The Iron Dome

Hamas has been firing rockets and missiles into Israel, sparking Israeli retaliation.  The two sides have agreed to a cease fire.   Israel managed to shoot down virtually all of rockets thanks to a new anti-missile system called “Iron Dome.”  Based on American technology, this is the most successful technology to defend against missiles ever devised.  From Slate’s Sarah Tory:

The debut of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense shield has added a new element to the conflict, one that military officials are calling a “game-changer.” Why is Iron Dome such a significant addition to Israel’s military arsenal?

Iron Dome actually works. Israeli officials are claiming that the shield is destroying 90 percent of missiles and rockets it aims at that have been fired into southern Israel by Hamas. This level of success is unprecedented compared with older missile defense systems such as the American-made Patriot model used during the 1991 Gulf War. Israelis have almost always suffered far fewer casualties than Palestinians have, but Iron Dome has made that disparity even larger. As of Monday, Israel has reported three casualties, all of which occurred during a temporary malfunction in the missile-defense system.

The missile-defense system can detect rocket launches and then determine the projectiles’ flight paths. Iron Dome intercepts rocket or artillery shells only if they are headed for populated areas or sensitive targets; the others it allows to land. After pinpointing a rocket for destruction, Iron Dome fires a warhead that destroys the rocket within seconds. Currently, five Iron Dome systems are deployed in Israel. Most are located in the south, near Gaza, and each operates with a 45-mile radius.

Israeli officials point out that Iron Dome saves money despite the fact that the interceptors cost up to $100,000 each. The cost of rebuilding a neighborhood destroyed by a rocket attack—not to mention people wounded and lives lost—would be far greater than the cost of the interceptor. In addition, the system buys Israel time, allowing it to plan out an appropriate response without the political pressure that would be generated by hundreds of potential deaths. Experts have called Iron Dome’s success a crucial factor in deterring Israel from launching a ground assault on Gaza.

via Israel Iron Dome defense: How has missile defense changed battle in Gaza – Slate Magazine.

The Petraeus sex scandal spreads

General David Petraeus’s affair with Paul Broadwell, which led to his resignation as head of the CIA, became known when Ms. Broadwell sent threatening jealous e-mails to another woman, Jill Kelley, whereupon the FBI began its investigation.  Now it turns out that Ms. Kelley was exchanging e-mails with the current head of military operations General John Allen, Petraeus’s successor.  Gen. Allen insists that he had no affair with Ms. Kelley, but the 20,000-30,000 pages worth of e-mails they traded have been described as the equivalent of “phone sex.”

What is going on?  For one thing, 30,000 pages of e-mail over two years breaks down to 41 messages a day.  Didn’t Gen. Allen have anything more to do than trade e-mails–of whatever nature–with a civilian?  Didn’t he have a war to fight?

The two previous commanders in Afghanistan before these two were ousted.  General Stanley McChrystal, was fired because of an undisciplined drinking party with some Rolling Stone reporters.  And the commander before him, Gen. David McKiernan, was fired, though apparently for differences in strategy from the Pentagon rather than for personal failings.

Oh, yes, lest we think these are purely personal vices unconnected to these men’s professional duties, investigators are reporting that they have found classified material in the possession of Ms. Broadwell.

What happened to military honor in the top brass?  Or, at the very minimum, military discipline?

 

Paula Broadwell photos: David Petraeus’ mistress discovered lying low in DC | Mail Online.

Ten more years of the drone war

The war in Iraq is pretty much over and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, bringing to an end our wars sparked by 9/11–right?  Well, not exactly.  It turns out the drone war may go on for at least another ten years.  The Obama administration has put together a systematic, on-going kill list.  But in an Orwellian touch, it’s not called a kill list; rather, it’s called a “disposition matrix.”  From Greg Miller of the Washington Post:

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.

“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do. . . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”

That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism. Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero.

Meanwhile, a significant milestone looms: The number of militants and civilians killed in the drone campaign over the past 10 years will soon exceed 3,000 by certain estimates, surpassing the number of people al-Qaeda killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

via Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists – The Washington Post.

With that milestone, if we practiced the old “eye-for-an-eye” collectivist revenge codes, we could call it even and declare peace.  But the killings are going to go on and on for another ten years!  I am astonished that it’s liberal Democrats who are doing this.  George McGovern, who passed away this week, took the Democratic party, for better or for worse, in the direction of peace.  Aren’t any of you Democrats bothered by Obama’s drone war?  I wish the moderator at the last debate had asked about this topic.  I’d be curious if Romney would continue this “disposition matrix” or if he really is the peace candidate.  I mean, it’s good to protect America against our enemies and all, and drone strikes don’t put our military men and women in danger.  But while we are attacking people overseas with these weapons, we are at war and not peace.

A powder keg

Tensions in Israel are building over Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  The USA has been trying to get Israel to stand down.  Meanwhile, a big fleet comprised of American, British, and other allied naval forces is assembling in the Straits of Hormuz for war games and to be there just in case war breaks out and Iran tries to shut off a major oil route:

Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.

Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s petroleum traded by sea.

A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf.

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south.

In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will today begin an annual 12-day exercise.

They will practise tactics in how to breach an Iranian blockade of the strait and the force will also undertake counter-mining drills.

The multi-national naval force in the Gulf includes three US Nimitz class carrier groups, each of which has more aircraft than the entire complement of the Iranian air force.

via Armada of British naval power massing in the Gulf as Israel prepares an Iran strike – Telegraph.

Should Israel strike at Iran’s nuclear sites?  If they do, won’t that spark a bigger war?  Should the United States try to prevent Israel from taking that step or just stay 0ut of it?  And, to consider another flashpoint, what should America do, if anything, while Syria’s government is slaughtering its citizens who are trying to over the Baathist regime?

A soldier’s vocation

Browsing on the LCMS website and looking for something else, I came across this interview with Gen. John W. Vessey, whose distinguished military career including not only combat in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, but serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan.  He reflects very perceptively on the doctrine of vocation and gives some interesting stories of practicing the Christian faith in the military.  It turns out, the interview is from the latest Lutheran Witness.  A sampling:

LW: How does your Lutheran faith play a role in your courageous work, both when you were in active duty as well as now in retirement?

GV: I’ve been a lifelong Lutheran, and for that I am thankful. Martin Luther once wrote a pamphlet called Whether Soldiers Too Can Be Saved. I really took that to heart. Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession–which among other things says that Christians may serve in just wars–well, one can certainly take comfort in that too. Christ goes with us wherever we are. The Lutheran Confessions are blessings to us and make us stronger and help us understand the Word of God even more. . . .

LW: How can we, as Lutherans, properly view military service in light of caring for our neighbor and protecting him in his body?

GV: It first starts with Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession: It is not only right to serve but it is a duty for Christians to serve the civil community. As Luther pointed out, we live in the two kingdoms: the kingdom of God on the right and the civil on the left. We are God’s representatives in both places, but we are also fallible and sinful beings in both places, so we need to carry God’s Word with us as we do His work in the community. Being a soldier is not only okay but is even required by civil authorities for the safety of citizens.

For the young people today, I encourage them to consider a bit of service to the nation, whether it is teaching in schools or in the Armed Forces or what have you. It is an important thing, and you can take your Christian beliefs to that service, making both the service and yourself stronger.

LW: Most of us go through our lives in an occupation that does not require us to make life-altering or life-taking decisions in defense of country or self. How does the Christian soldier deal with the inner conflict that may accompany such an occupation?

GV: Prayer.

LW: In the military, is there a struggle of having to compromise or follow orders that burden the conscience?

GV: There are certain things you just don’t compromise on. According to our Lutheran Confessions, we are to obey the orders of civil authorities–until we are ordered to sin. Then God is in charge.

I never allowed my Christian beliefs to be a secret. I sometimes went out of my way to be sure they weren’t a secret! When traveling to places that were enemies to the U.S., I knew that they would bug our living facilities. So I’d do my daily devotions and prayers under the bug so they could hear loud and clear where my beliefs lie. That led to a number of interesting conversations later in life. At one point during my six years of diplomatic work, I was working with former Soviet Union folks. One day I met with the former Chief Historian of the Soviet Armed Forces and he asked to speak to me privately, so we went out in the hall together. He told me that he knew I was a Christian and he wanted to tell me that he himself had been baptized just the day before.

via 10 Minutes With . . . – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Knowing you’re being bugged, so reading the Bible and praying out loud to witness to the spy!  Brilliant!

Obama the assassin

A withering piece from Charles Krauthhammer on the way President Obama wages the Drone War:

A very strange story, that 6,000-word front-page New York Times piece on how, every Tuesday, Barack Obama shuffles “baseball cards” with the pictures and bios of suspected terrorists from around the world and chooses who shall die by drone strike. He even reserves for himself the decision of whether to proceed when the probability of killing family members or bystanders is significant.

The article could have been titled “Barack Obama: Drone Warrior.” Great detail on how Obama personally runs the assassination campaign. On-the-record quotes from the highest officials. This was no leak. This was a White House press release.

Why? To portray Obama as tough guy. And why now? Because in crisis after recent crisis, Obama has looked particularly weak: standing helplessly by as thousands are massacred in Syria; being played by Iran in nuclear negotiations, now reeling with the collapse of the latest round in Baghdad; being treated with contempt by Vladimir Putin, who blocks any action on Syria or Iran and adds personal insult by standing up Obama at the latter’s G-8 and NATO summits.

The Obama camp thought that any political problem with foreign policy would be cured by the Osama bin Laden operation. But the administration’s attempt to politically exploit the raid’s one-year anniversary backfired, earning ridicule and condemnation for its crude appropriation of the heroic acts of others. . . .

The Osama-slayer card having been vastly overplayed, what to do? A new card: Obama, drone warrior, steely and solitary, delivering death with cool dispatch to the rest of the al-Qaeda depth chart.

So the peacemaker, Nobel laureate, nuclear disarmer, apologizer to the world for America having lost its moral way when it harshly interrogated the very people Obama now kills, has become — just in time for the 2012 campaign — Zeus the Avenger, smiting by lightning strike.

A rather strange ethics. You go around the world preening about how America has turned a new moral page by electing a president profoundly offended by George W. Bush’s belligerence and prisoner maltreatment, and now you’re ostentatiously telling the world that you personally play judge, jury and executioner to unseen combatants of your choosing and whatever innocents happen to be in their company.

This is not to argue against drone attacks. In principle, they are fully justified. No quarter need be given to terrorists who wear civilian clothes, hide among civilians and target civilians indiscriminately. But it is to question the moral amnesia of those whose delicate sensibilities were offended by the Bush methods that kept America safe for a decade — and who now embrace Obama’s campaign of assassination by remote control.

Moreover, there is an acute military problem. Dead terrorists can’t talk.

Drone attacks are cheap — which is good. But the path of least resistance has a cost. It yields no intelligence about terror networks or terror plans.

One capture could potentially make us safer than 10 killings. But because of the moral incoherence of Obama’s war on terror, there are practically no captures anymore. What would be the point? There’s nowhere for the CIA to interrogate. And what would they learn even if they did, Obama having decreed a new regime of kid-gloves, name-rank-and-serial-number interrogation?

This administration came out opposing military tribunals, wanting to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York, reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights and trying mightily (and unsuccessfully, there being — surprise! — no plausible alternative) to close Guantanamo. Yet alongside this exquisite delicacy about the rights of terrorists is the campaign to kill them in their beds.

You festoon your prisoners with rights — but you take no prisoners. The morality is perverse. Which is why the results are so mixed. We do kill terror operatives, an important part of the war on terror, but we gratuitously forfeit potentially life-saving intelligence.

But that will cost us later. For now, we are to bask in the moral seriousness and cool purpose of our drone warrior president.

via Barack Obama: Drone Warrior – The Washington Post.