25 October 2007

The unbearable lightness of optimism

Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, via good services of Ynet, dropped today a huge Valium tablet on the unsuspecting citizens of Israel. The pill is titled Nuclear bomb won't destroy Israel.

I am not sure whether I understand all motives of that strange performance that, to my taste, has all the attributes of a staged one. One of the motives is clear - to preempt a possible panic toward the time (if and when) when Iran declares itself to be a proud owner of a military quality nuclear device or two. I don't even attempt to make a guess about the other reasons.

In any case, and with due respect to the professor whose awesome CV is available here, I can safely say that his optimistic outlook is a lot of hooey.

To start with - the predicted number of immediate casualties. Even if we base our outlook on a "10– 20 kiloton bomb, such as the type that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki" (to be a nitpicker, the bombs used in these two cases were of two different types), a cursory glance at the relevant data shows that (Nagasaki):

The death toll within a distance of one kilometer from the hypocenter was 96.7% among people who suffered burns, 96.9% among people who suffered other external injuries, and 94.1% among people who suffered no apparent injuries.
In simple words, almost everyone within the one kilometer radius will be killed immediately, with descending casualty percentages as the distance grows. Taking 20,000 as an (optimistic) figure for the 500 meter circle Mr Ben-Israel mentioned, we get the predicted death toll of 80,000 with about half of that number again immediately killed outside of this circle. Which brings us to 120,000, still a fairly optimistic estimate, taking into account the 140,000 death toll in Hiroshima: its urban profile is closer to that of Tel-Aviv than Nagasaki, and more than 60% of its 225,000 citizens died (Tel-Aviv population is over 380,000).

Of course, there are too many factors (such as the winds at the time of the bombing) to make a precise estimate of the consequences of the explosion (mainly the fallout), but the horrible numbers are difficult to argue with.

But this is not all.

The explosion victims that will survive the explosion itself to die later of related reasons will create an insoluble burden on a country of Israel's size. No country of this size is equipped to take care of tens of thousands of injured and dying.

The destruction of Tel-Aviv may not have a crippling effect on the IDF ability, including that of a counterstrike. However, the economic impact of the Tel-Aviv destruction will be too great to ignore and crippling indeed, not to mention the immediate damage to communications and transport infrastructure...

It is impossible to ignore the impact of such a horrible event on the nation's morale. In a community so tightly knit as the Israeli one, the horrible death of 120,000 will be a devastating shock, and I am not at all sure that, aside of an immediate act of revenge, the nation will ever recover from it.

So, with all due respect, that Valium pill is rejected, professor.


Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a few months ago in a series of closed discussions that in her opinion that Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel, Haaretz magazine reveals in an article on Livni to be published Friday.

It smells to me as a trend now: is somebody trying to lull us?

Cross-posted on Yourish.com.