A Look Under the Dome: Has Israel’s Iron Dome Cracked the Missile Defense Code?

Pearl­‐Sacks, Elliot [Browse]
Senior thesis
116 pages


Mian, Zia [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
This thesis explores the dispute over the effectiveness of the Iron Dome missile defense system since its deployment in 2011, paying special attention to the two cases of major rocket fire in 2012 and 2014. In doing so, it addresses the technical, political, and social factors at work in this debate, as well the way in which Iron Dome interacts with civilian and military constructs and defense systems. In addressing this debate, I pay particular attention to MIT Professor Postol’s work concerning the shortcomings of the Iron Dome system, as well as Richard Lloyd’s warhead analysis. Little technical evidence to counter these arguments exists, so to explore arguments that support Iron Dome, this thesis contains extensive analysis of ground damage reports, as published by Iron Dome defender Uzi Rubin as well as those publicly available. From this analysis, I find that while such reports are often difficult to compare to one another due to a variety of complicating factors, they do indicate that Iron Dome has been at least partially effective in its mission. In examining the strategic effects of Iron Dome, I conclude that its deployment has been a boon to the IDF’s ability to protect the Israeli people despite the system’s initial unpopularity with military leaders. This thesis also explores Iron Dome’s effect on Israeli civil defense, through analysis of documents, interviews, and news reports, concluding that while Iron Dome can act as an effective civil defense tool, it can also reduce the public’s willingness to use and deploy shelters as well as help perpetrate trends of inequality in civil defense. This thesis finds that while excessive classification of data can have adverse effects on the decision-­‐making capabilities of a society, classification is often of crucial importance to issues of national security and does not significantly overstep its bounds in this case. As such, I conclude that Iron Dome is an effective missile defense system (though perhaps not quite as effective as Israel claims it to be), though its funding, deployment, and popularity must not be allowed to stifle dissenting opinions, divert money from other highly effective civil defense measures, or overstate the capabilities of missile defense as a whole.

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