Commentary Magazine


The Unknowns of Missile Defense

Two days after North Korea launched its Taepodong-2 rocket, Israel’s anti-missile system, the Arrow II, passed another critical test. Given Iran’s recent advances on the road to ICBM’s, its close cooperation with North Korea, and the world’s tepid response to Kim Jong Il’s latest provocation, it is reassuring to see that Israel is making progress in building its missile defenses.

Still, there is very little understanding of what happens when an incoming missile is hit – especially when the missile carries a non-conventional, possibly nuclear warhead. Where does the debris fall? What damage does it cause? What about the non-conventional warhead? Does it explode on impact? If it does, who suffers? Who pays for the damage? Who takes legal responsibility for the side-effects? There is little known about the answers to these questions. Which suggests that, clearly, if your enemies have nuclear tipped ICBM’s, it is a very good thing you have the Arrow II (or III, or IV…), but ultimately, prevention works best.