Last year I asked, “Where Are the Children of Tomorrow?” about the absence of sessions about parents and children at Tomorrow 2012, also known as the President’s Conference. This year’s program showed only slight improvement with one session on education and another on women and Judaism (more on that soon). But as far as the conference organizers were concerned, young adults spring fully formed onto college campuses.
Peres and the other main speakers had plenty to say about peace. But I guess the conference wanted to cover all bases with another panel, “Tomorrow’s Wars: Not Science Fiction.” Professor Michael Luttwak was especially entertaining, despite the depressing topic. Here is a summary:
- Brigadier General Yair Cohen, head of Intelligence and Cyber Division at Elbit: At the start of the Six Day War, the Israelis disabled the Egyptian air force within 3 hours. Today, cyber warfare could replace aircraft, and do the same job with a click of a button and no risks. There are 500 million cyber attacks every quarter-second. It is a constant battle. With cyberwars, you don’t always know if you are being attacked — you may simply have a technical malfunction. The attacker faces no risks. It’s very hard to mount a defense, while amateurs with few resources can attack anyone.
- Professor Edward N. Luttwak, Senior Associate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies of Washington: Nowadays wars start with high-tech, like air strikes, go on to medium-tech, and end up with infantry. The beginning is promising, but ephemeral. The Iraq War ended with infantry officers on the ground using 13th century technology like mortal shells. The high tech does not deliver.
If you are nostalgic for conventional, large-scale wars, Luttwak suggests supporting a nuclear proliferation treaty. Nuclear arms are the only thing that deter war.
He predicts that at some point, Israel will need to go into Syria house by house with knives and machine guns to ensure that the people of Carmiel can sleep at night, even though Hizbollah’s weapons have the lowest casualty rate of any weapon.
Ninety percent of funding for research and development goes to marginally improve existing systems. Only ten percent goes to creating new products. Most Innovation comes from research in the private sector.
- Brig. General Dr. Daniel Gold, former head of Research and Development at the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the Israeli Defense Forces, won the Israel prize for his role in the development of the Iron Dome. Gold played videos of the Iron Dome at work. One video from a Beersheva wedding showed 15 rockets arriving, with the ones most likely to cause danger to the public being intercepted. The music from the wedding continued the entire time. [I think it must be frustrating to have to rely on amateur videos to see the results of your work.]
- Professor Michael Walzer, Princeton and Contributing Editor at the New Republic: He spoke on the ethics of drones. They are now used not only for warfare, but for dealing with inadequate victories. Israel has had a much more conservative policy about drones than the US, yet it has gotten more criticism. Obama signs off on every attack, but who is watching President Obama? In the future, all countries will have the technology. Drones raise many moral questions about innocent civilians.
- Dr. Ariel (Eli) Lewitte, a nonresident Senior Associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment: States have less power than in the past. The US has stepped back, and no one is taking its place. Friction is constant, a chronic disease with occasional flareups depending on the medicine applied and the natural progression of the disease. Some conflicts will have the nature of civil wars. Lewitte predicts less use of weapons of mass destruction, but these weapons play a role in politics in deterrence and coercion with the Indian-Paskitani conflict a possible exception. Complications of war have to do with the nature of adversaries: terrorists, drug-dealers, mercenaries, pirates, human traffickers, desperate people.
I’ll close with a comment Luttwak made during the discussion: The UN and well-meaning people prevent war from doing its most important job: Creating peace by destroying the ambitions and hopes, that cause people to fight. In the past, populations would use the time after the war to rebuild or relocate as necessary. Then there would be peace in which progress could be made, as in Europe where “they built a few cathedrals.” Now we have continual conflict and refugees who never get settled, and not only in our part of the world.