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In my book The Religion War, written ten years ago, I predicted a future in which terrorists could destroy anything above ground whenever they wanted. They simply used inexpensive drones with electronics no more sophisticated than an Android app.

Fast-forward to today, Iran is sending drones to Hezbollah, and Hezbollah has training camps right next to Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles. Meanwhile, Hamas has its own drone production facility, or did, until Israel found it. One presumes Hamas will build more. How long will it be before Israel is facing suicide drones that only cost its enemies $100 apiece, fit in the trunk of a car, and can guide themselves to within 20 feet of any target? I'd say five years.

So what happens when the drone attacks start happening in volume? Let's game this out. My assumption is that the coming inevitable wave of hobby-sized suicide drones will be unstoppable because they will fly low to their target and be so numerous that no defense will be effective. I predict it will be too dangerous to live above ground in Israel within ten years unless the trend is reversed. But what could stop the trend?

Surely the terrorists won't give up. Surely Iran and others will keep the terrorists well-supplied. Surely Israel can't conquer every pocket of terrorism in the region. And surely Israel won't surrender and walk away.

It's your turn to be a futurist. Please describe in the comments any scenario you can imagine in which Israeli cities are still habitable in ten years. And be sure to give your best guess on the odds of your scenario playing out.

 
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+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2012
With a little imagination, Israel can start doing E.M.P. blasts in Palestinian territory from time to time in order to destroy any kind of electronic device they could use to assemble the drones.
It doesn't make them look so bad internationally and reduces the number of hits.
 
 
Nov 17, 2012
@Brant

[One of the limiting factors on the future Adams proposes is that anything the terrorists can build, nation states can build cheaper or in greater numbers.]

I don't think this is in question and most people would completely agree. The issue is that such devices are more useful to small groups of insurgents fighting a large group of people (practically indiscriminately) than vice versa.
 
 
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2012
One of the limiting factors on the future Adams proposes is that anything the terrorists can build, nation states can build cheaper or in greater numbers. And they have all the satellites, aircraft and "real" drones that can fly at high altitude. In short, if drones become cheap enough for terrorists, they are cheap enough for nation states to unleash in even greater numbers. I can't imagine that any major country in the munition industry is making drones they won't be able to take down with anti-drone drones (ADD?) and other defensive measures before they are even released to the military, let alone the world blackmarkets.
 
 
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2012
Right wing and ultra-religious (racist) Israelis are playing a game of attrition. They want to 1) keep the Palestianian population in check because it is growing faster than the Israeli population (revanche du berceau, the revenge of the cradle, as the French called it--worked great in Quebec, by the way); and 2) to slowly nickle-and-dime the Palestinian territories to death with slow displacement of the Palestinians and the assimilation of their land one field at a time. That wall that snakes around Israel is a great help since land which is not farmed in three years is confiscated and the wall can be moved to slowly separate farmers from their land. There are liberal and moderate Israelis who are appalled at this and who are willing to accept a two-state solution but the hardliners are in power because the Knesset is divided and tiny extremist parties have the balance of power--they ally more often with the hard right than even centrists.

That is what the future looks like to Israelis. They will do to the Palestinians what the British and American white man did to the natives and the French in Newfoundland--hunt them down and extinguish them like the Beothuk, burn them out like the French. Americans played a role in this because they were bounty hunters. They killed Indians for pay, as if they were dogs or wolves.

Gaza and the West Bank are giant indian reservations, from which some well-behaved Barrio dwellers commute to clean Israeli toilets like the denezins of South African "homelands". Independence is a scam played on willing victims in the West. Unless the Palestinians get major outside support (beyond even what China and Russia and Iran afford them), they are doomed, not the Israelis.

Americans are lamentably ignorant of history, geography and other cultures (a word which is to be interpreted in the anthropological sense, not the sense of Kultur). Only the State Department classes pay much attention unless they are recent immigrants who have close ties with the homeland. Some Lebanese in Canada and the US spend the summer in Lebanon when it's not too "hot" politically. Few sub-political class Americans step foot over the border let alone abroad.

Israel will destroy itself perhaps, but I doubt if the Palestinians will have a hand in its destruction. When the Romans laid seige to Jerusalem, it was infighting among political factions and religious sects that destroyed the city--at least if we can trust the Israeli General, Josephus Flavius. The Roman name tells you something of how far he is to be trusted. He jumped a sinking ship by being the last man standing in a suicide club (THAT could happen by chance) and by kissing up to the new bosses, very much the same as the old bosses.

If the Russians or Chinese took over hegemony in the Middle East, there'd be an Israeli General to kiss their asses. Survival is not the main goal, it is the only goal of a certain type of politician. There's a lot of them in the area, and you can't tell the Israelis from the Palestinians without checking what weapons they are using. Missiles, Israelis. Rockets, Palestinians. Machine guns, Israelis, rocks, Palestinian children and youths.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2012
Cheap plastic landmines that look intriguingly like toys so that children and other people pick them up can be had for $3.50 each. Probably cheaper if you buy in bulk. There's millions of them scattered around East Asia and elsewhere, and they would be the cheap, easy, no-need-to-target solution for a terrorist group waging total war. But do terrorist groups wage total war? Only nation states and maybe a small number of crack-pot cults have any interest in this. Terrorism and war are, as Baron von Clauswitz pointed out, politics continued by other means. Making the Earth a killer robot strewn desert is not poliics. It is suicide.

Philip K. Dick describes such a world but it is divided between two superpowers, East and West, locked in permanent war (sometimes as the result of an agreement between the two powers or a conspiracy behind both of them). That paranoid nightmare world is nothing like real war or real terrorism today. It is the stuff of SF movies.

It costs the enemy much more to care for the wounded than it does to bury the dead. The wounded are a constant reminder of terror and death.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2012
Israel is unlikely to nuke the Gaza strip unless it has very small suitcase bombs that produce a lot of damage and very little fallout because Israel would be the primary recepient of the fallout. For the same reason, Connecticut is not likely to turn its nukes on Rhode Island. Also, the Israelis who are nutty enough to do this are right wingers who regard not only the Gaza strip but the West Bank, Jordan and most of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and a big chunk of Saudi Arabia as part of God's intended "Greater Israel". Number one rule of nuclear war--the Enemy has to be far away.
 
 
Nov 17, 2012
Status quo, 90%. Drones are not effective as weapons of terror.
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
@KingDinosaur

[Option D: with a little creativity, and a lot of energy, you could make an EMP-like shield around Isreal that fries any electronics that pass through it. The down side is getting flights into and out of isreal become a little more difficult when Alec Baldwin playing Angry Birds is a threat to a modern billion dollar aircraft.]

The aircraft itself would be significantly damaged by an EMP shield, regardless of any Alec Baldwins who may have phones on board.

Also the Obama's middle name comment makes you look like an idiot because of how irrelevant that is, unless you establish its relevancy in a way that doesn't make you look like an even bigger idiot.
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
I can see a few options to take out drones directly.

Due to the nature of terrorism any target below a certain 'value' would be ignored, even if these drones only cost $100 each you still need to pay for them and import them into the area. This creates an effective cap on how many drones can be brought into an area, I.E. it wouldn't be hard to bring in a few here or there, but you couldn't bring in bulk !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%* on how the drones operate you could take them out by various means:

If they find their target then using GPS jammers in the areas surrounding the most likely targets would be effective with only a minor inconvenience (you would need to keep the jammers away from the target building itself to prevent drones that 'homed in' on the jammer itself).

If the drones were 'fly by wire' from a smartphone or computer then hacking the basic protocol and frequency in sue would allow you to override the drones controls and bring it down without exploding. If we can do that then we would also have a strong lead to discover where the drone was made and who used it.

Finally if all else fails, targeted EMPs would be able to knock the drones offline. Granted I haven't seen or heard of any EMP devices suitable for this, but I have no doubt that there are any number of countries working on this as an offensive and defensive tool.
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
I think a bigger version of the Mosquito Laser (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito_laser) should solve the problem. Lots of surveillance cameras would, obviously, be required as well.
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
@jdg

I was with you until the 'fall of civilization' part. Civilization two hundred years from now may not be what it is today but it will still exist in some form.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
I think the flaw in this prediction is that you are ignoring the rationale behind a terrorist attack. Quantity has never been a goal; that's why you've never seen a random distribution of terrorist attacks, but patterns following certain events. So even if technology makes the attack vector surface wider this doesn't imply this wasn't ample wide before - regular terror tactics still work.

Of course, we all hope terrorism will fade out due to information (and education) becoming more and more accessible every day.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
I predict a continuing technological race between the drones and the defenders.

Iran has already demonstrated the ability to spoof GPS so that a US drone landed where they wanted it and was captured. Soon there will be portable jammers and spoofers in enough hands that GPS will be effectively unusable anywhere that somebody thinks he may be a potential target (including of police surveillance in the US).

Then the drones will start to carry cameras, maybe even infrared ones, and be remotely piloted like the smart missiles we used in Desert Storm. And defenders will build gadgets that look for drones in the sky and shine bright lasers at their "eyes" to blind them, and/or shoot them down in a variety of ways.

Soon the skies will be so full of these things that we'll start to regularly see airliners "shot down" by !$%*!$% drones into their engines.

Meanwhile, targets, both nation states and individuals, will try to discover who launched the drones in order to shoot back. But they'll all fail: most drone designs don't need any more equipment to launch them than does a radio-controlled toy plane, and if the builders are smart, the radio control will be done by cell phone or similar means so that the person controlling the drone won't even have any incriminating hardware with them if they're caught.

Eventually targets such as Israel will get fed up with being unable to fight back, and will simply bomb some random location in the country they think is their enemy. Which of course means that terror groups like the bad guys in "The Sum of All Fears" (a feckless extremist bunch who didn't belong to any nation but simply thought it would be great to destroy both the US and the Soviet Union by provoking a nuclear war between them) will have a field day.

This is how civilization will fall. And I can't think of an effective way for anyone to stop it. The best that the Dept. of Homeland Security, and its counterparts in all countries, can do is realize they have to little information, and therefore sit on their hands; if they get pressured into acting, then they become pawns of the bad guys.
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
@happy

You are missing something. We're talking about Israel here. The US could maybe occupy the middle east but Israel couldn't. So what are they going to do?
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
One thing to remember is that defensive technologies generally lag behind offensive ones, but not by much. While we don't have anything right now that could counter such drones, I can imagine some system of EMPs that would effectively disarm them before detonation. Would the drones adapt? Of course, but if and when they become as dangerous as your predicting, I think that defensive capabilities will be (at least mildly) more effective - enough to prevent complete destruction of everything, at least
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
Maybe I'm missing something here:

Imagine if there was a group of terrorists operating outside of New York City, and they routinely launched missiles into the city.

The US would:
a) kill those responsible for launching the missiles.
b) kill those responsible for planning the attacks.
c) kill those responsible for supplying the materials.

Which proves that:
a) diplomacy is only a good option when the problem is in someone else's background.

I find it hard to support a culture or a nation that supports random violence and terror.

Personally, I'm all for a swift and decisive reaction. And all the better if there is accidental collateral damage. There apparently needs to be motivation to keep the locals from allowing this to go on.
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
@whtllnew
>So the solution to Arab terrorists is to let Arabs into your borders. Sorry. Not seeing this as a good solution.

I saw that as a reasonable way to buy time for the ultimate coup de grace. Another way might be to use GPS spoofing to map every possible Israeli target location to a Palestinian target location. Or another way might be to build a mosque on every city block.

 
 
Nov 16, 2012
@KingDinosaur

[For those who can't see where I'm going with this: it's time to whip out the nukes. Small ones would be fine. You just need the EMP effect at least. At most, the countries around Isreal save for egypt aren't that big, so a small one would do just fine if Isreal decides to go biblical on their foes. A few well placed hits to iran would limit their short term future impact on the region. ]

[How long do you think a well placed nuke is going to keep enemy drones inactive? My answer is 'not long enough to be worth it'.]

[ depends on the size of the bomb and where it's placed.]

???...are you saying here that you expect EMP to be a lingering effect? Only in the sense that once EMP damages electronics they stay damaged. All the terrorists need to do is get a new shipment.
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
<Please describe in the comments any scenario you can imagine in which Israeli cities are still habitable in ten years. And be sure to give your best guess on the odds of your scenario playing out.>

Easy. Israel will occupy all off Palestine if this continues. If they can't afford a permanent occupation, they will bulldoze it flat before pulling out. Odds? 80%
 
 
Nov 16, 2012
EMU: Iron Dome depends on a number of factors. And I would suppose a drone doesn't have to fly, it could be a gas powered RC car with an IED attached. Likewise, the drones could be designed with the intent they'd be shot down and meant to cause as much damage below as possible.

whltnew: depends on the size of the bomb and where it's placed.


[It's different in the sense that missile attacks are totally inaccurate. Drones with GPS could drop chemical weapons on any outdoor gathering. And if they use small incendiary devices, they can burn cities. -- Scott]

I can just imagine one of those incendiary drones over calafornia in the dry season or a chemical or biological weapon over a football stadium on game day.

 
 
 
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