The current rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian terrorist organisations highlight the problem of asymmetric warfare. Asymmetric warfare is defined as a war between two parties whose military powers differ significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly.
Israel’s conflict with Hamas and Islamic Jihad is a classic example of asymmetric warfare. While Israel has powerful traditional forces; army, air force and navy, the Palestinian organisations, with no large-scale military equipment, employ asymmetric tactics, such as: knife attacks, cross-border sniping, rocket attacks on civilians and suicide bombings.
While we can not, and should not, put a price on human life, one problem for Israel is financial. Israel’s highly successful, but expensive, Iron Dome anti-missile system is being used to defend our civilians against ruthless attacks by an enemy using simple, home-made rockets. Until recently, most of the attacks have been carried out with a piece of drain-pipe stuffed with explosive that any school-boy with access to a pharmacy could make. Indeed, I myself, as a 15-year old, used to scare the neighbours with small bombs made from a mixture of sulphur and …. well, I won’t go into details but today’s internet is a source of information on just about everything.
The Tamir, Iron Dome’s missile, usually fired in twos to make sure of a kill, costs around $40,000 each, to say nothing of the $50 million for each missile battery (radar unit, missile control unit, and launchers). The Qassam rocket costs around $800. The first were made from traffic sign posts and later models employ drainpipes. Well, two $40,000 Tamirs against one $800 Qassam, you can’t get more asymmetrical than that.
The Qassam is a primitive short-range rocket with no accuracy. Firing these missiles says very clearly that the Palestinians have no thought for what or who they hit. There is no attempt to avoid civilians, on the contrary, they want to cause as much terror as possible. Here again, we see the asymmetry in strategy or tactics. While Israel goes out of its way to avoid unnecessary civilian deaths, the Palestinians see this as their main purpose.
Of late, Iran has stepped in and is using the Palestinians as their proxies. They have supplied large numbers of bigger and better rockets, at no cost, and are giving the technical know-how to allow Islamic Jihad to manufacture better, longer-range rockets that will reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Will we have to choose between bankrupting ourselves or not defending our people against ever-increasing missile attacks? Perhaps a massive bombing campaign in Gaza could persuade the Palestinians of the error of their ways and relieve us of the necessity of making hard decisions.