The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the Middle East: Active Defense and Counter-Measures

Article excerpt

The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the Middle East: Active Defense and Counter-Measures edited by Arieh Slav. Sussex Academic Press (http://www., 920 NE 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, Oregon 97213-3644, 2004, 312 pages, $67.50 (hardcover).

I am not an expert on the threat of ballistic missiles. However, I have read enough to know that this is an issue that may well have serious consequences for our national security in both the midterm and long term. While the overall ballistic missile threat appears to be declining, signs remain on the horizon that development and proliferation issues still need serious attention. A quick Googlesearch or cursory glance at any major newspaper will bring reminders about the nature and growing complexity of the problem. Therefore, it is fortuitous that Dr. Slav chose to republish this anthology.

Despite original publication in 1999, this compilation of 16 articles by Israeli, American, and British authors is a timely reminder of the scope of the ballistic missile threat, of the complex technological challenge of addressing this threat (as evidenced by the work of our own Missile Defense Agency), and of how quickly events can change in this area. Within this one book, Dr. Stav has brought together a number of contributors of varied backgrounds and provided a primer on the technical issues associated with the intercept problem. This anthology also offers a highly readable discussion of the strategic and operational thinking associated with the development and deployment of systems designed to address this threat. While some of the technical discussion is redundant (Dr. Stav acknowledges this in his introduction), on the whole the book provides a comprehensive review of the issues. Notably, one of the contributors presents a strategic-level discussion of the relative merits of missile defense against the historical Israeli position of preemptive strike to deal with threats facing the nation. As we assess our own missile-defense program, some of the discussions presented here may help illuminate our thinking on these substantive issues at both the national and theater levels.

The technical discussions presented cover all the relevant aspects associated with all three phasesboost, midcourse, and terminal-of the missileintercept problem in a clear and understandable fashion. The discussions on the limitations of terminal defense and the difficulties of boost-phase intercept are particularly relevant. While we hear discussions about the airborne-laser program in our country, it is interesting to be exposed to other discussions about how to solve the boost-phase intercept problem, most notably using conventional forces or unmanned aerial vehicles. Although the technical discussion is comprehensive, the discussion of the role of missile defense in the formulation of nationalsecurity policy is equally interesting and provides an alternative perspective for consideration. …