This post was written in 2006, but is getting a lot of traffic due to current events in Gaza. For my thoughts on the current situation in Gaza start with Why They Hate Us. Doug Stych, 13 January, 2009.
There are reports that Israel is using a new weapon in the Gaza strip. More specifically, the claim is that Israel is using something called a DIME weapon. Say what? Yes, DIME weapons are real, it stands for Dense Inert Metal Explosive. In a nutshell a DIME weapon is a bomb or missile that detonates with powerful and lethal explosive power confined to a small area. The idea being to minimize “collateral damage” when using military weapons in urban areas. Yes, this is a humane killing device, science marches on!
No one has ever underestimated the human capacity for lethal cleverness, so it’s not surprising to me that this weapon is being developed. Some claims about these weapons do not appear to be substantiated, that it is highly carcinogenic and toxic to the environment for example. The injuries caused by these weapons are supposed to be especially severe, that’s what tipped doctors in Gaza that something new was afoot, they were getting patients with terrible injuries but no chunks of shrapnel in their bodies. Is it proved that Israel is using DIME weapons? Not yet, but there’s certainly no reason they wouldn’t be. Since these weapons don’t officially exist yet, there are no international laws or standards that can be applied to them.
Israel’s possible use of DIME bombs and missiles aside, what bothers me most about these weapons (and other exotic weapons in development) is the driving philosophy behind them. Superficially these will be touted as a humane weapon because they do not spread shrapnel over a large area, and they can be used in dense urban areas without causing widespread death and destruction. An assassins weapon, one could blow up the suspect house on a block without killing (too many) of the neighbours. The responsible urban warrior’s dream weapon, right?
Wrong. The problem with this kind of solution is that it is based on the idea that if one can just kill certain people the problem is solved. “Kill all the bad guys” is a fairy tale, because it assumes that one knows who the bad guys are, and it ignores the effect this killing has on other people. The underlying assumption that holds sway in Israel and the USA is this idea that if they can just kill enough of their enemies, it will lead to victory. This modern version of inquisition type thinking is so prevalent in the west that it goes unquestioned. Israel’s attack on Lebanon was akin to “trimming back the crabgrass” to some. Because it is sometimes legitimate to take up the sword in defense of one’s home is not a blanket justification for violence anywhere anyhow in the name of “defense.” It’s circular reasoning at best.
Sadly it’s a bloody circle. Violence is the problem, not the solution. War is a failure mode, whether implemented by terrorists or nation states. When war is used as an occupation strategy, the chances of success are zero. Unless genocide and ethnic cleansing is your goal. Is that Israel’s ultimate goal in the occupied territories? Beats me, all I know is that decades of increasingly lethal Israeli weapons haven’t stemmed the violence. One more lethal weapon in their arsenal is just another sad chapter in the tit for tat madness that has plagued Palestine for decades.
It’s also simplistic to think that better weapons lead to anything but a very temporary advantage over one’s enemies, and they can even be a disadvantage. That’s for a future post.
They all hold swords,
Being expert in war.
Every man has his sword on his thigh
Because of fear in the night.
—Song of Solomon 3:8
(“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”)