Friday, September 18, 2009

Israeli Missile Defense

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post today about Israeli missile defenses. Those defenses take on  greater importance with the spineless, appeasement-oriented Obama administration in charge, and the recent International Atomic Energy Association revelation that Iran may already have the capability of building nuclear weapons. According the the Post, Israel is

steadily assembling one of the world's most advanced missile defense systems, a multilayered collection of weapons meant to guard against everything from the shorter-range Grads that have been used to strike Israeli towns such as [Ashkelon] to intercontinental rockets.
The article speculates that the existence of these Israeli defenses lowers the chances that the country will launch a preemptive strike against Iran. One system, Arrow, is already operational, and a second, Iron Dome, is scheduled for deployment next year.

Israel is caught in a real strategic dilemma. Ideally, given its size, its best defense against nuclear attack is preemption. But Iran's nuclear program is too advanced, and too decentralized to be eliminated by the type of surgical strike Israel favors. Any attack would bring massive and possibly unforeseen repercussions. Israel's relationship with the U.S. is the worst it has been in a long time, and no one there in their right mind is counting on support from Obama. And the U.S. clearly opposes an attack. Launching a preemptive strike, with all the dangers and drawbacks, only to achieve a delay in Iran's nuclear program, is not a favorable risk vs. reward calculation. The only preemptive attack that makes sense is a first strike with nuclear weapons, which could utterly destroy Iran's nuclear program and also cripple its ability to respond. But even for a country facing a possible existential threat, it would incredibly difficult to make such a decision.

It's not hard to see why a layered missile defense combined with deterrence appears to be Israel's default method of dealing with the Iranian threat. It's one thing for Iran to plan a first strike, attempting to decapitate Israel's nuclear arsenal and destroy the country, calculating that they can survive whatever retaliation the shattered country can muster. But if they can't be sure their own strike will even penetrate a missile defense system, even leaders motivated by religious lunacy might think twice.

A nuclear Iran is a dangerous threat to the U.S., but a deadly one to Israel. If I were an Israeli I'd be in favor of as many layers of missile defense possible, building more nuclear weapons, and deploying them to large numbers of survivable delivery platforms.

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