By Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, Jr.
We know that missile defense of the U.S. has become an almost religious commitment in the minds of a significant number of our misguided legislators, even though the Ground-Based Mid-Course system we have installed has yet to prove capable of defending the country from warheads launched by inter-continental ballistic missiles. However, recent comments from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) following a visit to Israel added a new dimension to missile-defense “theology,” by implying that we should hedge against the possibility of inter-city conflict within the United States.
The Senator reported in a conference call with reporters that while in Israel he “saw presentations of the Iron Dome and it was very impressive;” so much so that he saw “no reason” why our “major cities” shouldn’t be protected by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The Iron Dome system is designed to destroy short-range rockets, not inter-continental ballistic missiles. Reportedly, the system proved about 80% effective in destroying the slow and relatively primitive Kassam and Katyusha rockets fired from Gaza into Israel during the most recent conflict there. Iron Dome just might be effective if Kansas City shot one of those rockets at Lexington, Kentucky.
Although he obviously didn’t pick it up while in Israel, Senator Paul may learn as a new member of the Foreign Relations Committee that Israel is developing the David’s Sling system to counter medium-range missiles and the Arrow system to combat long-range ballistic missiles. Arrow 3 is being designed in partnership with the U.S. to intercept ballistic missiles in space; and it may be that we eventually will learn something useful from it.
Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, Jr. is the chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.