Friday, July 28, 2006

Katushas and other VSBMs as emerging terrorist weapons

This quotation has always made great sense to me:

With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter...

The quote came to mind once again when I was reading Daniel Henninger's opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal.

The column is about Katusha and other very short-range ballistic missiles, or VSBMs. Ever since the current Lebanese war began, it's been clear that these missiles are a force that Hezbollah has exploited, and I wanted to learn more about them.

According to Henninger, these missiles are emerging as an ideal weapon for terrorists at borders, and there is presently no defense against them. Ordinarily, some sort of state apparatus is required to operate VSBMs, but there are certainly enough rouge states these days, or state-allied terror forces such as Hezbollah, to qualify.

VSBMs are not governed by any existing export-control regime. Since terrorists not only don't care if they kill civilians, but in fact desire to kill civilians, VSBMs don't have to be "smart" to be effective. Theoretically, they could be fitted with chemical or biological agents as well, although there's no indication that's happening at present in Lebanon.

Unless Hezbollah decides to take up residence in Juarez, it doesn't seem as though VSBMs pose any direct threat to the US. But they certainly pose an indirect one, through the vulnerability of allies such as Israel or South Korea. Previously, the threat was not considered great enough to warrant implementing a defense system against them (Israel, according to Henninger, nixed plans "to deploy Northrop Grumman's THEL system, whose lasers routinely have shot down Katyushas at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico"). Now that this vacuum in defense has been exploited by Hezbollah, look for that to change.

And what of the quote that began this post? Henninger writes:

As Robert Kaplan pointed out in the Journal last week in his review of "Terrorists, Insurgents and Militias," the biggest strategic problem today isn't past notions of big-power miscalculation but new rogue regimes whose ideology means they "cannot be gratified through negotiations."

That's the sad truth that many cannot and do not want to hear. We are now in the situation of dealing with a number of unreasonable and inhumane regimes that are truly tyrannical--Iran being the leading one at the moment. Such regimes do not enter into negotiations in good faith. Reason and pleading are not going to work. Although it's not altogether clear how to "give no quarter," it is clear that, once such regimes are armed with the nuclear weapons they seek and crave, the consequences will be far worse.

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