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Iron Dome

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I have some thoughts on Iron Dome over at Open Zion:

Even on its own terms, the strategic success of Iron Domes remains in serious question. Whatever tactical success Iron Dome achieves comes at considerable cost. An Iron Dome battery runs $50 million, with each missile in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $100,000 (estimates vary). Even the more sophisticated rockets launched by Hamas cost considerably less. Israel is, of course, a much wealthier society than Gaza, and enjoys the backing of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country, so Israeli policymakers may decide that the extra security is worth the cost.

Israel may also have pinned its hopes on the idea that Hamas will simply give up the rocket game in the face of Iron Dome’s impressive batting average. However, If we read Hamas’s strategic intent in launching the rockets as much in domestic as international terms—launching rockets demonstrates resolve in the face of Israeli strength, improving Hamas’s standing vis-à-vis Palestinian political competitors—then where (or whether) the rockets land simply doesn’t matter very much. Given that from 2009 to 2011, over a thousand Palestinian rockets resulted in ten dead Israelis, it’s a good bet that Hamas fires rockets not as part of a slow motion effort at genocide, but rather for these reputational reasons. Most of the rockets won’t do $40,000 worth of damage even if they land in populated areas (although of course a very few will inflict considerably more destruction). Moreover, Hamas may determine that forcing Israel to pay $40,000 to shoot down cheap, ineffective rockets is well worth it’s time and effort, even if 90 percent of the rockets are destroyed on the way down.

An aside: I’ve done a lot of writing on security issues in a lot of different places, and at times I’ve made a variety of errors; over-simplification, getting facts wrong, presenting analysis that ended up being flawed in some way, etc.  As far as I can recall, however, I’ve never set out to dis-enlighten readers; to actively attempt to leave them less informed than they were before they read what I offered.  Max Boot is not a stupid man; he writes a great deal about security affairs, and some of his early books present interesting, if not authoritative, interpretations of US defense policy and military history.  In this column, he actively set out to disinform his readers about missile defense, about Iron Dome, and about Ronald Reagan; there is no way that you can read that and come out more knowledgeable about any of those issues than you were before you started.  Jonathan Schwartz’s thoughts on the evolution of Walter Russell Mead seem relevant here; the conservative intellectual apparatus rewards writers almost exclusively on the basis of producing effective propaganda.*

*edited for clarity

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