Is #IronDome better at destroying missiles or spreading fear?

A Dutch-Israeli family from Amsterdam, Hilla Dayan and PW Zuidhof with their three small children, are taking a “war vacation” in Tel Aviv. They write that as “Israeli and Dutch citizens who want to see an end to the occupation our politics combined with the fact that we don’t live in Israel makes us outsiders, if not outright ‘traitors.'”

Letter from Tel Aviv: It took us few rather disorienting days here to slowly come to the conclusion that the palpable collective fear is disproportionate to the actual threat.

Government propaganda, lies and deceptions to galvanize support for the war is relentless and the Iron Dome system, the system that intercepts Hamas rockets, is just part of it. An expert opinion according to which the Israeli population is almost 100% safe even without it because of the inferiority of Hamas’ weapons and the abundance of shelter infrastructure seemed credible. Deep inside, we believe, everyone knows that the chance something will happen to you here is statistically negligible. It can happen, like the chance of dying in a shocking aviation disaster as what happened this summer to hundreds of Dutch citizens, but it is very unlikely.

One commentator rightly said that Iron Dome functions as the Deus-ex-Machina of this war. Everyone but us is convinced it saves lives. We see it more as a psychological warfare device. Curiously, much of the explosion sound that gets people so worked up here is largely produced by the Iron Dome system itself. What is striking if not outright suspicious is that there is hardly any information in the aftermath of interceptions; we know nothing about it and nobody cares. [Continue reading…]

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4 thoughts on “Is #IronDome better at destroying missiles or spreading fear?

  1. Chet

    Interesting “Letter from Tel Aviv”. Democracy Now had a MIT professor commenting on the actual success rate of the Iron Dome and he estimated that it was at most 5% successful in hitting an incoming rocket. He attributes the low causalty rate to the inaccuracy of the rockets that have a small payload and the fact that Israelis are warned and have shelters. The propagand from Israel about the effectiveness of the rockets might be to sell more equipment on the international arms market and get more funding, which was just authorized by Congress.

  2. Paul Woodward

    Postol doesn’t come across as a particularly credible scientist — notwithstanding the fact that he tenure at MIT. Anyone who prefaces an estimate stated as a percentage with “my guess,” is not actually making an estimate. He’s just doing exactly what he’s said: guessing.

    He has written that his analysis is based on a “detailed review of a large number of photographs of Iron Dome interceptor contrails.” Again, total vagueness. A “large number”? 50? 500? And do photographs provide enough detail? Wouldn’t you need multiple photographs to the same strike taken from different locations in order to accurately calculate the trajectories of each rocket?

    I really think this is baloney. Even if he was right in attributing the low casualty rate to the effectiveness of Israelis taking shelter, you would still expect there to be a lot more evidence of the physical damage rockets had done as they hit property. If Postol is to be believed, not only is Iron Dome a dud, but hundreds of rockets have been landing out of sight.

    Having said that, I have no problem with the assertion that the effectiveness of Iron Dome has been overstated. I simply question whether Postol has used a strong enough data set to substantiate that claim.

  3. Chet

    While Postol’s “guess” and evidence may be a vague, it may be due to the fact that there has been no evidence or technical data presented to support the claims of 95% effectiveness being made by the Israeli or U.S. governments as he states in part two of the discussion. The effectiveness of the defense system may be more than Postol’s estimate of 5% or less, however, I would not dismiss him as less credible than government contractors (Raytheon or Rafael Advanced Defense Systems ) who have a commercial interest in overstating the effectiveness and governments that are rarely completely honest with the public.

  4. Paul Woodward

    I wasn’t weighing up the strength of Postol’s argument by comparing it with the manufacturer’s claims. Anything that purports to be scientific analysis has to be based on sound data. No one scores points for a crappy piece of analysis simply by saying that another piece of analysis was even worse.

    Postol is claiming that about 2,000 rockets hit Israel and the impact of those rockets appears to have been newsworthy on little more than a dozen occasions. That’s a claim that, to put it politely, should be treated with skepticism.

    I had already read Postol’s analysis before he appeared on Democracy Now and it struck me as a distraction — something that risks directing peoples’ attention away from what might be Iron Dome’s real significance.

    If, as the writer in this post implies, Iron Dome’s primary effect has been to make Israelis more afraid rather than feel more safe, this is an important political story. It means that Iron Dome has a more important role in manipulating the national psyche than it has as a defense system.

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