Thursday, July 31, 2014

The problem with silver bullets

The lure of having the latest high-tech weapon is like having a silver bullet.  You know that when the werewolf comes, you will be able to blow them to smithereens.  But what happens should there be more werewolves than you have silver bullets?

Apparently Israel is trying to figure the answer out to this question right now.  According to a Defense News article, The Senate earlier today began debating a $3.5 billion supplemental spending measure that would send $225 million in emergency dollars to Israel for its Iron Dome missile defense program.  Therein lies another problem with high-tech weapons and silver bullets, they tend to cost a lot of money.

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system has been doing a yeoman's job of protecting the Israeli citizens from Hamas rockets and missiles.  Unfortunately, Israel has been using the equivalent of Porsches to knock down Ford Fiestas.  Now Iron Dome is running out of missiles.

The other problem with high-tech weapons are they are pretty.  You keep thinking about how awesome they are and how invincible it makes you in comparison to your enemies pathetic, old fashioned weapons.  The mindset gets you to imagine envy on the part of your enemy as they race to foolishly match the exquisiteness of your silver bullet.  Yet you keep upgrading your hardware and countermeasures so that they can never catch.  How you pity the fool!

Of course the more your focus on your silver bullet, the less likely you are to remember werewolves don't use silver bullets themselves.

Hamas lobbed 2,000 missiles so far at Israel but that may have been a feint.  Instead of trying to get a silver bullet, Hamas simply began to dig.  As of today, 32 tunnels have been found.  Taking a note straight from the Viet Cong, Hamas realized the most effective way of striking at Israeli military targets was to dig tunnels into Israel.

When the US Air Force decided to carpet bomb North Viet Nam, the Viet Cong didn't look for a silver bullet to shoot down the B-52s.  Instead, they used a tried and true technique of tunneling.  The tunnels of Cu Chi gave the Viet Cong an extensive underground network of armories and make-shift hospitals.

Hamas didn't take it to that extreme but the pictures in this article show the sophistication of the tunnels.  Israel became too confident in their Iron Dome to remember to look for the threat to come elsewhere (sort of like Ripley and the Space Marines when they forgot to look for the aliens in the air ducts).

The US is guilty of loving silver bullets as well.  Take the F-35.  It is supposed to be able out-fight and out-fly any other jet fighter in the world.  As a USAF general admitted recently though, there aren't enough F-35s to really be a silver bullet.  Yes, the F-35 can fly into hostile territory such as Syria and deliver devastating firepower from above, but each F-35 can only take out a max of 8 other fighters.  A limited number of F-35s means that you could see an enemy keep lobbing older fighters at the Lightning II until it runs out of missiles.

Or they enemy might be someone like the Russian Spetznaz.  Amongst the different weapons they carry, each Spetznaz soldiers carries a shovel.

It's about 20"long and the edges are sharpened.  Cold Steel makes a copy.  Why would modern special forces troops carry such an item?  The Spetznaz doctrine imagines them walking into an area under the cover of darkness.  They stop and lie flat on the ground and begin digging.  In a few minutes they have dug up enough where if they lie flat, they are below the line of the earth.  Give them about an hour and they will have dug a foxhole.  Give them a day and they will have connected all of their foxholes into a tunnel network.

Oh and it is also a weapon.  Spetznaz soldiers can throw their shovels with lethal accuracy.  A shovel flying throw the air also has a psychological effect on the target.  They don't try to block it, they tend to duck giving the Spetznaz soldier time to attack or flee.  They also learn how to wield these things with such dexterity they can split matchsticks.

Sounds primitive yet Hamas just proved that you don't have to rely on state-of-the art weapons to be effective.  Israel is still likely to be victorious but it is taken them much longer and costing them much more than they thought it should.

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