest in the Wohlstetter couple’s is the awareness that their writings still speak to the challenges faced by the United States and its NATO allies. The most obvious example is the book Roberta Wohlstetter published in 1962, “Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision”, which described the failures of American intelligence and imagination before the fateful Japanese attack in 1941. Her study became more important in the wake of 9/11. United States, so Roberta Wohlstetter, failed to foresee the attack “not for the want of the relevant materials, but because of a plethora of irrelevant one. The decisionmakers all had failed to distinguish the small, faint signals warning of disaster in Hawaii from the larger, louder mass of background noise suggesting anything but.

Roberta Wohlstetter: “We cannot count on strategic warning. We might get it, and we might be able to take useful preparatory actions that would be impossible without it.”

Albert Wohlstetter, who came to RAND from a background in industry and academia, grappled with many problems during the Cold War that are now on the decisionmakers tables: the spread of nuclear bombs (Iran, North Korea), fuel-making technologies, and fissile materials to new states and, most importantly, to nonstate actors. The new book is a must read for anybody wanting the finest of advise in an era of nuclear weapons maybe even more dangerous than the cold war.

In the beginning of April this year Avigdor Lieberman became foreign minister of Israel. His maiden speech made many listeners squirm in their seats. It was by many accounts a brilliant speech: The Westphalia order of states was dead. It had been replaced by a modern system which did not only include states but semi-states and irrational international players as well. The free world must focus on defeating the countries, the forces, and the extremist entities that try to violate it. The real problems do not come from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but from the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda in Iraq plus the rulers in Iran. So Si vis pacem, para bellum – if you want peace, prepare for war, be strong.

At this time in the history of Israel the threat against the existence of the state and its people has never been greater. Inaction could mean the destruction of Israel, Israel’s Pearl Harbor. It would certainly be wise for Israel’s decisionmakers, the new government, to read and ponder the new book with the papers and articles of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter. As sanctions and negotiations are plodding along the rulers of Iran are continuing to build on their nuclear arsenal. It will be there to intimidate the Gulf states and be a sword over the heads of the Israelis. There must not be an Israeli Pearl Harbor.

Most likely the Israelis are prepared to act the day when the point of no return arrives.

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