Forwarded from The Jerusalem Post of January 5, 1997
THE Israeli public, the media and the government reserve their most outraged reactions for acts of terror. What about the threat posed by conventional weapons? It comes low down on the list. Yet our priorities need rearranging. Terror may be bloody, and it can seem more ominous, but it is actually the smallest real threat.
Examining the government's budget and its defense philosophy, it is difficult to believe that ballistic missiles, able to bombard Israel from all quarters, are getting the attention they deserve. It is highly possible that our enemies have formulated a new war doctrine. Disappointed in the performance of their armies and air forces, encouraged by the panicky reaction of Israelis to the 39 Iraqi Scuds that fell here during the Gulf war and with ready access to willing suppliers, they may feel they have uncovered our "soft underbelly."
In the event of attack, a softening of our rear could cause mobilization delays and divert the air force from supporting battle areas, threatening our air superiority and causing logistical and other problems. In short, it could help Arab armies win the decisive battle in the field, and thus the war. (World War II and the Gulf war amply demonstrated that missiles and aircraft bombing cannot alone win a war.)
Egypt has invested heavily in purchasing a Scud-C missile manufacturing facility from North Korea, and it is cooperating with Libya in developing chemical and biological warheads. Who is threatening it? At the same time, Egypt has gone over to Western military equipment and signed an agreement with the US that provides it with annual assistance to the tune of $1.3b. The pact prohibits Egyptian military ties with seven countries that harbor terrorism - among them North Korea and Libya.
Given its low Gross Domestic Product per capita, 1/27th that of Israel, Egypt's risking a penalty of US$1.3b. per year imposed by the US for breach of contract is just one indication of the priority ballistic missiles enjoy in Egypt. Again, why?
Syria provides an even more enlightening example. With a foreign debt of about $100b. - i.e. approximately five times the annual GDP - it has badly neglected the modernization and even maintenance of its ground and air forces, and has gone flat out for Scud-C missiles, their warheads and their hardware.
Thought to possess 400-600 Scud missiles, it will apparently begin operating a missile manufacturing facility, also purchased from North Korea. Saudi Arabia is reported to have purchased Chinese Na- Dong missiles, larger than the Scud-C missiles; the interests and acquisitions of Iraq, Libya and Iran have already been well-publicized.
This "missile rush" may well be a case of keeping up with the Joneses, the regional "in" thing to do. Whatever, it poses a dire threat to Israel's security. Shimon Peres told us that we must hurry up and sign peace agreements because the Moslem world is arming itself with missiles. This begs several questions. First: Will a peace agreement with the PLO or Syria include a condition about total Arab missile disarmament? Second: In view of Saddam Hussein's games of hide-and- seek with UN observers, how can we ensure the fulfillment of this condition? Third: Will Arab conventional forces be reduced to compensate for any territorial loss of conventional deterrence on our part? It's hard to believe.
ARAB ballistic missiles are here to stay. They represent a new dimension of war, the Main Weapon System, which requires its own containment and deterrence strategies. The technology to fight these missiles exists. As always, defense is the least efficient and most expensive means.
The "Arrow" anti-missile missile is an expensive but necessary safety net. But it isn't enough; the war against missiles must be carried over to their bases and launching pads. Failure to apply existing technologies and take other military measures, to develop new technologies and tactics is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with the entire population of Israel.
The money is there, feeding gargantuan political appetites. Doesn't life come first? The government must make a number of urgent decisions, one classified, the others spelled out for general consumption. It must:
Define the strategy, tactics, intelligence, logistics, budgets and technologies required to face credibly the missile threat at both ends - i.e. launchingand target. Acquire the means and train a dedicated unit, mainly taken from the air force, for the mission.
State loudly and clearly a policy of instant massive retaliation against enemy civilian/urban targets in the event of enemy attack on Israeli civilian/urban concentrations. It's ugly, but necessary. Any use of non conventional warheads should automatically entail the use of Israeli unconventional weapons.
The earlier and deeper this message sinks into potential antagonists' minds and the minds of the
world at large, the better the chances of avoiding general bloodshed.
Adopt an open policy of preemptive strikes against missile launchers and/or warhead depots if and when this becomes an absolute necessity.
One of Israel's most tragic errors at the time of the Six Day War was tacit acceptance of the accusation that it had started the war by preempting. A war is started by the party that creates circumstances which leave the other party only two options: to capitulate, or open fire.
Adopt a sustained, aggressive enlightenment campaign, not just propaganda. This means presenting Israel's case to governments, parliaments, the media, academia, the business world, opinion makers and the general public. Make the case as if your life depended on it. (It might.)
Oh yes, and one more thing - Israelis should stop yawning and changing TV channels when the service announcement about upgrading their gas masks comes on.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1996
Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto a former MK, is a colonel in the air force reserves. A fighter pilot, he was
chief of air force planning and R&D prior to the Six Day War and during the Egyptian-German