My good friend over at Policy, Science, Burgers has a new post up about the Israeli “Iron Dome” system designed to protect against rockets fired by Hamas against militant groups. His key argument is essentially that because these systems can’t get closet to covering the entire country, the placement of the systems will have a strong effect on future Hamas attack tactics – and could even encourage more attacks against civilian targets.
I don’t disagree that a game-theoretic approach is a powerful tool to approach Iron Dome placement, but have a couple additions to his logic:
- Another important aspect of the risk-reward calculation for Hamas is the risk of detection/counter-fire. Reducing the number of potential targets for rocket attacks also reduces the number of possible firing positions. If Israel pairs the use of Iron Dome with persistent ISR (drones) and fire-finding technology, they increase their odds of being able to trace back the attacks and kill/capture the guys firing.
- I don’t know enough about either Hamas’ rocket range/capabilities or the Iron Dome technology itself, but a lot of the calculation depends on the ability of Hamas to determine if an Iron Dome is deployed to a certain area, either before or after the rocket is fired – if Hamas is firing over the horizon, it’s possible they wouldn’t even know if a particular area is defended by an Iron Dome even after the rocket is fired.
Matt over at PSB argues for a “Random” strategy that will maximize the uncertainty in Hamas’ targeting decision. I would argue for a blended Random/Strategic mix, where some targets are protected around the clock, but there is a set of batteries constantly shifting from place to place to increase the uncertainty. There are no doubt some strategic targets where the potential cost of losing them outweighs the game-theoretic beneift accrued from having that Iron Dome battery in constant circulation – but just having some Iron Dome batteries randomly moving around goes a long way towards increasing Hamas’ uncertainty and making their job a lot harder.
They can further increase Hamas’ doubt by building decoy batteries that could be moved around at the same time as the “random” batteries, so that if Hamas has on the ground intel sources that try and determine where the Iron Domes are deployed, they’ll overestimate the number of targets protected.