Wednesday, June 19, 2002

OK, Winds of Change is back up again. His guest columnist M. Simon says in part of his post pretty much what I said below. The rest is a very cogent explanation of why our diversified technological edge allows us to do an end-run round the IslamoNazis.

Winds of Change is an absolutely outstanding blog. This article from the 18th is a good example of why it's on my daily 'must-read' list along with people like James Lileks and Glenn Reynolds (where do you find the time, Joe?). Joe discusses a plausible Israeli response to a 'mega-attack', one that leaves thousands of Israelis dead, possibly with the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. To summarise, it results in the deaths of several hundred thousand people in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. There's only one quibble I have with it - the idea that Israel would respond to the use of chemical weapons in a Syrian-sponsored attack by using nerve gas on Damascus. I don't think this is plausible, for a number of reasons. Primarily, chemical weapons are useful against targets that one wishes to take relatively intact (in this sense, they are much more like the popular notion of a 'neutron bomb' - they kill people but leave buildings untouched). Even persistent agents remain dangerous for a much shorter time than nuclear fallout, and properly equipped troops can operate in areas subject to chemical attack very soon afterwards. However, if Israel merely wishes to punish Syria then it does not need to keep Damascus standing. Secondly, adequate dispersal over an area target is very costly in terms of munitions delivered. Prevailing weather conditions can also wreak havoc on the efficacy of the attack. Thirdly, chemical weapons, to be effective, really require aerial delivery. It is wasteful in the extreme to put a chemical warhead on a multi-million dollar ballistic missile. Downtown Damascus has got to be a pretty hostile air defence environment. So in order for your chemical attack to succeed with acceptable losses, you have to fly a lot of SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) missions. A typical attack package during the Gulf War involved up to a hundred aircraft, of which fewer than two dozen were the actual strike force putting iron on the target. The rest were AWACS, Electronic Warfare planes, tankers, air-superiority fighters, Search and Rescue choppers, and of course the SEAD force.

Me, I think Israel would simply drop a couple of buckets of instant sunshine on Syria. The Air Force would be needed to pre-emptively destroy any Syrian armour formations that might otherwise retaliate through the Golan Heights, and possibly to guard against an Egyptian backdoor attack through the Sinai. There is of course the symbolic, tit-for-tat side of things to be taken into account - you gas us, we gas you - but I don't think this outweighs the tactical considerations. 

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