April 07, 2011

High-Tech 1, Low-Tech 0

Americans have what the Irish scholar Theo Farrell has called a technology fetish in our strategic culture. As someone who has spent most of my life fighting in and studying low-intensity conflict, by contrast, I like to poke holes in this particular fetish, noting the way in which poorly equipped rebels have given technologically superior Western militaries fits in the nuclear age. 

I thus very rarely trumpet the news of the advent of a piece of technology as any kind of bid deal. That having been said, the big news out of Israel and the Palestinian Territories today is the successful interception of a short-range rocket by Israel's "Iron Dome" system.

In the 2006 war (.pdf), Hizballah fired an average of somewhere between 150 and 180 short-range rockets into Israel each day. (They managed to fire 250 rockets, in fact, on the very last day of the conflict.) Violent non-state actors in the region have used low-tech, short-range rockets to achieve a kind of deterrent effect with Israel. "As the bombardment of civilians is tiresome for our people," noted Hassan Nasrallah in an interview with as-Safir in 1993, "it is tiresome for others as well, and they can‘t handle it as well as we can."

If Israel can take away the ability of violent non-state actors to harrass and intimidate its populace through these rockets, though, that has the potential to be a strategic game-changer in the region. I'll be watching events in Israel with interest -- though not with as much interest, I would guess, as the boys in the Dahiyeh.

Update: Noah Pollak points out that Iron Dome knocks down $100 rockets at a cost of $50,000 a shot. He says this is unsustainable, but he probably doesn't want to know how much money we Americans have spent trying to counter low-tech IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan...

Update II: In semi-related news, Avigdor Lieberman having to ask for French help right now is hilarious. Unless you're, you know, an Israeli diplomat in Côte d'Ivoire.