Austin Bay

Israel's population in 2006 was a little over seven million. 1,532 Israeli civilian casualties in 2006 is the equivalent of 70,000 U.S. civilian casualties in a 2014 population of 320 million. Ask yourself this: Would the American people want their government to respond vigorously if an enemy inflicted 70,000 civilian casualties?

Like Iron Dome, deploying theater and strategic missile defense systems are one type of response; mass air raids on enemy cities by B-52s and B-2s are another.

In the last two weeks, Iron Dome has demonstrated that it can successfully protect people. Several press reports have noted the Israeli claim that Iron Dome's demonstrated capabilities have given the Israeli government something very precious in a crisis: time. Instead of facing demands to strike back immediately, the government can consider military and political options.

Iron Dome's success, however, has already bred the curious concern that Israel will refuse to consider diplomatic options in dealing with the Palestinians. A rather histrionic Washington Post blog post (July 14) made this crabbed argument.

Over the last 20 years I have made the case that missile defense promotes constructive strategic diplomacy -- diplomacy that goes beyond negotiating short-term ceasefires and begins to build long-term peace.

Threats emerging over the last two decades have made it clear that we are engaged in a global battle between the constructive and the destructive -- constructive nations desiring peace and economic development confronted by destructive, extortionist states, neo-imperialist regimes and transnational terror organizations. For the destructive clan, missiles, particularly those armed with weapons of mass destruction, are marquee weapons.

Missile defense pays an essential military, political and psychological role in this global battle. Defending American citizens is the U.S. missile defense system's first priority. However, the ability to protect allies and neutrals generates diplomatic power. The system's very existence serves as a psychological counter to thug intimidation and thus creates political space for other diplomatic endeavors to counter the rogue state threat.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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