Peace Matters Index

the new balance

ONLINE contents

- of medals and beacons
- remembering hiroshima
- welcome to warmongering wales
- the new military balance
- 1933 -2010 white poppies for peace
- jean giono
- feminism and war

complete issue pdf

An important part of Washington’s calculations is that domestic economic constraints and popular sentiment make new or upgraded military involvements abroad increasingly tough choices politically - even at a time of gigantic military budgets and an inexhaustible appetite to use them.. One result of this combination of political caution (especially after the experience of Afghanistan and Iraq) and continuing military power is the escalating search for ways to wage ‘war by remote control’.

The United States and Israel are leaders in a huge expansion in drone technology, though others - several western European states, Russia and China - are also involved. But there is a sting in the tail of such powerful states: namely, that drone technology is amenable to proliferation, not least as many of the components can be bought “off-the-shelf” and have perfectly legitimate non-military functions.

Hizbollah has, since 2004 at latest, operated the Mirsad-1 reconnaissance-drone. This almost certainly Iran-made system has successfully been flown over Israeli cities, much to the annoyance of the Israeli military .

The Mirsad-1 is an early-generation system of limited range that has to be launched close to Israel. Of far more significance is that Iran is reported ready to display a long-range drone - the Karar - at an arms demonstration on 22 August 2010 . The Karar is likely to have been produced with the specific intention of flying reconnaissance-missions over countries as distant as Israel.

The Karar may well be unarmed and have limited intelligence capabilities, but its very existence will reverberate. A comparison may be made to the beginning of the war against Iraq on 16 January 1991, when the United States-led coalition launched a massive air-assault in the attempt to force Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait. On the second night, Iraq’s Scud-missiles hit Israel. The damage was limited, the casualties light, but the psychological impact - in Israel and among western forces generally - was massive; the coalition expended huge resources in ensuing weeks in a series of (largely fruitless) “Scud hunts”.

If the Iranians have been able to develop a long-range drone, then it is more than likely that they will attempt to launch reconnaissance drone-sorties against Israeli territory - at a time of their own choosing. The military effect will be minimal but the political impact will be very great. The Pentagon, the IDF and many western states see drones as a valued reinforcement of their military technology; but their adversaries too are in the race. The role of drones in asymmetric warfare - or even just asymmetric psychological warfare - may come much sooner than many expect

Paul Rogers

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