Israel and Long-Range Defense – Lessons for a More Chaotic Middle East
Last month, the IDF’s Trophy anti-tank missile defense system successfully completed evaluation at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground. During six weeks of testing the system on the Stryker Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV), the system successfully defended the vehicle against attacks by numerous missiles and rockets.
Last month, the IDF’s Trophy anti-tank missile defense system successfully completed evaluation at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground. During six weeks of testing the system on the Stryker Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV), the system successfully defended the vehicle against attacks by numerous missiles and rockets. A spokesman for Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Trophy’s maker, said, “We chose to be evaluated on a Stryker to show Trophy’s diversity – on one hand, the system protects Merkava 4 main battle tanks along Israel’s borders and on the other hand it can protect light and medium AFVs as they are part of the current battlefield.”
But for Hamas, school buses are part of the “current battlefield,” and there was no Trophy system on the bus struck yesterday by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza. Two people were injured and the toll would have been higher except that 40 children had left the bus at a prior stop.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner’s condemnation of the attack was blessedly devoid of equivocation. “We’re particularly concerned about reports that indicate the use of an advanced anti-tank weapon in an attack against civilians.” We assume he was “particularly concerned,” because the attack meets every realistic definition of a war crime.
While the IDF continues to create defenses for conventional military threats, its unconventional enemies – terrorists – are working on ways to use whatever they can in whatever way they can to kill Jews – women, children, on school buses and in their beds. Which is the larger picture.
President Bush defined the war of the 21st Century as a “war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them.” Non-state actors need territory, arms, money and political support to engage in large-scale terrorist activity. Under-governed countries – including Afghanistan, Sudan, Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen – are the best hosts for terrorist organizations because weak governments would be unwilling or unable to exercise the control necessary to oust interlopers, even if they don’t particularly support them; or in the case of Lebanon and Gaza, if they do support them or if they are them.
But without an understanding of regional trends, the Obama administration has said it will judge each case and country individually to determine U.S. policy – reinventing the wheel each time – as large parts of the region are becoming less controlled by governments of any sort, and nebulous parties, organizations and gangs take over.
NATO has been abandoned by the United States in Libya and is unable to control the territory or the “rebels.” Egypt has pretty much abandoned the Gaza border, permitted an Iranian weapons ship to transit the Suez Canal (the first in 30 years) and made an overture to the ayatollahs ruling Iran. Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, our erstwhile counter-terror partner, lost at least one province outright to al Qaeda after the United States abandoned him. Real reformers in Syria and Iran wait in vain for an American strategy that will help them with brutal dictatorships, and Lebanon has fallen almost completely under the control of Iranian puppet Hezbollah. Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia – all allies with problems – are shaky and worried. [Oddly or not, in Iraq – where we still have boots on the ground – there are no riots demanding the removal of the government; maybe because they elected it.]
The U.S. and the West are losing their grip on a region still vital to Western interests. It is under that circumstance that the expansion of Israel’s long-range defense of its people must be understood.
In Sudan, someone blew up a car with two top Hamas weapons-runners who had apparently been awaiting poison gas shells that may have been stolen from Gaddafi’s abandoned arsenals by Iranian-backed operatives (working with our “rebels”?) in Libya and shipped out of the country for passage to Gaza. This follows Israel’s capture of Chinese missiles and British radars on a French-operated ship that sailed through the Suez Canal and parked in Syria. That follows several prior weapons ship captures, but the weapons this time were of a more sophisticated nature. And it follows Israel’s capture of Dirar Abu-Sisi, an important Hamas rocket designer, in Ukraine – who may or may not have provided the intelligence that allowed Israel to blow up the car in Sudan. And it follows the death – by someone – of senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in Dubai in 2010.
The United States and the West may be losing their grip on the region. Israel cannot afford to.