The Iron Dome
LAST UPDATED: 02/18/2012 21:42
We must remember that nothing regarding the Iron Dome is quite what it seems.
The Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system. Photo: REUTERS
We’ve recently been told that the IDF is halting procurement of more Iron Dome
antimissile batteries because it simply cannot afford the expense. Presumably
that should get us all to wring our hands in dismay and decry the situation in
which monetary concerns deprive a sizable population of protection.
before we react as we’re expected to, we must remember that nothing regarding
the Iron Dome is quite what it seems. Here context is
Implementing the Trajtenberg Report’s recommendations –
the direct outcome of last summer’s social action protests – isn’t cheap. Any
largess financed from the public coffers must somehow be defrayed from taxpayer
funds, including the new benefits for contract workers. This means across the
board cuts to all ministerial budgets. Put plainly, there’s not enough money to
go round and please everyone.
Each ministry is doing its darndest to
impress the public with its financial plight. We hear sob stories from the
health system all the way to the police. All – justifiably from their vantage
points – agitate for a bigger slice of the national fiscal pie.
is no different. Its public relations campaign is geared to tug at our
heartstrings, no less than pictures of overcrowded hospital corridors.
Doubtless, news of curtailed training will raise painful memories of the 2006
Second Lebanon War, just as suspension of Iron Dome procurements is calculated
to engender anxiety about Gazan rocketing of Israeli civilians in the South. The
IDF is appealing to our emotions no less than the hospitals are.
that we must decide between dubious spending on populist causes and potentially
life-saving military technologies. That said, the Iron Dome was never all that
popular mythology cracked it up to be.
True, the scientific achievement
that took the concept from the drawing board to a deployable, multi-tested system
is undeniable. It’s another in a long line of feathers in the caps of Israel’s
innovative researchers and defense industries.
However, its designers
never promised that the Iron Dome would offer absolute protection. The hype was
way beyond the system’s practical capabilities.
Despite a 75 percent
success rate, its defense range is limited, whereas Gaza’s Kassams and assorted
primitive hardware, used indiscriminately against Israeli towns, are highly
maneuverable. There can be scant intelligence as to when someone will fire them
or from where.
Adding to the complexity is the fact that some of the
communities under Kassam threat are too close to the border for sufficient
warning time. The Iron Dome system requires 15 seconds to identify an incoming
Kassam. Yet Gazan rockets can hit their targets after being airborne for less
time than that. The Iron Dome, furthermore, doesn’t offer protection against
Finally comes the sticky issue of cost. The cliché is that no
price is too high to save lives, which – considered strictly on the moral plane
– is indisputable.
However, we need to keep in mind that it costs next to
nothing to manufacture a Kassam and that Hamas has scores of thousands of crude
rockets in its arsenals.
A single Iron Dome anti-missile missile costs
Clearly, firing against any flying object coming from Gaza
wreaks havoc with the anyway slashed IDF budget. We likewise don’t want to
squander all available Iron Dome missiles in a short time and remain without
protection for vital strategic sites, damage to which could spawn a
Without awareness of all the above, we could
dangerously delude ourselves that a panacea exists, that money can elegantly
wipe our problems away. Such delusions can become addictive. The public already
clamors for the magic and for more magic. Imperiled noncombatants grow
embittered when no solution is supplied. Yet all the while there is no actual
The loss in not equipping the IDF with more Iron Domes isn’t as
great as we’re manipulated to believe.
Unfortunately, nothing can
hermetically seal off our skies or replace traditional battlefield offensives to
take out terror bases across the frontiers. There are no neat deluxe fixes.