In Defense of the Iron Dome
Progressives pushed to strip Iron Dome funding. But regardless of your stance on Israel, it saves innocent lives.
Today, due to pressure from progressives, Democrats stripped funding for Israel’s Iron Dome from the 2022 budget. While I am skeptical this will stick, many who seek the liberation of Palestinians see this as a victory. However, it is anything but. Iron Dome is a purely defensive measure that saves lives, using intercepting missiles to detonate missiles in the air safely. One can — and should — simultaneously be appalled at how the IDF treats Palestinians and be glad that the IDF-controlled Iron Dome saves lives.
The Iron Dome is a comparatively recent installation, intercepting its first rockets in 2009. It was a project initiated during the Second Intifada, a period of intense conflict between Israel and Palestine from 2000 to 2005. The 2006 Lebanon War saw an unprecedented number of rockets fired into Israel, a conflict precipitated by Lebanese forces raiding and attacking northern Israeli military sites.
Palestine is split between two non-contiguous regions, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In 2006, Hamas, the militant organization responsible for most of the rockets from the Gaza Strip, won the Gaza elections. This prompted an armed struggle between Fatah, the party previously in control, and Hamas that resulted in Hamas control of Gaza to this day.
Protecting innocent lives — whatever their nationality may be — in these conflicts is of utmost importance. Hamas, lacking a sophisticated military, largely relies on Qassam rockets, which, though they pack a potent punch, are fired out of what amounts to little more than angled metal tubes, limiting their ability to precisely aim. This makes the rockets particularly dangerous to civilian life, even when the intended targets are military in nature.
Typically, it is able to intercept about 90% of rockets fired into Israeli airspace. In recent years, Hamas has learned they can overwhelm the system by firing over a hundred rockets in the span of a few minutes, which cuts down the efficacy substantially, though it was able to prevent most of the rockets that would have hit major population centers. Though the system is expensive to operate, no price tag can be put on these lives saved.
Some have suggested that the safety the Iron Dome provides enables the IDF to do more with impunity. However, prior to its installation, the IDF expended considerably more effort targeting and retaliating against the sources of the launches. The safety it provides dampens the drive to prevent more rocket attacks forcefully and in ways that further compromise Palestinian safety and territorial integrity.
Much has been said about how the name of the “Department of Defense” is euphemistic — that it is more than anything the Department of War. But the Iron Dome represents a pure project of defense. Its interception missiles are never used to kill anyone or destroy any buildings or infrastructure. It can only destroy that which would have wrought destruction itself.
Ultimately, however, what we need is lasting peace. At this point, Israeli settlement in the West Bank has made a two-state solution near impossible. A permanent resolution to this conflict is likely only possible by creating a state that has constitutional protections for all, providing the right of return for both Jews and Palestinians. Though many speak of the conflict as if Jewish presence is entirely through settlement, the Jewish people have a long historical presence in the region that also deserves recognition. However, I fear such a solution will not come for quite some time.
Regardless of the comparative ethics of sides in a war, civilians deserve safety. The more that each side is able to defend itself against the attacks of the other, the less motive there will be for war. If you want world peace, this will not come about spontaneously or through shallow, reflexive “anti-war” stances that demand isolation as conflict rages on. An interconnected, internationalist, well-defended world is one in which war has little value and massive risk, even for the powerful. So let us build it.