The reader will quickly grasp that this study is about more than just Israel. This small, beleaguered country in the Middle East is, however, an instructive paradigm of the role of ballistic missiles in international affairs at the turn of the twenty-first century.
While analysts treat missile warfare as something of a theoretical matter regarding other parts of the world, especially the United States, the role of ballistic missiles in war against Israel is undeniably real and reasonably straightforward. Ballistic missiles struck Israel during the Gulf War. Israel’s retaliatory capacity and reputation did not deter its enemies. Nor did any measures designed to inhibit proliferation prevent the attacks. The most strenuous efforts to strike the missiles before they were launched, by massive unchallenged air forces in Iraqi’s skies, backed by the United States’ reconnaissance assets, failed totally. Hence, there is every reason to expect that missiles will be fired at Israel again and that, in the absence of defenses, they will land again.
First, nothing is deterring any number of countries in the Middle East from acquiring ever better missiles
– primarily with a view to shooting them at Israel. Israel’s enemies have learned that it is easier and safer to threaten or use missiles against Israel than to launch other kinds of military attacks. In short, the missile threat against Israel is as open-ended as it is real. So it is against the United States and other countries as well.
Second, the plans being made to defend Israel against ballistic missiles bear no relationship whatever to the threat. This is even truer for the United States.
Third, the insufficiency of American preparations becomes undeniable when one examines the contribution that the antimissile defenses under active development in the United States could make to the defense of Israel. This is as significant for the United States as it is for Israel or any other ally that might seek US protection against missile threats.
This brings us to the main point of the study: Defending Israel (or the United States, or anyplace else) against all kinds of ballistic missiles, even in large numbers, is eminently possible. The missile defense devices now under the most active development in the United States are insufficient because of the restrictions imposed on their designers by officials who value the 1972 ABM Treaty more highly than they value defense.
In sum, Israel – and the United States and its other allies
– will continue to be vulnerable to ballistic missiles until such time as the US government decides to remove self-imposed restrictions on the use of available technology. Until that happens, Israel’s (and the United States’) best efforts at missile defense amount to tokenism.